Big East Morning Five: 04.02.12 Edition
Posted by Patrick Prendergast on April 2nd, 2012
- Congratulations to Louisville for their tremendous run through the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. A run that culminated with Saturday’s national semifinal 69-61 loss to in-state rival Kentucky. This was a team that battled injuries all year long but persevered and peaked at the right time. Losing is always tough, and we are sure this one stung Rick Pitino on some level, especially since it came to Kentucky and John Calipari. However Pitino understands what was, somewhat improbably, accomplished by his team this year and genuinely chose to reflect on the positive. “They made me really, really proud,” Pitino said. He then added, “I told the guys … `I’m celebrating a season where we worked around the clock, around injuries and everything else. If you guys don’t celebrate and have good, clean fun, you’re fools. ‘Because I think there’s only been eight (other Louisville) teams that got to the Final Four in the history of the one of the greatest traditions and they did it.”
- There could be an official change to the holiday calendar in one area of the country as Noel will come on April 11 this year to either Lexington, Syracuse, or Washington, D.C. Noel, as in center Nerlens Noel and the number one prospect in the class of 2012, who said yesterday that he will announce his college choice on April 11. The three finalists in the Noel sweepstakes are Kentucky, Syracuse, and Georgetown. “It’s time to end this and make a decision,” Noel told the media in New Orleans yesterday after he played in the All-American Championship game. Kentucky, who will vie for a national title tonight, is widely believed to be the favorite but Noel said tonight’s result will not impact his decision.
- Providence bolstered its highly ranked recruiting class when guard Ian Baker gave head coach Ed Cooley a verbal commitment. Baker is a native of Washington, D.C. who prepped for the last two years at Jacksonville, FL powerhouse Arlington Country Day. This is an interesting turn of events for both Providence and Baker. There existed mutual interest between the two last summer, but the courtship, logically, seemed to end when highly touted point guard Kris Dunn committed to the Friars. Almost immediately after Dunn’s commitment, Baker verbally committed to South Carolina but subsequently decommitted. Baker’s change of heart means he will be the fourth guard in the class for Providence as he will join Dunn, Ricardo Ledo, and Joshua Fortune in Friartown. Arlington Country Day coach Rex Morgan calls Baker a combo guard but at 6’1”, he figures to project as more of a point guard in the Big East. The McDonald’s All-American Dunn is also a point guard, but possesses the length and skills to play off the ball as well. So while it may appear the backcourt is crowded, Ed Cooley has stressed the importance of good and deep guard play. Further with incumbent point guard Vincent Council entering his final year, the addition of Baker should help to provide longer term security and stability at the position.
- After the frustrating season Pittsburgh had, no one would have faulted Jamie Dixon and his crew for taking a pass, as many schools do, on the less than prestigious College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Well, kudos to Dixon and the Panthers for embracing the challenge, and for winning the tournament. Pittsburgh capped off its title run on Friday with a 71-65 triumph over Washington State to win the best-of-three series. Winning is always great, but by accepting invitations to these secondary tournaments, teams like Pittsburgh that struggled in a given year can use the experience to help get back on track. Not only do coaches get additional practice and game experience, but they may benefit from the emergence of a player or two and build momentum moving into the following year. This is exactly what happened with Pittsburgh. Certainly the momentum factor is there simply through winning the tournament, but Dixon now knows he has two bigger pieces coming back than he may have thought just a few short weeks ago. Sophomore forward Lamar Patterson leapt forward in the CBI, averaging 13.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists while taking home MVP honors. The other was 6’9” forward Talib Zanna who showed he is ready for a bigger role heading into next season. Zanna posted tournament averages of 11.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
- Seton Hall was not expecting to see Aquille Carr in the Garden State until the fall of 2013, but the 5’7” point guard from Baltimore surprised many when he enrolled and started classes at St. Patrick, of Elizabeth, NJ, last week. This is a strange story even in the murky world of academic qualification, but the latest twist may show the true motivation behind Carr’s move and could help to save a legendary school and program. At the time of Carr’s enrollment, the move seemed out of place because St. Patrick was believed to be closing after this academic year due to financial issues. Carr, a member of the class of 2013, indicated as such last week that he would be back in Baltimore for his senior year, meaning he would be at St. Patrick for just a few months. Initial speculation around Carr’s enrollment at St. Patrick had him there to take advantage of the school’s broader allotment of core classes that are needed for student athletes to qualify academically under NCAA standards. However St. Patrick coach Chris Chavannes and principal Joe Picaro have since confirmed that they believe the school will reclassify as a private institution and remain open. Further Chavannes said that if the school stays open, Carr will stay and play for St. Patrick as its focal point next season.