Tag Archives: John Thompson III

Big East Regular-Season Champ Villanova Ready for March Madness

9 Mar


By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

(from left to right) Villanova senior guard Tony Chennault, head coach Jay Wright and freshman forward Darryl  Reynolds salute the crowd after Saturday's win over Georgetown in the regular-season finale. Photo by Webster  Riddick.

(from left to right) Villanova senior guard Tony Chennault, head coach Jay Wright and freshman forward Darryl Reynolds salute the crowd after Saturday’s win over Georgetown in the regular-season finale. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA –In years past winning the Big East regular-season title guaranteed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But in this bizarre new world of conference-switching to accommodate football, the newly, reconfigured Big East is not going to get the kind of juice it once got in the NCAA Tournament. Some RPI services have the new Big East rated as the fourth-rated conference in the nation.

Nevertheless, Big East regular-season champion Villanova head coach Jay Wright has been more enamored with how well his team is playing at the most critical stretch of the season.

Since a home loss to conference-rival Creighton on Jan. 20th, the Wildcats have won 12 of their last 13 games coming into Thursday’s Big East quarterfinal at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The one loss in that stretch came at the hands of Creighton.

“They’re very mature,” Wright said. “These guys bring it every day in practice. I think that’s what’s been unique about them is that they are able to keep an intensity, regardless of the circumstances.”

As well as Villanova (28-3, 15-2)  has played throughout the regular season, more than a few college basketball observers are saying that things  have to fall the right way for the Wildcats to get the No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.

That said, Wright said he is not overly concerned about where his team is seeded in this year’s NCAA Tournament. It’s more about getting his team ready for the festivities in New York this week.

“I really don’t think there’s that much difference in playing between a one and a two,” Wright said. “Being considered up there is great, but no concern at all. We want to get fresh here going into the Big East Tournament. The Big East Tournament is fun, man.  I just want to concentrate on the Big East.”

That message is something that’s been filtered down to the Villanova players as they go about the process of getting ready for their trip to New York.

“Coach makes sure that it doesn’t gets to our heads,” said Wildcats junior guard Darrun Hilliard, who scored 19 points in Saturday’s win over Georgetown.  “We don’t really buy into it really.  All the coaches keep us humble and keep pushing us to get better.

“We’re going to hear it on all the social networks, TV. It is what it is. Today’s today and so tomorrow’s a new day. We have to keep moving forward and getting better.”

The one thing to like about this particular Villanova squad is that they are team that truly plays together and they have no one player standing out as a superstar. In their 77-59 victory over Georgetown in the regular-season finale, the Wildcats had five players scoring in double figures.

“They have several players on their team that would be the point player or the star on other teams. They got different people who can step up and control the ball. Their unselfishness is the key,” said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. “At the offensive end, they are very unselfish team. They drive and kick it to the person that’s open and that person can make a shot.”

Four of the five players in Villanova’s starting lineup are averaging in double-figures. The Wildcat are led by six-foot-six senior guard/small forward James Bell, who averages 15 points and six rebounds per game. Junior forward JayVaugh Pinkston averages 14.4 per game while Hilliard scores 14.2 points per contest. Sophomore point guard Ryan Arcidiacono contributes with 10 points per game.

Even with his team playing well, Wright said his team can get better and is starting to play well on defense. The two losses to Creighton in which the Wildcats allowed 96 and 100 points respectively made them realize that they play well on defense.

“Our defense is definitely getting better and they’re taking more pride in it. The second Creight taught them that we’re a good offensive, but you’re not going to be beat the best team just scoring,” Wright said. “After we got beat the second time that woke them up. I think we can keep getting better and that’s the approach we’re going to take.”

Who are These Guys? 15th Seed Florida Gulf Coast Shocks No. 2 Georgetown in NCAA Second Round

23 Mar

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Florida Gulf Coast senior forward slams home a putback in the Eagles upset of No. 2 seed Georgetown. Photo by Webster Riddick

Florida Gulf Coast senior forward slams home a put back in the Eagles upset of No. 2 seed Georgetown at the Wells Fargo Center. Photo by Webster Riddick

PHILADELPHIA—If you’ve been wondering who the heck is Florida Gulf Coast, the Georgetown Hoyas can tell you a whole lot about them as they make their way back down I-95 toward the Capital Beltway.

“If you don’t know us by now, I don’t know what’s wrong with y’all,” said Florida Gulf sophomore guard Bernard Thompson, who scored 23 points.

In what is by far the biggest upset of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast using an uptempo brand of offense eliminated the No. 2 seeded Georgetown Hoyas with a thrilling 78-68 win in front of a crowd at the Wells Fargo Center who haven’t cheered quite as loud for a team bearing the name “Eagles” in quite some time.

For the school, whose address is Fort Myers, Fla., but actually borders Naples, it was the biggest win in the history of the Florida Gulf Coast University basketball program.

“This is the NCAA Tournament (second) round game we’re the 15 seed, nobody picked us a win, it meant a lot,” said sophomore point guard Brett Comer.

With the score tied at 31-31 with 17:27 left in the second half, Florida Gulf Coast turned the game up a notch and went a 21-2 scoring spurt that gave them a 19-point lead. The Eagles proved to be too quick for what turned out to be a slower Georgetown squad.

“They got out in transition and that started their run,” said Hoyas sophomore forward Otto Porter, who finished the game with 13 points and 11 rebounds. “They started knocking shots. It’s hard when a team is knocking down shots like that.”

Florida Gulf Coast charged out front by taking advantage of missed shots and scoring on the fast-break. Comer got his teammates involved in a lightning fast offensive attack that included a crowd-pleasing oop to junior forward Chase Fieler.

