Wildcats Have Busy Week

The past week has been a busy week for the Villanova basketball program. The Wildcats were unable to sign highly touted Michael Gilchrist, who selected to play for John Calipari at the University of Kentucky, but did receive a letter of intent from Bishop Loughlin standout JayVaughan Pinkston.

Gilchrist was said to have narrowed his options to the two schools, but ultimately chose to fill Kentucky’s void after they sent four athletes to the NBA draft. The 6-foot-7 forward who possesses excellent ball handling skills and a clear ability to score, will surely make an impact with the other Wildcats. Read more

Madness! Villanova survives

This is why they call it Madness!

And for Villanova, the Wildcats need to be thankful they are still a part of it.

No. 2 Villanova erased an eight point deficit to No. 15 Robert Morris in the final four minutes of regulation to send the game into over time, where they eventually advanced with a 73-70 win.

Scottie Reynolds finished with 20 points, but had an awful shooting day, hitting just 2-of-15 shots. Reynolds knocked down 15 free throws, however, including 13 in the fourth and overtime.

The Wildcats appeared to be the beneficiary of some questionable calls down the stretch that helped the team get back in the game. The Robert Morris coach will surely be commenting on that in postgame interviews. He almost lost his marbles on the court.

Once overtime arrived Villanova played superior basketball, but was still able to just squeak by Robert Morris.

It’s not the kind of performance that gives Nova fans who picked their team to go to the Final Four any kind of good feelings, but a win is a win.

Last year in the first round, as a No. 3 see,  Villanova trailed by as many as 15 to American before taking over the game in the second half. That team went on to play in the Final Four.

Fortunately for the Wildcats, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

Trying to figure out your bracket

Reading this will not make you an instant winner in your NCAA Tournament bracket pool, but hopefully it helps make your decisions a little easier when going through some tough choices. Like many college basketball fans, I watch hours of games each week and still struggle to grasp exactly who is good enough to go all the way. This year has been one of the toughest I can remember as the parity in the game appears to be at an all-time high. The most complete team in the field is Kansas and they are the safe pick to win a title.

Kentucky, Syracuse and West Virginia seem to be the other favorites, with the likes of Georgetown and Kansas State also getting sleeper consideration.

I am sticking with Kansas, but that’s the easy part. The rest of the pool is where it gets tricky. Here are a few things every college basketball should keep in his/her mind before filling out a pool.

KENTUCKY WILL STUMBLE: At 32-2 the Wildcats have earned the right to be a No. 1 seed and also the praise they have received by many ‘experts’ who have picked them to win the whole thing. Led by John Wall, their talent level is high. Player for player Kentucky has as much, if not more talent than anyone in the field not named Kansas. They also have youth and immaturity which has led it letting a few teams hang in games that they have no business being in. Florida, Alabama and Mississippi all fit that bill in the SEC Tournament.

It’s hard to root for Kentucky. Their coach is brash and his team likes to showboat a bit. The team is filled with NBA talent, but none that will stick around to earn a degree.

Kentucky is good, and maybe even finals runner up good. But they wont win it all.

I LIKE SAN DIEGO STATE: And I don’t know why. Something is just driving me to take them in an upset over No. 6 Tennessee. Maybe it is the low post play of freshman Kawhi Leonard, who had 16 points and 21 rebounds in the Mountain West Tournament final. Or maybe it’s that I just don’t think the Volunteers are that good. Tennessee went 25-8 this season, good enough for third in the SEC, but has struggled against good competition, with losses coming against Purdue, Vanderbilt, Florida and Kentucky twice (the last by 29 points on Sunday). I see an upset here.

: When I look at Evan Turner and Ohio State I can’t help but think about Carmelo Anthony and Syracuse several years ago. Both stars turned decent teams into National title contenders. Anthony took his team all the way to a championship. While I don’t see Turner taking Ohio State quite that far, I think he will put on a show that will not be soon forgotten.

