Notes on the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic
by Bill Thayer
I had the opportunity to go to Madison Square Garden for the opening of the college hoops season last night at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. My thoughts from the night:
Carmelo Anthony was impressive, but until Syracuse finds a point guard to fill in for Billy Edelin, it’s going to be a long season. Anthony cannot carry that team on his back. He played 40 minutes but was clearly shot over the last ten. With Anthony’s legs gone Syracuse wilted after putting together a furious comeback.
As well as Anthony played, I was more impressed by Memphis freshman forward Rodney Carney. Carney won Indiana’s state high jump title in high school last year and had problem displaying that ability to get up with a huge dunk early. Carney shadowed Anthony defensively and did well for the most part as many of Anthony’s baskets were with a hand (or two) in his face. Carney hit a few mid-range jumpshots, which you have to love to see from a 6’7″ small forward.
Syracuse/Memphis was clearly the JV game as Alabama and Oklahoma turned it up a notch in the second contest. The intensity and speed of the game was both ratched up a few levels. Then again that’s what happens when you have two teams who are returning the core of a Tournament squad. The first game reminded me why I hate mid-November basketball while the second reminded me why I love college basketball.
Poor MSG has to have at least one team who travels well in this event every year. Last year Maryland fans kept the cavernous Garden from being empty, this year it was Syracuse faithful who packed it in. The arena looked about three-quarters full for the first game. Sadly they all left during the second game. There didn’t seem to be more than 4,000 fans left for the second game.
I have to hand it to Mark Gottfried, he had the Crimson Tide ready to play last night. Antoine Pettway may be the third scorer that they were expected to miss this year. Pettway’s explosiveness off the bench helped spark a first half run that put Alabama ahead for good. He and Mo Williams (he’s no longer Maurice for those of you scoring at home) may be the quickest backcourt in the nation.
Speaking of Williams, I wonder if Gottfried wanted to know what flavor of chewing gum Hollis Price had last night? Williams was in Price’s hip pocket whenever Price was on the court. His defense locked down the Sooners leader and forced a combination of Quannas White and Blake Johnston to run the point. Oklahoma needs Price to have the ball for them to win big games and Williams didn’t let it happen.
One thing you’ll never see from a Kelvin Sampson team is quit and Price led the charge again. Hell of an effort, but it was Williams defense, denying Price the ball with the Sooners down 5 with less than a minute left, that sealed it. Anderson’s three from the top of the key was forced and he may have been the last player I would want to take that shot if I was Sampson.
It looks like the rumors are going to be true and Jason Dietrick is going to redshirt this season. With an abundance of senior guards, Sampson is going to hold Dietrick out so he can be a leader and starter on next year’s team. They could have used him last night.