|What they said… BC ready for USC||03.19.09 at 10:23 pm ET|
The student-athletes of Boston College headed for the comforts of their hotel rooms but not before sharing their thoughts about facing Southern California on Friday night in Minneapolis.
Tyrese Rice and Rakim Sanders took questions from the media on Thursday. Here’s what they said:
Q. I was going to ask, do you guys feel like you’re playing your best brand of basketball right now? And also, even though you haven’t gone on a long, winning stretch, this tournament kind of requires it.
Do you feel like that makes a difference?
TYRESE RICE: I don’t think we are playing our best basketball right now, but we are definitely improving. And we have to be ready for tomorrow.
As far as the winning streak, a lot of the No. 1 seeds have had big winning streaks. Really the only big winning streak right now is Louisville. So you can’t really say much about winning streaks; it is who is going to get hot at the right time or who is not.
RAKIM SANDERS: What he said, we’re improving as a team. I mean, we haven’t like our last game we haven’t won, but we are learning from each game and getting better. So I think yeah.
Q. For both players, guys, talk to me about the national perception. The ESPN talking heads are both predicting Southern California, a fine ball club, to beat you guys rather easily. Despite the fact you are a higher seed, USA Today has you as an underdog in the paper. Nothing is really talking about your team or about the game. How do you guys feel about that kind of lack of respect that you’re getting by the national media?
TYRESE RICE: That’s nothing new when it comes to us. I mean even my freshman year we were No. 10 team in the country and still didn’t get any respect. So it doesn’t mean anything to me. I mean, everybody will always have us as the underdog regardless when we are playing Southern Cal or whoever else.
So we have been playing the underdog roles our whole life. Most of the people on our team have been playing the underdog roles, and we’re fine with that.
RAKIM SANDERS: Really don’t matter to me. At the end of the day, I mean, we’re going to leave it on the court anyway. So it really don’t matter. Read the rest of this entry »
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 112, Heat 108 OT||03.18.09 at 11:52 pm ET|
While Paul Pierce is almost certainly not going to beat out guys named Kobe or LeBron or even the Heat’s Dwayne Wade, who was a late scratch Wednesday with a right hip flexor, the Celtics captain showed exactly why he is still one of the most feared players in the league.
He scored 36 points and hauled in 11 rebounds and, with the help of Rajon Rondo’s 27 points and 10 assists, led the Green to a gutsy 112-108 OT win against Miami.
“It almost came down to that we had Paul and they didn’t have Wade,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “When Paul was making all the shots, I thought that last shot he took was in too so, it’s a good win for us, right now even when you get what we’re going through is good. I thought a lot of guys, obviously Paul and Rajon, was terrific.”
Pierce looked like the Pierce of 2006-07 when he HAD to be the guy taking all the big shots at the end of games. Like his three-pointer with 2:27 left in regulation to give the Celtics a 96-95 lead. Like his jumper with 1:49 remaining to give the Celtics a 98-97 lead. Like his jumper with 1:23 remaining to give the Celtics a 100-99 lead. Pierce was 6-for-8 in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of his team’s 25 points
“When he does that, it’s unbelievable,” Kendrick Perkins said in wonder. “He’s hitting shots, crazy shots. I knew they were in trouble how he came out. When he comes out like that, he’s in attack mode. I was like, ‘Somebody is in trouble tonight.’ He came out just feeling it. He carried us tonight, he and Rondo.”
Pierce was more humble.
‘We just needed a win any way we can get it, right now at this point, it seems like bodies are going down left and right, to get our spirits back up,” Pierce said. “We know that we are injured, we know that we are losing guys every other day, but just to get back on the winning mindframe, is big for us, especially when you are going into San Antonio in a couple of days later. So, this was a big game for us, hopefully on this road trip, we get a couple of bodies back, if not we continue to grind these games out until these guys get better.’
‘They’re up,” Pierce said. “That’s the one great thing about this team. We’ve never been down, we’ve never look at one another, point the finger at one another, and we understand that we just have to keep working. We’re a team that doesn’t make excuses, that doesn’t cry over spilled milk. The situation is what it is and we have to go out there and put our hard hats on and our work boots on and continue to work regardless of who’s out there.’
