NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big East Teams

Posted by George Hershey on March 16th, 2014

Four Big East teams were selected to participate in the NCAA Tournament, a solid showing for the new league. At one point it looked like up to six teams could be dancing, but even more recently it was a realistic possibility that only two teams would earn bids. Below are a few quick thoughts on the four Big East selections.

Jay Wright and the Wildcats should be excited about their chances

Jay Wright and the Wildcats should be excited about their chances

  • Villanova has to be very happy about its region: The Wildcats will play in Buffalo the first weekend, and if they make it to the second week, will remain nearby at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats will miss ssome of the most dangerous top-three seeds, such as Duke and Syracuse, and will probably face Iowa State, a beatable Big 12 team with some flaws, in the Sweet Sixteen. The top seed in the region is Virginia, a great team deserving of the honor, but Villanova was only one spot behind them on the official seed list, so Jay Wright’s team should be feeling confident that it can beat anybody in the region.
  • Creighton’s #3 seed was surprising: Most, including Doug McDermott, thought that the Bluejays would be a #4 seed in this Tournament, but they ended up on the #3 line, similar to Marquette’s placement a year ago. The Bluejays do not have the easiest path, with a potential second game against Baylor in San Antonio and a trip to Anaheim for the second week if they advance that far. Creighton is similar to Wisconsin in many ways and should match up well if they are to play the Badgers. If they end up playing Arizona for a spot in the Final Four, Ethan Wragge could exploit the Wildcats’ frontcourt by drawing them outside their comfort zones.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Previewing the New Big East Tournament

Posted by George Hershey on March 12th, 2014

The Big East Tournament kicks off tonight and it will be the first year without original members Syracuse and Connecticut. Taking their place are new members Creighton, Xavier, and Butler, which are expected to have plenty of fans making the trip to NYC. Listen to RTC’s Big East Tournament Edition podblast featuring Brian Otskey for a great preview.

Big East Bracket

What to Expect: Villanova and Creighton lead the group as the top two seeds, but the 3-7 seeds are looking to make a run that could secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova could secure a #1 seed if they win, while Creighton also is fighting for a top seed. Xavier, St. John’s, Providence, and Georgetown need some wins this week to strengthen there resume, but with several of the bubble teams playing each other early, their hopes of dancing next week will wither. Fans of the Big East are probably hoping that Villanova and Creighton do not win so that the conference gets another team in the tournament, but it will not be easy for any of those bubble teams. Fox Sports 1 will televise every game with  Gus Johnson, Bill Raftery,and Erin Andrews on site to report all the action, which is sure to bring plenty of excitement and drama after a great regular season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on March 6th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Xavier survived a scare on Monday night when Center Matt Stainbrook went down wailing in pain as his knee buckled. Stainbrook will be out tonight against Villanova, but Chris Mack’s team does not have to play again until next Thursday in the Big East Tournament, giving Stainbrook some time to recover. The team is unsure if he will be ready by then, but Stainbrook is optimistic saying, “I’m feeling a ton better, even small strides from yesterday to today. I’m pedaling the bike saying, ‘There’s no pain today.'” Xavier will probably have trouble without their top interior player and will definitely need him in the NCAA Tournament if they want to advance past their first game. The Musketeers seem to be a lock at this point, giving them some breathing room, and Stainbrook’s injury will allow freshman Jalen Reynolds to slide into his starting spot after playing very well in the past two weeks.
  2. Creighton and Isaiah Zierden were not as lucky as the freshman is out indefinitely. The school sent out a statement saying, “X-rays done today showed no fractures or bone chips in Isaiah’s right knee, but he did suffer a medial collateral ligament injury at the time of his patellar dislocation during Saturday’s game at Xavier. He will undergo an MRI on Monday in Washington, D.C. that will determine if any other possible injuries were suffered and help determine whether or not surgery is needed. He is out indefinitely.” Zierden had started to see more consistent minutes recently and was contributing outside shooting as well as giving a ton of effort defensively. There is still a chance he can come back which would strengthen Greg McDermott’s bench with little rest between tournament games.
  3. Coming into the season, everyone who had seen Doug McDermott play knew he was a rare talent. Even though he had tremendous success up to that point, there were still questions about whether he could continue to put up big numbers in a power conference. Doug has far exceeded what most envisioned him doing this season. He passed the legendary Danny Manning to move into ninth all time for points scored in his career and he has the Bluejays positioned for a run in the NCAA Tournament. McDermott is still humble and taking everything as it comes, telling the Associated Press, “When college is over, I’ll definitely realize how special it was. I’m just living in the moment right now. If I were the national player of the year, that would be really cool, something that has never been in my wildest dreams. Everything is a bonus from here on out.” It is great to see a star not making everything about himself and enjoying his time in college.
  4. McDermott is considered the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award, but Jim Donaldson argues that someone else should win Big East Player of the Year. Donaldson says that Providence senior Bryce Cotton is the most valuable player in the league and possibly the nation. Cotton played incredibly on Tuesday night in a double overtime win against Marquette on his senior night, putting up a line of 25/9/7 in 50 minutes. Fans in Omaha strongly disagree, arguing that McDermott is the easy choice, and most would agree. Donaldson may have an argument because of how many minutes Cotton plays compared to McDermott. After playing 50 on Tuesday, his average rose to 40.2 minutes per game, a truly remarkable stat. He has missed three minutes in 17 conference games including four double overtime games. McDermott “only” averages 33 minutes, but it is pretty easy to see he will win every award he is eligible, including Big East POY.
  5. Markel Starks has had quite the career at Georgetown and he capped it off emphatically on Tuesday night. In his final home game, he led the Hoyas to a much-needed upset of Creighton. Starks and company had to fend off a comeback from the Bluejays after leading by as much as 16, taking each punch and throwing enough back to hold on. Starks finished with 17 points and a career-high 11 assists, making a tough step back jumper to help put Creighton away. The win helped propel the Hoyas NCAA Tournament chances after having little chance. A trip to Philadelphia to play Villanova will give them a big chance to solidify their resume before heading to New York for the Big East Tournament.
Share this story

