NBA sixth man of the year
Join Date: Jun 2006
The 2016 Big East Tournament
As many of you know, I've been going to this tournament for at least one day almost every year for 26 years now. Every trip is a bit different, and this years certainly was. It's the second straight year that my buddy and I have taken his two sons to the championship game. However this year we stayed down there for Friday and Saturday night.
We opened on Thursday however. We hopped on the train at 830 am with our former boss who owned the liquor store we worked at while we were in HS and College. He turned 70 this past year, but his ability to overdue it is truly remarkable considering. I stopped drinking on the way down a few years ago. It's just too long of a day, but this guy seemed to be viewing this as rare chance to get out. He was going right from the jump. We also picked up my cousin in law, who came last year, and is only 28. Neither guy is really a basketball guy, but both guys are sports fans, and good company.
We paid 1500 bucks for a ticket package that was really a great deal. Four seats to every game, midcourt, about halfway up. I've been in better seats, but for the price, this was about as good as it gets.
First day was four games with the top seeds. Nova Georgetown, Providence Butler, Xavier Marquette, and Seton Hall Creighton.
Nova being the top seed was a pretty heavy favorite, but I took them anyway. I saw Georgetown really up close earlier this year against UConn. They're an underachieving group. They have a handful of really good players. I've long been critical of their PG, Dante Smith-Rivera, for being a chucker with no sense of the game, but seeing them this year from the second row, I got the feeling they needed his chucking, because he was the only guy on the roster who didn't look stiff running John Thompson III's stuff. It's really pretty stuff. A lot of back cutting from the Princeton. Some flex action that wound up in a type of triangle sideline attack, with a ton of pick and roll and high hand off type stuff. Honestly it's all stuff I really love, but it feels like these guys spent the whole year getting the mechanics right, and never actually learned to play it. Nova is almost the exact opposite. Almost like a poor man's Kentucky, they run a four out one in, Penetrate and Kick scheme, with the one big not even really playing in, but setting ball screens and rolling hard and coming out the other side. Last year they were painfully small, and I expected no less this year. I was intrigued by their adding a real top tier Frosh in Jalen Brunson. Brunson looked mediocre at best, but the system kept rolling. I had bet on them in spite of a heavy line, and they wound up pulling away and covering, but there was no right answer in that game. Ryan Arcidiacono, who somehow won a share of the conference PotY last year, is a very good, tough, smart player, but he's got some serious limitations. I thought Brunson would make him better by taking some of the pressure off, but it just didn't happen for Brunson. Josh Hart, who has been great all year, and is a legit NBA 3/D prospect, just isn't much more than that. He's very good on the D side, and he'll run the floor, finishes okay, and is good catching and shooting, or using one bounce. But ask him to do more than that, and it becomes a toss up. He's the Danny Green of college basketball. Arcidiacono is the Wes Welker of The Big East. Just a pain in the ass who feels like he's been there for twenty years, and just utterly hateable unless he's on your team.
The next game was Butler vs. Providence. My fondness for Providence is pretty well documented. Their coach, Ed Cooley, coached at my Alma Mata, and their star PG, Kris Dunn, is a CT kid, who I saw play a handful of times while he was in HS. And then last year, I took the train home with a car filled with his family and neighbors. Plus I love his game. That said, Providence has seemingly been a two man show all year. Dunn, and sophomore PF Ben Bentil, are pretty much the story. Butler on the other hand is just a bunch of good basketball players who make smart plays and generally shoot well. They are undersized though, and rely too much on Roosevelt Jones, who seemingly played his first game in 1992 against Ryan Arcidiocono. Bentil is a guy I never see in the draft projections. I know he's a hair undersized at 6-9, but his stroke is good, and he's really well put together. He went nuts in that game, and got like 40 pts. He's not a true stretch four at the next level, but I find it hard to believe he couldn't fit in somewhere. Smart, tough, and with touch both near and far. He feels like a perfect second round rotation big. I layed points with Providence and won that too.
Dinner was next. There's something really disorienting about not seeing natural light for five hours, and drinking heavily, then walking out onto one of the busiest streets in the world with the sun up and people making their way home from work. We went to our usual steakhouse, and it was excellent as usual. We ate way too much. We had bumped into a guy I know from the gym, a buddy of his, and my friend's brother in law. So we had a big group. But regardless, we ordered six appetizers, a shellfish tower for four, and then a meal each. I had dry aged NY Strip, because, well, it's not everyday I can get my hands on dry aged beef. There were other options, but it's the beef.
Back into the hole, the next game was Xavier Marquette, which was the game I had most wanted to see. I took Xavier laying pretty heavy again, and they went wire to wire. One of the reasons I wanted to see this one was for Marquette's Henry Ellenson, who's getting the top five pick talk. There's some Kevin Love Lite conversation going on, because of the international rule that one can only be compared to a player of the same race. I've gotta say I came away really unimpressed. He's listed 6-10 245, which seemed legit, if a little overstated on the weight. He's got high shoulders, which usually indicate a good reach. But it's not as if he used it to impose himself on the block, and he's no defender. His stroke looked okay, but the results weren't really there. And while he averaged 10 boards a game on the season, he just couldn't hold up against the Xavier bigs, who are really good.
Xavier is one of my favorite teams in the country. Their coach Chris Mack the last handful of years has been one of the most creative coaches in the country. They play a bunch of different looks on both ends. And he runs a shifting 131 that I've never seen before. When his Jr. big Jalen Reynolds is in, a guy who's got a legit pro body, he actually shifts the 131 to the sideline by asking him to jump up to the top to defend the reverse, which I've never seen before. It looks more traditional with heavier big guy James Farr. Offensively they do run offense through Farr sometimes. Farr is a guy who if he lost thirty pounds would probably be an NBA player. But will probably do well overseas with the shorter seasons. The backcourt is also pretty loaded. Edmond Sumner, Trevon Blueitt, Myles Davis (who's mother I presume was a Jazz aficionado), JP Macura, all bring stuff to the table. Davis is the toughest defender, and has the most mature game. He's limited physically, but is an excellent piece. Sumner and Blueitt are sort of similar. Both are long and dynamic athletes. They'll get into passing lanes on one end, and create shots for themselves and others on offense. Macura plays like some kind of homeless man's Pete Maravich, but is a great piece off the bench, because he can come in and completely change the pace of the game. He attacks on both ends. Will shoot it without conscience. And will force passes that keep everyone on their toes. And he's killer on the offensive glass for a guard. He will also have moments where he'll hit someone in the tenth row with a pass. They also have a 6-7ish Frosh named Kaiser Gates who probably doesn't play enough, who's got sort of a do everything game. They play big with both bigs sometimes, sometimes small. It's just a fun team. They looked great. They shot well. Toward the end, Ellensen and his brother seemed to loose their composure, and the ref's lost control of the game. Xavier went into a funk. They seemed to not know how to play with this big lead and the ref's going nuts, while their guys were getting hit in the chops by Marquette's bigs. The held on to cover, my third win in a row, but the end of the game was weird.
The fourth game was Seton Hall and Creighton, but the old man was losing steam fast, so we bailed for the train. I took Seton Hall just because I wanted to root for them, and tracked the game from my phone on the way home. Four for Four on the gambling front on day one.