DUKES ROAD NOT THAT EASY: If I see one more message board post about how easy Duke’s road is I might get sick. While I do agree that the Blue Devils have an easier road then some of the other top seeds, namely Kansas, the thought that the committee handed them a free pass to the Final Four is ridiculous. In the round of 32 Duke could be pitted against a Louisville team that had a 20-win season and beat Syracuse twice. Or they could face the Pac 10 champion, CAL. No. 5 Texas A&M would be not cupcake either in the Sweet 16. And as for the Elite Eight. Last time I looked a matchup with Villanova is possible. Do people already forget how that worked out for Duke last year?


Maryland: While I have never been a member of the Grevis Vasquez fan club, his talent is undeniable. When he is on his game the Terps become very dangerous — dangerous enough to take down N0. 13 Houston and No. 5 Michigan State. They could even give Kansas a run in the Elite Eight. However when Vasquez is off, the Terps lack the scoring depth to compensate. That means Maryland is also a likely candidate to get knocked off in the first round.

Temple: The local favorite, Temple has not been getting much love nationally as many ‘experts’ have predicted No. 12 Cornell to upset the fifth seeded Owls in the first round. However picking that upset is quite risky as the Owls have played their best basketball down the stretch and should be able to go toe-to-toe with Wisconsin in the round of 32. Despite what many have predicted I think Temple is far more likely to navigate its way into the Sweet 16 than be sent home early.

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are a classic case of a team peaking at the right time. From late January till mid February the team was a mess losing seven out of 10 games. However they finished the season hot (6-1) and healthy, and their Big East experience should help in the tournament. No. 11 Old Dominion has been getting a lot of praise lately and will be a dangerous opponent for the Irish. Baylor and Villanova would follow. If Notre Dame (No. 6) can find a way past Baylor and the Wildcats continue to be off their game this team could remarkably get to the Elite Eight.

Kansas State: Some people like Kansas State so much that they have them reaching the final against Kansas. No one wants to see that. The teams have met three times with the Jayhawks winning each one. This begs the question: Is Kansas State a great team that just can’t beat Kansas? Or is it a pretty good team that struggles when challenged against top competition? I lean towards the first answer and see Kansas State getting to at least the Elite Eight. However No. 7 BYU and No. 3 Pitt are each good enough to throw a wrench in that plan. Kansas State will be an interesting team to follow.

So there you have it. Good luck with your pools. And make sure to work hard these next couple of days, because if you’re like me, you will be completely useless to your employer come Thursday.

Orange gets #1, Villanova #2

The NCAA tournament seedings are in.  Selection Sunday saw the Syracuse Orange get seeded #1 and the Villanova Wildcats #2, even after their consecutive tough losses.   It would not have surprised me to see the Wildcats slip to a #3 seed.   The local often overlooked Temple Owls are seeded #5.

Villanova will kick things off 3/18 against Robert Morris, then Syracuse will matchup against the Vermont Catamounts on 3/19.  Temple’s opening game also comes 3/19 against the Cornell Big Red.  Temple probably has the roughest path, if there are no significant upsets and they get to the Sweet 16 they will be matched up against Kentucky.

Syracuse and Villanova should both make the Elite Eight with the most watched for matchup being the Wildcats against the Blue Devils in the Southern Bracket to get to the Final Four

Of the three teams, I predict Villanova has the best chance of making the Final Four since Syracuse has to get by Kansas State and the Owls draw Kentucky if they get that far.   I think the Duke matchup would favor the Wildcats, especially in view of their past two weeks play; this team will either come charging out of the gate and play spectacular ball or go out without a fight.  

It is nice to have 2 Philadelphia teams in the tournament.  It is also nice to see a representative from rural PA in the Lehigh Mountain Hawks 16th seed, but they stand no chance being paired up against the mighty Jayhawks for the first game.  If they can keep it within 20 points it will be a moral victory.  No matter what, be glad we aren’t rooting for Virgina Tech who at 23-8 did not get in !  This team beat Wake Forest and Georgetown and were still snubbed by the NCAA committee.

Villanova gets No. 2 seed, Temple No. 5

The brackets for the NCAA Tournament were unveiled today, with Temple and Villanova each finding out its fate.