Big East M5: 03.04.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on March 4th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Xavier got a huge win on Saturday against Creighton, leading some pundits to say they were safely into the NCAA Tournament. Things were looking good until last night when they visited the Prudential Center to play Seton Hall. Within 10 minutes, Matt Stainbrook went down in a heap screaming and was  unable to return the rest of the game. Chris Mack did not know what the prognosis is for Stainbrook, telling the media, “I won’t know for sure until he sees our doctor. We’re hopeful that it’s maybe just an MCL strain.” That would be a crucial blow to the Musketeers as they were rising and were in the 7/8 seed range if they finished the year well. They struggled the rest of the night and fell to the Pirates. They host Villanova on Thursday to close the year before heading to New York. They will likely need to win at least one more game this year to be safe, but if Stainbrook misses the rest of the year, the team is going to struggle to adapt so quickly.
  2. Steve Lavin’s squad has been short-handed lately. Orlando Sanchez missed a game to be with his wife for the birth of their child two weeks ago and Chris Obekpa missed time at the end of February with an ankle injury. On Sunday the team was without freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan as he mourned the loss of his aunt. This is a crucial time for St. John’s as they sit as the third team out according to Joe Lunardi’s bracketology. They survived a scare from DePaul on Sunday and close the regular season against Marquette, on the Golden Eagles senior day. This team has had an epic turn around, but still has work to be done if they want to be dancing.
  3. Georgetown will break ground on construction for a new athletic facility this summer. The facility will be named after famed coach John Thompson Jr. and is scheduled to be completed in 2016, costing $60 million. Georgetown Athletic Director said in a statement, “We’re very excited to be able to have the opportunity to recognize the career of John Thompson Jr. in this way. Coach Thompson’s legacy as a leader, a teacher and a coach are unparalleled in college athletics. Having his name on this building is a fitting honor.” Hopefully this helps the coaching staff lure some big recruits and give the players more resources to develop.
  4. Two sixth-year seniors were in some great articles recently. Chris Otule, Marquette’s singing big man, talked to Eric Prisbell of USA Today about his long career, full of injuries and hardships. It has been well-publicized that Otule was born with glaucoma and has had to live with a prosthetic eye. He has played in three straight sweet sixteens with vision in only one eye, a feat most of us cannot even imagine. After coming to Marquette, he broke his right foot and the next year broke his left foot, missing both seasons. Two years ago as the Golden Eagles got out to a 10-0 start, Otule’s leg buckled at Madison Square Garden, leading to a torn ACL and another missed season. What separates him is his personality, leading to being awarded Marquette’s first lifetime achievement award, before he even left. Grant Gibbs is also in his sixth season and spoke with Sean Brennan. He transferred from Gonzaga after suffering a shoulder and knee injury in his first two years. Then he struggled with his knee as he waited to play for the Bluejays. He eventually got healthy and the rest is history as he has led the team alongside Doug McDermott. Both players struggled, but displayed great perseverance to continue their careers.
  5. Seton Hall senior Fuquan Edwin almost did not get to play in his final home game last night against Xavier after hurting his thumb last week. After sitting out the team’s last game, he was fortunately able to suit up and help lead the team to a nice upset. Brendan Prunty of The Star Ledger sat down with Edwin and talked to him about his journey to Seton Hall and his legacy. Edwin has some great quotes including speaking about his childhood, growing up in a rough neighborhood and deciding to go to Paterson Catholic to stay out of trouble and  staying with current Cincinnati player Shaquille Thomas. When talking about his legacy Edwin said, “I think my legacy is going hard out there, 100 percent. I think what I’ll be remembered for is playing hard. I didn’t think about that when I came here, but I came here and wanted to do something special.” Edwin hopes to make it onto an NBA roster after he finishes a great career in South Orange.
Share this story

