Voices of the Big East is an ongoing feature intended to capture the essence of the conference through the words of those involved and those impacted. This will come in the form of quotes, tweets, videos and anything else we feel like sticking in here. It’s perfect for you multitasking short attention-spanners. If you find something you think is a candidate for this feature send it to us and we might even give you credit!
The voices of Rush the Court would like to wish you a happy and safe New Year. Thank you for reading. We hope you have enjoyed what you have seen so far. Of course there is one ball drop we will always be watching.
Khem Birch left Pittsburgh two weeks ago after one semester at the school. This his has led to a variety of commentary, including from himself.
In the excitement over the start of the Pac-12 basketball season, we’ve neglected thus far to mention the announcement Wednesday of a new “strategic collaboration” between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten. Included in this agreement are plans for more games between teams in the two conferences, beginning as early as next season for most sports, with a 12-game inter-conference schedule in football planned for 2017. For hoops, we should begin to see more games between the two conferences beginning next year, with possible special events, such as a college football kickoff event at a pro stadium, or basketball events played at NBA stadiums, to be announced at a later date. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany also look forward to being able to expand without expanding, to grow the reaches of their respective conferences into new regions and use the two cable networks – the already excelling Big Ten network and the Pac-12 network to come next year – to expand the branding of each conference.
Focusing just on the hoops side of things, knowing that the Big Ten already has the Big Ten/ACC Challenge that isn’t going anywhere, we likely shouldn’t expect to see a similar Big Ten/Pac-12 event, but there are plenty of ideas that would be appealing. Aside from the mere prospects of home-and-home series’ between teams like Washington and Wisconsin or Arizona and Michigan State, fans in out of the way places like Pullman or Lincoln can now hope to be able to wind up with elite programs making a visit to their campus – imagine UCLA at Nebraska or Ohio State at Washington State, the types of road trips that likely wouldn’t have happened prior to this agreement. Aside from that, perhaps we get some of these early season special events, things like a couple Pac-12 teams traveling to Indianapolis for a double-header with Indiana and Purdue or the opposite, perhaps, where the Big 12 sends a couple teams to Portland for a double header with Oregon and Oregon State. Delany even mentioned that such games could be used to help college basketball come up with a more definitive season-opening event, akin to Major League Baseball’s Opening Day.
I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t expect St. Mary’s to be very good this year. Last year, they lost five of their last eight games, including a lackluster home loss to Kent State in the NIT first round. Over the offseason, they said goodbye to their unquestioned leader and star, Mickey McConnell. Although they started the season with a win over Northern Iowa at home, they followed that with a 12-point loss at Denver. Then came a string of victories against middling competition at best and a 13-point loss to Baylor. So coming into this past week, St. Mary’s had a lot to prove, as far as I was concerned. And, well, at a minimum they proved me wrong.
First was last Friday’s neutral floor matchup against Missouri State, a strong if not outstanding team (more on them down below). The Gaels handed them a decisive 77-61 defeat. So far, so good. But still, how would St. Mary’s fare against their prominent conference foes — BYU and Gonzaga — once the WCC season kicked off? Could they register a win against a top 30 team? Well the Gaels answered that question with authority Thursday night, posting their second straight 16-point win.
Mea culpa. St. Mary’s is, indeed, a very good team that has a chance to make some noise in March, as it did two years ago. But I owe them a bit more introspection than that. How, exactly, have the Gaels built their 12-2 record and top 25 Pomeroy rating?
After the updated Top 15, we recap the wild start to the MVC season, preview a New Year’s Eve feast, and delve into much more in the week that was and the week that will be.
Hawai’i picked up the league’s best non-conference win of the season knocking off No. 14 Xavier (albeit a slightly shorthanded Musketeer squad) in the Diamond Head Classic en-route to a 2-1 finish in their home tournament. New Mexico State got thumped by in-state rival New Mexico at home and Utah State had a relatively easy time in its home tournament.
The Week That Was
The Week That Was
Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.
The Week That Was
Bill Hupp is a correspondent for RTC who filed this report after Thursday night’s Vanderbilt-Marquette game. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls, and life.
It’s not necessarily a chip on his shoulder, but Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings is keenly aware of the perception that his team isn’t tough enough to contend for an SEC or National Championship. So when his preseason #7 Commodores started this season 6-4 after two gut-wrenching OT losses to ranked opponents (Xavier and Louisville), sandwiched between home upsets by Cleveland State and Indiana State, the whispers must have sounded deafening.
Gone and temporarily forgotten from the national rankings, Vanderbilt has rolled off three straight blowout wins since that Indiana State defeat and seems to be rounding into expected form with SEC play straight ahead. On Thursday in front of a electric crowd at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the Commodores bolted to a 31-6 first-half lead and never looked back, rolling to an impressive 74-57 non-conference road win over #14 Marquette. “Our goal coming into this game was to establish that there is some toughness to this team,” Stallings said afterwards. “We’re a little bit maligned for not being tough, but I thought we showed some pretty good toughness tonight.”
Vanderbilt (9-4) is known for its offensive firepower, but it was its defense against Marquette that was most impressive. Keying in on Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, the Commodores held Marquette’s offensive leaders to 3-19 shooting in the first-half. They alternated between tough man-to-man and a 2-3-matchup zone in the second half, using their length to bother the smaller Golden Eagles. They will need that defensive intensity in the SEC where teams like Mississippi State and Alabama would prefer to grind it out on a nightly basis.