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Wednesday, February 29, 2012


-Watson on the BIG EAST WBB Tournament

- Another writer's WBB BIG EAST picks

( David Watson is a special correspondent for CARDINAL COUPLE. He also has over 5,000 8-track tapes. We've seen them. 'Google' 8-tracks if you're under 18) 

I won't be attending the BIG EAST Tournament this year. I'm on a DON'T OCCUPY Hartford strike. Been there and done that. I was there in 2007 when Rutgers won the tournament. That's back when C.Viv had Matee Ajavon, Epiphany Prince, Kia Vaughn and Essence Carson. Just thinking of those girls makes me ache. Talk about physical!  

Louisville was a #5 seed and it was Tom Collen's final year at Louisville (although we didn't know it at that time). The Lady Cards came into the tournament after a tough loss to West Virginia. Angel was a sophomore and the Cards faced St. John's first. They won by 14 and a re-match with the Mountaineers awaited.   

I remember sitting in a downtown Hartford restaurant/bar establishment in my red windbreaker after the Louisville win over the Red Storm and catching some good natured ribbing from a few WVU fans there. I gave it back. The Rutgers fans rallied to my cause. The UConn folks just sat back aloof and dis-interested. Amateur night for them, I guess. I predicted we'd beat WVU. Some portly guy in WVU Blue and Gold was unconvinced and bet me a steak dinner that it wouldn't happen. I accepted.

Louisville, of course, got off to the great start in that game and handled the Mountaineers by a dozen. I never saw ol' portly again or got a free steak dinner. I did, however, run into a parent of one of the UofL players. I have sworn to her I'd never reveal her identity if I ever re-told the story about "the incident". 

And I won't. But, here's the story. 

I'm sitting with my friend Mick at the same establishment the next evening when "she" comes in with another Cardinal fan. We had two seats at the table open, the place was packed --so we waved them over to join us. We'd "had a few". It was obvious they had, also. 

The conversation was light, friendly and fun until a UConn "know it all" fan overheard some of what we were discussing. UConn was the Cards next opponent. We were told, in no uncertain terms, that the Huskies would demolish Louisville and that "her" daughter, in particular, was overrated and under-skilled. Mick and I took it as good-natured ribbing but she did not. 

This did not go over well. 

She rose to her feet and began verbally "laying into" this poor guy like a Baptist preacher at a revival. We watched -- amused and fascinated -- as it got louder and louder. The poor guy was probably wishing Scotty could beam him up to the Enterprise. The bar started to get quiet as she continued the assault. Her friend rose to quell her attack but was gently shoved away by her and the guy had backed up until he was literally 'up against the wall' (of the bar). 

I can't remember all the exact words but it would have gone viral on YouTube if someone could have captured it on camera. Finally, she ended the sermon by pointing a finger in the guy's face and telling him that "he didn't know nothing about anything." She then calmly returned to our table and sat down, grinning from ear to ear. The bar erupted in cheers and applause. The guy slunk back into the crowd, accompanied by taunts and laughter.

I'm not sure how many drinks got sent over to the table after that for her, but she was sharing them with us and the four of us left there hours later at closing time and had to walk the several blocks back to the hotel.

That, too, would have been great to catch on a camera phone or video and put on the internet.

It was one of Mick's favorite stories to tell. He went to the Great Beyond last year and I miss that old roustabout. We saw a lot of basketball together. He was a Notre Dame fan true and through. Smoking kills, though, kids. 

Louisville, of course, lost to UConn. We didn't return to the bar after the loss. We don't think she did either -- and I'd bet even money that the guy didn't show his face around there for a long time. 

About this year's tournament first round games.

-- The committee made a good choice by putting Syracuse's Quentin Hillsman on stage first. A great opening act! "Q" and his antics are always worth the price of admission. I'm guessing he gets a second afternoon matinee to perform in by handling Providence but the Morgantown Hillbillies will probably send him home before the Sabbath. Or invite him over for vittles on the "fancy dining table". Maybe. 

-- Paul's favorite non-Cardinal BIG EAST player Inga "the Russian Rocket" Orekhova leads the USF Bulls into war next against Pitt. This one could get ugly. Detente, anyone? Gotta feel for Agnus, a really nice coach. Guess it's true, though. Nice guys (and gals) finish last. I may go through my sock drawer during this one. Or sneak in nine holes at the public course down the street before the night session if the weather's good. Lord knows, I'm not going to work Friday. 

-- Harry Peretta brings the "shirt-tail out, unkempt look" to the XL in the quest to advance over Seton Hall to face Louisville. I love Harry and he's been around forever. They might struggle, but the Nova squad should get their chance to try and upset the Lady Cards. I'm starting a pool on what the time clock reads when Harry's shirt tails liberate themselves from his slacks. I've got the 8:00 minute mark in the first half. Maybe Anne Donovan should opt for playing Harry one-on-one to determine which team advances to Saturday.