Big East M5: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 20th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. St. John’s has been rolling, winning again in a rout of Butler on Tuesday, but they got some bad news prior to that game. Chris Obekpa, a shot-blocking machine, will be out for between 10-14 days due to an injured ankle he suffered in practice and will miss crucial games against Villanova and Xavier. Head coach Steve Lavin said about the matter: “Chris is a central part of what we do on both ends of the court. Our team will have to step up collectively in his absence.” The team will obviously miss his inside defensive presence, but with the way the Johnnies have been playing, they can still pull out two big wins in the coming week. The team has plenty of depth and God’sgift Achiuwa and Orlando Sanchez can fill in down low as capable replacements.
  2. Butler continues to struggle and Tuesday’s loss was another tough defeat to swallow for Brandon Miller’s team. After leading at the half by three, they were run out of the gym by the Red Storm, ultimately losing by 25 points. The team began conference play with a string of losses, but they were still fighting (several games went to overtime). Now, however, the Bulldogs are getting blown out in nearly every outing.  Zak Keefer takes a look at what has gone wrong with this storied program. Kameron Woods was suspended prior to Tuesday’s game and Rene Castro declared he would be transferring away from the program last week. There is considerable instability within and surrounding this program right now, a major cause for concern. Miller has respect from his peers, but losing seasons don’t wear very well at Butler, even given the uptick in competition.
  3. Villanova took another team’s best shot and responded with a double-overtime victory on the road at Providence on Tuesday. ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan takes a look at the team’s response to getting ripped apart by Creighton for the second time this seasson. As one of the premier teams in the Big East, the Wildcats are often going to get their opponents’ best shot. Jay Wright’s team has yet to lose a game this season to a team not named Creighton or Syracuse, something that should help them a great deal on Selection Sunday.
  4. Villanova’s big win was Providence‘s tough loss. In great need of a profile-boosting win, the Friars fought for 50 minutes but simply didn’t have enough to outlast the Wildcats. A win likely would have pushed them well into the projected field of 68, but instead they will have to be nearly perfect down the stretch if they want to play in the NCAA Tournament. Fortunately for Friars fans, coach Ed Cooley is moving on and ready to keep fighting. He said after the loss: “We can put our heads down and feel sorry for ourselves, but at the end of the day we have to get back up and get ready for Butler on Sunday. I know a lot of people are disappointed. I know our fans wanted to win, everybody wanted to win. But you’re playing a top 10 team coming off a loss. Give them credit. They’re a great team.” The Friars have three very winnable games with Butler, Seton Hall, and Marquette coming up, but their season finale at Creighton could be the one that solidifies a postseason berth.
  5. It has been a rollercoaster season for Marquette and head coach Buzz Williams has turned to a number of different lineup combinations to try to find the players who can consistently score. Paint Touches wrote about the lineup that has been most effective for the team this season. Williams turned to that group on Saturday in a big win over Xavier, but unfortunately, the Golden Eagles followed up that win with a tough loss to Creighton Wednesday night. The lineup is equal parts positives and negatives. Derrick Wilson and Jake Thomas have their bright spots but usually do not contribute much offensively. Todd Mayo and Jamil Wilson are solid offensive players, but they are both inconsistent and prone to silly mistakes. Davante Gardner is the team’s best player, but he struggles on the defensive end of the floor. Together the group seems to fit well and complement each other’s strengths, but Marquette, like Butler, isn’t used to being in this position.
Share this story

