NBA sixth man of the year
Join Date: Jun 2006
Re: The 2016 Big East Tournament
Day Two was where our normal routine broke up. I've stayed in the city for the games before, but in midtown, and usually with a great deal of debauchery. However I hadn't in a while. We usually just train it back and fourth. Last winter we took the kids to The Gotham Classic, a two game set between Christmas and New Years, and combined that visit with a visit to see their aunt, my buddies sister, who live a few blocks from the World Trade Center. This year we did that again.
They drove in Friday about noon with their neighbor, a 20 year college kid who lives up the street, and had never been to The Garden, or seen a big college game other than a UConn game in Hartford. He played in HS, and is a genuine basketball guy. I hopped in with my buddy's father, who hadn't been to the Garden since January 17, 1941, when he was among 23,190 people witnessed Fritzie Zivic's successful welterweight title defense against Henry Armstrong ... presumably. Traffic sucked, so we just enough time to get into The Conrad hotel, which is a pretty sweet place with a sort of Asian inspired room motif, sliding milked glass doors and the like, and crazy state of the art steam room showers. We had to get back uptown to eat. I wanted to go to Keen's, which is among the oldest steakhouses in NY. It's an awesome place. It used to be a men's only smoking establishment, filled with mahogany, and still has pipes signed by guys like FDR, and Babe Ruth. But we couldn't get in. Nik & Stef's knows us at this point, so they accomadated the pre-game meal for the four of us. We wound up eating almost the same thing as the night before. I was tempted to go with something else, but wound up over two nights eating 38oz's of dry aged NY Strip. I have no regrets.
The first game was Nova Providence. I took Providence getting 8.5 points iirc, and they covered by half a point. Bentil fouled out, and was in foul trouble the whole game. The same refs who did the Xavier game were out there, and they were just terrible. No flow to the game. Dunn was okay. He makes a handful of mind blowing NBA lottery type plays a game, but his jumper is shakey, and sometimes he forces things. Other times he seems to get tired and disappear. I still love him as an NBA guy, but he's gotta get that jumper more consistent. All in all, considering Bentil had like 4 points, it was remarkable they stayed as close as they did. At this point I was questioning Nova. Brunson was nowhere to be found again. Too much Archidiacono. Kris Jenkins is a real threat with the ball, but he's undersized and not a great athlete. Hart won't come out of his lane even when they need it, which will probably make him a good pro, but doesn't help here. Ochefu does what he does really well, which is all the dirty work, rebounding, defending, and screening, but he can't create. I really feel like this year's team is worse than last year's Nova squad with Hilliard and Pinkston. A lot of the same problems with size, but those guys were better athletes than Jenkins, and better creators than Hart, and Brunson just didn't free up Archidiacono as much as I thought he would. He really didn't do much of anything.
The second game was Seton Hall and Xavier, I took Xavier laying points, and man did that not go well. The Garden was pretty well alive with Hall fans. That team plays with a serious chip on it's shoulder. It's got four NY kids in the rotation. Their game is relatively simple. In your shorts man to man defense. Pushed tempo. And a ton of double screen high pick and roll, with Desi Rodriguez stretching the floor on one side, and Angel Delgado getting some post touches, while doing the glass work and the pain defense. And Kadeem Carrington pushing the tempo. And all of it sparked by Isiah Whitehead. Whitehead was my big takeaway from this tournament. I knew he was good. It's not like I've never seen them play. And I had wanted to go to the Under Armor Brooklyn all star game, which I wound up watching on TV, where Whitehead was great. He was a legit All American coming in, and probably the best prospect SH had gotten in 20 years. Frankly he probably has the best pedigree in the Big East.