Despite a late-season slide Villanova managed a No. 2 seed in the South and has a very favorable draw. The Wildcats will begin their march to the Final Four against No. 15 Robert Morris and would see the winner of No. 7 Richmond and No. 10 St. Marys in the second round. From there possible matchups with Baylor and Notre Dame exist.

Should the Wildcats get into the Elite Eight there is a good chance the only team that will be standing in their way to the Final Four will be Duke. Villanova crushed Duke in the Sweet 16 last year and much of the roster from both teams are still in place.

Temple, meanwhile, didn’t get seeded quite as nicely. Despite being ranked No. 17 by the AP and winning the A-10 Tournament today, the Owls were only able to garner a No. 5 seed.

Playing out of the East, Temple will face No. 12 Cornell in the opening round and will follow with No. 4 Wisconsin or No. 13 Wolford.

The Badgers would be a tough matchup for the owls as they went 23-8 this season.

If Temple were to advance to the Sweet 16 a likely matchup with No. 1 Kentucky would be on the slate.

Kansas and Syracuse earned the other two No. 1 seeds.

Top prospects suffer letdowns in conference tournament

The Big East is so tightly contested, both Syracuse and Villanova suffered losses today.   Ranked 22nd nationally and seeded 8th, the Georgetown Hoyas stunned the Number 1 seed Syracuse Orange (28-4) 91-84 with an impressive second half surge led by 27 points from Chris Wright.  More important than the loss and the chance of it costing the Orange a number 1 seed in the tournament, was the loss of starting center  Arinze Onuaku. 

Conference player of the year Wes Johnson led Syracuse with 24 points and seven rebounds in his Big East tournament debut.  Johnson’s efforts were not enough as the Orange loss marked the 6th time a number 1 seed has lost in the opening game of the Big East tournament.  The loss marked the first time all year Syracuse lost consecutive games, and the loss of the senior center is more significant as the Orange typically only rotate 7 players.

In their 13th tournament pairing, Georgetown took a 7-6 edge over the Orange, as they played in the most contested matchup in the 31 year history of the tournament. Austin Freeman added 18 points while Jason Clark had 17 for the No. 8 seed Hoyas (22-9), who will play in the first semifinal Friday night against fifth-seeded Marquette, an 80-76 winner over No. 10 and 4th seeded Villanova

The matchup between the Golden Eagles and the Wildcats ended just as improbably. Lazar Hayward gave the Marquette Golden Eagles (22-10) the lead for good with a 3-pointer with 1:51 to play and then added the clinching free throws with 3.2 seconds left.   Marquette came in as a 5th seed against Villanova (24-7) , but had lost close games to the Wildcats in their two previous matchups this season.  Villanova had been on a tear right through the end of February and Corey Stokes had 22 points for the Wildcats, who have now lost five of six and have seen their expected seeding for the NCAA tournament continue to drop

Scottie Reynolds,Villanova’s first-team All-Big East selection, had a lackluster game.  He shot 4-of-10 from the field, including 2-of-5 on 3s, and had 10 points. He was 5-of-16 from the field, making only 1-of-9 from 3 including a possible game-winner scoring 17 points in the 68-66 loss to West Virginia to close the regular season.

The tournament is appearing to be a wake up call for the top seeded teams as the lower seeds let them know that the close losses they suffered during the regular season can be avenged by a stepping up of play.  The Big East is so tough from top to bottom that any team can beat any other with a couple of exceptions.  Three weeks ago both Syracuse and Villanova looked practically unbeatable, only having suffered the occasional loss.  Now, the Big East tournament victory will go to a lower seeded team, possibly costing Syracuse their chance at a number one seed and absolutely dropping Villanova in the seedings to the point where they may appear next as an underdog. 

With 9 teams now having 20+ wins, it is anybodys guess who the dominant team from this conference will be when the field is set and the NCAA tournament commences.  One can only hope the Wildcats get the problems solved quickly so they can continue to compete on a level they showed us they were capable of competing all year long.

Prior to the Big East Championship tournament, experts were picking the Orange to be a #1 seed and the Wildcats to be a #2.  The Orange may hold on to their #1 if they are lucky, but it now seems likely the Wildcats will be fortunate to head into the NCAA tournament as a #3, and they have a lot of work to do to remain in the hunt as March Madness ramps up to full speed.