Jermaine O’Neal has seen this all before. He wasn’t surprised by the show Pierce put on against his Heat on Wednesday.
|Skinner: It’s not a track meet, it’s basketball||03.18.09 at 11:12 am ET|
As they wing their way westward toward Minneapolis and a Friday night date with USC, the Boston College Eagles will be thinking about their first round opponent and how to go about beating them.
Those with concerns about BC’s chances point to the fact that Southern Cal is on a hot streak, winning the Pac-10 tournament just to get a ticket to the dance.
They also point out that USC is an athletic team that loves to get up and down the court and DeMar DeRozan will be a handful for the Eagles.
But BC coach Al Skinner isn’t looking at it that way.
“I’m not overly concerned about athleticism because when I last checked it’s not a track meet, it’s still a game of basketball,” Skinner said. “It’s about skills, you’ve got to be able to put the ball in the basket, dribble, pass. So, we concentrate on those areas. Athleticism can help but it’s still a game of skill.
“They like to get a little bit in transition. They have a lot of quick hitters. They have some individuals that are physically talented. We’re going to have to deal with that. They really like to attack the basket. They’re pretty athletic. They get around the rim and they do some good things.”
DeRozan, who scored 25 in the Pac-10 title game, is a quick hitter, as are Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett. The Trojans feature a three-guard set under coach Tim Floyd, which points to Skinner’s belief that they will try to out-manuever the Eagles, who will try to run the flex offense.
This Trojans team erased a 15-point halftime deficit in the Pac-10 championship against Arizona State and won, 66-63. In other words, BC must bring it all game long and not let up.
“You just see what a little urgency does for a team,” Eagles point man Tyrese Rice said. “They realized they had to win a tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament and they went out and made it happen. We’re going to have to be aware of how hard they’re playing right now.”
Then there’s someone like Tyler Roche. He is a junior now, two years removed from advancing to the second round in 2007, when BC lost to Georgetown.
|BC hoops: A reason to believe||03.17.09 at 11:40 am ET|
“I think we’re in a good place but I think,” Skinner said, acknowledging there’s still some reservation. “Whether I really feel that, We’ll find out in practice. I’m looking forward to it and I think they’re looking forward to it. I’m just curious as to what the results are going to be. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. They’ve responded.”
Responded and how. The Eagles are 22-11, a No. 7 seed in the Midwest after entering this season picked for next to last in the ACC, and facing USC on Friday night in Minneapolis. However, the Eagles didn’t get to this point without learning a lot about themselves.
While there was some genuine disappointment in losing to an inferior St. Louis team, 53-50, back in November, the B.C. Eagles first really learned how to respond when they dropped an unconscionable 82-70 decision to Harvard at Conte Forum three days after beating No. 1 ranked and unbeaten North Carolina on their home court.
“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs with big wins and dropping (games) to the Harvards of the world,” Rakim Sanders said. “But it’s been a good year. And the experience we’ve had, beating Carolina, knowing we can play with anybody. Having that confidence in our heads has been good for us.”
But confidence can be a funny thing. Just ask their head coach.
“I should have a little more confidence in them but I also know the history,” Skinner said. “I thought we were prepared for the ACC Tournament. Mentally, I thought guys did what I wanted, I thought they were ready to play. I really should, they’ve probably earned that but I’m not quite there yet.”
If Sanders’ shot goes through the basket on Friday instead of ringing off the iron, you could certainly make the point that it would be the Eagles who would have been dancing around the Georgia Dome floor with nets around their necks on Sunday.
“We lost to Duke by a point,” Skinner said of the loss in the ACC quarterfinals. “What they (Duke) did in the championship game is just an indication of where we are because we obviously had a chance to win that game. I’m pleased but not satisfied and so we’re going to continue to work hopefully till I get satisfied.”
Helping the team in its goal of satisfying the coach and themselves is Tyrese Rice. The senior point guard, who scored 34 points in a half against North Carolina in Feb. ’08, has matured into a leader of men. The kind of leader you need come tournament time.
