BSB In-Attendance: Phils go down to Astros in 16

Living in New York City, I don’t make it to many games at Citizen’s Bank Park, but I was in attendance on Tuesday night, for what the Inquirer’s Matt Gelb called “arguably the strangest game in the park’s history.”  My night was stranger than most.  Thanks to an overturned tractor trailer on the Jersey Turnpike, my bus ride to Philly took over four hours.  I didn’t get to the stadium until the 5th inning, and I was in line at Tony Luke’s when the Phils’ got on the board with a run in the 6th.

Settling into my seat in left field for the start of the 7th, I figured I would at least get to catch three innings of a tight game, and enjoy a roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe, in the process.  Everything was going along as expected until Jimmy Rollins came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, and no one on base.  The way the Phils’ offense has been going, it was impossible to see what was coming next:  a game-tying home run deposited into the right field seats.  It was the kind of moment that has you turning to high-five complete strangers after you high-five your friends.

You probably know the debacle that ensued in the extra-innings.  Ryan Howard was bogusly ejected in the 14th.  After the commotion, we suddenly realized:  we have no bench players left!  A pitcher’s gonna play first?!  Oswalt’s the best athlete, right?  Sure enough, Oswalt did come into the game, but he came out to left field, right in front of our seats.  We were all cheering like crazy as he jogged out to start his warm-up throws.  Of course, the first batter of the inning hit a flyball into left, and Oswalt smoothly made the play.  The next batter sent a flyball down the left field line and we all held our breaths as Oswalt gave chase, stopping in front of the wall as the ball went foul.

With the Phils down two in the 16th, the Astros intentionally walked Utley to get to Oswalt.  As Dan Baker announced: “Now batting, LEFT-FIELDER, Roy Oswalt!”, the roughly 20,000 fans (impressively) still in the stadium started to chant, “Let’s Go, Oswalt!!!”.  Of course, Oswalt grounded out to end the game.  It was obviously a tough loss.  Not only did the Phils burn through their pen, but they lost a game in the heat of a late-August pennant race.

But, if there’s a silver lining to take away from it, I think it will be the fans reaction to Oswalt, both when he came out to left field, and when he batted at the end of the game.  It was much publicized that Oswalt was hesitant to come and play in Philly.  He’s a rural Mississippi guy who was worried, for whatever reason, about coming to play in a major East Coast city.  I have to think he was impressed by the fan support he got in that game, and it may have been the moment where he was both accepted by Phillie fans and where he came to realize that Philly is a pretty cool place to play.  What impact that may have on his performance is impossible to say, but if it can help morale and help cement him as a part of the organization, that can’t be a bad thing.  As for me, if I was going to see a loss in person, it would have been hard to pick a better one.

One Night, Three Games

Monday night was a great night of sports watching for me, as I watched three games, one in person and two on TV, and all three were good wins for Philly sports fans.  I was in North Philly for the 7PM tip-off of 19th-ranked Temple’s rout of Bowling Green.  Then I was back at my parents’ house in the suburbs to see the Bears knock off the Vikings, keeping the Eagles’ hopes of a first-round bye alive, and the Sixers pick up a nice win in Portland.

jacksonThe Bears-Vikings game was the best of the bunch and, ironically since it was the only game that didn’t involve a Philly team, it was the game I was rooting for the most.  The Eagles lost to the Raiders in mid-October and they were just 5-4 in mid-November.  They’ve had their three best offensive players (McNabb, Westbrook, Jackson) each miss at least one game due to injury.  The offensive line and linebacking corps have been patched together with whatever they could find (Jeremiah Trotter? Winston Justice? Moise Fokou?) all season.  And yet, despite it all, they’re now just one win away from a first-round bye and a home playoff game in the divisional round.

The Birds have won six in a row, and with the recent slides of the Saints and Vikings, they might be playing the best football of any team in the NFC.  A note of caution: if the Eagles lose to Dallas, then they may have gone the whole season without beating a team with a winning record, as their “best” wins right now are against the 8-7 Giants and Broncos. 