8 Big East teams hit 20 wins

The Big East finishes with 8 teams with 20+ wins, and the finale is a shocker.   Unranked Louisville gets their 20th victory with a 10 point win over #1 Syracuse.  Kyle Kuric scored all of his career-high 22 points in the second half, and the Cardinals stunned No. 1 Syracuse 78-68 on Saturday before a record crowd of 20,135.

 It was the final game there before Louisville moves into a new downtown arena. 

The Cardinals won both their games against top ranked Syracuse whose only other loss this season came at the hands of Pittsburgh.  It goes to show you how deep on talent this conference is that a team ranked 6th in the conference can not only beat the conference leader, but do it when said conference leader is ranked #1 nationally.

Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Villanova are all deadlocked at 13-5 in conference play with Marquette, Lousivlle, Notre Dame and Georgetown as the other 20 win teams that all should be going to the tournament.

Syracuse suffered its first loss away from the Carrier Dome this season (11-1). Scoop Jardine finished with a team-high 20 points and Wes Johnson added 18 in the loss.

Let the March madness begin !!


Temple the cream of the A-10 crop

I posted on 12/12/09  when Temple was about to face Villanova and called the Owls the surprise victors in the game.  They went ahead to win.  I expected them to be a strong team this year but have to admit I am impressed with their recent efforts as they have compiled a 6 game winning streak down the stretch.  They are currently ranked 16th nationally and may have a serious impact before they are through.

Everyone expected the Wildcats to be a final four team, but don’t forget our Owls.  We are truly blessed to have 4 or 5 of the best teams anywhere playing locally this year.   Temple has measured up to the task and actually are one victory up on Villanova with at 25-5 record to lead the Atlantic 10 conference.  Except for a loss to Charlotte, they have played at top level for months.

Granted, the A-10 schedule is certainly not as strenuous as the Big East one the Wildcats have slogged through to arrive at 24-5 and a 9th place ranking.  But if the two teams were to meet in the championship tournament, I believe Temple still stands even odds at pulling off another upset victory.

They beat Saint Louis today 57-51 and face George Washington in the season finale.  The Atlantic-10 may place 4 teams in the tournament, whereas the Big East could send a record 9 teams to the show, and they would all be deserving of the chance. 

Temple won’t go nearly as far as Villanova can, this was proven out when the Owls faced the #1 Kansas Jayhawks 2 months ago and got demolished.  But historians won’t forget the Temple club that BEAT the then #1 Jayhawks in the Jimmy V Classic in 1995.  So, that shows it can be done.  The question is, how much heart does this Owls team have ?

If the last few weeks is any indication, the Wildcats don’t have as much heart as was suggested early on, when they were an early pick to go to the final four.  Now they are ranked 3rd in their conference and Syracuse showed their weaknesses when they took them apart on February 27th.  Villanova NEEDS a win against a very tough Mountaineers team for their season finale after posting a 4-4 record over the past month.

Toughness of conference notwithstanding, I would say their records of late show these two teams to be headed in opposite directions.  The Owls are coming together and peaking as March Madness approaches while the Wildcats are choking somewhat under the pressure coming down the stretch.  I can’t wait to see the complete bracket seedings to see what kind of matchups may occur this year.  The local rivalries will produce some of the best games we will see and these will come early in the tournament rather than later.  If we end up witnessing a Temple/Villanova matchup, I am surprised to proclaim my pick will be the Owls, to win, again !

NOTES:  Temple is 6th all time in wins while Villanova ranks 20th.

Villanova won their only tournament matchup against Temple 77-69 in the first round.

Orange leave no doubt they belong on top

There is no doubt that the Big East is the dominant force in college basketball at the moment.  The one question I had last week has also been conclusively answered.  I wondered if Villanova or Syracuse were the better team. 

The Orange have jumped to number one in the coaches poll by virtue of enormous wins, over Providence and Villanova, the latter game against a on campus record crowd of 34,616 at the Carrier Dome. 

