Checking in on the… Big EastPosted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2008
Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.
Some of the Big East elite stumbled this week. Notre Dame, Louisville, Georgetown, West Virginia, Marquette, and Cincinnati all picked up their first loss of the season since the last time we checked in with RTC. Should Big East fans be worried? Was all that talk about the Big East being the best conference ever nothing but talk? In a word … maybe? Look, the bottom line is that each one of the aforementioned teams that suffered their first loss got beat by a good team. I mean, Notre Dame losing by 15 to UNC when Luke Harangody in is the early stages of pneumonia is not the same as losing by 18 to Maryland (sorry to all Spartan fans – I know Roe and Suton were hurt and Morgan was being a punk in foul trouble, just trying to make a point). Even the Louisville loss, which is inexcusable for a team of their talent (probably why Pitino apologized), was to a Western Kentucky team that looks to be hitting their stride (they have won three straight games against Southern Illinois, the ‘Ville, and Georgia, and lost one game without leading scorer AJ Slaughter in his first game back). Let’s look at it like this – Tennessee, UNC, and Dayton are all going to be NCAA tourney teams. Western Kentucky, Florida State, and Kentucky are all going to garner attention as bubble teams. While this is a startling number of losses to occur in the span of one week, it is not like UConns are losing to Delaware States, and it doesn’t change the fact that there are a number of Big East teams (UConn, Pitt, Syracuse, Villanova) that are rolling through competent competition.
Player of the Week – Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame
McAlarney has been outstanding in Luke Harangody’s absence. In three games this week, he averaged 32.7 ppg and 4.0 apg (with just 4 turnovers) while shooting 33-62 (53%) from the floor and 26-48 (54%) from deep. That’s 26 triples in just three games. Clearly, the number of his shot attempts will go (way) down once Harangody gets healthy, but if McAlarney can shoot like this and be this kind of threat every night, Notre Dame is not going to be a team you want to face.
Team of the Week – Pitt
The Panthers won the Legends Classic in New Jersey on Saturday with impressive wins over Texas Tech and Washington State. Against Wazzu, Pitt really proved what kind of team they are going to be. A Daven Harmeling three cut a big Pitt lead to 46-40 with 6:00 left. The Cougars did not score again until Harmeling hit another three with 10 seconds left. Pitt is going to make every pass difficult, every shot a tough one, and go get every rebound this year, but they have enough offensive talent that they can get by (especially if they only need to score 60 points to win). The Panthers shouldn’t have any trouble with Duquense or Vermont in the next week.
Power Rankings (AP, Coaches):
1. (1) UConn 7-0 (#2, #2)
Last Week: 11/29 vs. Bryant 88-58, 12/1 vs. Delaware State 79-49
Next Week: 12/4 @ Buffalo
Business as usual in the early season for the Huskies. They usually don’t leave the state until conference play starts. Hasheem Thabeet led the Huskies with averages of 13 ppg, 14.5 rpg, and 3.5 bpg. UConn won’t be challenged again December 20th when they play Gonzaga in Seattle. One thing for Husky fans to worry about – is Hasheem Thabeet getting a little too cocky?
2. (4) Pitt 7-0 (#3, #3)
Last Week: 11/28 vs. Texas Tech 80-67, 11/29 vs. Washington State 57-43
Next Week: 12/3 vs. Duquense, 12/6 Vermont
3. (5) Syracuse 7-0 (#16, #20)
Last Week: 11/28 vs. Virginia 73-70, 12/1 vs. Colgate 86-51
Next Week: 12/3 vs. Cornell
Syracuse has looked very tough in the first few weeks of the season. They struggled a bit with Virginia as they came out of the gates slowly and found themselves down 11 at halftime. But the Orange can put up points in a hurry, and proved that when they went on a 20-6 run that spanned just over 5:00. A couple things about Syracuse that I’ve picked up. Part of the reason that they are so explosive offensively is that they seem to be forcing more turnovers defensively (someone has to have the stats on this, am I right?) this year, or at least the kind of turnovers that lead to easy baskets. The reason for that is Boeheim is playing more man-to-man, and playing it very aggressively at that. Syracuse gets Cornell this week. It is too bad that the Big Red’s backcourt is still hurt, because this would have been an interesting match-up.
4. (2) Notre Dame 6-1 (#7, #7)
Last Week: 11/26 vs. UNC 87-102, 11/30 vs. Furman 93-61, 12/2 vs. South Dakota 102-76
Next Week: 12/6 vs. Ohio State
Notre Dame has a win over Texas, their only loss is to UNC, and Kyle McAlarney is playing like a god. So why have they dropped down to fourth in the BEPR? Because Luke Harangody has pneumonia and is out indefinitely.
5. (3) Louisville 2-1 (#11, #11)
Last Week: 11/30 vs. Western Kentucky 54-68
Next Week: 12/6 vs. Indiana State, 12/7 vs. Ohio, 12/8 vs. Lamar
As I said before, the loss to Western Kentucky is inexcusable. Not to take away from the fantastic performance by the Hilltoppers, but the Cardinals basically played the worst game they possibly could. They didn’t pressure the ball defensively. They didn’t rebound. They couldn’t shoot. Knowing Pitino, I can imagine his practices this week are pure hell and I doubt Indiana State is going to know what hit them.