-- The final Friday game features Cincinnati against Marquette. This match-up looks to be about as exciting as watching a boy roll a rock across the sidewalk. Maybe they'll offer half price beer and hot dogs to get the crowd to stay. It may be the first time in BIG EAST Tournament history that ushers will be walking the XL Center aisles offering NoDoz to those left in their seats. Or entice the Lady Birds to perform, which would be about the only thing that could get me to stay around for this one.

A couple of games further into the tournament that I hope materialize. 

--  Georgetown vs. West Virginia. The Mountaineers lost to the Hoyas by ten during the regular season in Morgantown. They went on a five-game winning streak after the loss -- leaving Louisville, Notre Dame, Rutgers, USF and Marquette in their wake. These two aren't exactly hand-holding, BFF's. Wait for the bell and come out swinging. Bring a couch and have a seat. Maybe they'll let Michael Buffer do the pre-game introductions. "Let's get ready to rumbllllleeeee!" I hope one of the pep bands learns how to play THE Archie's hit from the sixties "Sugar, Sugar". I've got it on 8-track in case they need a refresher course.

-- St. John's vs. Louisville. Cardinal fans and players want another crack at McKenith, Smith, Stevens and McPherson after losing to them in New York in front of about 40 or 50 people. It's the only game this year that ESPNU switched away from to show lumberjack competition. (Just kidding). St. John's has won their last seven games. Be careful what you wish for, Cardinal fans.  

-- Notre Dame vs ANYONE BUT UCONN in the finals. Don't care if it's St. John's, Rutgers, Marquette, Louisville or Christ the King High School. To watch a BIG EAST Tournament title game at the XL without Husky participation would be just as fun as having to attend your nagging bosses' birthday party and then finding out he's going to be a no-show. More champagne!  

It's time to get this annual rodeo out of Hartford, out of Connecticut and bounce it around awhile. Anyone in favor of the KFC YUM! Center being the first stop -- raise your hand. 

(David would also like the Daytona 500 to be run in Kansas, the Kentucky Derby to take place at Indiana Downs and Rosie O'Donnell to sing the National Anthem at UofL WBB home games next year. We still love him but think ROBBIE BARTLETT is a much better choice for the Star Spangled Banner. You listening UofL?)


OK. Paul Sykes here and I'll go next with my picks. I've offered a bit of reasoning with each head to the fridge and get a chicken's lengthy. Like David's cage-liner stuff today wasn't? 

"I'm sad to report that the Bulls are down by
three with 2:10 left, Mr. Big Shot..."
1. SYRACUSE over Providence. The Orange handled them by 26 earlier this year. Providence has lost seven out of their last eight. And, as David mentioned earlier, the "Q" is the best show in Hartford this weekend. He deserves a two-day run. Next?

2. USF over Pittsburgh. With Andrell Smith contributing again and Pitt's 0-16 BIG EAST record...this may be a wild, far-fetched guess, but give me the Bulls. Go, Inga, Go. I wonder if that USF play-by-play radio guy that looks like Cary on The Good Wife will be there. Fun guy to talk to. Maybe he'll bring "Mr Big" Chris Noth.
3. VILLANOVA over Seton Hall. I expect this one to be the best game of Day One. Now that the Pirates have won one and played Louisville close, they're reborn. Kinda. Nova still wins. All 14 on Harry's roster are from Philadelphia and hit threes, right? Shirt-tail alert, shirt-tail alert!

4. CINCINNATI over Marquette. I didn't like the way Marquette's head coach Terri Mitchell came into the post-game press conference complaining this year after the Louisville game because she didn't get to go first. It didn't bother Geno when he was in Louisville, Ms. Mitchell. That's the only reason I'm picking against the Golden Eagles. Seriously, I could care less on this one. Whoever...they aren't advancing anyway.

"Q" gets two games in the BIG EAST .
Tournament.Any more and he should be
 made president of Syracuse University.  
5. WEST VIRGINIA over Syracuse. WVU beat Syracuse early in the season. In the middle of the non-conference schedule. Both teams have grown since then but I think WVU will prevail in what should be another great and close match-up. Hemingway and Alexander fall just short. WVU did beat Notre Dame this year, you know. Syracuse? It was the Irish by 19. Enough said.

6. DEPAUL over USF. Martin and Harry ran into a inspired bunch of Cardinals Saturday but recovered well against Cincy. That recovery continues and they get revenge for the earlier overtime loss to USF in the regular season. It's a #8 vs. #9 seed game, though and it should be a "down to the buzzer" contest. Could be the most exciting of the second round games.

