Big East Morning Five: 12.27.11 EditionPosted by Patrick Prendergast on December 27th, 2011
- We ate. We drank. We were merry. We took some TUMS and are back. Hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday weekend.
- While we are not necessarily looking at marquee matchups, Big East conference play kicks off tonight and that is a good thing! There are two games on the docket this evening to get things started and despite a lack of glitter, there is intrigue. #22 Pittsburgh (11-2) heads to South Bend, Indiana, to take on Notre Dame (8-5). The Tim Abromaitis-less Irish would love a signature victory to get things rolling but this one may end up occurring game late as the Panthers will not be in letdown mode after getting beaten by Wagner at home last Friday. The other contest features two squads looking to answer questions as St. John’s (6-5) hosts Providence (11-2). The Red Storm have battled on and off the court from the sudden departure of guard Nurideen Lindsey to head coach Steve Lavin’s recovery from prostate cancer. They are a young team and hope the second semester addition of talented freshman Amir Garrett gives them a boost in conference play. The Friars are feeling good at 11-2 under first-year head coach Ed Cooley, but know the competition is going to increase dramatically as league action begins. Although Cooley was not around Providence the last couple of years, it is a virtual certainty he will be reminding his crew of their back-to-back four win Big East campaigns often as this year progresses. The new tag for Friar point guard Vincent Council is “underrated.” Maybe if enough people call him underrated he will get sufficient attention so as to not be any longer. There is no predicting the result of this game, but one thing you can bet on is that the Red Storm will not be sleeping on ‘VC’, and that the growing chip on Council’s shoulder does not bode well for opposing defenders.
- As noted above, Big East play begins tonight but this week also brings some notable non-conference matchups involving Big East teams. #10 Florida heads north to battle Rutgers at the RAC in a game that features a couple of notable Big East connections. Florida’s Mike Rosario is a 1,000 point scorer… at Rutgers. Rosario transferred to the Gators and it was certainly understandable he would be looking forward to facing his old team, but it appears he will not be able to play due to a nagging back injury. Florida head coach Billy Donovan has tremendous Big East memories as he led Providence to the 1987 Final Four while playing for Rick Pitino. Cincinnati, who has taken out their aggression on soft assortment of cream pies since brawling with cross-town rival Xavier a couple of weeks ago, will face a test when they host Oklahoma. Marquette faces an SEC rubber match when they host Vanderbilt on Friday. The Golden Eagles beat Mississippi in the Big East – SEC challenge in November and then lost to Louisiana State last week. Finally, in the main event, #4 Louisville will travel to Lexington to take on bitter in-state rival and #3 ranked Kentucky on Saturday. Both teams play on Wednesday but while Kentucky fattens up against Lamar, Louisville will have to stay focused against #12 Georgetown.
- The Big East is back with its weekly honors and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones has earned last week’s Player of the Week award. Jones, who now leads the Big East in scoring (21.0 PPG) and rebounding (11.9 RPG), put up beastly numbers (23.0 PPG, 14.7 RPG) in a 2-1 week for the Mountaineers including a career-high 28 points to go with 17 boards in a loss to Baylor. Once again, Connecticut’s Andre Drummond is the Big East Rookie of the Week. Drummond had 16 points, nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks in UConn’s lone game, a 79-71 victory over in-state foe Fairfield. This is Drummond’s second consecutive Rookie of the Week honor, and third for the season. Weekly Honor Roll recipients: Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley on the merits of his 19-point, eight-rebound performance in a drubbing of Sacred Heart; Providence guard Vincent Council who averaged 16 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in Friar victories over New Hampshire and in-state rival Rhode Island; Louisville forward Kyle Kuric who averaged 16.0 points and five assists in two wins, including 17 points and eight rebounds in the Cardinals’ seven-point win over the College of Charleston; Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier who netted 24 points to go with five assists and six rebounds in the Fairfield win and Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore who averaged 20.0 points and seven assists in a 2-0 week for the Pirates, including a season-high 26 points versus Longwood. In related news, Seton Hall’s Herb Pope was not among the honorees for the first time this season.
- The polls are out this week and as expected Marquette and Pittsburgh slipped in the rankings due to losses suffered last week. Marquette (11-1) dropped four spots to #14 as it lost for the first time this year, a 67-59 defeat on the road against Louisiana State. Pittsburgh (11-2) plummeted from #15 to #22 on the heels of its 59-54 upset loss at home to Wagner. Syracuse (13-0) kept it rolling and remained the nation’s top team. Georgetown (10-1) showed some upward mobility as it beat Memphis for the second time this year and leaped four spots to #12. Louisville (12-0) is still undefeated and #4 as it gets ready for the previously mentioned home showdown against Georgetown on Wednesday. It should also be noted that the Cardinals garnered two first place votes this week. Connecticut (10-1) held off a second half surge from Fairfield that the pollsters apparently did not like as the Huskies slipped a notch to #9.