Ryan McMahon off the bench, carries Louisville past Syracuse in overtime

Ryan McMahon the guy who usually leads the cheers on the bench was leading the University of Louisville on the court at Syracuse in overtime on Big Monday. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

One of the most unpredictable games ever, no one ever really in command or playing under control, last one with the basketball wins … unless someone turns the ball over or dribbles it out of bounds.

Keystone cops near the end of regulation, balls bouncing off of heads, toes, butts and elbows. Or maybe a pinball game, balls ricocheting off the flappers, winding up with the weirdest angles, sometimes even in the basket.

The comedy on the court upstaged only by Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim roaming around with his mouth wide open, unable to believe any call could go against his Syracuse team. University of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino trying hard to stifle a smile or a smirk (who knows?) with the game on the line in the closing seconds of regulation. 

Anything seemed possible but winning the least likely after Donovan Mitchell fouled out at the 1:18 mark, with UofL clinging to a fragile five-point lead. No surprise Syracuse coming back to tie it up after one of those Keystone cop plays on a three-pointer by John Gillon. Deng Adel missing the front end of two bonus situations.  This one was destined for overtime.

With Mitchell out, Adel missing everything and Snider all but exhausted, the question was where UofL’s points were going to come from in this overtime.

Wait, is that Ryan McMahon out there? Was that Ryan McMahon with that 3-point jumper? Was that Ryan McMahon with an offensive rebound, cleaning up the garbage?

Syracuse fans had to be wondering, thinking, “Who is this guy?” They hadn’t seen him the entire game.

Yes, indeed, it was, Pitino confirming it. “Ryan never met a shot he didn’t like,” said the coach. “He has nerves of steel.”

Entirely appropriate that Ryan McMahon would be the UofL player at the line with one second on the clock, all but sealing the 76-72 win by swishing two of two free throws. Should have been over but that was only assured in the final split second when a Syracuse player stepped out of bounds. 

Louisville had outlasted Syracuse, but this time Ryan McMahon, usually leading cheers on the bench, was leading the charge on the floor when the final horn sounded.

The man:

Pitino’s options for significant change are limited

Significant change is in store for the University of Louisville basketball team, according to Rick Pitino, on his Thursday radio show.

One has to question the timing, thinking maybe a week ago might have been a better time to introduce change. After all, U of L is headed to New York this weekend for a second game against Syracuse, only the second-ranked team in the nation.

Pitino has won seven of the last eight games against Jim Boeheim, lost by only one point two weeks ago. If he makes good on his promise, he’s making a big gamble in a final regular season game.

The only explanation forthcoming was that Pitino told Wayne Blackshear to either get used to getting banged around or to forget this season altogether. The coach said Blackshear responded with his best practice since arriving in Louisville.

Even if Blackshear does play more, that doesn’t constitute significant change. Blackshear could have a great game and no one would be shocked.

What would meet that criteria would be someone like Elisha Justice starting in place of Peyton Siva at the point guard position. Justice is probably a better shooter, and he wouldn’t make some the same mistakes that have plagued Siva.

Surely not Kevin Ware starting. But he could be seeing more playing time, as could Angel Nunez.

There are only so many bodies to go around so his options for making really significant change are pretty limited.

Big East Tourney Format Likely To Change

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The format for the Big East basketball tournament, which currently gives the top four seeds double byes, appears likely to change next season. May have something to do with three of the top four being defeated in their first game this year.

Jim Boeheim, Syracuse coach, told the New York Daily News, “I think the double-bye is awful. It’s a huge advantage to be playing instead of waiting.’’

Associate Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt responded: “We tend to listen to our coaches. When they want something to change, it changes. If they think a change would be a better path going into the NCAA tournament, then I’m sure we’ll look at it.’’

According to ESPN, the most likely scenario would be a first-round similar to the NCAA tournament: 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14 and 4 vs. 13 on Tuesday. The winners would take Wednesday off while seeds 5-12 played and then the quarterfinals would roll on Thursday. Link.


Clean, Disciplined Top 10 Coaches

Another list of the top 10 active college basketball coaches has been compiled, this one by Josh Herwit, a basketball analyst and editor at Fox Sports.

What’s different are the qualifications the analyst would use in hiring a new coach, namely an individual who would be required “to build a clean and disciplined program from scratch, one that has the capability of competing for national championships.”

Interesting criteria, the clean and disciplined part. Here are his choices:

  1. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
  2. Rick Pitino, Louisville
  3. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
  4. Roy Williams, North Carollina
  5. Jay Wright, Villanova
  6. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
  7. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh
  8. Ben Howland, UCLA
  9. Sean Miller, Arizona
  10. Tony Bennett, Virginia

Honorable Mention: John Beinlein, Michigan

Says this about Pitino:

“One of the most animated and candid coaches around, Pitino has been a bona fide winner going back to his early days at Providence, where he took the Friars to a Final Four in less than two years of service. Since then, the 56-year-old New Yorker has accumulated over 500 victories, including one in the 1996 national championship game with Kentucky, and after a brief stint in the NBA, he’s turned Louisville back into a national power whether it’s been in Conference USA or the Big East.”

Not making the top 10 were such noteables as Jim Boeheim, Syracuse; Bill Self, Kansas; Jim Calhoun, UConn; and Billy Donovan, Florida.

Anyone else missing? Consider the criteria.