Big East Morning Five: 12.07.11 EditionPosted by mlemaire on December 7th, 2011
- Maybe I am the only one, but I love it when Rick Pitino speaks about conference realignment and he was at it again today thanks to news that the Big East will add five new schools. Pitino didn’t hide his appreciation for Big East commisioner John Marinatto when he heard the good news. According to ESPN, the conference is set to announce the addition of Boise State and San Diego State as football-only schools. Houston, Southern Methodist, and Central Florida will join in all sports. It was telling that even Pitino recognized that this is a move for football purposes first and foremost, but that doesn’t mean the basketball implications aren’t just as compelling. We will have lengthier pieces on each team later, so we won’t dwell on it in this space, but the conference definitely got a lot more interesting.
- It’s not always easy to dig up good stories for the Morning Five, as finding something beyond the game recap means scouring local newspapers and team-centric blogs, no matter how obscure. Luckily the head honchos here at RTC have got love for their microsites and now we have our own crack research team, what self-respecting college basketball blog doesn’t. Okay so our “team” is really just Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey), but Walker made a pretty big first impression, lacing us with three good stories we probably would have missed. The first is out of Cincinnati where coach Mick Cronin is making practice more competitive to make sure his team stays focused and plays for 40 minutes. The Bearcats erased a nine-point deficit entering the second half last Friday to beat Georgia, and they have not looked sharp yet this season. Cronin’s club better be ready to play 40 minutes soon, because they head to undefeated Xavier Saturday for the Crosstown Shootout and that is not a place you can start slow and expect to catch up.
- Perhaps my second favorite reading subject is Rick Pitino talking about injuries. Walker also dished us this story and it seems everyone at Louisville is likely holding their breath because Pitino announced today the team is supposed to get another big man back. Junior forward Rakeem Buckles hasn’t played since he tore his right ACL last February, but he is scheduled to play anywhere from “10-14” minutes tonight against IUPUI. Buckles is a good rebounder and apparently an improved shooter who has the chance to be a big-time contributor. But let’s not get too excited just yet. Nine months is a long time away from live basketball and recently torn ligaments are fragile so his playing time will be limited early.
- Kudos once more to Walker for this excellent story — and an even better photo — about Connecticut guard Ryan Boatright. The story is quick to note that Florida State and Arkansas are only two games against scuffling opponents, but it is hard to argue with 23 points, five rebounds, six assists, and two steals against a Mike Anderson-coached Razorbacks’ team that loves to force turnovers. Boatright makes for good TV but he also is going to be instrumental for the Huskies the rest of the way. Not only does his presence allow Shabazz Napier not to have to shoulder the point guard duties by himself, but Boatright is going to be a contributor on both ends and a quick learner, obviously. Alex Oriakhi has stolen a lot of the UConn attention lately, but he will get that sorted out and with Boatright rising, the Huskies’ repeat chances are looking good.
- We finish from easily the best game involving a Big East team last night and perhaps the best one of the young season. After Villanova failed to even dent Missouri’s armor earlier at the Jimmy V Classic, No. 11 Marquette saved face with a 79-77 victory over Washington in the nightcap. Of course it was noted marksman Jae Crowder who hit his only three-pointer of the game with nine seconds left to win it. It’s true that the unranked Huskies basically coughed up there last few possessions and there is really no good reason for super-frosh Tony Wroten not to be taking all of Abdul Gaddy’s minutes, but that is not my conference. The Golden Eagles are still undefeated at 8-0 and that was a really big win coming on the heels of their upset of Wisconsin in Madison. Marquette has a new athletic director and it must be nice to be Larry Williams right now. Also, he knows how to please the crowd in Milwaukee (hint: mention Al McGuire and the national championship season.)