In the meantime, Kansas and Kentucky lost key games on the road to help the Orange to vault ahead.   This marks the second time Syracuse has been ranked #1 in the coaches poll, with the first ranking coming on the last poll of 2003 when they won the national championship.  After dominating Villanova and winning by 18, it seems probable this team will do it again; they certainly have the ability to do so. 

 The Orange are also ranked top on the AP poll, but the Wildcats, in the wake of their loss only slipped one spot to #9 on both polls, which should give you an idea of how good Syracuse actually is. 

The Big East should be sending Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Louisville, Georgetown and Notre Dame to the playoffs with 20+ win seasons, so the fact that Syracuse has beaten all of those teams with the exception of Louisville this season speaks volumes.  And the Orange get the chance to even the score against the Cardinals when they travel to Louisville for the season finale. 

Of course, the Cards will be fighting for the best possible starting spot in the toughest conference in the country so they are not about to lay down without a fight.  Especially since their other remaining game is agianst Marquette, also currently in the fight for a spot.

With 5 teams ranked in the top 20 and four teams still on the bubble, the Big East could send an unprecedented 9 or even 10 teams to the tournament.  If they were not all beating each other up, a record number of qualifying teams would be certain. 

Kansas, Kentucky and Duke not withstanding, I doubt there is another club in the country that could beat two Big East teams in back to back games in the tournament

Is Temple the real deal?

Just how good is Temple?

That is a question many around the country will be thinking over in the coming weeks when the NCAA brackets are revealed and the Owls find themselves favored for at least a round.

Those who wonder how good Temple is might want to take a look at the Owls’ game tonight with Dayton at 6:30 p.m. A few things should be answered.

The Dayton Flyers were picked by just about every expert to win the win the Atlantic 10. While Temple (22-5, 10-2) has soared above expectations, Dayton (18-8, 7-5) has floundered and will need to win the A-10 Tournament to be one of the 65 teams to make your bracket.

That’s something the Owls know all about. Temple has been on the outside of the postseason picture looking in the last two years, only to win the A-10 Tournament and sneak in the Big Dance.

It is unclear how many teams the A-10 will get in this season, but three is a real possibility. Richmond (22-6, 11-2), who leads the conference, and Xavier (19-7, 10-2) each has resume’s that deserve consideration. The Owls’ 20th ranking tells you all you need to know about their chances of getting in.

When Dionte Christmas took his game and scoring ability to the next level after last season, Temple was left with a big hole that few – myself included – thought it could fill.

However the guard combo of Ryan Brooks Juan Fernandaz have combined for 27 points per night and forward Lavoy Allen has given the team a low post threat, averaging a double-double (11.4 ppg, 10.3 rpg). That inside-out balance has made the Owls such a tough team to beat. They can blow by the “man” defense and heve the shooters to rip apart the “zone.”

Tonight the Owls will get a big test. Dayton has been a disappointment and the only way to rectify that is to get hot over their final four games and roll into the A-10 Tournament with a host of momentum.

If Temple is as good as its resume claims it to be, Dayton’s run will never have a shot to get started.

Ten years ago under the tutelage of John Chaney, Temple earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This team will not get that high.

But with a strong finish, the Owls could be just as dangerous.

Villanova slipping down the ranks

What looked like a foregone conclusion eight days ago is now something that is covered by a cloud of uncertainty.

Oh Villanova, what have you done?

After looking like a lock to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for three-quarters of the season, Nova has dropped consecutive games to Big East foes, falling back into a filed of no less than six teams that could be in the mix for a No. 1 seed. While seeding doesn’t mean everything, earning a top bill typically gives teams a bit of a home crowd edge as the committee likes to keep the top teams in their home region.

After starting the season 22-2, then Wildcats have lost consecutive games to UConn and Pittsburgh. Knowing how stacked the Big East is, there is no shame in these losses, but the timing of them could not be much worse.

There is still plenty to be determined and the final two weeks before the Big East Tournament will go a long way in doing so. After what should be an easy win against the University of South Florida, Nova finishes the year at Syracuse, at West Virginia and home against Cincinnati. Those would be games against No. 4, No. 8 and a team that until this week was in the top 25 all year.