I do wonder how much Xavier was bothered by the night before where the officiating choked at the end. Seton Hall was physical and aggressive. They gummed up all the pretty stuff Xavier runs. And while I love Xavier's 131, it, like all 131s, has seams. Carrington and Whitehead had the ball switching sides, and attacked the seams. And Rodriguez sat in the seams and drilled lefty jumpers. By the end they running double picks on the head of the 131 and letting Whitehead pick a side, build up a head of steam, and barrel through there. He had a crazy collection of inside out dribbles, spin moves, and step backs, that they just couldn't stop when he turned the corner. He's remarkably strong. He had a few plays where they reached in on him, and he just sort of pulled the ball through as if it weren't a problem. Xavier was never really in it. We sat next to a cool dad and son from Xavier the whole weekend. They could sort of see it coming. To me it was a surprise. But I wouldn't be surprised by them again. They're a little small, but Delgado is 6-9 and there isn't a ton behind him. But if they're allowed to defend on the perimeter without getting reffed out of a game, they are really dangerous.
Whitehead I haven't seen on any draftboards. Even looking forward a year. I know he runs a little in between things. He's not a PG, but he can make plays. He's not a shooter, but he's a threat out there. He was comfortably taking shots well well beyond the NBA three point line. He shoots 76% from the FT line, and 38% from three. Knowing the types of shots he takes, that 38% is fine. And the 76% speaks to the soundness of the stroke. He's a plus athlete. And if he really is the 6-4 he's listed at, he's plenty big enough to play NBA SG, and he's a man defender by nature, even if he gambles too much. I think the guy is an absolute steal if you get him late first. The pedigree is there. I just don't get lack of notice. Dunn is a more natural PG, but how is Dunn a top 6 or so guy and this guy isn't even on any boards? He's a better shooter, every bit the athlete, and a playmaker. I'm sure he'd get the Wade comp on the high end. I wouldn't go that far. But he's certainly cut from that cloth. The best of Lance Stephensen doesn't seem unreasonable. Frankly he's a better shooter. Because of the chip on the shoulder, it's hard to tell if he's unusably crazy or just using it for edge. The guy is a beast.
We went back to the hotel that night. I went out walking until about 330. I met a group from England that were in the city on some sort of art tour. There was one girl that I clicked with, and we went out both nights late, but I never got anywhere. It was still a nice bonus. The next morning we hit a park and played some pickup with the kids. We grabbed an early dinner, as the game started at 530, which is just bizarre. We hit a cab with the kids and headed down. Now one kid is a big Xavier fan. The team I coach runs a 131, and so do they, so I think that's part of it. Plus we watch a lot of Big East. He has some social anxiety issues, and kind of freaked out while we were heading to that early dinner. I was worried he wouldn't make it. He was already a little bummed about Xavier getting knocked. And to top it off, his brother, who's 7, is a Nova guy. He plays on our team too in spite of being four years younger than some of our competition. He plays like an animal, and has a little Archidiacono in him, so that's his squad. They squabbled, but we split them up, and it was fine. We took The Hall getting points and rooted quietly so he could enjoy his Nova. I just felt like Nova hadn't looked like world beaters, and their perimeter based attack didn't match up well with how good SH's defense looked. If the refs let them play, The Hall had a real chance. It was a spectacular game. Seton Hall jumped out early and looked great. The crowd was awesome. They hadn't won a big east in 22 years, and the team was filled with NY kids. Somehow Nova got back into it in the second half. Jenkin's shot great, and they just couldn't stay with him as he's a bit of a tweener forward. It came down to a really great outlet pass by Ochefu, to Archidiacono, for a desperation three to win, that didn't fall. Archi is just out of control. He made the shot harder than it had to be by throwing himself to the floor. He's just consistently out of control. He's a decent little player, but I just can't understand his PotY award.
Back to the Hotel that night. I went out walking again with the British girl, but only till about 1. We all slept in the next day. We were gonna hit the park before we left, but it just wasn't happening. We're in a basketball tournament with our team and had a game that night. So we packed up and headed to SoHo to Katz's deli, which is one of those rare places that's famous and still as good as it was to get that way.
We got home to get a few hours in before our own game. We played as well as we have all year, and won to advance to the final four. However we did spit up a ten point lead to win by only 2. And one of our best player broke his leg. It was a great emotional end to a long weekend. Throw in the time change, and it'll take me until April to recover.
I've got some pretty good pictures of the art installations at the hotel, and The World Trade Center and the Transportation Hub. I'll try to post them at some point.