Basketball Weekend – 20 Thoughts on the Sixers, Villanova, Rutgers, Drexel, and More

photos credit: USA Today Sports

Fantastic basketball weekend.

First two rounds of the NCAA tournament, a couple of Sixers victories, and upsets galore across the college landscape. The weather also happened to be beautiful, so hopefully you got outside, stayed far away from toxic social media, and used your indoor time to watch hoops and do other productive things.

In lieu of the typical Sixers recap, let’s instead do numbered bullets and touch on a bunch of bball topics:

  1. What a win for the Sixers on Saturday night. You have to love Tobias Harris’ play, and that quote he dropped after the game talking about the motivation he and others receive when people suggest they can’t win without Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons. They were down three starters and just blew Sacramento out of the water.
  2. As good as Harris was on Saturday, he was equally as poor on Sunday, missing free throws that would have iced the game in regulation. But he had the opportunity to right that wrong in overtime, and he hit a massive three pointer and two foul shots to not only win the game, but correct his previous mistake, and that’s the sign of a great player.
  3. Sunday night’s game was not an instant classic, but it was one of those where the Sixers would have found a way to lose in years past. We’ve said that a lot this season, and it seems like the squad is just mentally more mature under Doc Rivers. No clue how much of that is directly attributable to him, but the change is noticeable.
  4. Rivers thought the Sixers executed horrendously and made a lot of mistakes against the Knicks. Everybody knows this, but it’s nice to hear him come out and be blunt about this after the game. Rivers: “The game should have never gone into overtime, let me just put it that way.
  5. I absolutely loved the timeout Rivers called after the first Knicks basket of overtime. That’s one of those perfect examples of a veteran coach knowing when to insert himself into a game, vs. letting things continue to play out organically.
  6. Julius Randle is right to be upset about the foul that was called on him in overtime. He didn’t get much of a body on Harris, who wasn’t exactly gesturing to the refs as if he was fouled. But if Randle is calling for a whistle there, then he probably deserved one on the game-tying three pointer at the end of regulation, when he got away with some forearm separation to launch that shot. In most cases, whenever somebody complains about the reffing, you can always find a sequence or two where they or their team benefited, and it generally turns out to be a wash.
  7. Great to see Shake Milton playing well again. They need his bench scoring and they’re gonna need him as a contributing sixth man in the playoffs.
  8. This Knicks team plays hard for Thibs, and they junk up games and defend well, but God almighty do they need a #1 scorer and somebody who can close a game. Randle and Alec Burks isn’t gonna move the needle.
  9. My current favorite statistic/topic is a credit to Danny Small at Elite Sports NY, who pointed out a few weeks ago that the last time the Knicks beat the Sixers, Alex Poythress and Maurice Ndour were in the starting lineups.
  10. Not sure if people even realize this, but Danny Green is shooting 41% from three in the month of March. He’s hit 17 of 36 since that rough outing in the other recent Knicks game.
  11. Good weekend for Villanova, seriously. They went into the tournament not at full strength and covered against a very trendy upset pick in Winthrop. Then they took advantage of a preferable second-round matchup and used a 34-6 run to just clobber North Texas. You can only play who’s in front of you, but taking this team to the Sweet 16 in a pandemic year with the Collin Gillespie injury is a nice feather in Jay Wright’s cap.
  12. Rutgers should have won. Too much stall ball and milking it towards the end of the game. They let Houston go on a 14-2 run down the stretch and just didn’t execute when it mattered. That was a shame from a neutral standpoint, because they played well against Clemson and they were taking it to a #2 seed. Rough way to go out after a nice season for the Scarlet Knights. They’re gonna be thinking about that one and replaying it in their heads for a long time.
  13. Rough outing for Drexel, who were just overmatched against Illinois. But that was a great conference tournament run for Zach Spiker’s team, and you’d like to see the Dragons continue to improve and make themselves relevant in the City 6 scene. There’s room to step in grab some headlines because right now Temple, St. Joe’s, and La Salle are barely on the radar. Penn is a good program but didn’t even play this year.
  14. Nobody who reads Crossing Broad necessarily gives a shit about West Virginia, but Bob Huggins made some national news when he won his 900th game against Morehead State before losing to #11 Syracuse. The bottom line is that Huggins has underachieved in the tournament throughout his career, not just at WVU, but at Cincinnati as well. And when he did go to the Final Four 10 years ago, he did it with a handful of guys recruited by John Beilein. In a way, he’s 2010 Andy Reid, because WVU probably isn’t going to find anybody better, but at the same we’re justifiably left wanting more. Perennially disappointed.
  15. Jim Boeheim is 76 years old and his 21-year-old son plays for Syracuse. Think about that for a minute.
  16. What is it with ‘Cuse and these annoying white guards who always play really well? Gerry McNamara, Eric Devendorf, Andy Rautins, Trevor Cooney, and now Buddy Boeheim. It’s like an assembly line of assholes that you would begrudgingly love to have on your team.
  17. There were a ton of upsets in the first weekend of the tournament, but that shouldn’t be surprising. Not only has there been increased parity in the college game for some time now, but with teams playing wonky schedules this year, it was always going to be harder for the selection committee to seed properly. Plus, no traveling fans, no pseudo-home games, none of that. This is as close to a vacuum as we’re gonna get.
  18. It’s insane going from college ball to the NBA game. Absolutely jarring from an offensive execution and pure scoring standpoint. I used to be one of those people, maybe 15 years ago, who only watched college ball because “they play defense,” but the older you get you realize that it’s actually the opposite. The college game features a lot of static and lumbering offense, and this gives you greater appreciation of the elite NBA scorers, who process the game and move the ball in a way that 19 and 20 year olds just cannot. The speed of the game is much different, as players find out when they turn pro in any sport.
  19. I do appreciate the style variations we see in the college game, that just aren’t there in the NBA. There was 2-3 zone, a lot of flex stuff, full court press, and things that aren’t totally feasible in the pro game, at least not for a sustained period of time. (this is similar in college football, too, where unique schemes and approaches are possible, like no NFL team would ever run a 3-3-5 stack)
  20. Agree or disagree? – I can’t get down with the second round of the tournament trickling into Monday. March Madness should only be 64 teams, with the first round games being played on Thursday and Friday. The only reason it’s even remotely working this year is because we’re still stuck at home due to the pandemic, which allows us to put the games on in the background while sitting at the computer. But could you imagine if we were playing the games today with people in an office setting? It would never work. There was no reason to change the timing or format of the tournament. Leave it be. It’s an American sporting tradition unlike any other.

 

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