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Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/09/2006 07:55:00 PM

The Sleepers?

Brandon Bowman
Brandon Bowman finished with 14 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes.
AP

NEW YORK -- Anyone else getting the feeling that, despite the hoopla over Syracuse, Georgetown could sneak up and win this whole thing? The Hoyas, who were written off after losing to last-place South Florida in their final regular-season game, edged Notre Dame on Wednesday and managed to grind out a 62-59 win over Marquette today in the Big East quarterfinals, despite making just 2-of-10 shots from long distance. But that's partly the point: John Thompson III's Princeton-based offense (unlike West Virginia's) doesn't depend on the temperature of its 3-point shooting; it does most of its damage with precision cuts, made by long athletes like Brandon Bowman (14 points) and Jeff Green (16 points) inside the arc.

"When you relax, they take advantage of it," Golden Eagles coach Tom Crean said of the Hoyas. "When you're out of position even the least bit, they know how to take advantage of that."

Georgetown now gets to face a Syracuse team that, while playing some of its best basketball of the season, could be emotionally drained after two intense victories. The Hoyas are the sleeper pick here. And Villanova, which is currently surviving the Quincy Douby show (24 points at halftime!) to narrowly lead Rutgers, is still the overwhelming favorite.

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3/09/2006 05:11:00 PM

The Long Ride To Storrs

Marcus Williams
Marcus Williams had 11 assists and just two turnovers ... but left with a loss.
AP

NEW YORK -- While Gerry McNamara is celebrating, Jim Calhoun will be taking his team home. This afternoon. From the locker room, to the Drake Hotel, to the bus, back to Storrs, Conn. And as much as he loves the Big East, the coach said, "I won't be watching tomorrow night or Saturday [on TV]. It will hurt too much."

The Huskies sleepwalked into Madison Square Garden today; the crowd, which was rowdy for the nail-biting conclusion, was quiet and sparse around noon, and UConn let Syracuse surge out to a 10-0 lead. It was a game in which Huskies point guard Marcus Williams said his team came out "thinking the Orange would just bow down to us" -- 'Cuse had, after all, lost its last meeting with the Huskies by 23. But the only bowing that occurred was UConn bowing out, in an 86-84 loss that has people everywhere re-evaluating the No. 1-ranked Huskies' national championship chances.

Do you give up on UConn on the basis of one game? Or do you regard this as a good thing? "If you see us in Indianapolis, then it's a good thing," said Calhoun. But the ugly fact remains: Of Calhoun's two national title teams, in 1999 and 2004, both of them won the Big East Tournament before making their runs through the NCAAs. This squad just exited in the quarterfinals.

I'm bothered by the loss, but I'm not ready to bail on UConn as a title pick just yet. This was a team that, despite going 27-2 in the regular season, needed a wake-up call. Rudy Gay, Rashad Anderson, Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong, were you listening? (Denham Brown, with 20 points, is excused.) Williams works best as a pass-first point guard -- he should not be the UConn player with the most field goal attempts at the end of the game. Williams took 17 shots. Two more than Anderson. Five more than Gay. One more than Boone and Armstrong combined. Credit the Orange's defense for forcing Williams to be the main offensive option -- and the guy taking the final, errant shot -- but fault the other Huskies for failing to step up as go-to guys on offense. When everything was on the line, 'Cuse knew who would take its last shot: McNamara. UConn didn't. It had no counter-punch for G-Mac.

Williams said UConn's mindset, now, must be that "the learning process is over."

"You can't say we can learn from the next game," Williams said. "There's six games left now. You have to go out there with all of your experience and put forth your best effort."

If UConn does that, it can still win the national title. And if that happens, it should credit McNamara for jolting it out of its slumber.

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3/09/2006 02:40:00 PM

In Cold Blood

Gerry McNamara
G-Mac, for another day, carried Syracuse.
AP

Anatomy of the second, cold-blooded G-Mac moment in as many days:

Score: UConn 74, Syracuse 71. 11. 2 seconds left. Jim Boeheim says to Gerry McNamara during the timeout: "They're not going to let you shoot it. But if they do, shoot it."

The Orange inbound the ball to Eric Devendorf, who immediately relays it to McNamara. Jim Calhoun is furious that G-Mac could be left open -- obviously, this was not in UConn's plan -- and the Huskies coach is literally jumping up and down as McNamara heads up the floor.

G-Mac drives to the top of the key, and UConn's Rashad Anderson inexplicably gives him space to fire. McNamara, with the same ice running through his veins from Wednesday, drills a long 3 from the top of the key. (Calhoun explained later that the Huskies were instructed to foul if the clock went under six seconds, but as McNamara said, "I stopped really early -- I think that might have threw them off a little bit.") As UConn walks off the floor at the end of regulation, Calhoun is in stare-down with Anderson. A silent, wide-eyed, enraged staredown. And Anderson sits for the start over overtime.