That being said, the offense has looked so good that it’s hard to imagine they couldn’t keep that going against higher quality opponents.  We’ll see on Sunday, as the Cowboys have surrendered the fewest points of any team in the NFC.  If the Eagles are going to take the coveted 2-seed, then they’ll have to earn it by going into Dallas and picking up what would be their most impressive win of the season.  If they can do that, we have a title contender on our hands, if not it’s most likely “wait ’till next year.”  Another note of caution: center Jamaal Jackson is done for the year with an ACL tear.  It looks like the plan is to move Nick Cole to center and insert Max Jean-Gillies at right guard.  Hopefully this isn’t the one offensive line issue that will finally ruin the unit.

If anyone missed the Vikings-Bears game, the second-half (and overtime) was a classic.  favreAs much as I don’t like Brett Favre, he will always be interesting to watch.  All of the off-season hoopla that surrounded him and Jay Cutler just added to the spectacle of them playing gun-slinger against each other in a tight game.  Favre led the Vikings back from a 23-6 deficit to tie it at 23.  Cutler and the Bears answered quickly, 30-23.  Favre still had 5 minutes to work with, and he got it done with 16 ticks left, on a perfect pass to Sidney Rice, tied at 30.  It went back and forth in the OT before Cutler ended it with a long strike for the game-ending score, 36-30.

That game-winner was set-up by an Adrian Peterson fumble.  On Saturday night, me and Bry debated who is the best back in the league, Peterson or Chris Johnson.  He said Johnson, I said Peterson.  But if Peterson keeps fumbling, I’m not so sure.  He also needs to stay healthy.  I think it’s a push right now and it’s something to watch in 2010.

iversonThe Sixers somewhat shockingly went into Portland and beat the excellent Blazers, 104-93.  Nights like these are the reason I wanted Iverson to come back.  It felt like old times, sitting on my parents’ couch, watching AI drive by defenders to the rim, or pull up and knock down an 18-footer.  He scored 19 on 7-11 shooting, in his return after missing four games with an injury.  And yes, in the old days you would’ve had to tie one arm behind his back to get him to only shoot 11 times, but flashes of the old AI were there.  And speaking of flashes of old times, Elton Brand scored 25 points with 9 boards.  I won’t suggest that this game is a sign of anything, but having Lou Williams, Iverson, and Iguodala playing together worked well in this one.  The Sixers were definitely able to take advantage of the Blazers missing their centers, Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla, as they drove to the basket repeatedly without fear of a shot-blocker waiting for them.  And, of course, it probably didn’t hurt that Willie Green missed the game with an ankle injury!

Finally, those nationally-ranked Temple Owls got off to a slow start but turned it on to overpower and blow away Bowling Green, 64-39.  The Owl defense has been great.  The talented trio of Ryan Brooks, Lavoy Allen, and Juan Fernandez will lead this team to the tournament for the third straight season.  I’m not sure how they’ll fare against Kansas on Saturday, but this bunch will be a tough out all season, and certainly in March. 


Into the Mind of J: The Game One Experience

J, one of our favorite guest columnists, somehow landed front-row tickets, right behind the Phillies dugout for Game One in Yankee Stadium.  Apparently, the seat to his right was Spike Lee’s seat (I wouldn’t have believed it if there weren’t pictures to prove it).  So, we asked him to describe the experience of a Phillies-Yankees World Series game from, basically, on the field.  This is what we got:

If you’re a Phillies fan, Game 1 of the 2009 World Series was a game for the ages. It was probably the second biggest Phillies win in my lifetime (behind the ‘08 WS clincher, duh). I’ll leave it to the experts (Bry and Doogan) to break it down every which way in every bit of its awesomeness, but what I’d like to do is share my personal experience being there because it was the single greatest live sports experience of my life. Hands down. Yes, Doogan, something finally surpassed the #5 Temple win over #4 Michigan State in the 2000 college basketball season.

It all started Tuesday night, the night before the game, when my buddy Josh called me during my grad class. He left a message that I listened to during our midclass break.  “Just wondering what you’re doing for the game tomorrow. Call me back.”  Not much excitement in his voice, nor any other tell that I noticed should indicate anything other than he’s gonna be around Philly and wants to hang out. So I called him back after class. “Yo, got your message. Not much, probably just hangin at my place. You gonna be around?” “Nope…..but I happen to have an extra ticket for tomorrow…” After he convinced me he’s not joking, I told him that I’m sick right now, but I’d have to be dead not to accept. “I mean, what if Cliff Lee was sick right now. Would he not show up tomorrow?”, I explained. “The team needs me.”  Josh then explained he got the tickets through work and that they’re “really good seats” but wouldn’t tell me anything further except that we might want to get there early for batting practice.  I was officially excited.