Big East M5: 02.18.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 18th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Butler freshman Rene Castro has decided to transfer from the program after being suspended twice and failing to see much time on the court. His roommate on the road, senior Erik Fromm, told Zak Keefer, “It didn’t have anything to do with who he was. Sometimes, things just don’t work out. Rene’s future is bright, and it’s not a bad thing that it’s not with Butler.” Castro was seen as someone who could come in and eventually take the starting spot from Alex Barlow, but it never materialized as he failed to see the court in 13 games this season. This will hurt going forward as Brandon Miller loses depth at the point guard position heading into the last few weeks of the regular season and the Big East Tournament.
  2. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi published his latest NCAA Tournament projectionsand he has five Big East teams in the field. Villanova and Creighton currently sit as #3 seeds, while Xavier, a #10 seed, Providence, a #11 seed, and St. John’s, a #12 seed, are fighting for space on the positive side of the bubble. Georgetown is his first team out, while Marquette was his seventh team out. After losing its first five league games, St. John’s has experienced quite the turnaround to get to 7-6 in Big East play and are surprisingly now considered in the field. The reality is that the league is likely to get five of its 10 teams into the NCAA Tournament this season, a very good number in its first year of existence.
  3. DePaul has had another tough season and some are calling for head coach Oliver Purnell’s dismissal at the end of it. David Webber of the DePaulia argues that with Cleveland Melvin’s recent departure, it is time for a change. Webber is not happy with athletic director Jean Lenti-Ponsetto’s results in her 12th year in Chicago, as the program has gone from a respectable Conference USA team into a Big East laughingstock. Her two hires, Jerry Wainwright and Oliver Purnell, have failed to improve the program, and Purnell only has eight conference wins in four seasons. A new arena and a coach who is familiar with and can recruit the Chicago area will help invigorate a proud but hurting program.
  4.  St. John’s is rising and earning some attention from the press as it fights for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament. Zach Braziller of the New York Post takes a look at the Red Storm’s “big three” of D’Angelo Harrison, JaKarr Sampson and Rysheed Jordan. Harrison has been clutch the past month, shooting well from the outside and not forcing the action. Jordan struggled early but he has helped Harrison and Sampson play better in recent weeks. Braziller sums up Sampson’s recent play nicely, writing, “He’s developed into a more efficient offensive player. He’s thinking less and reacting more. Even more impressive has been his defense, previously considered a weakness in his game.” Sampson is athletic, but at times hasn’t played smart and forced the action all too often. Who knows what is in store next for this red-hot team.
  5. Doug McDermott is becoming quite the college basketball legend. With two more amazing performances last week, he passed Larry Bird for 13th place on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list. Instead of writing about his play on the court, Omaha.com‘s Tom Shatel followed McDermott around after the game. McDermott signed countless autographs and smiled for pictures with strangers and some old friends. McDermott said, “How do I want to be remembered? I want to be remembered as someone who treated people well. A good guy.” For a player with so many accolades already received and many more to come, it is great to see him focused on being a good person and a role model for young people. The one thing he needs, though, is a deep run in March. Luckily, his team is in great position to do just that to top off his remarkable four-year career.
Share this story

Five Things We Learned in the Big East this Weekend

Posted by George Hershey on February 17th, 2014

Another weekend of Big East basketball is in the books, so are five key takeaways as we move into the stretch run of the regular season.

