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Big East Tournament: Day One Recap

Day one of the Big East tournament was disappointing if only because of how spoiled last year's day one made us.

No real upsets, no buzzer-beaters, and no games that we're really in doubt in the last minute. Still, there was some good action and some very praise-worthy performances on Wednesday to talk about.

Switching topics, how awesome does it feel to be able to watch the first day of the tournament stress free? This day a year ago our season was effectively over (NIT notwithstanding), and because of that I was getting the drunkest I have ever been by myself. It was a sad place that I hope U of L basketball never drives me to again.

A year later the Cards are dancing no matter what happens, and have about as good a shot as anyone to take home the top prize at the world's greatest conference tournament.  

Anyhow, here's what went down on day one:

Best Game: 9) Villanova 75, 8) Depaul 67

The first game of the day was the most entertaining in my mind because it was the only one where I thought the team that was coming from behind in the second half actually had a chance to win. Connecticut, St. John's and Providence all made second-half runs that cut heavily into deficits, but the Blue Demons were the only team that I thought possessed the ability to actually pull off the upset.

Sammy Mejia and Draelon Burns played courageously down the stretch, but 'Nova's ability to hit free-throws kept them from ever really being able to get into a position where they had a shot to win the game in the last minute.

When it became clear early on that Mike Nardi was going to have no impact on the game I thought Depaul might have a shot to steal one, but I seriosuly underestimated how much Jerry Wainwright could suck, and ultimately the better team one which left me satisfied.

Best Performance (Individual): Curtis Sumpter, Villanova

He may not have even scored the most points on his team, but Curtis Sumpter's performance on day one stood out more than anyone else's to me. Herbert Hill, Dan Fitzgerald and Demetris Nichols we're right there, but ultimately I stuck with Sumpter because I think his showing meant more to his team than the others' did to their teams.

Sumpter came out with a great deal of energy and bounce which he somehow managed to maintain for the entire game on his way to finishing with 25 points.

With the team's other veteran leader out, and with the only other superstar on the team being an excitable, albeit highly talented, freshman, Sumpter's passion and intensity was that much more of a key to a Wildcat win.

He scored eight points quickly to get the Wildcats out of the gate, and then hit two quick three-pointers to begin the second half which were part of an 8-0 that saw 'Nova grab a lead it wouldn't relinquish. Of course Sumpter was a big part of that too, hitting all eight of his free-throw attempts.

Best Performance (Team): West Virginia

West Virginia is the bubble team in the conference coming into this tournament. People talked about Syracuse and Villanova being on the bubble, but everyone already knew that they were getting in. People talked about Depaul being on the bubble, but everyone already knew that they weren't getting in. The Mountaineers are the only team people across the country are watching with a death stare.

So what better way to make a statement than by setting a conference tournament record for made three-pointers and dropping 92 points on a team that beat you two weeks ago?

Now I've been saying for weeks that WVU doesn't scare me because of their inability to beat anyone away from Morgantown, but this performance coupled with the knowledge that they're going to be playing for their NCAA Tournament lives tomorrow has me legitimately terrified.

Here's the good news though Card fans, while hitting 17-of-31 three-pointers in a gym by yourself is still impressive, anyone who watched tonight's game knows that the vast majority of those 31 attempts weren't defended. Sure West Virginia scored 92, but this is a Providence College team that we scored 78 points against in a 15-point win, and everyone knows how offensively challenged we can be.

And if that's not working for you, just keep telling yourself that they can't be that hot two nights in a row.

Most Disappointing Performance (Individual): Sharaud Curry, Providence

You can have an effective inside game, as PC did on Wednesday night with Herbert Hill scoring 20 points and snatching 10 rebounds, but you're not going to win if you're best perimeter players aren't doing anything, and Sharaud Curry did as close to nothing as he could.

The sophomore point guard, who is averaging 16 points and close to five assists a game, scored five points on 2-of-5 shooting, grabbed three rebounds and handed out just two assists in 34 minutes.

This is a guy who was leading the conference in scoring before he was suspended for five games in late December/early January, and a guy who had been held below ten points just twice all season.

Freshman guard Dwain Williams did pick up a lot of Curry's slack from the outside by scoring an unexpected 21 points off the bench, but when one of your superstars completely disappears it has an extremely adverse effect on the rest of the team's psyche.

On the biggest stage of the season Sharaud Curry balked, and now he's headed to the NIT.

Most Disappointing Performance (Team): Connecticut

I understand that Connecticut was supposed to lose by a relatively large margin, but for a half it seemed like they were finally playing to their potential and that they were going to hang right with Syracuse until the final buzzer. But as they've had a tendency to do this year, for a stretch in the second half they got frustrated and totally folded.

I know that these players are young, but they're talented enough that this team should have done more damage in a down Big East, and they had a fantastic chance to do some damage in this tournament on Wednesday.

Connecticut played like the team everyone thought they were going to be in the first half and the last eight minutes of the second, but the stretch in between ended any chance they could have possible entertained of winning.

Up two at the break, the Huskies allowed Syracuse to go on a 25-8 run to the start the half. And it wasn't like the Orange were playing unstoppable basketball, Connecticut just quit. You knew it was bad when you saw a freshman (Jerome Dyson) yelling at the team's most experienced player (Jeff Adrien) for dogging it down the floor in transition.

The way Uconn started had me excited thinking that I was actually going to see a game, when in reality all I saw was a microcosm of an entire season.

Play of the Day: Wilson Chandler's Reverse Tear Drop Lay-Up

Overall Wilson Chander had a very Wilson Chandler-esque (briefly exciting but mostly underachieving) day, but his reverse lay-in, which looked like it was tossed above the shot clock and then just barely hit the backboard before going through the rim and not even moving the net, was the most impressive play of day one.

No live blogging tomorrow afternoon in part because UK is playing at one which means I will undoubtedly be distracted.

I would like to state for the record, however, that I am sticking with my initial pick of Villanova making it all the way to the title game even though Mike Nardi is probably not going to play a major role in any contest this weekend. It's sort of like the time when I stuck with Arizona as my national champion in 2001 even after I found out Loren Woods wasn't going play at all. Predictably the Wildcats (coincidence???) got bounced in the second round by 'Sconsin. But I'm sticking with 'Nova because I'm loyal (and single, wink) like that.

Four absolutely fantastic games tomorrow, and while on paper Louisville/WVU probably looks the least appealing, it's probably the most important because the Mountaineers are the only team of the eight left in New York that haven't already played their way into the NCAA Tournament.

It's the busiest day of Championship Week, and the Cards are playing as the two seed in the Big East Tournament. Enjoy letting your ass get romantic with your couch.