Big East Morning Five: 12.21.11 EditionPosted by mlemaire on December 21st, 2011
- With the sudden and surprising departure of star freshman Khem Birch, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon is looking for answers up front and one of the players he will need to step up is sophomore forward Talib Zanna. Luckily, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at least, Zanna is showing improvement and playing efficiently offensively. Physically, at 6’9″ and 230 pounds, Zanna is much bigger than Birch, but he doesn’t possess the same skill-set or athleticism which means his offensive game won’t come as naturally. Frankly, the Panthers don’t need Zanna to make an impact offensively — although he is shooting 67.6% from the field. They need him to be an intimidating defensive player or at the very least a big body who knows where he is supposed to be on the floor. He also shed some light about Birch’s departure earlier in the week, so read away our like-minded friends.
- I must admit, when Marquette center Chris Otule went down early in December with a knee injury, I didn’t expect to see him back on the floor until the new year at the earliest, but it looks like the big man could be ready to play as soon as next Monday according to coach Buzz Williams. Okay, maybe the quote says next Monday they will gauge his progress, but still, that’s impressive given the usual severity of knee injuries. It seems silly to rush Otule back, especially since the conference slate will be a grind, but the faster the Golden Eagles can get the big man back, the better their defense and their rebounding will be because of it.
- Everybody is getting good news on the injury front these days (knock on wood) as a Rutgers source told Adam Zagoria that talented redshirt freshman Kadeem Jack is making great progress and could be ready to play in time for the Big East opener at the beginning of the new year. Also in the report, true freshman Malick Kone is making strides in his return from an issue with knee fluid. Kone gives the team depth but if Jack is healthy and can contribute, he instantly becomes a key member of the frontcourt that basically features only Gilvydas Biruta and Austin Johnson. Now, Jack still hasn’t played a single collegiate minute, but he is a skilled power forward who coach Mike Rice is counting on to become a centerpiece for this team in the near future. Rice won’t want to rush him back too quickly, but everyone in Piscataway should be excited he is close to getting on the court.
- It’s a story only tenuously tied to Big East basketball, but Big East fans who were hoping to see talented center Michael Chandler when Central Florida moved to the conference in 2013 will be disappointed to hear that the Golden Knights have backed off the 6’10” center because of potential contact with agents and runners. Chandler still hopes he can attend UCF, but given the Golden Knights’ recent issues surrounding the recruitment of Kevin Ware, coach Donnie Jones will probably want to avoid the big man no matter how talented he is. While there is no concrete evidence that agents and runners are influencing his decision, it is interesting that a center from Indiana with power conference schools hot on his tail would choose a mid-level program in Orlando. But that’s just pure speculation, so we will save our breath.
- Tip of the cap to our researcher Walker Carey for digging up this interesting story about the insane dichotomy of Syracuse‘s season. In the midst of one of the best starts in the program’s recent history and sitting atop the college basketball polls, the Orange are riding high on the court. Off the court, the Bernie Fine scandal continues to infect the news surrounding the team and that isn’t going to stop for the rest of the season or at least until the offseason comes around. As much as I hate reading stories about Fine and his scandal, the Orange’s pursuit of a National Championship while weathering this scandal is easily the most compelling storyline of the season this far. Coach Jim Boeheim has done an excellent job of keeping his players focused, and of course it helps when you can trot out any of 10 guys and still beat most teams easily. Still, conference play hasn’t yet started and there might still be some twists and turns in the Fine saga left. Stay tuned… as if you weren’t already.