Big East Morning Five: 11.28.11 EditionPosted by mlemaire on November 28th, 2011
- We will get to the Bernie Fine news and its implications for Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse basketball program in a post later this morning, but even without the news of his firing, it was a rough week for Big East teams. Perhaps no team had a worse week than St. John’s. Not only were they beaten soundly by an inferior Northeastern team, but they also were without head coach Steve Lavin for the second straight game and third this season while he recovers from prostate cancer surgery. While there is no doubt Lavin is doing the right thing by looking out for his health first and foremost, if this continues, it will be an unfortunate distraction for the team and tough to overcome on the recruiting trail. St. John’s is a very young team, and it needs his leadership during the games, no matter what he says about the quality of his assistants. Also — although it sounds crass even to suggest it — Lavin’s long-term health will be a point of interest for recruits, and his inability to coach during the games could open the door for some negative recruiting by other teams. Everyone in college basketball wants to see the vivacious Lavin back in good health and patrolling the sidelines, but that doesn’t mean opposing programs won’t try to lure away Red Storm recruits with promises of stability.
- The Red Storm weren’t alone in the conference when it came to disappointing losses this weekend. Cincinnati, a team many predicted to break out this season, took another one on the chin Friday night, losing to former conference foe Marshall in overtime. To make matters worse, the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a piece this morning wondering where all the fans are. According to the paper, the Bearcats are averaging just over 5, 000 fans for home games, barely half of what the crowd looked like when Bob Huggins coached the team. Now it should be noted that the Bearcats’ opponents aren’t exactly household names, and it seems unlikely that the fans will want to sell the place out to see their team play the likes of Alabama State and Northwestern State. Even the greatest Cincinnati alumnus of them all, Oscar Robertson, is quoted criticizing the team’s soft early season schedule. Ultimately, no matter who they play, Mick Cronin‘s club will need to start winning games consistently to draw big crowds, and right now, that seems tougher than many initially expected.
- Even though Connecticut‘s week was hardly much better than the other teams considering they blew a big second-half lead in a stunning loss to Central Florida, the news wasn’t all bad for the Huskies. Desperately in need of someone to spell starting point guard Shabazz Napier, UConn finally got talented freshman Ryan Boatright back and not a moment too soon. Playing in his first game after serving a six-game suspension for improper benefits, Boatwright played 33 minutes in the overtime win against Florida State, scoring 14 points and hitting three clutch free-throws with seven seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime. Coach Jim Calhoun finally sounded slightly happier with the way his team played and you can bet he is glad to have Boatright available. Napier is still one of the team’s key players and he is one of the better guards in the conference, but he is still just a sophomore and his performance against UCF showed it. Boatright will only help keep Napier fresh and healthy as the season goes on, what he adds on the offensive end will only be an added bonus.
- No matter what Louisville does, they cannot seem to catch a break when it comes to keep their players healthy. They already lost talented freshman Wayne Blackshear and versatile role player Mike Marra. They have also been forced to deal with an ankle injury to star point guard Peyton Siva. Now the team lost junior forward Stephan Van Treese indefinitely after he re-injured his left knee in practice Saturday. Van Treese had literally JUST returned to the team following a left patellar strain and was finally working his way into the rotation. Now Rick Pitino will have to do without him again. The Cardinals’ frontcourt is already thin, and while Van Treese was hardly a star, he was a big body and a capable role player. I guess we will just have to see how Pitino and his squad handle this dose of adversity.
- The Springfield News-Sun profiled DePaul coach Oliver Purnell on Saturday and the story centered around Purnell’s incredible optimism when it comes to reviving a moribund program. There are plenty of good quotes from people who know Purnell about the coach’s history and ability turning around struggling programs, but DePaul might be a completely different story. For one, they play in a ridiculously tough conference, and they also have to compete with dozens of teams for local talent. Chicago is a recruiting hotbed, but their best recruits almost always end up being recruited by not just Illinois, but Kansas, and Indiana, and Ohio State and a host of other elite programs that can promise a chance at the national championship now. Purnell was certainly an inspired choice for the gig, but it remains to be seen whether he can move enough mountains to make DePaul relevant again. Something they haven’t been since Eddy Curry spurned them for a shot to make a ton of undeserved money in the NBA.