Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday's Starting Five

1. Amare Stoudemire. With the Big Stoplight tethered to the bench with foul trouble, Amare showed the Warriors and a national television audience that he is the Suns frontcourt player that every team best be game-planning for. He ran and jumped and dunked and blocked and rebounded the Suns to an important win. When the final whistle blew on the 123-115 Phoenix win, Amare had amassed 36 points, 11 boards, 4 blocks and 6 assists. Not only did the Suns show Golden State (who had taken three on the trot from the Suns) that they are still the best at the up-tempo game but they moved themselves back into striking distance of the teams ahead of them.

2. Tyrese Rice. This guy. If there was ever a doubt about Boston College coach Al Skinner’s ability to teach the game of basketball and turn out well-rounded players then the career of Rice should dispel them forever. Rice arrived at Chestnut Hill as a chucker. As a freshman he would come off the bench and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot. He would make a lot of these shots but he was a smaller, leaner Zach Randolph. Except with even less of conscience on the court. And, now, he is the poised, upper classman leader doing his best to hold together a team with 10 freshman and sophomores seeing most of the minutes. Yes, he can still fill it up with the very best of them (his 45 against UNC two weeks ago prove that) but he understands the flow of play and manages the game in a way that is remarkable if you watched him two seasons ago. And, last night he put a floundering group of freshman and sophomores on his slight but muscled shoulders and scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half of an upset win over Maryland in the first round of the ACC tournament. BC is still two wins under five hundred but if Rice can lead the team on Gerry McNamara/Syracuse type run than perhaps they could squeak into the NIT in this rebuilding year.

3. The Big East Tournament. While other conferences are playing their games in places with names like the FedEx Forum (C-USA), Boardwalk Hall (A-10), Sprint Center (Big 12) and the creatively named Charlotte Bobcats Arena (ACC), the Big East is playing their tournament in the Mecca. They get to play in Madison Square Garden. How can it not seem like a bigger deal? And, perhaps inspired by the hallowed boards the players tread, the games more often than not live up to the venue. Yesterday and last night were no exceptions. Georgetown hit 17 3-pointers to hold off Villanova. Pittsburgh upset Louisville in overtime. West Virginia shocked UConn. And, we’re just getting started.

4. Baron Davis. Though his team lost last night Davis once again showcased his revitalized game. He has truly been a revalation playing for Oakland. His combination of strength and speed and beardedness set him apart from every other point guard right now. He is really a BIGGER version of an in-his-prime Marbury (although he can’t pass quite as well as Steph). He scored 38 last night and was one rebound and two assists shy of a triple-double.

5. Caron Butler. After being out so long he must have had to drop ten grand on new suits, the All-Star guard finally returned to the Wizards lineup last night. And to my Fantasy team. His 16-games of injury started out as a day-to-day hip flexor issue. He scored 19 in his first night back, which is pretty impressive and had one nice behind the back dribble along the baseline to show that he didn’t rust over too much. Oh, and the Wizards held of the Lebronaliers for a narrow win.

Benched. If you read this site then you know that I fought the law yesterday. And, I guess, it was a draw. I fought the law and it was a draw. Not quite as catchy as that song. While I can take some satisfaction in the fact that there were people seemingly scrambling to change stuff for an hour or two up in Bristol, I surely didn’t win anything. I didn’t get an apology for anything. Anyways, I can only hope that the drama was entertaining on some level and apologize for letting that dominate the day at WWOD?.

Benched. Bubble Teams. I don’t know if I remember a day when so many teams with a win-one-and-they’re-safe game ahead of them spit the bit before. Syracuse lost. Florida lost. Maryland lost. Oregon lost. Baylor lost. Arizona State lost. Villanova lost. And Mississippi lost. Now, I guess since virtually every bubble team lost yesterday this means that it’s a wash. Or, does it mean that we can finally extend invites to the twenty-something win #2 teams from the smaller conferences rather than the #7 or #8 teams from the power groups.

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