So I took a half day at work on Wednesday, hopped on the R6 to 30th st, to the Amtrak to Penn Station and arrived around 5:00, wearing pretty much every piece of Phillies gear I own. After getting lost walking around midtown Manhattan (I know the streets are numbered, I’m kind of an idiot), I arrived at Josh’s apartment, where Doogan was also waiting to join us in our ride up to the Bronx.  Doogan I’m sure would consider killing for a ticket to this game (which he was sure to point out to me during our walk to the subway), but did not have one so he was just coming for the experience up to the point where we enter the pearly gates of the new Yankee Stadium.

So we hopped on the F train (I think?  Isn’t that the one that John Rocker made so famous?  Oh wait, that was the Mets.  Anyway…), along with way too many other people, and proceeded to sweat profusely for the entirety of the 40 minute subway ride.  Despite the overwhelming majority of Yankees fans in the car, the only chants I heard were a couple of “Let’s go Phillies”, in which I did not partake, heeding the advice of every hack office comedian earlier that day at my work who told me “You’re going to Yankee Stadium?  Don’t come back with a black eye!”  Though, these chants were met with nothing more than a few annoyed looks and indirect remarks (not that they warranted anything more).

Shortly after emerging from the underground sauna, Josh, Doogan, and I were stopped by a rather polite Yankees fan who wanted to know how long it takes to get to CB Park, what the stadium’s like, etc.  Halfway through answering his questions, a Japanese television crew, I’m sure there mainly to cover Matsui, jumped on us assuming we’re bantering about the matchup and asked us something like “So how tough have the Yankees fans been on you guys since you got here?  Is there a lot of anger between the two fanbases?”  This was kind of awkward since we were just making polite conversation and the reporter wanted some meat for her story.  We were just like, “No, not too bad.  This guy seems like a pretty nice guy…”  And trying to help her story out a little bit I added, “but the game hasn’t even started yet!”  Ha, pretty sure we didn’t make the final cut.

Josh then nonchalantly led us to our VIP entranceway, as he had these tickets once already for a regular season game this year, so he knew what to do.  This is where we said goodbye to Doogan with a few pictures and encouraging words.  In line we met our first couple of Yankees fans who really wanted to give us some crap.  The two guys behind us broke out the old “They let Phillies fans have VIP tickets?!  You guys aren’t allowed here!”  Blah blah blah.  The only interesting part of these two guys was the fact that the one argued with me when I told him we had more championships than they do this century.  So we passed through security and into this beautiful bar-restaurant area with flatscreens everywhere and free buffets of anything you could possibly want, from sushi to meats to gourmet dishes to candy to typical ballgame concession food to ice cream.  You name it, it was free there (and I later found out you can also have any of that ordered from and delivered to your seat).  Everything was free exept the booze, which was expensive for NYC, but I couldn’t possibly care.  Whatever I spent I could chalk it up to the price of the trip considering the ticket was free (thanks to Josh!).

We grabbed a couple beers and headed out to the seats.  I was expecting to be near Me N Josh at seatsthe field considering how shady Josh was being about the location of the seats, but this was ridiculous.  First row, behind the Phillies dugout, right above one of the dugout entrances, seats 1 and 2.  Believe me when I tell you, I don’t think I could have chosen two better seats had we been given first choice in the ballpark.  When we got there, the Phillies just were finishing up batting practice.  It was just amazing to be so close that I could read the facial expressions of or say something without yelling to these guys I’ve spent so much time watching on TV and rooting for and calling out their first names in disgust when they made a bad play.  And they were getting ready to play game 1 of the World Series.  This had just gotten surreal.

We spent the next hour downing beers, taking in the great view, and watching the media do their thing on the field.  The highest profile guy we noticed was probably Chris Berman.  It may or may not surprise you to hear that he looks even worse in Hangin Outperson than he does on TV.  I may be exaggerating a bit but he looked like he gained 20 pounds and slept in the suit he was wearing and it didn’t help that he appeared to be creepily hitting on one of the young production assistants.

