Never travel without a laptop. Blogging from a hotel conference room is less than satisfactory...
I was able to watch three games yesterday which were quite interesting.
First, Texas A&M beat Washington in the NIT Season Tip-Off Semis. The Aggies overcame a four point halftime deficit to win 77-63. Keep in mind that they only made 22 of 40 from the charity stripe and star Josh Carter only scored 5 points. This could have been much more lopsided.
Losing coach Billy Gillespie to Kentucky and All-American clutch point guard Acie Law should have really set this team back. However, on a night where they had more turnovers than assists, missed an embarrassing amount of free throws, and received a poor performance from their top player, A&M turned in a double-digit victory against a tournament-caliber team. They could do very well this year.
They will play Ohio State in the finals in Madison Square Garden after the Buckeyes pulled away from Syracuse. It was a battle of two teams wearing those hideous Nike "System of Dress" jerseys, with skin-tight tops and baggy shorts. The Orange played in front of a very partisan crowd, but were unable to turn the home-court advantage into a victory. Freshman Kosta Koufos scored 24 points and had 9 rebounds, but I spent most of my time watching the two first-year players from Syracuse.
Donte Greene is the real deal. 21 points, 9 rebounds for the small forward from Baltimore. He is certainly game ready right now. Jonny Flynn was less impressive. Since his fantastic breakout performance against Siena, the undersized point guard has been ice cold. Last night he failed to score and was 0-6 from the floor. 2 assists and 3 turnovers in addition. He did show some very good moves, with lightning-quick cuts and solid court vision, but has some maturing to do as a college basketball player. Overall, with the talent of Flynn and Greene, as well as the addition of redshirt sophomore power forward Arinze Onuaku, Syracuse has loads of talent. Add in holdovers Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf and the Orange could be contending for the Big East title next season.
Kyle Singler is another fantastic player from this freshman class. The 6'8" Duke forward scored 25 and grabbed seven rebounds to defeat Marquette in the finals of the Maui Invitational. I was only able to watch the first half, but picked up some interesting insights about this Golden Eagle team.
Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews are all upperclassmen now, which should have led to success in Hawaii. Certainly, Marquette took care of a stumbling Oklahoma State and gutsy Chaminade, but the Duke game was to be the coming-out party for this junior class. James is the easiest to breakdown. Think Chris Thomas from a couple years ago. Greg Paulus did a great job of pressuring the Marquette point guard from the halfcourt stripe and forcing him to take ill-advised shots. James finished with 12 points, on 4 of 16 shooting. He did finish with 6 rebounds, but three assists and two turnovers failed to help his cause.
McNeal had been very good throughout the first two games, scoring 22 and 20, but only picked up 11 points last night. He did spend some of the game in foul trouble, finishing with 4. Matthews, the third of Marquette's junior guard triumvirate, scored 12.
Duke did a great job switching up the half-court man pressure and 2-3 zone. Hopefully Coach Brey can learn from this and will use Tory Jackson to harass Dominic James in our two meetings this year. Once you take away Marquette's catalyst, they become a very beatable team.
That's it for now, Happy Thanksgiving to you all. No post tomorrow since I have such limited Internet access. I will be back for the game Saturday night (remember the time change to 7:30) and can provide a postmortem for you afterwards. Enjoy the holiday!