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Thursday, Mar. 10, 2005 - 10:17 a.m.

Big East Blog: First Round

In an effort to be more diligent in my posting, I've decided to keep a daily update of the Big East basketball tournament, since I'm attending every game this year for the first time and it's on my list.

West Virginia 82, Providence 59
I watched the first few minutes at home while I waited for Matt to arrive from D.C. and Kevin Pitsnogle, the best name in the conference, had all 11 of West Virginia's points as they built an 11-4 lead. By the time we arrived at Madison Square Garden for the second half, we must have seen Providence commit at least 10 turnovers. They hit 15 field goals the rest of the game, which was almost double their first-half total of eight. With 20 TOs in the game, the first half must've been sloppier than the second. It's a sad way to see Ryan Gomes' college career end.


With three hours before the start of the evening doubleheader at 7 p.m., my dad, Matt and I hopped on the subway two stops to grab some burgers at Scruffy Duffy's up near 47th. Decked out for St. Patrick's Day, dad wondered, "What's with all the underwear?" I looked up to where he was gazing above the bar, and sure enough, strung across the ceiling like garland were dozens of white thongs with shamrocks on the front and, in tiny type (there's not much room back there, after all) on the back, SCRUFFY DUFFY'S.


We also marveled at how fast the scalping story with Vikings coach Mike Tice had developed. I'd said to Matt earlier, upon hearing Tice's initial statement, that the fact that he stressed, "I have never scalped tickets as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings" probably meant that he had done so as an assistant. Other sports banter: Rick Ankiel's switch from pitching to outfield, the mess at Colorado and Gary Bennett should be fired already because he's a slimeball and the anticipation of Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.


Georgetown 56, Seton Hall 51
Early in this one, I said that the first team to 65 would win. During the second half when Seton Hall had a 49-44 lead or thereabouts, I adjusted it to 60. There were still four or five minutes left, but Matt more accurately said, "The first team to 50." As the Hoyas had done to the Irish in Washington in January, they picked away at a 10-point lead midway through the second half and won a low-scoring game. This one was done with something like an 18-5 run to close out the game. We'd been rooting for Seton Hall because a Georgetown loss would have helped Notre Dame's prospects for the NCAA Tournament. Now that point is moot.


Rutgers sucks ass
After attending the aforementioned Georgetown game in the District, I made up some rankings of the Big East schools' home fans. I took the students out of the equation because it's college and your team can be pretty bad, but the kids are still going to get drunk and show up at the games pretty much no matter where you are, at least in the Big East. My simple criteria, in no particular order, was:


1. How do they draw? Do they sell out regularly?
2. How loud do they get? Are they into it from the start, or do they need the team to build a lead before they get excited?


That was pretty much it. So in the upper echelon, the Best of the Best, I put Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Syracuse and Rutgers. With the first three, the success of the programs helps, but those schools sell out just about every game and the fans are into it from the start. And with UConn, in particular, they travel pretty well. Rutgers never has a top program, but they pack the RAC, which is generally one of the toughest places to play in the conference. Just not this year. And with each of those schools, it doesn't take much from the team (if anything at all) to get the fans into it. They'll be loud, and they'll be loud early.


The second tier, Pretty Good, included Notre Dame, Boston College and Villanova. The Irish fans are on the cusp of the Best of the Best. They sold out most, if not all, of the basketball season this year as they have most of the past four or five. They Joyce Center can be loud and can be a difficult arena to visit, particularly if you're a No. 1 team or undefeated. I can't find the research at the moment, but I believe that no other active arena in the country has been host to more defeats of the No. 1 team than that on the Notre Dame campus. Boston College gets its ranking after consulting with an alumnus who admitted that the coach had to encourage the students to come out to Conte Forum. While something like that should indicate lower-tier fan support, they have been pretty enthusiastic outside of the Heights. Villanova got its ranking from my own observations at the ND-Nova game three days after the Georgetown game.


Then we have the Bottom of the Barrel. The crap: Providence, Seton Hall and Georgetown. The Friars ended up here after consulting with another friend who attended the school and he made the assessment himself, putting them on the cusp of Pretty Good. In fact, they might be in that tier; I forget. I might still have his e-mail somewhere. Anyway, moving on, Seton Hall and Georgetown fans just don't come out and when they do, they don't get into it until late in the game. When their team has a lead. There's no cheering to inspire a team that's down in D.C. or East Rutherford. As Brad said at one point during the weekend I spent in Washington, the town used to be all Georgetown, but it's since become a Terrapin town.


That leaves West Virginia and St. John's. I can't really assess the Mountaineers because I've never seen their home crowd in action, even on TV. I don't remember ever watching a game played at West Virginia. My guess would be that they're either Bottom of the Barrel or Best of the Best, if only because what else is there to do in Morgantown? In the winter? St. John's I'm leaving out because they do have enthusiastic fans from the games I've attended in the past, but after last season's 21-loss debacle and the issues off the court and this year's self-imposed postseason ban, I don't know how that's affected the crowds. If the crowds are still strong, they deserve Pretty Good, if not Best of the Best. If they've abandonded the team when it's down, well then they're crap.

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