But probably my favorite anecdote of this little downtime was when a few of the guys who weren’t starting this game (the starters were busy warming up) were just hanging around the dugout, some in, like Blanton who was drinking what appeared to be hot cocoa, some out, like Pedro who was just standing near the dugout looking around and cracking jokes.  There was a Yankees fan who decided it’d be fun to walk down to the aisle area next to me and heckle them.  “Hey Cole, how’s the baby?!”  “Hey Miguel [Cairo]!  You miss it here don’t you!”  “Hey Pedro, nice jerry-curl!”  Pedro’s already facing our direction with his hands low in the pockets of his official Phillies team jacket.  In response he just looked up at the guy, pulled his pockets up to expose the crotch area of his pants, glanced down at his crotch, and shot the guy a little smile.  It may sound cheap, but it was priceless.

Next came the starting lineups.  Starting LineupsThe Phils were announced first and met with a whole lot of boos (as expected), and lined up on the third base line right in front of us.  The chemistry of this Phillies team was as apparent to me as ever.  They just showed so much more energy than the Yankees did when they lined up, high fivin everyone, jokin around, etc.  The Yankees came out to the crowd erupting, but just ran to their spot in the line and stood there.  This was the loudest the crowd was all night.

At this point, there were a bunch of random fans crowding the aisle next to me to get a closer glimpse of the field before they had to return to their seats for the first pitch.  It Spike Leewas at this point that Josh nudged me and goes, “Hey check it out, it’s Spike Lee!”  Sure enough, Spike Lee was a couple people to my right, leaning over the dugout saying something to a couple of the players.  My first thought was, “Wow, I want to say something to him, but what?  I like your movies?  No, that’s probably annoying.  I’ll just snap a picture of him and that’ll be it.”  So I did and figured he’d return to his seat and that’d be the last I saw of him.  But as the game started and everyone was ushered back to their seats, Spike settled into the seat directly across the aisle from me.  So here I was, sitting in seats that (according to one Yankees season ticket holder) probably could have sold for $7,500 each, with my friend Josh to my left, Spike Lee to my right, and the entire Phillies team directly below me, watching Game 1 of the World Series.

Just as the Phillies were starting up 2-out a rally in the 1st inning, Spike turned to me, pointed at the dugout surface, which was significantly peeling already in its first year, and goes “1.5 billion dollars?”  Apparently Spike Lee was cracking jokes to me.  “Ha, I was just sayin the same thing! …but if this were Philly it’d probably be completely peeled off by now.”  I still have no idea what that meant, and I’m sure Spike was equally confused.

Utley’s bomb in the 3rd inning was pretty much all it took to shut the crowd up for the rest of night.  Except for the scattered Phillies fans going crazy, including Josh and I Howard Smilepounding on the dugout roof, the rest of the place was a deafening silence from the moment we jumped on top with that homer to the end of the game.  I was shocked at how much the fans were taken out of the game.  When the Yankees failed to score again in the 4th, Ryan Howard taunted Spike a little bit, “Smile!” as he ran into the dugout.

In the 5th inning, Robinson Cano popped up to short with Matsui on first and one out.  J-Roll made what could be a shoe-string catch or a trap and threw to Howard who tagged Matsui.  This was kind of a confusing play.Jimmy Smile  Spike goes, “That was stupid!”  “Why?” “Cano’s a better runner than Matsui!”  “I think he caught it in the air and was going for the double play.”  Sure enough, the umps conferenced and concluded a double play.  What a great play.  As Jimmy ran into the dugout, Spike yelled at him “That should work in Little League!”  Jimmy just winked and blew him a little kiss.

With Cliff Lee still cruising in the 6th inning, Spike Lee’s thoughts apparently moved to other sports.  “So we got Sixers-Knicks and Giants-Eagles this weekend.  Who you got in Sixers-Knicks?” “I dunno, they’re both pretty terrible.  Can they both lose?”  Spike didn’t seem to get the joke.  “And your Giants have been struggling lately, but you definitely didn’t lose to the Raiders, so I’m gonna give you guys the edge in that one.” “Ha, Pffff, Jamarcus Russell?!?!”  “Ha, I know, a little embarrassing.”

When the Phils tacked on two more in the top of the 8th inning with an Ibanez single the place started to empty out.  It was only 4-0 and they still had two more at bats!  That would never happen in Philly.  I was embarrassed for them.  Howard popped his head out of the dugout and goes to Spike, “You leavin?” “Til the end, baby.”  “Here tomorrow?”  “Nah, Yankees dugout tomorrow.”

