Thursday, May 2, 2013

The 10 Best Of Our 120: 10-6

With the offseason now almost a month old and all the obligatory wrapups pretty much out of the way, (for fans of that particular content, fear not, because we should have a few more over the summer) we'll take the time to reflect a little more on the 120-game live season we were fortunate to enjoy over the previous six months, starting on November 9th in New Rochelle and ending on the world-famous court of Madison Square Garden on April 4th.  Through the live tweets, the quotes, the recaps, and the shots, the hardest thing we've had to do all year was pare a list of 120 games down to the ten best that we have either called or covered.  Nonetheless, we try to make sense of it all, starting with No. 10 from the Atlantic 10 Tournament in the backyard of Daly Dose headquarters:

10) Virginia Commonwealth 71, Massachusetts 62, March 16, 2013 (Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinal, Barclays Center)
Rob Brandenberg's game-winning three lifted VCU into Atlantic 10 championship against Saint Louis.  (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)
Fresh off victories against George Washington and Temple behind the standout play of explosive junior point guard and Brooklyn native Chaz Williams, UMass entered the final four of the A-10 Tournament intent on slaying another giant in Shaka Smart's VCU Rams, and looked well on their way to accomplishing the feat in the first half, taking an eight-point lead with 6:39 remaining before halftime before an 11-0 VCU run punctuated by Briante Weber's suffocating defense and the lethal marksmanship of Troy Daniels helped the Rams take a 35-34 advantage going into the locker room.  With a pro-VCU crowd behind the 2011 Cinderellas, Juvonte Reddic established his presence inside over the second half, pushing the Rams ahead by double digits before Williams brought the Minutemen to within two points (58-56) with 5:23 remaining in regulation.  However, it was as close as UMass would get, as VCU closed the game on a 13-6 run to advance to their first Atlantic 10 championship game, while UMass was relegated to the NIT, where they succumbed to Steve Pikiell and Stony Brook.

9) Virginia Commonwealth 82, Saint Joseph's 79, March 15, 2013 (Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinal, Barclays Center)
Briante Weber's five steals vs. Saint Joseph's helped set new single season program record.  (Photo courtesy of Josh Verlin via City Of Basketball Love)

The night before VCU defeated UMass, they had to endure a late rally from a Saint Joseph's team that advanced to the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals with a dramatic comeback win the previous night against Xavier in what would turn out to be the Musketeers' final A-10 game before joining the restructured Big East.  The Rams also had to endure a premature "Sharpie" declaration from us on Twitter stating that they had all but won the game when VCU led 64-47 with 8:11 remaining in regulation, as St. Joe's did everything they could to ensure that the final outcome would not be decided before the buzzer.  Senior guard Carl Jones and his junior backcourt mate Langston Galloway seemingly traded shots on each Hawks possession to gradually whittle away at the Rams' double-digit lead, but it was Treveon Graham leading five VCU players in double figures; coupled with the clutch free throw shooting of Juvonte Reddic in the final minutes, that provided Shaka Smart's group with just enough steam to get across the finish line.

8) Massachusetts 79, Temple 74, March 15, 2013 (Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinal, Barclays Center)
Chaz Williams' homecoming lasted another night after his 28-point masterpiece to propel UMass past Temple.  (Photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

Immediately following the aforementioned VCU victory over Saint Joseph's, the crowd at the Barclays Center was treated to another instant classic in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, as UMass and Temple met in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year, with the Owls looking for a measure of revenge after the Minutemen posted an upset at their expense in Atlantic City behind 35 points from Jesse Morgan in the 2012 tournament.  Morgan was unavailable for this game, having torn his ACL earlier in the year, but Chaz Williams stepped in without a hitch to make his performance in the first round of the tournament against George Washington just 24 hours prior look like an exhibition.  The speedy 5-9 Bishop Ford product delighted his home crowd with a 28-point, 5-assist effort that featured numerous rally-killing baskets that enabled UMass to answer back any time Temple took; or threatened to take, the lead.  However, with all of Williams' heroics, he was ultimately not the man who hit the game-winning shot, as Terrell Vinson drained a three-pointer from the right wing inside the final minute with the shot clock winding down to put the Minutemen ahead 76-71, responding to a three on the other end from Temple's Khalif Wyatt, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.

7) Manhattan 74, Iona 73, February 15, 2013 (double overtime, Draddy Gym)
Steve Masiello joins Manhattan play-by-play announcer Christian Heimall (directly in front of Masiello) on Jasper postgame show following double overtime victory over archrival Iona.  (Photo courtesy of the author's personal collection...also in this photo are [from back to front] Manhattan color commentator Chris "Smooth" Williams, John Templon of Big Apple Buckets, Anthony Sulla-Heffinger of the New York Post, Sean Brennan [mostly cut off] from the New York Daily News and Brian Heyman of the Journal News)

One of Iona's six losses in seven games, each by three points or less, came in Riverdale with ESPNU on hand to chronicle the proceedings.  In the Jaspers' only overtime game of the season, Steve Masiello's team used the combination of suffocating defense and timely shots to smite the Gaels, whose chance to win in regulation hit the left iron when Momo Jones missed a jumper with four seconds to go.  Rhamel Brown was unable to win it for Manhattan on the ensuing possession, but atoned for it with a resounding slam halfway through the second overtime to put the Jaspers ahead by a count of 70-68.  Following a 5-1 Iona run that put Tim Cluess' Gaels ahead by two, Manhattan point guard Michael Alvarado won the game by drawing a charge against Jones, the eventual MAAC Player of the Year's fifth foul of the night, which fouled him out of a game that Iona had already lost Jones' running mate Sean Armand in earlier due to the same foul trouble.  Alvarado only made one of the two shots, but Brown came up big with an offensive rebound off the miss, then passed it to Alvarado, who found Emmy Andujar, whose spin move was good enough to get him to convert the winning layup.

6) St. Francis 67, Robert Morris 63, February 4, 2013 (women's basketball, double overtime, Pope Physical Education Center)

Watch highlights of Jaden Daly's broadcast here:

The Lady Terriers nearly tripled their four-win total from the 2011-12 campaign, and a large credit to that is given to the coaching ability of first-year head man John Thurston, whose defensive genius and shrewd offensive intellect landed St. Francis in the Northeast Conference Tournament for the first time since 2008.  On this night, sophomore sharpshooter Sarah Benedetti was the star of the game for the Terriers, accumulating half of her team-leading 14 points in the two overtime periods, including a game-winning three-pointer in the second extra session as the Terriers knocked off a Colonial squad that featured reigning NEC Player of the Year Artemis Spanou.

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