Big East Morning Five: 11.25.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on November 25th, 2011

  1. Connecticut made a significant starting line-up change last night when they replaced 6’9” junior forward and defensive stalwart Alex Oriakhi with 6’10″ freshman center Andre Drummond in the #4 Huskies 73-63 win over UNC Asheville in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. This was the first career start for the highly touted Drummond who responded with nine points, five rebounds, and a block. While Drummond’s, who was slowed by a broken nose suffered in an October practice collision, performance thus far has been pedestrian (5.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.0 BLK coming into Thursday’s action), a starting role was virtually inevitable. It was just a matter of when and at the expense of whom. Drummond was the top-rated center in the country coming out of high school and reclassified to the class of 2011 so he could be a part of this team. While parts of Drummond’s game and activity level have been the subject of criticism coming out of high school, his talent and upside are undeniable. These points coupled with the fact that Drummond’s stay in Storrs is not expected to go beyond this season, implored coach Jim Calhoun to get him into the starting mix during the baked-good portion of the schedule to ready him for Big East play. Oriakhi being the odd man out could be viewed on the surface as something of a surprise given that he started 39 of 41 games last season and posted 11 double-doubles, including an 11 point, 11 rebound performance in last year’s national championship victory over Butler. However, his performance thus far has been spotty, prompting Calhoun to express concern recently.  Oriakhi played 14 minutes against UNC Asheville and registered four points, two rebounds, and three blocks, but his most notable contribution was this post-game Twitter conversation with former Husky Jamal Coombs-McDaniel.
  2. Georgetown’s confidence has to be on the rise after their 2-1 showing in Maui. While coach John Thompson III lamented his team’s mistakes in their 67-63 opening game loss to #15 Kansas saying “It’s frustrating.  The things that we can control, we should control….We’re not going to be singing this young team song all year.” That said, Georgetown is a young team and while Thompson would never admit it publicly, hanging with Kansas had its positives and provided the Hoyas (now 4-1) with confidence to build on. Clearly this was the case as Georgetown dispatched host Chaminade 88-61 on Tuesday and followed that up with a signature 91-88 overtime victory over #13 Memphis in an entertaining game. Georgetown is beginning to establish a core with its experienced players, led by emerging senior guard Jason Clark, who is not afraid to take and make big shots in big moments. Henry Sims is a perfect fit for Thompson’s offense with his ability to pass out of the high post and, at 6’10”, is leading the team in assists (4.2 APG).  Freshman Otto Porter is an absolute keeper. The 6’8” forward was all over the place against Memphis displaying is athleticism and perimeter skills to the tune of nine points, eight rebounds, three assists, four steals and two blocks, and only figures to get better as the season wares on. Watch out for the Hoyas. 
  3. Seton Hall is another young team quietly gaining momentum in the early going. The Pirates are out to a 4-1 start with wins over St. Francis (NY), Virginia Commonwealth, Saint Joseph’s, and Yale. They suffered their only loss in the Charleston Classic final at the hands of Northwestern, who is 4-0 including wins over Louisiana State and Tulsa. Like Georgetown, a pair of seniors are setting the tone for their younger mates. 6’8” forward Herb Pope, who took home the Big East’s first Player of the Week honor earlier this week, is off to a tremendous start, averaging 21.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game while 6’0” guard Jordan Theodore is averaging 18.4 points and six assists per game while playing clutch basketball and emerging as the go-to-guy for the Hall.  Sophomore Fuquan Edwin (15 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 60% FG) is on the verge of a breakout season. The Pirates will certainly continue to be tested en route to their Big East opener at Syracuse on December 28 as they have dates with Auburn (December 2), Wake Forest (December 10), and at Dayton (December 21). 
  4. It’s mini ‘Set Your TiVo’ time! There are some notable games on the Big East schedule today as we move deeper into some of the holiday tournament brackets. The NIT Season Tip-Off championship features a pair of 5-0 teams with Stanford taking on #5 Syracuse at Madison Square Garden at 6 PM on ESPN.  Another match-up of undefeated squads pits 4-0 Villanova against Rick Majerus’ 4-0 St. Louis team in the 76 Classic at the Anaheim Convention Center  2:30 PM on ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU (check your local listings). Finally, in non-tournament action, Cincinnati (3-1), still stinging from their loss to Presbyterian last Saturday, will host Marshall (4-0) at Fifth Third Arena at 8 PM on ESPN3.
  5. With an end to the NBA lockout nowhere in sight there have been a number of things said and written about the enhanced exposure the work stoppage provides college basketball. Given that NBA front office and operations personnel seemingly have little to do without the normal day-to-day rigors of an NBA schedule, could this result in more focused scouting of college players, particularly the upper-classmen who seem to be passed over year-after-year for the latest virtually unknown foreign sensation? It is amazing how devalued a college player can become by staying in school, particularly those who show continuous development over a three- or four-year span, while NBA teams continue to get sucked into pre-draft buzz and gravitate to the flavor of the month. College juniors and seniors are known commodities that can excite the fan base and bring immediate value to their employers by becoming part of NBA rosters right away, without the complications of existing professional contracts that typically hold back foreign players for multiple years. Here’s hoping NBA execs make good use of their free time to take in the college game and see what they have right in their backyards.
Patrick Prendergast (74 Posts)

Twitter: @FriarFrenzy

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