Five minutes of gametime later, the scoreboard reads: Orange 86, Huskies 84. McNamara's stat line: 17 points and 13 assists.

Louie McCroskey throws the game ball so hard into the air, it lodges itself inside the Garden scoreboard. And as the 'Cuse fans erupt and chant "Gerry," Terrence Roberts -- who fouled out much earlier in the second half -- sprints across the floor to embrace G-Mac. Boeheim said the thought running through his mind was, "Are you kidding me? For him to make that shot two days in a row? Are you kidding me?"

Syracuse, welcome to the NCAA tournament.

And the question for you, readers, is: Does this mean UConn is doomed?

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3/09/2006 01:09:00 PM

Halfway to an upset?

NEW YORK -- In the inaugural, expanded-era Big East Tournament -- a spectacle that gives us UConn-Syracuse, Georgetown-Marquette, Rutgers-Villanova and Pitt-West Virginia all on one day -- we're charting the firsts:

- First fan fight: 1:54 p.m., Wednesday, during the second half of 'Cuse-Cincinnati. It wouldn't be a game at Madison Square Garden (which, I must note, serves beer at NCAA events) without a senseless exchange of profanity and arm-swinging. A Mr. Clean-looking fellow in the Cincinnati section is being restrained, to the disappointment of the cheering mob around him.

- First (near) on-court fight: Immediately after the buzzer of the 'Cuse-Cincy game, noted Orange instigator Eric Devendorf gives a final taunt to the Bearcats' James White -- Devendorf has been egging on various Cincy players all afternoon -- and White has to be held back.

- First real upset: Is it about to happen? Are the Huskies really one-and-done at the Garden? We're at halftime of 'Cuse-UConn, with the score 39-28. The Orange, perhaps driven by Boeheim's tirade, put in an inspired first half, while the Huskies are sleepwalking, shooting 27.6 percent from the field. 'Cuse is already on the floor, doing its pre-second-half layup line ... while UConn is, most likely, getting a tongue-lashing from Jim Calhoun.

(One note on comments -- we are moderating them, so if yours doesn't show up immediately, don't fret; it's merely waiting to be approved by myself or an editor.)
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3/09/2006 12:05:00 AM

Behind the Boeheim/G-Mac Bombs

Jim Boeheim.
Jim Boeheim hugs Gerry McNamara, who finished with 17 points and nine assists in the 74-73 win.
AP

NEW YORK -- The now-famous Jim Boeheim press conference comments following Wednesday's first-round win over Cincinnati in the Big East tournament:

"I have to laugh a little bit when our own student newspaper is calling [Gerry McNamara] 'overrated.' They actually listened to a couple assistant coaches who I guarantee you will never be head coaches if they think Gerry McNamara is overrated. Of course our paper won't print that anyway because thats -- you know, somebody [who wasn't anonymous] said that.

"Without Gerry McNamara we wouldn't have won 10 f--kin' games this year. O.K.? Not 10. The other guys just aren't ready. They needed him. Without him there, not 10. We wouldn't be here to even have a chance to play this game. And everybody's talking to me and writing about Gerry McNamara being overrated? That's the most bulls--- thing I've seen in 30 years -- and especially if it comes from our people in our papers.

But they're quotes from somebody else, an anonymous assistant coach. Let the assitant coach come up to me and say, 'Gerry McNamara is overrated.' I'd like to see one of those guys come up to me and say that. [McNamara]'s been double-teamed every game this year, and the coaches voted him first team all-conference. The head coaches, they don't know s---, I guess."

A bit of background information:

- The question that led to Boeheim's tirade was not about McNamara at all ... it was, "Coach, can you talk about Darryl Watkins? He had a career high today." With G-Mac sitting right next to him, looking down at the table, Boeheim segued his Watkins answer into the above rant.

- Boeheim was referring to two newspaper stories. The first -- in which a student columnist called McNamara overrated as part of a point/counterpoint piece -- is from Syracuse's Daily Orange, and can be found here. The second is from the Syracuse Post-Standard's anonymous poll of Big East assistants, which is located here.

A few thoughts, and a question:

- Boeheim has every right to protect his guy. But neither paper is in any way wrong for printing what it did; the columnist has right to his opinion -- and it's not a crazy one, in a year when McNamara had career lows in both field-goal and 3-point percentage -- and anonymous polls are standard procedure in the media (SI ran an extensive players' poll last week, in which McNamara was named Most Overrated by his peers, in a tie with Rudy Gay). Anonymity is often the only way to get anyone to speak frankly.

- What do you think? Is McNamara overrated? And even if he is, has he done so much for Syracuse that he should be immune from criticism in the local media? Comment away -- and do it fast, because today (against No. 1 UConn) could very well be his last, meaningful college game.

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