Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. 

There are a lot of people out there that will call themselves college basketball experts, myself included (although I may be the only one to think that way). And these so-called experts keep telling you how good the Big East is this year. Once again, myself included.

If the Big East is so good, then where are all the marquee wins?

The Big East only has three really good wins – Notre Dame beating Texas in Maui, Syracuse beating Kansas in a de facto home game, and Georgetown beating Memphis at home. Even in those three, Georgetown won at home and Kansas is, well, not all that good right now.

It isn’t like they aren’t getting the chances either. West Virginia and Villanova lost to Davidson and Texas in the Jimmy V Classic. Marquette lost to Tennessee. So did Georgetown. Seton Hall lost to Memphis. Cincinnati lost to Xavier. Notre Dame lost to Ohio State and UNC.

As far as I’m concerned there are two schools of thought on this. One is that the Big East is actually even better than we expected. As a result, they are beating good teams, which in turn knocks those teams down in the rankings. Case in point, Wisconsin. The Badgers have two losses on the season (UConn and Marquette) which is part of the reason they aren’t ranked. Along those same lines, when lesser teams actually do get an upset of the Big East teams, they end up getting ranked too high.

The other is that the Big East is just a really big conference chock full of pretty good, but not great, teams. Look at the facts – UConn and Pitt are undefeated, but Pitt hasn’t played anyone and UConn has been so inconsistent; Villanova, Louisville, Georgetown, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Marquette all have fatal flaws as a team; Syracuse has been playing well, but struggles to keep their focus at times and will most likely be losing Eric Devendorf for the season.

So what does this mean? Are the ACC and the Big XII creeping up? No, not just yet. Let me ask you this question – if a healthy West Virginia team (Alex Ruoff and Joe Mazzula sat) beat Davidson and a healthy Luke Harangody helped knock off UNC and/or OSU, who we even be having this conversation?

Probably not. Now that is done, let’s get on to the good stuff.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DaJuan Summers, Georgetown

Summers played a great game for the Hoyas as they knocked off the Memphis Tigers in DC on Saturday. Summers was all over the court as he scored 21 points, grabbed 7 boards, and picked up 2 steals and 3 blocks. The most important thing was the scoring. Greg Monroe has yet to really assert himself on the offensive end, which means G’town needs a go-to scorer. Summers has been inconsistent his entire career, but this year he has really blossomed into a steady 14 and 5 guy. The Hoyas are going to need more out of him, however, if they hope to contend in the Big East. Against the Tigers, he was effective getting to the basket and although his perimeter shot wasn’t falling (1-5 from deep), he has proven himself a very good three point shooter.

TEAM OF THE WEEK:  Georgetown

I don’t like giving my POTW and TOTW awards to players on the same team, but I kind of had to this week as the Hoyas were the only team to play and beat anyone of significance. The Hoyas knocked off the Tigers in OT in on of the best games of the young season on Saturday. We learned a few things about the Hoyas in that game. For one, they handled the Memphis press very well. Chris Wright also looks like the real deal. He didn’t have a great statistical game, but he made so many big plays down the stretch and was able to get the ball to the rim just about any time he wanted to. They also did a very good job defensively forcing Memphis out of the lane and into tough perimeter jump shots. The one thing they struggled with (that they are probably going to struggle with all season) was defensive rebounding, especially out of their zone. Still, the Hoyas have been the most impressive and surprising team in the conference not named Syracuse and should be in the thick of this race down the stretch.

Power Rankings (AP, Coaches):

CONTENDERS

1. (1) Pitt 10-0 (3, 3)
Last Week: 12/13 vs. UMBC 91-56
Next Week: 12/17 vs. Siena, 12/21 vs. Florida State

The Panthers rolled again over a cupcake improving to 10-0, but Pitt will finally be tested (somewhat) this week when they host the Siena Saints and then head to Tallahassee to take on the Seminoles. As always, it is really tough to get a feel for how good this Pitt team is because they don’t play anyone early. Is Levance Fields fully healed? Can Sam Young handle the three? Has DeJuan Blair’s game progressed at all? We will find out this week.