Rysheed Jordan has helped spark St. John's  (Andew Theodorakis/ New York Daily News?

Rysheed Jordan has helped spark St. John’s
(Andew Theodorakis/ New York Daily News?

  1. Creighton is in line to win the regular season title, but it will not come easy: With a half game advantage over Villanova and owning the tie-breaker, the Bluejays are favorites to win the league, but they have a tougher road ahead than Villanova. The Bluejays play three games on the road to finish the year, traveling to Marquette Wednesday, and Xavier and Georgetown the first week of March. Villanova on the other hand only has one road game, at Xavier. Both teams are going to get every team’s best shot, but even though Creighton has owned Villanova this year, don’t be surprised if the Wildcats end as regular season champions.
  2. No reason to worry for Villanova: Even though Villanova was bullied by Creighton both times they played, there shouldn’t be too much concern over it. They have yet to lose to any other team in the conference and have only been beaten by two teams the entire season, Syracuse and Creighton. The Bluejays are simply a tough matchup for Jay Wright’s team as every team struggles against a certain style. Creighton spread the ball out and Wright could not find anybody to defend Doug McDermott to at least hold him somewhat in check. The Wildcats have played remarkably all year and a strong finish should leave them in prime position to make a run to the Final Four. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Losing Cleveland Melvin Could be a Long Term Positive for DePaul

Posted by George Hershey on February 15th, 2014

Last week DePaul announced that senior forward Cleveland Melvin was no longer enrolled in school. Melvin had not played in two weeks because of a suspension and it appears that whatever he was supposed to do to become reinstated didn’t get done. He was undoubtedly the Blue Demons’ best player, leading the squad in scoring (16.7 PPG) and rebounds (6.4 PPG) this season. After starting off with a 2-3 Big East record, DePaul has struggled mightily since Melvin’s suspension, losing seven in a row. At this point, there are six more games to play and wins will be tough to find. Still, although the loss of Melvin hurts their chances of winning games this season, it is actually a huge positive for the team going forward.

Oliver Purnell will get a great look at his young players for the remainder of the year. (Getty)

Oliver Purnell will get a great look at his young players for the remainder of the year. (Getty)

