First Impressions From the Big East OpenersPosted by Todd Keryc on November 12th, 2013
College basketball opened play over the weekend and we got our first glimpse at the 10 Big East teams this season. Now that we’ve seen each team in action, here are some initial takeaways from a few of them.
PROVIDENCE – 100% COTTON
Bryce Cotton led all Big East players in scoring last year and he will have an opportunity to repeat the feat this season. But if Providence wants to take the next step into the NCAA Tournament, it will need to find some consistent support for him. In the Friars’ Friday night win against Boston College, Cotton was his usual self, deftly finding his way into the paint and finishing over much bigger defenders, but he struggled from the perimeter. Last year he averaged more than eight three-point attempts per game but limited himself to just four against the Eagles. His ratio of 3FGA to FTA will be a telling statistic this season in his personal development. However, the well-dressed Ed Cooley needs to find his star some help. With Kris Dunn sidelined by a shoulder injury and two freshman wings (Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock) suspended, it was again the Cotton show. If the Friars want to improve upon their .500 finish in conference play last season, they will need those players back to create a depth that was lacking in their season-opening win.
GEORGETOWN – HEART & SEOUL
Georgetown opened its season practically across the world in South Korea against Oregon and it was UCLA transfer Josh Smith who stole the show in a loss. The big man showed off an array of post moves and had his way in the paint against the smaller Ducks. Georgetown was ice cold from deep and still had chances late against a ranked team, albeit one missing a couple of key players. Assuming the Hoyas shoot better in future big games (and realistically, they could not shoot much worse), Josh Smith’s presence will make an enormous difference and put Georgetown in contention for a Big East title.
HAND-CHECKING IN WITH SETON HALL
The Seton Hall-Niagara game has thus far been the model of the new referee emphasis on hand-checking as they try to open up the game and free players to make their way to the basket without taking a constant beating. The game produced more free throw attempts (102) than field goal attempts (101) with a remarkable 73 fouls called during the action. Seton Hall was over the foul limit before the under 16:00 media timeout in the 1st half and both teams were in the double bonus with more than nine minutes remaining before halftime. The game had (shockingly) zero flow as almost every player was in foul trouble early and often. Head coach Kevin Willard tried switching to zone to slow down the fouling but only Sterling Gibbs was able to avoid the rampant whistles as he finished with a team-high 23 (that would be points AND free throw attempts). Anyone who DVRed the game and wanted to check out the Pirates to start out the season, do yourself a favor and wait for game two.
RING THE BELL IN PHILADELPHIA
Ryan Arcidiacono and, to a lesser extent, JayVaughn Pinkston, received most of the preseason accolades for the Villanova Wildcats. On night one of the season, it was James Bell, however, who carried the load. Bell scored the first 13 points against Lafayette, keeping Villanova afloat in a closer-than-expected first half. He finished with 24 and hit a huge trey that started the game-winning run with seven minutes left in the game. Villanova, like several other Big East teams, struggled from deep but head coach Jay Wright made a good halftime adjustment to prioritize getting the ball into the paint instead of relying on the jumper. The return on investment led to a big second half for Pinkston to help lift the Wildcats as Arcidiacono failed to score until the final two minutes of the game. The sophomore was wildly inconsistent last season and the hope is for him to contribute regular scoring from the backcourt. He will need to step it up and find a way to help on these off nights if he expects to live up to the hype this season.