Why Pitt could finally reach Final Four, 'Nova's flaw and more (cont.)
I believe that Villanova senior guard Corey Fisher needs to be told by Jay Wright that he does not have to be the Scottie Reynolds of this team. Villanova has too much talent to allow Fisher to become the only go-to guy in tough situations. He was obviously flustered late in the game against Tennessee. The team seems to rely on too much dribble penetration rather than setting up their big men.
-- Art Donnelly, Long Valley, N.J.
I agree that Fisher was atrocious against Tennessee (three points on 1-for-10 shooting), but when Art says the Wildcats need to do a better job setting up their big men, I'm not sure to whom he's referring. Because from where I sit, Mouphtaou Yarou, Antonio Pena and Maurice Sutton either don't want to be set up, or they don't know what to do once they are. Maalik Wayns and Corey Stokes weren't much better against the Vols, and it was evident that Villanova's offense suffered from an inability to throw it inside. This is why I highlighted Gary McGhee and Talib Zanna at Pitt earlier in this column. Most teams in college basketball right now don't have the simple ability to pass the ball to a post man who can grab the attention of the defense. So Villanova is in good company on this front, but I agree with Art that they need to rectify that weakness if they're going to play deep into March.
Is Roy Williams making a mistake by trying to institute a fast-paced running game with this set of players? So far, I see a team that should be concentrating on offense and defense in the half court and trying to win games in the 60s.
-- Kenny Walters, Roxboro, N.C.
It's interesting to me that you could have two Hall of Fame coaches on Tobacco Road with such divergent philosophies. Krzyzewski's genius lies in his ability to step back, take measure of his personnel, and then devise a system that will exploit their strengths and hide their deficiencies. Williams, on the other hand, has been running his high-octane, secondary break for three decades with great success, and he's not going to abandon that no matter who is playing for him.
To answer Kenny's question, though, I do believe it would behoove Ol' Roy to ease off the accelerator just a tad. In the first place, the secondary break really requires a high-level point guard, and we all recognize that Larry Drew II does not fit that bill. (Nor does freshman Kendall Marshall appear ready to take the reins.) Second, the Tar Heels' best asset is 7-foot junior Tyler Zeller, as evidenced by his 27-point performance in the win over Kentucky. North Carolina's offense is much better if Zeller can get the ball in the post, but he won't have the ball if the pace of the game is too fast -- especially if that pace leads to a lot of bad shots and unforced turnovers.
How do you foresee the future of Big East basketball? Do you see the basketball-only schools breaking off to form their own conference like the Mountain West conference did in 1999?
-- Kenny Fulton, Kingstree, S.C.
It is perilous to predict where this whole conference expansion mess is headed (except that it will ultimately destroy college sports as we know it). But I think it's safe to say no group of Big East schools will ever break out into a basketball-only conference. There is simply too much upside to being in a conference with an automatic BCS football bid, and many of the power brokers in the league reap rewards from their basketball traditions, as well.
The bigger question is whether the basketball teams will eventually split into two divisions, but I'm not sure that really matters that much. The league has always set up its schedule to be as television-friendly as possible, and I'm sure it will continue to do that no matter how its teams are aligned.
In our pickup games, we use the NCAA rules as our general guidelines and we repeatedly have one item that comes up that needs clarification. If you are in bounds and you are heading out, and you throw the ball at another player, but that player already is out of bounds or has one foot out, who gets possession? A group of us think it is the player who threw it off the guy, but the majority think because the guy is already established as out of bounds, it would be just like throwing it off the post or a spectator and it goes over to the other team.
-- Shawn, San Diego
Although the person who was hit with the ball may have the mobility and basketball IQ of a steel post, he is still technically considered a human being playing in a basketball game, and therefore the person who threw the ball retains possession. By rule a player is not considered out of bounds until he or the ball is physically out of bounds, so as long as the thrower's planted foot was inbounds when he went airborne, it sounds to me like he has made a pretty heads-up play.
By the way, I got next.
Finally, I received lots of questions (as usual) about my AP ballot. Rather than addressing every one, allow me to give you my blanket, sounds-like-your-parents answer to all your queries:
Because I said so.
Look, I take results, records and head-to-head matchups into account, but at the end of the day, it is my job as a voter to rank the teams based on who I believe is better. It's not hard to poke holes into my logic because there is no logic. It is a purely subjective exercise.
That said, the one team that generated the most discussion, both in this forum and on Twitter, was Gonzaga. To wit:
Obviously rankings are subjective, I understand that. But I'm not sure what justification there is to have Gonzaga ranked, other than past reputation. They have been housed twice (Kansas State, Illinois) and lost their only tough home game to date (San Diego State). Take Gonzaga off the jersey and there is no way you rank that team. Just sayin'.
-- Matt, San Diego
I won't deny that I am ranking the Zags partly on the program's reputation. I also happen to think that's not a bad criteria, because when you say reputation, you're really talking about the coach. That aside, I would like to point out that all three of the teams that have beaten Gonzaga were ranked ahead of them on my ballot. I would further like to point out that the team's most talented player, sophomore forward Elias Harris, missed the end of the loss to San Diego State because he injured his foot.
The Zags also beat a pretty good Marquette team on a neutral court, so that factored into my thinking as well. The Zags play at Washington State tonight and at Notre Dame this weekend, so they could very well drop off my ballot by next week. I'm not saying they're definitely one of the 25 best teams in the country, but right now it's also hard to make the case that they're definitely not.
The best part about all of this is that the polls don't decide anything. Unlike that other sport, our champ is decided on the court. Imagine that.
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