Head coach Oliver Purnell needs to be focused on the future of his program for the remainder of the season. In the next six games, it would be smart to play the underclassmen who will gain valuable experience against some of the Big East’s best teams. Freshmen Billy Garrett Jr. and Tommy Hamilton have played major roles this year, both averaging more than 25 minutes per game. They need to continue getting major minutes as they will be the face of the program going forward. There is another group of players who need to see extended time over the next few weeks as well. R.J. Curington leads that list, as the freshman has gone from the end of the bench to a solid scorer and contributor in the past five games. He has plenty of confidence and can shoot the ball well, but needs more real game experience to become comfortable and a smarter player. He is sometimes overconfident in his abilities and sets his mind on scoring, even if the opportunities aren’t there.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 02.14.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 14th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Three Big East players were named as finalists for the Naismith Award on Tuesday. Among the 30 mid-season finalists are Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Providence’s Bryce Cotton, and Villanova’s James Bell. McDermott may very well be the favorite to win the award, but for Cotton and Bell, it is nice to see the seniors get some attention as both have had outstanding years. Cotton has led Providence all season, playing every minute of action since January 5! Bell’s rise at Villanova has been remarkable as he has gone from a solid role player to a go-to scorer and all-around tough player. It is a great honor for all three to be selected as finalists and it certainly appears like McDermott will be taking the prestigious award home in April.
  2. Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats are along with Creighton the class of the league this year, as he told Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated, “I feel very good about this team. Not as much about the record, but about the way we play, the way they respect each other, the way they respect the game. It’s a lot of fun. This is what I want it to be. I want every experience for our guys to be this kind of experience.” He mentioned how he tried to instill a certain style last year, but it took the team too long to pick it up. This year, though, the Wildcats were firing on all cylinders from the start and have become one of the best teams in the nation. Villanova travels to play Creighton on Sunday, which could very well be the game of the year in the Big East.
  3. Kris Dunn was ready to have a great campaign after suffering through an injury during his freshman year, but it was not to be as shoulder surgery forced him out for the season. Dunn received even worse news after the injury occurred when he learned that his biological mother had passed away. He decided to spend the semester break at home with his family, and while he was away there was speculation that he was going to leave the program. Dunn received some better news recently, though, in that his alma mater, New London High School in Connecticut, will be retiring his number. In the article, he says that he is committed to staying at Providence: “I was always going to come back to school no matter what. It was just a tough time for me.” As the Friars make a push towards the NCAA Tournament in the next month, they could really use Dunn, but Bryce Cotton and Josh Fortune will have to continue to log huge and productive minutes at the guard spots.
  4. Creighton has garnered national attention with Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge leading an offensive machine in Omaha, but the past week showed that the Bluejays are not invincible. They visited St. John’s on Sunday and left with a narrow loss but followed that up with a very close win at Butler last night. When the shots are falling, Creighton is nearly impossible to beat (ask Villanova), but when they aren’t, Creighton struggles to put teams away. Austin Chatman told Steven Pivovar: “We can’t go into games thinking we can just play. We have to pay attention to detail, and some of the mistakes we made were because we didn’t have that attention.” The Bluejays now have three days to focus on preparations for Villanova, a huge game if they hope to put last weekend’s loss behind them and move up a bracket line or two in March.
  5. Derrick Wilson has been the subject of a lot of criticism from Marquette fans this year, as it is well-documented that he cannot shoot, does not attack the basket, and stagnates the offense. Paint Touches wrote an interesting recent article about how Wilson can better help the team. Mark Strotman takes a look at one specific play where Wilson breaks the press, sets up the offense, gets the ball to Davante Gardner, and eventually scores in the open lane after Jamil Wilson hit him with a nice pass. Wilson got the ball to the two best offensive players on the floor, letting the defense key on them and leaving plenty of room for him to cut to the rim. He has played better of late, averaging six assists in his past five games, but he has to continue making plays for a team that’s offense has been inefficient for the majority of the year.
Share this story