In the bottom of the 9th, after the Phillies make it 6-0, the few Yankees fans that were left showed a little life in them as they scored their first run.  Spike was getting a little fiesty.  “Where’s that bullpen of yours?  What’s wrong with your bullpen?”  “There’s a lot wrong with our bullpen.”  “Hahaha”  “But yours isn’t much better.”

But we didn’t need the bullpen.  Manchild, Cliff Lee closed it out himself and sent the remaining Yankees fans racing for the exits, Spike Lee included.  Not us though, Josh Obnoxious Phils Fansand I wanted to bask in the amazingness of what we just witnessed.  The other Phillies fans in attendance apparently had the same idea because within 20 minutes, there were probably more Phillies fans hanging around than Yankees fans.  Some of these Phillies fans started to get loud and obnoxious to the remaining Yankees fans.  In fact, hands down the most obnoxious fans I experienced the entire day was a group of Phillies fans right after the win.

The stadium was beautiful and I highly recommend it.  However, my opinion is probably scewed by the fact that we had the best seats in the house.  The fans were fine and had no problems with anyone the whole game.  And it’s not like we weren’t going crazy every time the Phils scored.  However, again, my opinion is probably scewed by our seats.  Most of the people around us looked like they were there on the company dime (which of course we were as well), and that class of fan is much less fiery in general.  Plus, we were at a game where the Yankees got shut down.  What was there to be cocky about?

Josh and I stayed for post game interviews and then took off.  Chase’s was directly in Chase interviewfront of us.  It was quite a feeling to walk out of there with a victory.  We could figuratively puff our chests out as we walked by all the dejected home fans.  I mentioned to Josh as we exited, “Getting out of here might not have been this easy had we lost.”  This was right around when I was shoving a couple last handfuls of free stuff into my pockets.

When we got outside I realized we had a 40 minute subway ride ahead of us and I already had to pee.  “Are there any bars around here?  I could use the bathroom and we could do a victory shot!”  We walked up to the first bar we saw and realized it was packed with nothing but pissed off Yankees fans.  As we walked up to the large bouncer with a Yankees hat on, he goes, “You guys are brave men.  You sure you wanna come in here?”  Cutting through that crowd was a little harder than the usual crowded bar.  I took a few light elbow jabs and got the finger a lot, but made my way to the bathroom on the other side.  The guy in front of me stared me up and down like he wanted to eat my children, but I just looked away.  As I finished up at the urinal, one of the guys who’s exiting the bathroom decided he’s really gonna get me.  He kinda yanked on my backwards hat a little so that my head jerked back, and then ran out of the bathroom.  One of the other Yankees fans in there was as confused as I was by the display and then congratulated me on the win.  Josh and I then got a couple Jaeger shots, toasted to a Phillies world series victory in a bar full of pissed off Yankees fans, and took off headed for the subway.

We got back to Josh’s apartment around 1:00 and proceeded to watch highlights of the game we were just at.  We even saw ourselves on a shot of Charlie Manual during a Chase Utley homerun highlight thanks to the slowdown feature on Josh’s Direct TV.  Asleep by 2:00, up by 5:00 to catch the early train, at work by 9:30, at grad class by 6:00, and home by 8:45 to catch the beginning of the third inning of Game 2.  What a whirlwind.

Me N Josh

Day 5 Recap: Bry Wins a Big Saturday, but Gains Little on the Leader

One of the better college basketball days of the year has come to a close, and the CTC is starting to take a little more shape, heading into the ends of the little tournaments and the beginning of the big ones.  The leader, Alexi, turns in yet another solid day, with 154 points.  This lengthens his lead of everyone but Bry, who won the day with 162.  Another good day for Ina keeps her in 2nd overall.  A very nice day for Lynch, as well, finishing 3rd on the day with 146.

DAY 5:

OVERALL (point behind the leader):
Alexi-0 (406 total points)

The Final Four in The Valley were the top four seeds, and they faced off in the semifinal double-header on Saturday in St. Louis.  It would be hard to match the madness to occurred Friday night, but it should still be some really good basketball.

