Big East Morning Five: 03.16.12 EditionPosted by Patrick Prendergast on March 16th, 2012
- If anyone had questions about how the loss of starting center Fab Melo would impact Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament… they should still have questions. The East Region’s #1 seeded Orange needed about 39 ½ minutes and a few controversial calls to finally discard a pesky UNC Asheville squad in a game where Bulldogs’ Head Coach Eddie Biedenbach believed his team had the best of it. “Tonight, we were better than Syracuse,” Biedenbach said. “These guys played their tail off for 40 minutes and played better than Syracuse. This is the better team tonight.” All that said, this was a game where Syracuse would not have ended the scrutiny involved without Melo in the lineup regardless of the result. If they had won in a landslide, critics would simply say they should have won in a landslide as a #1 versus as #16. We are sure to learn more on Saturday when Syracuse faces a much stiffer and battle-tested opponent in Kansas State.
- Following Syracuse’s narrow win over UNC Asheville, head coach Jim Boeheim was admittedly upset. However it had nothing to do with his team’s performance yesterday. Boeheim was reacting to comments made by Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education who insinuated that Boeheim was against the NCAA’s Academic Performance Rating (APR) system and that his team would not have qualified for this year’s NCAA Tournament under the recently tightened standards that will impact teams’ eligibility next year. A team that fails to meet a minimum 930 APR score will not be eligible for next year’s Tournament. Boeheim vehemently denied that his team would have failed to qualify this year, saying, “I think people need to get better information. Syracuse would be eligible to play in the Tournament this year. We are qualified. We are over 930. Under this year’s rules or last year’s rules, we would be eligible to play in the Tournament.” Boeheim also took umbrage to Duncan’s quoting Boeheim as saying the APR standard was “completely nuts,” stating that his words were taken out of context as he was referencing specific parts of the APR calculation that he is opposed to.
- The West Virginia men’s basketball team has played its last game as a member of the Big East and the #10 seeded Mountaineers did not go out in style as they were outclassed by #7 Gonzaga, 77-54. The game was never really in doubt but remained entertaining nonetheless simply because the facial expressions of a less than jovial Bob Huggins are worth the price of admission every time. In the irony department West Virginia ended its run on the home floor of their most hated Big East rival, Pittsburgh, in a game where the Mountaineers figured to have an advantage due to their proximity to home against a west coast team. West Virginia will learn all they want to and more about travel in their next life as they navigate the Big 12.
- Steve Lavin scored his second recruiting commitment of the week and it was a big one as JaKarr Sampson will head to St. John’s after all. Sampson, an athletic 6’8” wing, was a highly regarded class of 2011 player who had signed with the Red Storm hoping to begin his college career in 2011-12. However, after being ruled academically ineligible, Sampson opted to re-open his recruitment and head back to Brewster Academy (NH) for another prep year. St. John’s remained on his list throughout but it was widely believed Sampson was leaning toward suitors such as Kansas, Baylor and Providence, who had been recruiting him hard. Re-landing Sampson represents a huge statement by Lavin, whose program has been on tenuous ground since his difficult recovery from prostate surgery sidelined him for most of the year. Despite rumors he may not be back next year and stories of opposing recruiters using his health against him, Lavin has publicly remained confident St. John’s would acquire another huge recruiting class. He has quelled any doubts with the addition of Sampson.
- Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun and Kentucky’s John Calipari certainly compete for recruits as they lead national programs perennially seeking Final Fours and NCAA Championships. Not to mention that the Huskies and Wildcats were on a collision course for a third round NCAA Tournament matchup before Connecticut fell to Iowa State last night. With that in mind, one has to wonder if the wily veteran Calhoun was exhibiting a bit of gamesmanship when he commented that he would not be surprised to see Calipari making a jump back to the NBA on the heels of the New York Knicks and Mark D’Antoni parting ways. “Can I imagine John going in the NBA or anything else? Yes,” said Calhoun. “I think John very simply marches… to his own drummer,” he added. Upon D’Antoni’s exit, Calipari’s name quickly surfaced as a possible replacement. Calipari responded to the buzz by saying he intends to stay at Kentucky.