Saturday, March 19, 2005

I got one right! And some more breakdown

From the pat-m'self-on-the-back department = Tex. Tech over Gonzaga. I'll say this: for all the wins the Zags get against good teams in the regular season (Ok. State, Washington), they've now pulled off two-straight stinkers in the NCAA second round. Why? First, I think Mark Few is overmatched by Bob Knight; second, I question the fortitude of the team other than Morrison. Give TTech and Knight credit.

And for some more breakdown of yesterday's two big upsets, here's Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News on SU's loss:

yracuse's performance in a 60-57 defeat was among the more disappointing of the first round, but not because its opponent was particularly overmatched. Vermont was too good of a team to be seeded only 13th in the Austin region, and Syracuse paid for that. But that's not to say there were not opportunities wasted by the Orange.

Among their mistakes:

Early panic: Syracuse began to play as if affected by game pressure way too early. Falling behind by six points at the 11:06 mark, the Orange played frantically with poor, rushed shots, as though they were trying to erase a nine-point lead in the final 90 seconds.

A late switch: As SU struggled to close that gap, it ignored the possibility of dusting off the sizzling fullcourt press that won its game at Rutgers. The press is devastating because of 6-foot-9 Hakim Warrick's length; he is assigned to guard the inbounds pass and immediately to trap the player who accepts the inbounds pass. But coach Jim Boeheim did not call for it until later in the game, inside the final five minutes. That was soon enough to lead to overtime, but doing it earlier might have won the game.

A later switch: After at last gaining the lead at 49-47 with 2:10 left in regulation on a dunk by Warrick, Boeheim waved off the press and ordered his players to retreat and set up in the zone. Instead of sticking with what worked and possibly turning a one-possession lead into a two-possession lead, the Orange allowed Vermont to work down the clock and tie the game on a jumper by Germain Njila.

A final blunder: Down a basket inside the final 20 seconds of overtime, Syracuse tried to advance the ball up the court for a tying or winning shot. However, guard Gerry McNamara carelessly tried to squeeze the ball through traffic and dribbled it off a teammate's foot. When it caromed backward past the midcourt line, SU was guilty of a backcourt violation -- its 23rd turnover.

I think those are all fair points. I may have gone easy on Boeheim yesterday -- that press was underutilized -- but the ultimate problem was the sloppiness (10 turnovers for Warrick, season-high 23!).

As for Kansas, DeCourcy's observations could apply to the Orange too:

All three of you who called the Bucknell-Kansas upset, congratulations on your office-pool triumphs. All of you who called the Syracuse bracket the most difficult in the tournament, well, perhaps you ought to have watched the Jayhawks a little during the course of this season. This result wasn't just coming because they'd lost five times in the final eight games. It was coming because they'd never been able to build a consistent formula to succeed as a basketball team. There were injury problems that diminished the Jayhawks, but it was more than that. There was a lack of functionality, a sense that their individual talent never formed a collective operation. They weren't great to begin with, and never really improved.

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