7. LOUISVILLE over Villanova. The Cards are playing with a purpose and have won four out of their last five. These two had a battle in the regular season, Louisville escaping by four. This one could be just as close, but Shoni, Becky and gang find a way to send Louisville to Sunday action. 

8. RUTGERS over Cincinnati. Don't look now...but Rutgers has won their last four games in a row. They took the Bearcats by 11 in the regular season. If you're looking for a second round potential upset, this isn't it.  C Viv advances.

9. GEORGETOWN over West Virginia. A good game between these two in the regular season. I think the Mountaineers will be worn out after a tough Syracuse battle though and Sugar Rodgers is the best guard in the BIG EAST. Go ahead and laugh...but I think she is. 

Anna will find the going tough
against the Irish. 
10. NOTRE DAME over DePaul. Put Keisha Hampton on this DePaul team and they have a chance. No Keisha Hampton and you get beat 90-70. Add in two games in two days for a short DePaul roster and the Irish eyes will be smiling. 

11. ST JOHN'S over Louisville. It kills me to pick against a Louisville team that I think has really come together as a unit in the last six games...but St John's has the hot dice right now and their guard play is just a tad better than Louisville's right now. I hope I'm wrong, I hope I'm wrong, I hope...

12. RUTGERS over UConn. Yes, you read it right. The first huge upset of the tournament. Geno says he doesn't care how they do in the tournament, this is a big rivalry game
and forget the fact the Huskies won the previous match-up by 28. Oliver, Rushdan and Sykes all show up on the same night and the Scarlet Knights go to the semi-finals. Notre Dame showed the world the blue-prints on how to handle the Huskies. Were you watching...Scarlet Knights?  

13. NOTRE DAME over Georgetown. I think this one could be closer than most think. I do think, though, that there is no one on the Hoya squad who can stop Peters, Novosel and Diggins. Irish eyes still smiling... 

14. ST JOHN'S over Rutgers. Another intense rivalry game. The difference in this one won't be by many. The Red Storm won both regular season matchups, though and they'll prevail again. Close, close, close.

Paul thinks Notre Dame
will win the BIG EAST
Tournament. Longshot
pick, big guy...
15. NOTRE DAME over St. John's. I really liked this St. John's team before the season started and had them picked to finish 4th in the BIG EAST behind Notre Dame, UConn and Louisville. OK, the Louisville pick was a bit off. The bubble finally bursts for Kim Barnes Arico's squad...though. The Irish handled them by 15 in Queens. This one won't be as big of a Notre Dame win, let's say by six...and a fun one to watch. The Irish go back-to-back as tournament winners. 

(You can get in the fun, too! Leave your picks in the comments section or e-mail them to CARDINAL COUPLE. We promise not to laugh and we'll laminate each one and use them as decorative wall-hangings. OK. We probably won't do that, but you can win a $ 25 PANERA or Wal Mart gift card. That's way cool and mas fina, amigos.) 

We've even attached a bracket below and will continue to do so the rest of the week and throughout the tournament, adding updates, so you can play along at home. 

WE'll be providing coverage each from Louisville. Couldn't get clearance from the warden to go to Hartford this year. Just as well, they city council would probably frown on me and five or six chimps running a muck through the city streets of Hartford and the XL Center tossing banana peels in front of unsuspecting citizens, de-pantsing referees and BIG EAST officials and getting "POO-BAH" and "SHONI" chants started in restaurants, the arena and various big box stores in the area.  



  1. PICKS
    Day 1 Providence,USF,SHU,Marquette
    Day 2 Providence,DePaul,UofL,Rutgers
    Day 3 Georgetown,Notre Dame,UofL,UConn
    Day 4 Notre Dame, UConn
    Day 5 UConn


  2. Some percentages for you all on your first round BIG EAST selections so far:

    70% of the brackets have Syracuse over Providence
    90% of the brackets have USF beating Pitt
    70% of the brackets have Villanova taking SHU
    80% of the brackets have Cincy beating Marq.

    (based on the 25 picks received as of 9:00 Wednesday morning)

    Some history:

    In 2011, 3 of the 4 higher seeds advanced in the first round. (#14 Villanova beat #11 Providence).

    In 2010, 2 of the 4 higher seeds advanced in the first round. (#13 Louisville beat #12 Pitt and #14 Cincy beat #11 USF)

    In 2009, 1 of the 4 advanced (#13 St. John over #12 Syracuse, #16 Cincinnati over #9 MARQUETTE and #15 Seton Hall over #10 Georgetown)

    Prior to that, only the top 12 finishers in regular season play made the Tournament. In 2008, 2 out of the 4 top seeds advanced to the second round. Louisville was a #7 SEED AND MADE THE FINALS...Angel and Candyce losing to UConn by six.

    Beware the first round upsets...



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