"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, March 09, 2007

Try, try again

Apologies for the less-than-timely update on last night's loss.....back to back late nights with work sandwiched in between can get in the way of blogging (sadly).

Anyway, Pitt finally broke through and topped Marquette this season with a 89-79 win in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament. With the loss, MU falls to 24-9 on the season and now looks to Selection Sunday. According to the Bracket Project figures, MU could be slotted as a dreaded 5 seed. Gimme a 6, please, gimme a 6!

Back to the game. Aaron Gray dominated the lane last night ending up with 22 points and 10 boards (six on the offensive end). Honestly it felt like he scored 40 points last night-- MU had no answer for the assertive Pitt center.

Pitt's efficient offense extended beyond Gray's big night -- I'd love to see the shot chart for the Panthers. I'd guess that in the first half, 70%-80% of the Panthers points came from inside the lane (or at least from within 12 feet of the basket). Things didn't seem to change much in the second half as the Panthers displayed new-found aggressiveness in attacking the basket with just about every player on the floor. For the game, Pitt shot nearly 50% from the field -- and seemed to do just about anything they wanted to do offensively.

Despite the Panthers' effectiveness on offense, MU was able to stay within striking distance for most of the night. With the Panthers overplaying every James drive, MU's offensive rhythm was choppy at best but Dan Fitzgerald's hot hand, Lazar Hayward's soft touch, and Ousmane Barro's ability to finish kept the Golden Eagles in the mix for most of the night.

Everything was labored on offense for MU. With only one player who can drive and dish, Pitt overplayed James in the lane realizing that for any kick-out ,MU had no player who could take advantage of an opening and create a scoring opportunity off the dribble. Pitt was able to rotate and recover defensively on any James move to the basket. Save a few nice layups by Barro on DJ passes or a handful of curls from Hayward, Matthews and Fitz the Golden Eagles were unable to get the Panthers' defense on its heels. In short, MU missed McNeal a ton tonight on both ends of the floor.

MU was led by the sublime play of Dan Fitzgerald who had 20 points and four rebounds. Fitz is positively dialed in from deep, hitting 50% of his attempts from downtown (4-8). With McNeal sidelined, Fitz has clearly stepped up his game. Impressive.

James recovered from Wednesday night's lousy shooting performance to score 16 points on 5-for-12 from the floor, including 2-8 from deep. Still, in two Big East Tournament games, DJ was a disappointing 2-17 from three-point territory.

A few other Big East Tournament observations:

  • Pitt fans travel VERY WELL to MSG -- nice job by their fan base. I was proud of the MU contingent last night though -- the atmosphere at MSG was fantastic despite the long wait for the opening tip. While that WVU/Louisville game was an instant classic - it needed to end so that we could get to the main event.
  • Pitt fans....handled themselves well last night. In general, most Big East fan bases are respectful and smart. With one notable exception which I'll get to.
  • Cubillan is a nice player -- but he's not a PG. Still, MU has lacked an effective combo guard in past seasons......Cuby is a keeper.
  • Lazar Hayward's improvement since I last saw him in-person back in January is remarkable. The kid must be a very hard worker in practice.
  • First Novak, now Fitzgerald. If you were a big man with a terrific outside shot -- why go anywhere else?
  • James. Look, he's in a shooting slump but I think that his shot selection in the pair of games out here was pretty good. Absent McNeal, the game is much more difficult for DJ -- nobody else on the team can get to the rim off the dribble. He played another good floor game last night, particularly when he was able to find an open man in the lane.
  • Notre Dame fans are a$$holes. At least the three turds in my section. The classy Cuse fans in our section took so much abuse from a couple of Domer hoops 'diehards' -- what a joke. Act like you've been there before. Good luck to the 'Cuse next weekend.
  • Wesley Matthews is darn near a defensive liability. Heck, he is when the offensive player can put the ball on the floor -- something that surprised me here at MSG.
  • The Ville/WVU game was awesome.
  • MU Alumni Office and Blue and Gold Fund -- nice job this week!
  • MU fans -- we need more of you out here in NYC for this event. Keep it in mind for next year.
  • As noted in one of the comments below, folks in the crowd generally like Marquette. I noticed this last year too -- the atmosphere at MSG is positive. And its a great place to see a game.
much more to come.......