And then they get to play those teams all over again in the Big East Tournament.

Villanova is certainly alive to get a No. 1 or No. 2 seed come March. However, their recent play just made that quest a much more difficult one.

Now the complete AP Top 25:

1. Kansas 26-1

2. Kentucky 26-1

3. Purdue 23-3

4. Syracuse 25-2

5. Duke 23-4

6. Kansas State 22-4

7. Villanova 22-4

8. West Virginia 21-5

9. Ohio State 21-7

10. New Mexico 25-3

11. Georgetown 18-7

12. Pittsburgh 21-6

13. Brigham Young 25-3

14. Michigan State 21-7

15. Butler 25-4

16. Vanderbilt 20-6

17. Wisconsin 20-7

18. Gonzaga 22-5

19. Tennessee 20-6

20. Temple 22-5

21. Texas 21-6

22. Texas A&M 19-7

23. Richmond 22-6

24. Baylor 20-6

25. Northern Iowa 24-3

Others Receiving Votes: UTEP 86, Virginia Tech 76, Maryland 57, Missouri 17, Illinois 14, Xavier 13, Marquette 11, Louisville 9, Mississippi State 5, Oklahoma State 4, Utah State 4, Wake Forest 2, Murray State 2, Cornell 2, Clemson 1.

Who is Big East supreme team, Villanova or Syracuse ?

With the college season hitting full stride in preparation for March Madness, I have one question I find myself still unable to answer.  Which team is better ?  Orange or Wildcats ?

Everyone is in agreement that the Big East is the marquee conference with five teams that could easily finish in the top 20 and ten that could show in the top 64. 

But the real question remains, who is the team to beat in the conference ?  The Orange hold the top spot entering tonights game against Georgetown after a surprising loss to Louisville at home.  But Villanova lurks a game and a half behind.  The AP and ESPN poll both have Villanova ranked higher than Syracuse. The Orange lost to Louisville and Pitt, while the Wildcats lost to a surprisingly good Owls team, then in the past ten days lost twice, to Georgetown and Connecticut.   They never should have lost to Connecticut, but the defense allowed Kembe Walker to dominate for 29 points.  That individual effort combined with the Huskies work off the bench doomed the Wildcats to be fighting for the number one spot at this stage of the season instead of having an obvious advantage.

If you can decide between those two as far as who the better team is, than my next question is, is there any conference that matches up with the Big East top to bottom ?   There are 5 teams with a below .500 record in the conference that already have 15+ wins.  A total of 12 teams have 15+ wins.  Rutgers stands at 4-9 in conference but was still able to hold off Georgetown the other night.

It is possible that the teams scoring double byes in the Big East tournament will be the teams with the best chance of playing for the national championship, and it is evident that Syracuse was well aware of this as they jumped out to a 44-31 lead at the half.  Villanova is ranked higher after the Orange loss but still trails in the conference so it seems it will all come down to their face to face meeting on February 27th, broadcast on ESPN to a national audience.   But don’t overlook the underappreciated West Virginia Mountaineers that close out against the Wildcats at home and look to avenge a 7 point loss at home that dropped them from the top five. 

 Right now, logic dictates I give the nod to Syracuse, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.  The Wildcats had a tougher schedule all year, and look to have more weapons in the arsenal to win the big one when it comes.  What I do know is that if Villanova finishes the year on a winning streak, taking care of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Cincinnati and West Virginia, they will not only have beat the Orange head to head, but also 2 teams that are fighting for their lives, one of whom already has a win against Syracuse as well as the top ten Mountaineers in a rematch when you know they are laying in wait.  

And if that happens, I will have to give the Wildcats the nod, because they will certainly have earned it and also will have enormous momentum on their side.

Big East is miles above the rest

Just when it looked like the top teams in the Big East had found a bit of separation from the rest of the pack, the second tier Big East reminded us just how deep the Big East is.

Villanova was the latest victim, getting outplayed by a desperate Uconn team to the tune of an 85-74 final. A couple of days before that Rutgers beat Syracuse and St. Johns took down Louisville.