2. (2) UConn 9-0) (2, 2)
Last Week: 12/15 vs. Stony Brook 91-57
Next Week: 12/20 @ Gonzaga

The Huskies rolled against Stony Brook, but the big news of that game wasn’t how they played, but who played. UConn finally got Stanley Robinson back in uniform, which is so important to their team this year. He brings another element that no one on their roster can. Who else do you see flying in from the wing for a tip dunk? Who else can they run a baseline lob play for? What other wing can provide shot blocking and defensive rebounding? Who else would have been able to match-up with Austin Daye from Gonzaga? The answer to all of those questions – no one.

TOURNEY TEAMS

3. (6) Georgetown 7-1 (15, 13)
Last Week: 12/13 vs. Memphis 79-70 OT
Next Week: 12/20 vs. Mount St. Mary’s, 12/23 vs. Florida International

I said last week that the Hoyas were a tough team to gauge. Well, after watching them beat Memphis, I think I now have a pretty good handle on them. G’town is going to be a tough team defensively, as always. They are equally effective running zone and man-to-man, but they struggle on the defensive glass, especially out of the zone. Greg Monroe has all the talent in the world and could be a superstar on this level, but he needs to become more aggressive. The Hoyas are not very deep at all this year (I would only be comfortable with six of their players), but if Chris Wright and DaJuan Summers can play all year like they did against Memphis, the Hoyas are headed for good things.

4. (4) Louisville 6-1 (9, 9)
Last Week: 12/13 vs. Austin Peay 94-75
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Mississippi, 12/20 vs. Minnesota

I just don’t see it yet with Louisville. They have struggled somewhat against a very weak schedule thus far. Their shooting picked up against Austin Peay (11-25 from three), which is a good sign because they had been struggling, but they are still taking too many perimeter jumpers. And what has happened to Edgar Sosa? After a terrific freshman season in which he had this memorable play in the Big East tourney and 31 points in the NCAA tournament against Texas A&M, he had a disappointing sophomore campaign (11.4 ppg down to 7.6 ppg), and his numbers are down even further this year (6.1 ppg). It’s gotta be a confidence thing – Sosa has lost his confidence and Pitino has lost confidence in him.

5 (3) Syracuse 9-1 (11, 11)
Last Week: 12/13 vs. Long Beach State 79-55, 12/15 vs. Cleveland State 69-72
Next Week: 12/17 vs. Canisius, 12/20 @ Memphis, 12/22 vs. Coppin State

I’m going to go ahead and assume that you have seen the shot that Cleveland State used to beat Syracuse (karmic payback for playing Devendorf?). This Syracuse season, which looked so promising at the start, is on the brink of crashing down. Eric Devendorf was suspended last week by the Syracuse Judicial Board because of some sort of altercation involving a female Syracuse student (if you don’t know the story, click the link above, it will fill you in). He has appealed the ruling, which will take 2-3 weeks to iron out, meaning that he can play during that span. This is a very, very bad thing for a Syracuse team that already has focus and intensity issues. Four times during this young season, Syracuse has trailed big but come back to win (7 at the half vs. Richmond, 13 against Virginia and Kansas, and 16 against Cornell). Despite having his most talented squad since Melo’s 2003 title team, Boeheim really has his work cut out for him this year.

6. (5) Notre Dame 7-2 (12, 14)
Last Week: 12/13 vs. Boston University 74-67
Next Week: 12/20 vs. Delaware State, 12/22 vs. Savannah State

Another poor performance by the Irish as they needed a 10-1 run to end the game to avoid being upset by the Terriers. Right now, it seems like the Irish are just out of sync with Luke Harangody coming back. They have home games against Delaware State and Savannah State next week before they start conference play on New Years Eve. Hopefully, they can iron things out by then.

7. (8) West Virginia 7-2
Last Week: 12/13 vs. Duquense 68-63
Next Week: 12/20 vs. Miami OH, 12/23 vs. Radford

West Virginia looked less than impressive as they were down 12 to the Dukes at one point before coming back to win. So that now means WVU got Curryed in a tough loss to Davidson and came back to beat a decent Duquense team playing without Joe Mazzula and Alex Ruoff, their starting back court and only true point guard and good shooter. All things considered, West Virginia could be much worse off. What we do know now about the Mountaineers is that regardless of who is on the floor, this team is going to compete, this team is going to defend, and this team is going to the boards as hard (if not harder) than any other team in the country. Look at it like this. Their starters were 1-18 from deep against Duquense. You put Ruoff and Mazzulla in there, and I guarantee they don’t go 1-18 again, which will help spread the floor, creating more lanes to drives and crash the glass.

