Floriani's college hoops notes
NEW YORK CITY – It’s good to be back here on the site after a brief hiatus. At any rate, catching up on some things happening this past week in the college game…
St.John’s made it two straight Tuesday evening. Coming off a big win over Syracuse on Sunday St.John’s upset twentieth ranked Notre Dame 71-68 at Madison Square Garden. Lamont Hamilton came up big for St.John’s. The 6’10 senior scored 23 points and was a huge matchup problem for the Irish. Hamilton didn’t score after intermission as a slower tempo and a tighter zone limited his touches. He didn’t force the issue and fed freshman Larry Wright for the eventual game winning three pointer.
A fairly representative number of pro scouts were in the building to get a look at Russell Carter. The 6’4” Notre Dame senior scored 32 points. Carter can comfortably play a two or three spot but is projected as solely a two on the next level. He displayed a nice perimeter touch and the ability to get in the lane and finish.
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame’s 6’8” freshman, is off to a very good start. Three times this season Harangody has been selected Big East Rookie of the Week. Tuesday’s trip to MSG though was a night to forget. Harangody logged only 12 minutes scoring one point and pulling down three boards. As the late Al McGuire said, ‘the best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores.”
In the St.John’s win over Syracuse 6’8” forward Qa’rraan Calhoun had his best outing to date. The freshman forward scored 10 points while grabbing seven rebounds. Calhoun’s showing goes a long way toward explaining how the Storm prevailed in that contest . Translated, as good as Hamilton is, he needs another big man to step up and produce. Calhoun was the man that day and St.John’s got a big win.
I Love New York…The Empire State’s slogan of tourism had to have a special appeal with Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. Prior to Sunday’s loss at St.John’s, Syracuse had a 47-game win streak against teams from New York State.
Saw Gonzaga on their two trips to New York. Most recently have been catching their midnight games on ESPN. It’s quite obvious they are wearing the bullseye on their jersey. The ESPN Big Monday contests were on the road. In both cases they were getting the home team’s best effort in front of a frenzied, overflow crowd primed for an upset. Should be like that for every place they visit in West Coast Conference play.
UCONN’s season wrapup video should have background music from the old Cat Stevens Seventies (I’m showing my age) song ‘oh very young’. Youth is the order of the day in storrs. Still, on a given night this is a potentially dangerous team that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Especially with the low post presence of 7’3” Hasheem Thabeet.
Rhode Island, by virtue of a close win over UMASS on Wednesday is off to a surprising 6-1 start in Atlantic Ten play. Will Daniels is a talent but coach Jim Baron is finding help at home. Coach Baron’s son Jimmy is a sophomore guard currently enjoying a solid season. He’s a deadly shooter and outstanding from the charity stripe. The younger Barton is second in scoring , behind Daniels, at 14.6 ppg. In late game situations when Rhody is protecting a lead the ball is in his hands. He’s almost automatic (52 of 58 for 90% thus far) from the line.
Grant Billmeier’s season ending injury in a mid-January win over Providence was a big blow to Seton Hall. The 6’10” senior center was never a big scoring option but did give the Pirates a veteran player with size and the ability to clog the lane and rebound. Coach Bobby Gonzalez entered the season with an undersized front court. So Billmeier’s absence will be felt.
Gonzalez and fellow first year mentor Fred Hill at Rutgers are setting the tone and establishing a foundation. The final record will not justify the job these two coaches are doing. Both are putting their stamp on their respective programs by expecting their kids to simply play hard each night out.
Seton Hall does have a talent of note. Freshman point guard Eugene Harvey, out of New York and St.Benedict’s (NJ) Prep, has been better than Gonzalez expected. He’s run the team extremely well and has a great knack of getting in the lane. The only thing missing in Harvey’s game is an effective perimeter shot.
Following Georgetown’s 74-58 win over Seton Hall last Friday coach John Thompson III was asked if any of his teams ever enjoyed a rebounding edge (39-11) like that night. Thompson couldn’t remember but did add jokingly, “I think we had a few 11 rebound nights when I was at Princeton.”
Despite facing Lincoln Tunnel traffic as part of my New Jersey commute, there’s always something special about a game at Madison Square Garden. Don’t care who is playing or the circumstances , this is a place that’s always special.
Big East Player of the Week: Dominic James of Marquette. The sophomore guard hit the winning free throw in Marquette’s win at Pitt. Of greater significance was James line of zero turnovers in 39 minutes.
Rookie of the Week: Scottie Reynolds, Villanova. With all due respect to Kevin Durant, a marvelous talent, the best freshman on the floor last Saturday was ‘Nova’s Reynolds. The freshman guard scored 26 points and handed out 6 assists in the Wildcats’ upset win over Texas.
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