Keep in mind this is a Uconn team that is firmly on the bubble just to make the NCAA Tournament and Rutgers and St. John won’t sniff the event.

If Uconn was to get in, the Huskies might just make a run to the Elite Eight. I have become convinced that it takes more skill for teams to be in the middle of the pack in the Big East, than it does to be in the top three teams in any other conference.

Good luck with your brackets come March. In the Big East alone, Nova, West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Marquette and Louisville each have a chance to make a deep run. Heck, if Notre Dame and Cincinnati can find their way into the tournament, a Sweet 16 spot isn’t out of the question.

As AP sports writer Dave Skretta points out here the Big East looks better than ever.

I still give Villanova a slight edge heading into the conference tournament due to the Wildcats experience and the standout play of Scottie Reynolds.

But Syracuse could also win.

Or Pitt.

Or West Virginia.

Or. …

Storming the court used to mean something

By any kind of standard it has been a bad season for the men’s basketball team at Upenn.

The season started with 10-straight losses and didn’t get much better from there. So when the Quakers put together their best effort of the season and stunned No. 22 Cornell, 79-64, on Friday it was understandable that the home fans were a little excited.

It was just the fourth time the team had won all season and its first at home.

For one night it brought back the memories of the Fran Dunphy teams that made postseason play a regular occurrence – even if it was for just one game of the NCAA Tournament.

Because of that I can forgive the Penn fans for becoming the latest group of fans to misuse the “storming of the the court.”

When fans stormed the court it used to mean something. It used to mean an unranked team had just beaten the No. 1 team in all of the land. It used to mean that a rival was taken down by a half-court buzzer beater.

It used to mean that something of great significance had just happened.

Now, something as little as a medium-sized upset qualifies as just cause to run down from the rafters and celebrate wildly on the court. For the most part it is harmless. The fans are just having the kind of fun college kids should have.

The only issue is that of overexposure. I want to see kids storm the court – but I want to see that happen after I just witnessed a game that will stick with me for the next couple of days.

Penn beating Cornell hardly qualifies.

Why Villanova’s a near lock for a No. 1 seed

The CBS and ESPN analysts who like to bring drama to the NCAA Tournament bracket announcements each March will need to do an excellent job of selling the shock this year.
It seems like the No. 1 seeds have already been established.
While there has not been a dominant team in the NCAA like North Carolina last year, there are four teams that have clearly separated themselves from the pack.

Kentucky (23-1), Kansas (23-1), Syracuse (24-1) and our own Villanova (21-2) are head and shoulders above the field right now in terms of resumes for No. 1 seeds.

Of course there is a lot of season left, with each team still needing to play another 10 games or so and conference tournaments to come, but I would be shocked if at least three of the aforementioned teams do not end up as a No. 1 seed.

Not only do they have better records than the teams chasing them, but they also have fewer questions.

Here is a look at the group of teams chasing the top four and the flaw that will keep them from getting there.

Duke (20-4): Even an ACC Championship doesn’t change the fact that Duke has no inside presence and no depth behind the trio of John Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. Teams will attack Duke and the Blue Devils will not have the answer.

Purdue (18-3): Purdue is one of the hottest teams in the nation, but nobody gives teams out of the Big 10 respect that aren’t named Michigan State. Their record is also helped by a 12-0 out-of-conference schedule that has more cupcakes than a kids birthday party.

Georgetown (18-5): The Hoyas look great one minute (see their 103-90 win over Nova) and awful the next (see their 72-64 loss to South Florida). The team has the talent and depth to make a run in the tournament, but its inconsistent play will keep it from obtaining a No. 1 seed.

Kansas State (19-4) : Jacob Pullen (18.8 ppg) may be the best player in college basketball that no one talks about. He has a complete game that has helped the Wildcats jump into the top 10 in the AP poll. What will keep Kansas State out of a No. 1 seed is playing in the same conference as Kansas, who it has already lost two. I just don’t see two No. 1 seeds coming out of the Big 12.

West Virginia (19-4): Any real chance of a No. 1 seed likely went out the window after its 82-75 home loss to Villanova. That game showed that WVU is a step behind both Nova and Syracuse and its ranking in the tournament will reflect that.