Big East Morning Five: 12.15.11 EditionPosted by Patrick Prendergast on December 15th, 2011
- A short-handed Cincinnati took to the floor last night for the first time since Saturday’s brawl-marred contest against rival Xavier. Despite being without Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, Octavius Ellis, and Ge’Lawn Guyn, the Bearcats (6-3) had no trouble dispensing of Wright State (4-7) on the road 78-58. In another bit of good news, Cincinnati learned prior to the game that no legal action would be taken in response to the brawl and ESPN’s Andy Katz caught up with Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin to get a follow-up assessment. Cronin mentioned in the player apology press conference on Monday that those suspended would have to earn their way back into the line-up once their stated penalties were completed. Cronin elaborated that there are specific steps that need to be completed before getting back on the floor. In addition to the initial apology, the players will have to complete community service followed by another apology. All four players also took part in an anger management session on Wednesday.
- Mike Waters of The Post-Standard had a good piece on the resurgence of sophomore Syracuse center Fab Melo. Melo came to upstate New York with expectations bigger than even his seven-foot frame could live up to and he summarily disappointed, averaging just 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. While those numbers were clearly not good, it was the 9.9 minutes per game that stood out the most. Talent was not the issue for Melo, it was fitness. He lost 30 pounds in the offseason and it, along with more realistic expectations perhaps, has made all the difference. “He wasn’t able to run up and down the court last year,” coach Jim Boeheim said, “so it was hard to keep him out there.” Now that Melo is not fighting fatigue from the start of the game he can focus on the job at hand. While his numbers this season are not glitzy (6.7 PPG 5.1 RPG 2.6 BPG), he is shooting 51.8% from the floor and his minutes are up to 22.3 per game for the ultra-deep Orange. More importantly a more active Melo is an ideal basket protector in the back of that famed Syracuse zone. He has more blocks in ten games this season (26) than he had all last year (25). “Now I’m not afraid to make mistakes anymore” said Melo. “I just go there and I play basketball. Last year, I was afraid to make mistakes. I went on the court with my mind blocked. I couldn’t do anything.” Weight down. Confidence up. A disheartening combination for Syracuse opponents.
- Speaking of Syracuse, hopes are high for the #1 Orange causing some, namely Carmelo Anthony, to speak about just how far this team can go. Of course, Anthony knows a thing or two about this subject, taking the Orange to a national championship in 2003, defeating Kansas 81-78 in the final, in his one-and-done freshman year at Syracuse. (The other?) Melo told Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com he thinks the sky is the limit, “I think they can win it all,” Anthony said. “I’m biased, you might not agree with that. They have the talent, they have the team.” Well, he is biased, and he should be. It’s his school and the Orange have national tile potential. Zagoria noted that Anthony texted Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine when he heard the news about the Orange’s #1 ranking this week. Talk about a little ego stroke! Anthony also noted that it did not seem the team was distracted by the Bernie Fine scandal, which may be its toughest opponent to date despite playing teams like Stanford and Florida.
- Another great comeback story this year is that of Seton Hall forward Herb Pope. Just for Pope to be back healthy and at full strength after suffering a potentially life-threatening heart ailment two off-seasons ago would have been a story, add in what Pope has accomplished so far and the big guy flat out commands attention. As SI.com’s Luke Winn noted, the health issues not only impacted Pope physically, but took their toll mentally leading him to take part in therapy. It has clearly been a long hard road back, but back Pope is, and back big time. He leads the Big East in scoring at 21.8 points per game to go with 11.3 rebounds and has been a fixture on the weekly Big East awards so far this year. Pope has been recognized in each of the four weeks of honors so far this year, taking home Player of the Week honors once and receiving Honor Roll accolades the other three. Pope has inserted himself on the short list of bona fide Big East Player of the Year candidates and most importantly has led the Pirates to an 8-1 start. Next up for Pope and the Hall is a home date with Mercer on Sunday.
- In its quest to add Navy as a football only member, The Big East received a vote of confidence from Navy’s Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk on Wednesday when he remarked, “Everyone in Navy’s chain of command is comfortable [with the Big East] and the direction it’s going”. When the move occurs appears to be more a matter of logistics than anything else. Of course, television contracts stand at the forefront. Navy has various agreements that run through the 2018 season and is working with the Big East to sort through it all. This does not mean Navy will need to wait until 2019 to move. It is likely more a function of Navy being able to honor the agreements, while being able to incorporate a Big East schedule. There was initial speculation that Navy and Air Force would make themselves a package deal to the Big East provided they felt there was overall conference stability. Air Force subsequently recommitted to the Mountain West, but Gladchuk indicated that has no bearing on Navy’s future plans and that he felt stability has been restored with the recent additions of Boise State, Houston, Central Florida, Southern Methodist and San Diego State.