“I’m expecting a lot,” Rice said. “I’m expecting everyone to step up and do what they’ve been doing all year, and a little bit more. I feel like I can step my game up a little bit more, I feel like there are some other people on the team who could step their game up some more and I feel like they feel the same way.”
Skinner said on Monday he can already sense other players responding to Rice and picking up their game.
“We’ve continued to improve and that’s the most important thing, especially for a young team,” Skinner said. “A lot of times, a team hits a plateau and we have not done that. We’re edging upward and obviously I’m very pleased with that.”
Rice has had a first-hand view of the growth on and off the court.
“Everybody’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Rice said. “You see when guys come into a game, they’re coming in to make a difference. We saw Biko Paris come in and probably have the best game of his career against Duke. He came in and was ready. A guy that didn’t play a lot or probably as much as he thinks he should have and comes in and gives us 15 big points.
“Everybody has a certain swagger to them, a certain confidence,” he added. “We’re just trying to bring it all together.”
|Trags Take… A method to the madness||03.16.09 at 2:02 pm ET|
It is a scientific fact.
The middle of March has become the least productive time of year in corporate America. Even in these times of economic volatility and stress where’s there’s more pressure to produce, you can almost bet that every office has a pool of predictions as to who is going to advance in the NCAA Men’s Division I basketball championship.
And you can bet people are emailing, facebooking, texting and generally trash-talking each other’s teams, star players and of course, picks.
I might as well get in on the act. So here goes.
Five teams I love in this tournament:
1. Louisville. Rick Pitino knows what this time of year is about. His team was a machine at the Big East Tournament. They won 19 of 21 games this year in the best basketball conference in the country. Any questions?
2. Memphis. Yes they play in the Memphis Athletic Conference, also known as Conference USA, where they have won an amazing 61 straight games. Only Kentucky’s string of 64 versus SEC teams between 1945-50 is better. And they are on a 25-game winning streak. They ARE athletic enough to knock of No. 1 UConn in the West, if of course, they hit those pesky free throws.
3. North Carolina. Assuming Ty Lawson’s toe isn’t an issue, there’s ZERO reason to think he and Tyler Hansbrough won’t lead the Heels back to the Final Four in Detroit.
4. Villanova. These Wildcats are eight deep and it’s a quality eight. That is vital at tournament time because if one or two stars are off, someone needs to pick up the slack. As long as Scottie Reynolds doesn’t go 1-on-5 too often, they should advance to Boston.
5. Xavier. This team lost Josh Duncan, Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell and everyone figured a step back was in order. All they did was reload with C.J. Anderson, B.J. Raymond and Derrick Brown. One of the most athletic teams in the tournament.
Five teams I wouldn’t bank on heading to the Motor City:
1. Syracuse. Great story. Seven overtimes. Two Big East Tourney wins, including a victory in arguably the most epic (certainly not greatest) college basketball game of all time. What does that get you? A No. 3 seed in the same South bracket as Oklahoma, North Carolina and Gonzaga and 15 sets of tired legs. Don’t be shocked if No. 14 Stephen F. Austin pulls the upset.
2. Wake Forest. Way too up-and-down from January on. Team looked like they were going to compete for a No. 1 seed and challenge UNC for ACC supremacy when they were ranked No. 1 early on. They lost at home to Virginia Tech when they were top-ranked and haven’t been the same since.
3. Boston College. They have been truly one of the fascinating stories of the college season. Al Skinner may not receive the national coach of the year but NO ONE did more to deserve it. He took a group that was picked to finish in the lower third of the ACC and rallied them to beat unbeaten and No. 1 North Carolina. Yes, we know who they lost to just days later but they also beat Duke and should have beaten them in the ACC tourney. But the fact is, they are bracketed with Michigan State, and Louisville in the Midwest, that is if they get by red-hot USC.
4. Duke. Why the hate for the ACC, Trags? Well, if you watched Duke lose at B.C. and you watched the game on Friday night at the Georgia Dome, you realize how flawed the Blue Devils are. If you don’t let Jon Scheyer kill you, you stand a really good chance of doing what VCU did in 2007.
