"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

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ray Floriani wraps up Marquette at MSG

The following is the latest contribution from Ray Floriani, a New Jersey-based freelance basketball reporter.

Marquette is out and home. Next is Selection Sunday where Tom Crean & co. will learn their seed, opponent and destination. A few observations on last night’s semifinal action.

Thought a big key to Pitt-Marquette was the Panthers getting out of the gate quickly. It’s tough to spot an opponent, especially the quality of Pitt, a double digit lead early in the contest.

Marquette showed a lot of grit and determination in battling back. What looked like a potential rout was a one possession game in the final minutes. Jerel McNeal continued his fine play through the tournament with 17 points. Dominic James scored his first points with 7:39 left in the game. James did finish with eight and every point was critical during the late game run.

While James struggled to score, thought Lazar Hayward came up with a nice game. The 6-6 sophomore scored 10 points while grabbing 6 boards. Hayward was effective from the perimeter as well as in the lane.

Sam Young. What can you say ? He’s had a great week and if the Panthers win tonight, should be the tournament MVP. The Pitt forward had a game high 22 points and a huge rebound with 34 seconds to go and the game still for the taking. The 6-6 junior is a tough matchup problem because he can take opponents off the dribble and is very strong inside. He was a major difference for Pitt.

Game was 67 possessions with Pitt enjoying a 102-91 efficiency advantage. Significant numbers (read more below) were Marquette’s 47% offensive rebounding percentage and Pitt‘s 16% turnover ratio. Marquette couldn’t match that last number with 8 assists 16 turnovers and a 24% TO rate.

Poise. Pitt thrives in the bright lights of MSG. They have a number of New York area players and love competing at the ‘world’s most famous arena’. Usually teams that surrender a significant lead will succumb to the pressure of the fast charging opponent and those bright lights which suddenly feel uncomfortably hot. Not the Panthers who treat the Garden as a second home.

Quotable: Jamie Dixon , the Pitt coach…”Marquette battled back and we were fortunate to win because they out rebounded us 47-32 and had 21 offensive boards. The big difference for us was taking care of the ball (11 turnovers).”

In the opener it was vintage Georgetown over West Virginia. Roy Hibbert went scoreless a day earlier against Villanova but tonight the Hoyas went to their big man early and often. Hibbert

Hoyas did a great job keeping fresh bodies on WVU’s Joe Alexander who had 12 points but struggled through a 5 of 16 shooting night.

Great to meet several fans and run into friends in the Marquette section. Always good to touch base and talk basketball in general with ’NY Warrior’.

Final note on Tom Crean. Ran into Jeff Nix a few times this week. A good friend Nix served a number of years in the Knick organization from assistant coach to scout and front office. Late this Summer he was let go in another colossal move of stupidity by the Knick organization. Seems Nix is involved helping out with Tom Crean’s radio show. “When it happened Tom was the first to call me,” Nix recalled . “He gave me the ’olive branch’ and said I could help with his show. That allowed me to get right back into it (the game ) again.”

Just another case of Crean the intense competitor showing his sincere caring off the floor.

Read why the Knicks fired Nix.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While everyone talks about records against the Top 50, only 5 teams played at least 10 of their games against one of the Top 25 teams in the country. Here they are:

Marquette 4-7
West Virginia 3-8
Ga Tech 2-8
Cincinnati 2-9
DePaul 0-10

Right now ESPN has us projected as a No. 6 seed and going to Anaheim to play Arizona, then Stanford if we win. How about moving us to a road game and not having to play two Pac10 teams in basically a Pac10 venue!

I hope the selection committee is a little kinder at 6 EST!