Big East Morning Five: 12.20.11 EditionPosted by Patrick Prendergast on December 20th, 2011
- It’s Big East weekly honors time and Louisville sophomore guard Russ Smith checks in as your Player of the Week. This represents Smith’s first career Player of the Week honor as he made the most of his third career start with career highs in points (24) and steals (7) in Louisville’s 95-87 win over Memphis. The seven thefts by Smith tied him for third all-time in Louisville history for steals in a game. Connecticut center Andre Drummond wrestled Rookie of the Week honors back from Providence’s LaDontae Henton with a career high 24 points in a win over Holy Cross to go along with eight rebounds and five blocks. This is Drummond’s second Rookie of the Week honor of the year. As for the Honor Roll, guess who’s back, back again? Pope is back, back again. Seton Hall big man Herb Pope continued his weekly award streak as he overwhelmed Mercer with 24 points and 17 boards in an overtime win for the Pirates; Cincinnati junior guard Cashmere Wright (18.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 7.0 APG), who stepped up for a short-handed Bearcat squad to lead them to two wins on the week; Marquette freshman guard Todd Mayo picked up his first career weekly honor and is first career start this past week, netting a career-high 22 points in a win over Northern Colorado; Syracuse sophomore guard Dion Waiters who also hit for 22 points in his team’s 88-72 victory over NC State; and West Virginia senior forward Kevin Jones, who shot 11 for 16 from the floor on his way to, you guessed it, 22 points in the Mountaineers’ 84-64 rout of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
- There was not a lot of movement in the polls amongst Big East teams this week, but that is more attributable to the fact that it gets crowded at the top than anything else. The conference now boasts four top ten teams as Marquette (10-1) grabbed the #10 spot, joining Syracuse (11-0) who maintained its perch atop the rankings, Louisville (10-0) who held steady at #4 and Connecticut (9-1) as the Huskies climbed a notch to #8. Pittsburgh (10-1) and Georgetown (9-1) also held their spots at #15 and #16, respectively. We are starting to see a clear separation in the league with six teams in the top 16 and no other squad garnering so much as a vote in the Associated Press poll, although Seton Hall (9-1) did scratch out one tally in the ESPN/USA Today rankings.
- Former Connecticut star Kemba Walker claimed the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award last year among the many honors and accolades he received for his exploits in the Huskies’ National Championship run. This year’s nominees for the Cousy Award were revealed yesterday by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and, to the surprise of no one, the Big East was well represented. Was it represented well enough though? Conference nominees include Connecticut sophomore Shabazz Napier, Louisville junior Peyton Siva, Pittsburgh senior Ashton Gibbs, Villanova junior Maalik Wayans and a pair from Syracuse in senior Scoop Jardine and junior Brandon Triche. Let the debate begin as notable omissions include Providence junior Vincent Council and Seton Hall senior Jordan Theodore.
- Marquette is still not certain if injured first string center Chris Otule will be back this season but Buzz Williams and company have been encouraged by the play of replacement starter Davante Gardner. With the #10 Golden Eagles soaring, Gardner is keeping his role in perspective, and the team’s goals in mind saying, “I’ve got to come through now since Chris might be out for the season. When he got hurt, I got down a little bit, but I knew I had to start picking it up and do more for the team.” Gardner, a 6’8” sophomore, tipped the scales last season at 300-plus pounds en route to averages of 4.6 points and 2.2 rebounds in just nine minutes per game. Following his freshman campaign, Gardner worked hard with strength and conditioning coach Todd Smith and dropped an estimated 10-15 pounds while shedding about half of his body fat. While he still needs work on the defensive end, Gardner has put up solid offensive numbers in Otule’s absence over Marquette’s last two games, averaging 14 points and six rebounds while shooting 60% from the floor and 91% from the foul line.
- Kids say the darndest things. And that is what Louisville’s youngster, freshman forward Chane Behanan, did after his team’s 95-87 victory over Memphis on Saturday when he declared, “we’re the number one team in the country in my eyes. We’re going undefeated. Point blank, period.” You can bet Behanan will have a media relations course on his schedule next semester after that one. While this will probably not amount to much in the grand scheme of things, it would have still been better left unsaid as it really can do nothing but hurt the team’s cause. The Cardinals had themselves in an advantageous position psychologically as many have questioned their lofty ranking while they continued to win and rise in the polls. The no respect card plays well, and Behanan now has the Cardinals drawing into a new deck.