An interesting day here in Maui. The games weren’t great but the performances by individual teams were. In fact, the opening game was the only one that stayed competitive throughout.
Chaminade v. LSU
LSU continues to disappoint. They have so much athleticism but just don’t know how to put it all together and are less than clutch. They made just one field goal over the last 5:40 and that allowed Chaminade to close the score to 74-72 with just 36 seconds remaining. But the Silverswords couldn’t get any closer and finally lost 78-72. Though Chaminade fell to 4-65 all-time at the Maui Invitational, I’ll give them tons of credit for getting a lot better over the last few years. Coach Matt Mahar has done a really nice job there. And a special nod goes to Chaminade’s Hayden Heiber who dropped 25 points and shot 7-for-10 from 3-point range.
Really, I don’t have anything additional to say about this one. It tipped off at 8:30 in the morning and that’s too early for me to notice little things, or make funny observations. There’s only so much you can see through one bloodshot eye.
Princeton v. Arizona State
Arizona State really showed me something in this game. Sure, Princeton isn’t on the level with the competition the Sun Devils will face in the Pac-10, but I really liked the way Herb Sendek’s team played. They took over in the second half behind freshman and former McDonald’s All-American James Harden’s 22 points, and pulled away to win 61-42. Sendek has a great group of freshmen, including Harden and Jamelle McMillan (Blazers coach Nate McMillan’s son). But the frosh I really liked was Ty Abbot. The kid just has an aggressive, nasty streak that I like. At 6’3 he’s a good sized guard who really wants the ball on offense and oozes confidence when he squares up to shoot.
As for the entire game, the guy who really impressed me was sophomore Derek Glasser. He’s a pure point guard and one of those guys who plays the game the right way. He’s a great shooter, directs traffic and runs the team perfectly, plays extremely hard and makes great decisions. He reminds me of a cross between Kirk Hinrich (when he was at Kansas) and former Stanford guard Chris Hernandez. He’s not going to grab headlines but he’s the exact type of guy you want on your team.
-The worst official in the history of college sports was working the game. Yes, Ed Hightower and I have a long and storied history and this game was no different. As he walked to the sidelines during a timeout, we locked eyes and I said, “Ed, I have no idea how you still have a job.” He managed a half smile then quickly turned away. See, even he agrees with me.
-Harden is not a typical guard. He plays more like a forward. He’s 6’5 but they use him a lot in the high post. He’s a great finisher and can play above the rim but he’s definitely not a “classic” guard.
-Looks like Herb Sendek is really liking his new job. Despite an 8-22 record last year, Tempe seems to agree with him. He could get this program looking really good in a short time.
-Dr. Chuck and I sat in the ASU section, right in front of Jeff Pendergraph’s mom. Nice lady. But after the game we both had concert-ear. I may have permanent damage. Like I said, nice lady, but she should really consider switching to decaf.
Oklahoma State v. No. 11 Marquette
Finally, Marquette showed up to Maui. They came out focused, jumped out to a 13-2 lead and absolutely blew away Oklahoma State 91-61. The key to the game was defensive intensity and nowhere was that more apparent than in the coach’s box, where Tom Crean got down in a stance and pounded the floor several times. Man do I love watching Crean coach. He’s all over the place and so intense. The way he acts reminds me of Rick Pitino from his days at Kentucky.
While Dominic James is probably the most talented guy on Marquette’s roster, but Jerel McNeal is clearly the best basketball player on the team. He just has a feel for the game, comes up with big plays constantly and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He dropped 20 points, added five rebounds and three assists and didn’t turn the ball over. He’s another one of those guys you’d love to have on your team.
-Jay Bilas wore the same shirt today as he did yesterday. Makes you wonder if that’s the only television-acceptable shirt in his wardrobe. Like he’s probably got that “Free Moustache Rides” shirt in six different colors and one that says “If There’s Grass On The Field, Play Ball!” Yeah, I guess you could say the mind wanders during a blowout.
-Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton has his father’s scowl. Let’s hope he doesn’t have his love of alcohol.
-Dominic James really loves to pull up from 3-point range on the break, and he nailed a few today. Apparently someone clued him in to the fact that playing well at this tournament could make him a lot of money.
-Marquette fans started a “Let’s go Warriors” chant. Apparently they aren’t big fans of the “Golden Eagles” nickname.
-Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I really I need to reiterate my disappointment in the level of hotness that Arizona State has brought to the tournament. This has nothing to do with the game I’m talking about, but in two days of games the only ASU fan to turn my head has been a fat Sun Devil booster who has floor seats. The guy looks like every stereotype of a dirty “friend of the program.” It’s hilarious. But more to the point, I was expecting loads of hot chicks to be here from Tempe and instead they send a guy who looks like a cross between Craig Stadler and Father Guido Sarducci.
Illinois v. No. 13 Duke
I’m definitely not as impressed with Duke as I was yesterday. They pulled away down the stretch for a 79-66 win, but they struggled to find continuity on the court. They really don’t have an offensive identity (other than jacking up random 3-pointers from time to time) and it showed tonight. Gerald Henderson had a great game, dropping 23 points and showing off his athleticism and shooting touch, but other than him, no one really stood out. Kyle Singler was in foul trouble all game and was pretty much a total non-factor.
Illinois is a team with a lot of heart but again, they lack a go-to-guy. Brian Randle is a nice inside-out combo guy for his size but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him taking a key shot late in a game. He’s a nice player, but he needs a few running mates to step up. Chester Frazier is a scrappy, down and dirty, tough guy. He’s 6’2, 190 and he gets every ounce out of his size, but the Illini need someone else to step up and take a leadership role on the court.
-Other than Notre Dame does any school have a more myopic, moronic, misinformed fan base than Duke? If you’ve never had a conversation with a die-hard, tunnel-vision Duke fan I recommend you do. It’s fascinating. These people should be locked up and studied for the good of mankind.
-Wojo and Johnny Dawkins were sitting around before the game and there’s really an uncomfortable tension between them. I’m not saying they don’t like each other but I get the feeling Wojo really wants Dawkins to take another job so that when Coach K finally retires, he gets to take over. Maybe I’ve just been watching too many old “Sopranos” episodes, but I feel like he’s angling to have Dawkins whacked before he forces “the Boss” into an early retirement.