Big East Morning Five: 01.10.12 EditionPosted by Patrick Prendergast on January 10th, 2012
- Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch told Alex Kline of TheRecruitScoop.com he will transfer to UNLV. Birch visited UNLV, Florida and New Mexico State last week before making his choice. “I really like UNLV,“ he told Kline. “It was a very tough decision but UNLV is a good fit for me because of the coaches, players and facilities… I can develop under a great, young coach in Dave Rice. He and the entire staff made me feel very comfortable in Las Vegas.” As a transfer, Birch will have to sit out two semesters. The timing of the decision was critical as he will be able to enroll in school for the spring semester with the intent of becoming eligible in January 2013. UNLV has two remaining scholarships that could be used to build upon what is already a monster class of newcomers: DaQuan Cook, Katin Reinhardt, Demetris Morant as well as Bryce Jones, who is a transfer from the Southern California, are all headed to Vegas next year. The buzz surrounding the two open spots involves three more heavyweights in forwards Anthony Bennett (ranked seventh in the class of 2012 by both Rivals.com and ESPN.com), Shabazz Muhammad (the consensus number one rated class of 2012 recruit) and St. John’s decommit Norvel Pelle.
- St John’s was involved in the other piece of transfer news yesterday. Fortunately, this time they found out they were getting one rather than losing one. Guard Jamal Branch, who left Texas A&M after one semester there, announced he will be suiting up for the Red Storm once he sits out a year under NCAA transfer rules. Arizona, Marquette and Maryland were also reportedly in the mix. Branch, a top 100 recruit coming out of Grace Prep in Arlington, Texas, was playing significant minutes (18.6 MPG) for the Aggies as the backup point guard, averaging 4.2 points and 2.5 assists per game. He cited his relationship with current St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison as contributing to his decision. “The players there are pretty cool and with me knowing D’Angelo helped me make my decision,” Branch said. “That’s like my little brother and we always wanted to play with each other. Me and him click well and are looking forward to doing big things here at St. John’s.”
- It will be a banner evening in Providence tonight when Rick Pitino and his Louisville club come to town to take on the Friars. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Providence’s Final Four run under Pitino and the milestone will be celebrated during a halftime ceremony. With a band of pressing, three-point shooting unknowns such as current Florida head coach Billy Donovan, Delray Brooks and Ernie “Pop” Lewis, the 1986-87 Friars captivated a region and vaulted Pitino to coaching stardom. “I have always coached every time out, no matter how much time is left in the game, feeling we could come back, no matter what the level was, or the score was, all because of that Providence College basketball team. Because they set the standard, not only for comebacks, but they set the standard for just making me believe that anything is possible,” Pitino said. The Friars defeated Georgetown, ironically in Louisville, in the regional final before bowing to another Big East foe, Syracuse, in the national semifinals. Current Providence head coach Ed Cooley will personally enjoy the moment as well. A Rhode Islander who group up a fan of the Friars, Cooley was star player at Rhode Island’s Central High School at the time. A number of team members are expected to be in attendance, including Brooks and Lewis.
- The Big East’s weekly superlatives have been dished out and West Virginia’s Darryl “Truck” Bryant scooped up his second Player of the Week honor. Bryant averaged 27 points per game in Mountaineer wins over Rutgers and Georgetown. Rookie of the Week went to St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison who averaged 21 points and 7.5 rebounds in two games, highlighted by an 18-point, seven-rebound effort in an upset road win over Cincinnati. Big East Honor Roll recipients this week were: DePaul guard Brandon Young, who averaged 24 points per game including 26 in a win over Pittsburgh; Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley who is starting to become a regular around here; Rutgers guard Eli Carter, who followed up his Rookie of the Week honor with more strong play; Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore, who averaged a double-double for the week (16.5 PPG, 10.0 APG) and Syracuse guard Brandon Triche who filled up the stat sheet (16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.5 APG) to help keep the Orange unbeaten.
- Say what you want about the overall quality of the Big East this year as compared to recent seasons but one thing is for sure, nobody can ever rest on their laurels, lest they find themselves on the short end of an upset loss. It was another turbulent week in the conference as evidenced by the latest Top 25 poll. The only constant of course has been Syracuse (17-0), who was pushed at times on the road by Providence and back home against Marquette, but held firm to their undefeated record and #1 ranking. The Orange have really separated from the back as they now represent the Big East’s only resident of the Top 10. Connecticut (12-3), behind losses to Seton Hall and Rutgers, plummeted nine spots to #17. Georgetown (13-2) lost at West Virginia and slipped two notches to #11 as a result. Louisville’s (13-3) double overtime loss to Notre Dame cost them three spots as the Cardinals slid to #14. Marquette (12-4) took two losses last week, and therefore did not hold their ranking, falling five spots to #25. OK, enough of talking about teams that are struggling. How ‘bout those Pirates! Yes, Seton Hall (14-2) coming of a 2-0 week that featured wins over then #8 Connecticut and on the road against Providence, broke in at #24 and is ranked for the first time since 2001.