“I saw Otto Porter trailing me, I knew he was going to try and contest my shot, I saw Fieler out the corner of my eye,” said Comer, who finished the game with 12 points and 10 assists.

After the Eagles took a two-point lead into the locker room, head coach Andy Enfield told his team to push up the tempo and play their style of basketball.

“Throw some ally-oops, kick the ball out to the three and whether it makes or misses, we wanted to push the ball in transition and play our style in the second half,” Enfield said. “And I think our guys did a tremendous job early on and we went on a run.”

With a 19-point lead with 12:30, the Eagles had to withstand several Georgetown runs. The Hoyas actually cut the Florida Gulf Coast margin to four with 53 seconds left, but would come no closer. The Eagles hit their free throws to put the game away.

“We showed a lot of maturity in the fact that we were able to then go on a second run and extend our lead. I thought that was the key to the game,” Enfield said.

Meanwhile, Georgetown just could not find a rhythm on offense. They only scored one basket in the last 10 minutes of the first half.  When Florida Gulf Coast went on their scoring spurt, the Hoyas kept rushing their shots and taking ill-advised threes.

“In looking back in succession we did take too many threes, too many long shots instead of going to the basket,” said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. “I think we became discombobulated at the defensive end more than the offensive end to tell the truth.”

For the Florida Gulf Coast University basketball program their visit to Philadelphia and their win over Georgetown has definitely put them on the map.

“It’s definitely a coming out party,” Fieler said. “A lot of people didn’t know about us before we got here. The entire stadium was on our side and we got a lot of fans. It was a coming out party for our team and our program. A lot of people thought we were a junior college, so it good that we won a game like this, but we can’t be satisfied.”

Speaking of NCAA Tournament coming out parties and historical footnotes,  it was an upstart Georgetown program, under then head coach John Thompson II, that had its own coming out party in Philadelphia back in 1980 when the Hoyas beat a favored No.2 seeded Maryland squad in the semifinals of the East Regionals played at the old Spectrum about 100 yards away from the Wells Fargo Center.

2013 NCAA Tournament: Mid-Majors Give Under Recruited Players A Chance to Grow and Shine

22 Mar

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Creighton's 6-8 forward Doug McDermott averages 23 points per game coming into Friday's Second Round NCAA Tournament matchup against Cincinnati.

Creighton’s 6-8 forward Doug McDermott averages 23 points per game coming into Friday’s Second Round NCAA Tournament matchup against Cincinnati.

PHILADELPHIA—If you’re basketball playing son has ambitions of being an NBA lottery pick or being recruited by the big name brand schools like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, or any of the schools from the big conferences and he is not even on their radar, he shouldn’t despair.

If you have been watching the NCAA Tournament the last few years, not being recruited by the big-time programs is definitely not the end of the world. Your kid can be a star at a mid-major that school ends up beating one of those schools in the NCAA Tournament.

Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said the success of the mid-majors over the last few years means that there is true parity in college basketball.

“I think as fans, writers and reporters we’ve been forced to categorize teams…this is a power six,  this is a high major, this is a mid-major,” Thompson III said.  “And so just because of how we’ve always done things, we want to assume that a team from this conference is not as good, as talented, as tough as a team from that conference and that’s just not the case anymore.”

The successful tournament runs of Virginia Commonwealth (2010 Final Four), Butler (2010 Final Four) and George Mason (2006 Final Four) has athletes from those schools believing  they are just as good as the players from the big schools.

“Those teams set the bar set the bar for us mid-majors, especially this year in college basketball where anything can happen,” said Creighton junior forward Doug McDermott, whose team will play 10th –seeded Cincinnati in Friday’s second-rround NCAA Tournament game at the Wells Fargo Center.  “Teams we played in the Missouri Valley Conference were really well-coached.”

Oddly enough, Creighton is leaving the Missouri Valley Conference for the new edition of the Big East Conference and they will cease being a mid-major school.

Still, some of the tournament’s most compelling moments have occur when players playing for a mid-major school become superstars for those teams. Often times, mid-major star is a player who was not heavily recruited by the schools from the BCS conferences.

“It’s an opportunity to show that maybe we did get missed or something like that,” said Florida Gulf Coast guard Eddie Murray before his team’s second-round match up against No. 2-seed Georgetown. “It’s an opportunity to show what we can do and see what happens.”

A case in point is Stephen Curry, who is now an NBA star with the Golden State Warriors.  Even as the son of former NBA star Dell Curry, Stephen was not highly recruited at all. The only visit to a major conference school for Stephen was when Dell arranged a visit to his alma mater at Virginia Tech.

In 2006, Curry accepted a scholarship to Davidson, a team that had not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1969.

As a sophomore, he led Davidson on an incredible run through the NCAA Tournament knocking off teams like No. 2 seed Georgetown en route to leading his team to the Elite Eight. That season he was fifth in the nation in scoring and led the Southern Conference in that category as well.

It helps that schools like Florida Gulf Coast, champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference, also play a tough non-conference schedule. The Eagles biggest win of the non-conference schedule was a win over ACC champion Miami, the no. 2 seed in the East Region.

“That definitely gives us a lot of confidence,” said Florida Gulf Coast guard Sherwood Brown. “It makes us realize that even though they may by bigger than us, if you just play hard and play good defense, no matter what you can win.”

Perhaps the main draw that the mid-majors have is that the coaches get to work with the players for four years to develop their skills and they get to gel with their teams. That’s also a reason why those mid-level programs end up beating the bigger schools in the tournament because good players at the major programs end up jumping to the pros after a year or two.

“We have a very specific player development program that we’ve done and that’s why our players have made jumps,” said Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield. “Players want to get better. They want to be big-time college players and a lot them want to make money when they get out.”