8. (7) Marquette 8-2 (24, 23)
Last Week: 12/13 vs. IPFW 69-50, 12/16 @ Tennessee 68-80
Next Week: 12/19 vs. Western Carolina, 12/22 vs. NC State

Marquette had a disappointing loss to Tennessee is what was basically a road game in the SEC/Big East Invitational. I’m still really high on Marquette right now, especially after seeing them play last night. Jerel McNeal is one of my favorite players in the country to watch. Wesley Matthews is playing like an all-american. Lazar Hayward and Dominic James are both very talented. Despite being extremely undersized, they have some tough kids that really get after it on the glass. And most importantly, they are a lot of fun to watch. They have athletes at every position, they run the floor, they shoot three’s. The biggest problem they have right now is that James is trying to prove himself to the NBA scouts as a pure point guard, when that is not what he is.

9. (9) Villanova 10-1 (18, 15)
Last Week: 12/11 vs. St. Joe’s 59-56, 12/14 @ La Salle 70-59
Next Week: 12/22 vs. Navy

I’m still not sold on Villanova. I am sold on Dante Cunningham, who has turned himself into an elite power forward in the Big East after being nothing more than an athlete as a freshman. But the rest of this team is struggling. Scottie Reynolds is playing the worst basketball of his career as he tries to prove that he is a point guard. Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher have been inconsistent. There isn’t much to speak of along the front line besides Cunningham. I love Jay Wright, he is a great coach, but he has his work cut out for him this year.

BUBBLE-LICIOUS

10. (11) Seton Hall 8-1
Last Week: 12/13 vs. St. Peter’s 60-46
Next Week: 12/20 vs. IUPUI, 12/22 @ James Madison

Make sure you get a chance to watch Jeremy Hazell play. He’s one of the best scorers in the country (22.4 ppg).

11. (10) Cincinnati 7-2
Last Week: 12/13 vs. Xavier 66-76, 12/15 vs. Charleston Southern 74-55
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Mississippi State, 12/20 vs. Eastern Kentucky, 12/22 vs. Arkansas Pine-Bluff

Xavier painfully exposed just how much Cincy is going to miss Cashmere Wright, a true point guard, this year.

12. (12) Providence 6-3
Last Week: Nothing
Next Week: 12/17 vs. Jackson State, 12/20 @ BC, 12/22 vs. Bryant

PC fans hope that ten day layoff doesn’t effect their momentum.

13. (14) St. John’s 8-1
Last Week: 12/14 vs. Bethune-Cookman 77-59
Next Week: 12/20 vs. Marist

St. John’s on the bubble? They are 8-1 and we love Norm Roberts. Who cares if they haven’t beaten anyone? This program really needs something to cheer about.

I STOPPED CARING

14. (16) Rutgers 7-3
Last Week: 12/10 @ Princeton 49-44, 12/14 Delaware State 60-55
Next Week: 12/20 vs. Bryant, 12/23 vs. NJIT

Mike Rosario’s high school team would have beat Rutgers. He played with Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas), Travon Woodall (Pitt), Jiovanny Fontan, (Fordham), Alberto Estwick (Fordham), AJ Rogers (St. Joseph’s), and Dominic Cheek (top 10 recruit committed to Villanova).

15. (13) South Florida 3-5
Last Week: 12/14 vs. Niagara 55-70, 12/16 vs. Vanderbilt 52-71
Next Week: 12/20 vs. Murray State, 12/21 vs. Wright State, 12/22 vs. Oral Roberts

So much for Mike Mercer and Gus Gilchrist making a difference. Are they worse now?

16. (14) DePaul 4-4
Last Week: 12/10 vs. Morgan State 75-79, 12/14 vs. UCLA 54-72
Next Week: 12/17 vs. Liberty, 12/19 vs. Southern, 12/22 vs. St. Louis

Under absolutely no circumstances should a team from the Big East ever lose to a team from the MEAC. That said, congratulations to Todd Bozeman for turning the Morgan State program around.

rtmsf (3720 Posts)


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