Gene Frenkle said...

Good summary. With the early foul trouble MU goe into in the first half, they had nobody to defend down low, and as the game wore on, nobody that could score down low. They were hanging w/Pitt merely as a jump shooting team but eventually just couldn't keep up. 79 points in a loss without McNeal tells me they shot the ball pretty good. But like you said, the interior D was horrendous, w/the fouls playing a huge role. Not blaming it on that, just the facts. They got a guy that can score w/his back to the hoop if he's allowed space.

And like you said, no other guard on MU can drive and dish with McNeal out. I would have loved to have M.Acker eligible last night. And it was further proof to me that Cubillan has a long way to go to be a true point guard. He's a good sub at the point for a couple minutes, but other than that, he's a tweener 1-2 guard and more of a 2.

Let's hope for a 5 or 6 seed. For some reason, I smell a Michigan State/Marquette match-up. Izzo V Crean.

Anonymous said...

Nice Job NYW. Agree on getting more folks in from out of town. People generally like Marquette, but Pitt had a home game last night, and there were 3x more Louisville fans than Pitt fans. Georgetown fans will be out in crazy numbers tonight and tomorrow.

As you noted yesterday, at least we're not DePaul.

Anonymous said...

Gotta disagree on one point...James is not in a shooting "slump." He's a horrible shooter.

A "slump" doesn't last for two years.

TB said...

I'll call it a slump.

As a freshman, James shot 43% from the field....which is exactly what Russell Carter shot this year for ND, and 1% less than Colin Falls' average for the season.

I dont think 30ish games was a fluke -- that's a solid sample size.

James has been inconsistent from the floor this year, no doubt. Unlike last year, he's the focal point of opposing coaches' game plans -- and since his starting backcourt mates are not good shooters, it only magnifies the pressure on James' own shooting.

Anonymous said...

I was very disappointed in the MU contingent at the game yesterday. We barely had a band and what 6 cheerleaders? I only ran into a handful of MU supporters. On the flip side there were a ton of PITT fans. Whatever. I just thought it was funny that the MU offices said that there was a high demand for tickets, yet there were so few MU fans there.

I probably didn't give enough money this year!

Anonymous said...

Wesley's poor showing on the Defensive end really surprised me. Overshadowed his (typical) solid offensive performance. Hopefully he can bounce back for next weekend.

Anonymous said...

I am also "shocked" that PITT only went to the line 41 times!!!

MU gets nailed for so many darn touch fouls..it seems like every game.

Gavin said...

As a Pitt fan who generally goes to the Garden for the tournament, I can tell you that it is a very popular travel destination each year. There are also a ton of transplanted locals, usually late 20s and early 30s who are in New York because you can actually get a good job there at that experience level, who all make certain to come out and support the Panthers. I am not surprised you found a solid contingent for the game, it was the same way at Georgetown in DC two weeks ago.

We have enjoyed immensely the games with Marquette, you guys are an excellent program, a quality fan base, and generally a classy adversary. I am also glad you took shots at the Notre Dame fans who are usually embarrassing and amateurish every year. I don't think they quite rise to the level of the UConn faithful, who are the most obnoxious and least classy of all of the Big East fanbases. I found it quite interesting that the first year Pitt made it to the finals to meet UConn, many of the fans from other schools (namely Syracuse, BC and Nova) stayed around for the specific purpose of cheering against UConn due to the rancor they had developed for the Husky fans over the week. Several Syracuse fans who had made the pilgramage every year, told me that it is well known among Big East loyalists that UConn fans have no idea how to behave and don't understand the concept of acting like they've been there before.

Anonymous said...

depaul's "fans" can be quite nasty, too.

Anonymous said...

Part of the reason for the limited MU band and cheerleader turnout you cite is likely because this week was midterms week at Marquette. Kind of hard to get out of midterms for four days in NYC if you're not a student-athlete IMO.

Also, I think a lot of fans this year spent their road trip money on G-Town. There were probably 4000 or MU fans in DC alone for that game. I've already penciled in NYC next year for sure for the BET.

Anonymous said...

Some of us are saving for NCAA tournament games and Maui...can only travel so often and so far in a calendar year (vacation days are limited). Go Marquette! I was in DC for the G-town/MU game and it was a great showing by the MU faithful.