  • #1 Northern Iowa 76 – #4 Bradley 62.  For the first 32 minutes, this game went back and forth, with the two teams exchanging leads, but a 10-0 run midway through the second half turned a 1-point UNI lead to an 11-point lead that proved insurmountable.  The Panthers will advance to Sunday’s championship.  Ina, Stri, Alexi, and Lynch all got this game correct, but none of them have UNI winning the title game.
  • #3 Illinois State 73 – #2 Creighton 49.  Often, when a good team comes very close to being upset in the early-going of a postseason, they have “dodged the bullet” and they go on to great success.  This was certainly NOT the case for the 2009 Creighton Blue Jays.  They needed a miraculous shot to win Friday’s quarterfinal against Wichita St., but then they just did not show up in their semifinal game on Saturday against #3 Illinois St.  13-19 from three-point range propelled the Redbirds into Sunday’s final against #1 N. Iowa.  Everyone in the CTC had Creighton winning not only this game, but the finals as well, so this conference is all but over and the 2009 trophy will have Stri engraved on it. 

Continue reading “Day 5 Recap: Bry Wins a Big Saturday, but Gains Little on the Leader”

BSB In-Attendance: #7 Duke vs. #9 Pitt, Madison Square Garden

Last night I headed back over to MSG for some college hoops, this time to see two undefeated (both 10-0), top-10 teams square-off in the Aeropostale Classic.  I wasn’t aware that anyone had actually worn Aeropostale clothing since about 1999, but apparently college basketball fans are now their target audience.  Anyway, it turned out to be an exciting game, with Pitt point guard (and Brooklyn native) Levance Fields sinking a three with 4 seconds left in overtime to give Pitt the 65-64 win.  Also, unlike the Jimmy V Classic earlier this month, the Garden was packed with rabid Duke and Pitt fans, making it one of those games where you remember why college basketball is so great.  The NBA doesn’t have crowds like this for most playoff games, and this was a neutral court, hundreds of miles from either school’s campus.

The game was a contrast in styles between two of the game’s better programs and coaches, Mike Krzyzewski and Jamie Dixon.  Duke, this year more than ever, loves to get up and down the floor in a hurry and shoot a ton of 3’s, while Pitt thrives in the half-court and likes to grind out wins with ball control and hard-nosed defense.  Both teams had their weaknesses (Pitt: perimeter scoring, Duke: inside muscle) exposed in this game, but also showed why they will likely be playing on the second weekend of the tournament in March.

As with just about all college basketball teams this year, the main guy I wanted to see for each team are both freshmen: Duke forward Kyle Singler and Pitt forward/center DeJuan Blair.  Blair, a Pittsburgh native who led his team to the state championship last year, wanted to play at Duke his whole life but was not recruited by them.  He claimed to be so excited for the game that he thought he would have trouble sleeping the night before.  His nerves showed early as he blairposted up, but repeatedly rushed his shots and clanged them off the rim.  As one fan near me put it, “He shoots before he even looks at the basket”.  As he settled down though, he started to use his size (6’7″, 265 lbs.) and athleticism to dominate inside.  He finished the game with 15 points and 20 rebounds.  When was the last time you saw someone pull 20 rebounds against Duke?  He still has a long way to go in terms of offensive polish and low-post moves, but he’s obviously a force to be reckoned with already.

For Duke, they will have to come up with a way to handle players like Blair.  For most of the game they had a line-up of four guards and Singler, who’s natural position is probably small forward.  That definitely won’t work if they want to beat North Carolina and Tyler Hansbrough.  Even so, they controlled most of the game, accumulating big leads in the first-half.  After Pitt made a second-half comeback, Duke seemed to have taken momentum back after an intentional foul call on Pitt with 9 minutes remaining.  Singler hit both free throws and scored to put Duke up by 10.  But Pitt responded with a 14-1 run, led by leading scorer Sam Young, to take a 3-point lead with 3 minutes to play.

It looked bad for Pitt at the start of overtime, as small forward Mike Cook went down with an injury and had to be helped off the floor.  A report just came out that Cook, a Philly native, is most likely done for the season with an ACL tear.  That is a big blow to the team, as Cook was averaging 10 points/game and is a senior leader.  But Pitt managed to hang around and ended up with the ball, down 64-62, with about 20 seconds left.  Fields dribbled around until finally getting an open look and draining the winning shot.  Fields was the only Pitt player to make a 3-pointer all game and the Panthers will need senior guard Ronald Ramon to help in that area.

Both teams have two more tune-ups (including a game in Philly vs. Temple for Duke) before they start league play next month.