5. Marquette. Sorry Doc Rivers. Another great early-season story. Then Dominic James broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Season over. Jerel McNeal is a fabulously talented player, who can score from anywhere on the court and led a ferocious comeback against Villanova in the Big East Tournament. But there aren’t enough big bodies who score to sustain him in this highly intense environment.
Trags Final Four Take:
Louisville over Memphis in one national semifinal.
Villanova over North Carolina in the other.
Trags Final Take:
Louisville over Villanova.
Also of note:
The US Basketball Writers of America announced their All-Americans on Monday:
DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh, F, 6-7, 265, So., Pittsburgh, Pa.
Stephen Curry, Davidson, G, 6-3, 185, Jr., Charlotte, N.C.
Blake Griffin, Oklahoma, F, 6-10, 251, So., Oklahoma City, Okla.
Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina, F, 6-9, 250, Sr., Poplar Bluff, Mo.
James Harden, Arizona State, G, 6-5, 218, So., Los Angeles, Calif.
Sherron Collins, Kansas, G, 5-11, 200, Jr., Chicago, Ill.
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame, F, 6-8, 255, Jr., Schererville, Ind.
Jodie Meeks, Kentucky, G, 6-4, 208, Jr., Norcross, Ga.
Jeff Teague, Wake Forest, G, 6-2, 180, So., Indianapolis, Ind.
Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut, C, 7-3, 263, Jr., Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 102, Grizzlies 92||03.13.09 at 11:10 pm ET|
They also knew there was plenty of time to catch their breath and, thanks to Leon Powe’s career night as well as solid contributions from the bench, the Celtics outscored the Grizz, 81-65, the rest of the way and cruised to their 50th win of the season.
Some quick takes on Friday’s game.
Leon Powe played 41 minutes and committed ZERO turnovers two days after playing 43 in a loss at Miami. He is showing fresh legs and that’s going to be key to protecting Kevin Garnett when he comes back.
Ray Allen had 22 points in 31 minutes.
The Celtics were tougher than the Grizzlies, outscoring them, 48-30, in the paint.
The Celtics clinched a tie for the Atlantic Division title, missing a clinching when Philly beat Chicago in the final game ever at the Spectrum.
Here’s what the Celtics had to say in their final home game before St. Patrick’s Day.
|Power to the Powe||03.13.09 at 10:37 pm ET|
The name Gasol is like a four-letter word, plus exclamation, among Celtics fans.
On Friday night, the legend grew. As Leon Powe was destroying the Memphis Grizzlies with a monstrous 30-point, 11-rebound performance, Pau’s brother Marc was trash-talking with teammate Rudy Gay at the free throw line.
Ray Allen was a witness to it and heard every word loud and clear.
“Gasol and Rudy Gay were talking on the free throw line,” Allen said. “So (Gay) says, ‘You’ve got to guard Leon.’ (Gasol) says, ‘I don’t care about Leon, let him get 40.’ I looked at him and said, ‘You want him to get 40, he’ll get 40 on you, don’t sleep on him.’ And he goes, ‘As long as it’s not Pierce.’ I said, ‘If it’s 40, we’re still going to win.’ ”
And win the Celtics did, 102-92, over the Grizzlies at TD Banknorth Garden on Friday night. Powe was the biggest reason, with his career-high 30, 11 board, five blocks and three assists.
“So, the free throw line banter was pretty funny tonight,” Allen continued.
And no one was laughing harder than Powe, who reminded everyone at his locker afterward that he scored 41 in college with California.
He also was giving grief to the man who he’s replacing in the lineup, Kevin Garnett, who is still out another week with a strained right knee.
“Me and KG had a little friendly talk,” said Powe, who played a team-high 41 minutes. “I want KG to come back. My body is getting used to these 40 minutes (a game). But that’s our leader, man, and we miss him so we want to be at full strength. And once we’re at full strength, we’re going to be hard to stop.”
On Friday night, it was Powe who was unstoppable.
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