6. (6) Georgetown 4-1 (#20, #18)
Last Week: 11/27 vs. Wichita State 58-50, 11/28 vs. Tennessee 78-90, 11/30 vs. Maryland 75-48
Next Week: 12/6 vs. American, 12/8 Savannah State
Still not quite sure what to make of this team yet. They struggle to beat Wichita State (although the Shockers did look solid in the Old Spice), lose giving up 90 to Tennessee, then come out and destroy a Maryland team that beat Michigan State. After watching them for three straight days, I can tell you that Georgetown is going to have to control tempo to be successful, much like last year. But, if it makes sense, they are going to need to play faster than last year. Not making sense? The Hoyas have three very quick guards (Chris Wright, Jessie Sapp, Jason Clark) and three big men that can get out, run the floor, and finish (Greg Monroe, DaJuan Summers, Austin Freeman). They need to be able to push the ball when the time is right, but they need to pick their spots well. If they get into a track meet with a team like Tennessee, they will lose. The Hoyas will get American and Savannah State next week.
7. (9) Villanova 7-0 (#17, #16)
Last Week: 11/28 vs. Towson 64-47, 11/29 vs. Rhode Island 78-65, 12/2 @ Penn 69-47
Next Week: 12/4 vs. Houston Baptist, 12/9 vs. Texas
The wins over Rhode Island and Penn are nice, but the Wildcats still haven’t really played anyone. It is probably as good thing as they try to get healthy for their Tuesday showdown with Texas. The biggest news coming out of ‘Nova this week was the decision of big man Casiem Drummond to transfer. The official word is it is a playing time issue (Drummond has basically been injured since he stepped foot on campus), but Drummond was suspended for a game early in the season. Regardless, the loss could hurt the Wildcats, a team in need of big bodies.
8. (8) West Virginia 4-1
Last Week: 11/28 vs. Iowa 87-68, 11/29 vs. Kentucky 43-54
Next Week: 12/3 @ Mississippi, 12/6 vs. Cleveland State, 12/9 vs. Davidson
The win over Iowa is pretty good. The loss to Kentucky isn’t. The Mountaineers just could not make a shot in the second half where they scored just 17 points. Alex Ruoff and Da’sean Butler have both looked pretty good for WVU in the early going, but returners John Flowers and Wellington Smith and freshman Devin Ebanks, who were all being counted on as producers, have struggled. None is averaging more than 7.3 ppg or 4.6 rpg. This week coming up is really big for the ‘Neers if they want to make a push for the bubble. They play Ole Miss, Cleveland State, and Davidson, who all will most likely be right on the bubble come March.
9. (7) Marquette 6-1 (#25, Un)
Last Week: 11/28 vs. Northern Iowa 73-43, 11/29 vs. Dayton 75-89, 12/2 vs. Central Michigan 81-67
Next Week: 12/6 vs. Wisconsin
Marquette is sliding in my book. They do not have any presence inside. Yea, Lazar Hayward is averaging 9.3 rpg, but he is 6’6” and really more of a small forward than a power forward. The Eagles have been starting Dwight Burke at center, but he is a chubby 6’7”, 250 lb guy that isn’t a scoring threat or a shot blocker. Maruqette has been a run-and-gun team that is putting up great offensive numbers, but it doesn’t cover up the fact that they are missing a big piece. They will be fun to watch this year, but may not win too many games. But hey, they get a great chance to prove me wrong when Wisconsin comes to visit Saturday.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
10. (10) Seton Hall 6-1
Last Week: 11/29 vs. Delaware 75-70, 12/2 vs. Monmouth 101-78
Next Week: 12/9 vs. California Baptist
More of the same from Seton Hall. They keep grinding out wins and they are putting up some huge offensive numbers, but I am still not convinced.
11. (11) Cincinnati 5-1
Last Week: 11/28 vs. Florida State 47-58, 11/29 @ UNLV 67-65
Next Week: 12/6 vs. UAB
That Florida State loss isn’t terrible, and the UNLV win is a very good win. Let’s see what they can do against UAB before they get a bump.
12. (14) DePaul 4-0
Last Week: 11/26 vs. Detroit 71-62, 11/29 vs. Indiana State 75-70
Next Week: 12/3 @ Cal, 12/6 @ Northwestern
If you don’t know who Dar Tucker is, then make sure you get a chance to see him play at some point. He is averaging 20.8 ppg and 6.5 rpg (and he is a youtube legend – seriously, spend five minutes searching him on there, it is so worth it). The Blue Demons are also gets 12 and 12 from Mac Kowlshal. They get Cal and Northwestern on the road this week. Both wins would look great on a tourney resume.
WE ARE GLAD THE BIG EAST TOURNAMENT IS INCLUDING ALL 16 TEAMS THIS YEAR
13. (16) South Florida 3-1
Last Week: 11/29 vs. Northeastern 55-37
Next Week: 12/3 @ UAB, 12/6 @ Central Florida
Nothing to say here.
14. (12) Providence 4-3
Last Week: 11/27 vs. Baylor 56-72, 11/28 vs. Charlotte 67-62, 11/30 vs. St. Mary’s 75-81
Next Week: 12/3 vs. Brown, 12/6 vs. Rhode Island
Providence has been a major disappointment so far this year. They are a late 10-0 run against 1-7 Charlotte away from being 3-4 (the only Big East team under .500 if that had happened). They were everyone’s trendy pick to make a run in the Big East. That seems like so long ago now.
15. (13) St. John’s 6-1
Last Week: 12/1 vs. St. Francis NY 69-61
Next Week: 12/8 vs. New Jersey Institute
Not sure if I’ve mentioned this yet, but Anthony Mason Jr. is out for the year with a torn foot tendon.
16. (15) Rutgers 4-2
Last Week: 11/26 vs. Lehigh 71-76, 11/30 vs. St. Peter’s 68-47
Next Week: 12/3 @ Rider, 12/6 vs. Binghamton
See South Florida.