BSB In-Attendance: Jimmy V Classic, Madison Square Garden

Last night I went to the Jimmy V Classic, an annual college hoops double-header at Madison Square Garden.  This was the third year in a row that I attended this underrated event.  There’s always good teams involved and I call it ‘underrated’ because there’s never that many people in attendance.  You can buy $10 nose-bleed tickets and move to center-court with no problem.  Not a bad price to watch two good games in nice seats at “the world’s most famous arena”.

This year’s edition certainly lived up to the usual standards.  In this Year of the Freshman (as some have dubbed the ’07-’08 season), last night’s games featured three of the very best first-year players: Kansas State’s Michael Beasley going against Notre Dame in the first game and USC’s O.J. Mayo doing battle with Memphis and Derrick Rose in the night-cap.

Kansas St. vs. Notre Dame

beasleyThe 6’9″ Beasley is emerging as the poster boy for the Year of the Freshman.  He came into last night’s game leading the nation in scoring (26.7/game) and rebounding (15.1/game), leading many to give him the obvious but appropriate nickname of “Beast-ley”.  He didn’t have one of his best games last night, as Notre Dame had him constantly double-teamed, and sometimes triple-teamed when he caught the ball in the post.  Of course, he still scored 19 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, but he was an unspectacular 8-20 from the field and had 5 turnovers. 

Beasley is similar in size and skill-set to Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh.  He has good low-post moves, especially for an 18-year-old, can hit jump shots, and is a monster on the glass.  Bosh may be the superior shot-blocker, but Beasley can do that as well and he is more advanced offensively at this stage of his career than Bosh was as a college freshman.  He is also, like Bosh, left-handed.

All the focus was on Beasley and K-State coming in, but Notre Dame ended up pulling off the minor upset.  For the first seven minutes of the game, Beasley was overshadowed by the Irish’s young big man, sophomore Luke Harangody.  He was dominant early and had 11 points and 7 rebounds when he came out for a breather at the 13:00 minute mark of the first-half.  Harangody doesn’t look like much of an athlete (i.e. wide-bodied white guy with a crew-cut), but he uses his size well, has a soft-touch, and can score with both hands inside. He finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

The other main contributor for the Irish was point guard Kyle McAlarney, a Staten Island native who had plenty of fan support at the Garden.  McAlarney struggled in the first-half, probably feeling the pressure from the hometown crowd, but he played great in the second-half and scored Notre Dame’s last nine points of the game to secure the 68-59 win.

USC vs. #2 Memphis

Coming in, this one had all the makings of great game, with two of the most purely talented teams in the country facing off.  What actually transpired was, well, not a great game.  In fact, for the first 34 minutes or so of game action, it was one of the ugliest college basketball games I’ve ever seen.  It was one ill-advised pass or shot after another and even the open shots were clanging off iron, but with about 6 minutes to play, the game did pick up and both teams started to play as expected.  The game actually got exciting for a bit, going into overtime, before the level of play reverted back to earlier levels and Memphis pulled out the 62-58 win.   mayo

I’ll give at least some credit to the defensive efforts by both teams, particularly to Mayo, who basically owned Rose on defense, and USC point guard Daniel Hackett, who did a great job on Memphis’s leading scorer, Chris Douglas-Roberts.  Rose and Douglas-Roberts, who combined were averaging nearly 40 points a game, had combined for 2 points at half-time and 14 at the end of regualtion. They also combined to shoot 7-22 from the field and turn the ball over 9 times.  Not good.

As my BroadStreetBelievers colleague pointed out in his College Hoops Preview, Memphis’s downfall may be their inability to shoot the 3.  That shortcoming was painfully evident last night.  It’s hard for me to imagine a team winning the national championship when not a single one of their five starters can make a 3-pointer.  Their starting five last night was a combined 0-7 on 3’s.  I think John Calipari may have to consider putting Willie Kemp into the starting line-up in place of Antonio Anderson and giving Doneal Mack more minutes off the bench.  Both Kemp and Mack are capable long-range shooters.

For USC, they can expect to win a lot of games this year thanks to the backcourt duo of Hackett and Mayo.  Everyone knows that Mayo can score, but he also showed last night that he can defend and pass, as well.  He also has a presence on the court and looks like a team leader already.  Star forward Taj Gibson, a Brooklyn native, had a rough night, with just 5 points and 5 turnovers.  Another USC player to watch is freshman forward Davon Jefferson, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds.  He is a freakish athlete who had the highlight of the game with a reverse alley-oop jam, in traffic, on a pass from Mayo.