Big East M5: 02.07.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 7th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. In this weeks Fast Five from Seth Davis, he discusses two Big East teams tournament chances. After being asked which bubble team has the best chance of making a deep NCAA tourney run, he gives five teams, including Providence. He points out that their upcoming schedule has a few resume boosting games and dynamic scorer Bryce Cotton is an opponents worst nightmare. Davis is also asked whether Xavier has worked itself onto the bubble or out of the tourney. He thinks that they are currently safely in, being one of two teams to beat Cincinnati  and owning wins over several of the Big East’s bubble teams. The road ahead is difficult though with five road games. They luckily play Providence, Villanova, and Creighton at home. Here is an in-depth look at where all the Big East teams stand on the bubble.
  2. Matt Norlander of CBS Sports wrote an excellent piece about Doug McDermott and his quest to 3,000 points. McDermott is on pace to surpass the barrier during the Big East Tournament and if he continues his current average of 25 points per game he will finish fifth on the all-time scoring list. Norlander does a great capturing all the amazing stats and feats that McDermott has accomplished thus far. For a player that barely earned spot on the team as a freshman it is remarkable that he will become the first player in 30 years to be a first team All-American three years in a row. McDermott does it all while shooting at a high percentage and being a team player. Norlander also dives into Doug’s relationship with high school teammate Harrison Barnes, who went on to play at North Carolina, and his father Greg, who took the Creighton job during Doug’s senior year of high school. McDermott is not a boisterous player, letting his game do the talking, and NBA teams are starting to catch on.
  3. Grant Gibbs, McDermott’s teammate, has been fighting an injury the last month, but has been writing a blog for USA Today. Gibbs gives an update on his knee, saying he’s still in the rehab process and they are taking it day-to-day. Gibbs points out two things that have helped the Bluejays in the Big East so far; most teams are not used to their style of play and it is difficult to prepare for them the first time, and not being every teams game of the year like they were in the Missouri Valley Conference. Gibbs also has an idea for a new name for the league, MECCA- Midwest to East Coast Conference of America. He says it would make sense because teams hail from the Midwest to the East Coast and the conference tournament is at Madison Square Garden, considered the mecca of basketball. Gibbs’ writing is informative and funny, but the Creighton faithful hope that they get their sixth-year senior back soon.
  4. St. John’s is beginning a run towards a spot in the NCAA Tournament and Matt Giles at NYC Buckets asks whether their defense is fueling their second half surge. The Red Storm struggled mightily at the beginning of conference play, but have suddenly turned it around and have won five of their last six. Their defense was known to be great at blocking shots with Chris Obekpa, but now they are turning teams over nearly a quarter of possessions. Giles points to Steve Lavin’s abandoning of the match-up zone.  The team has loads of athleticism, but the zone allowed teams to find holes. Now teams are struggling to win one-on-one matchups, ending up forcing tough shots or running into Obekpa. Another key point is that they are allowing far too many offensive rebounds, letting Marquette and Providence collect 21 and 20 offensive rebounds each. If they can limit second possessions, this St. John’s defense is going to be tough to score on the rest of the year.
  5. Xavier’s Jalen Reynolds was suspended for breaking team rules last week. He is back to practicing with the team, but there is no update as to when he will return to games. Reynolds might not be a major contributor, but his loss hurts the Musketeers front court depth. Reynolds was averaging 10 minutes per game and gave Chris Mack energy off the bench and allowed starters to get a breather. Xavier has lost both games since his suspension and have not looked the same recently. Obviously Reynolds needs to follow team rules and be a good teammate, but Xavier could use the freshman back for the final stretch of conference play.
Share this story

Big East NCAA Bracket Watch

Posted by George Hershey on February 6th, 2014

With a little over five weeks to go until Selection Sunday, most Big East teams have about eight games left before the Big East Tournament to solidify their standing for the NCAA Tournament. Eight teams have somewhat realistic hopes of making it into the 68-team field, but all but two still have plenty of work to do if they want to impress the selection committee. Here we will take a look at each of the 10 teams with a quick snapshot of what they have done, where they are, and what they need to do to hear their name called on March 16.

Steve Lavin and company have lots of work to do if they want to be dancing in March. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

Steve Lavin and company have lots of work to do if they want to be dancing in March.
(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

#6 Villanova, 20-2 (8-1)

  • Key Stats: #4 RPI, #7 Pomeroy, #7 BPI, #14 Strength of Schedule
  • Projections: Lunardi #2 seed; RTC #2 seed; Bracket Matrix #2 seed
  • Good Wins: #8 Kansas, #17 Iowa, Providence, Xavier
  • Bad Losses: None

Villanova is all but a lock at this point. The Wildcats started the season with two huge wins in the Bahamas against Kansas and Iowa and they continued their great play into conference play. Their only two losses are understandable — at Syracuse and against a Creighton team that could have beaten the Knicks that night. They have rolled through conference play and look like they will have no problem the rest of the way. The one game remaining that can help solidify a #2 seed will be at Creighton on February 16. Going 8-1 or even 7-2 with a potential loss to St. John’s or Providence should be enough to finish with no worse than a #3 seed, leaving the Wildcats in a great position for March.

#12 Creighton, 18-3, (8-1)

  • Key Stats: #8 RPI, #3 Pomeroy, #12 BPI, #27 SOS
  • Projections: Lunardi #3 seed; RTC #3 seed; Bracket Matrix #3 seed
  • Good Wins: @ #6 Villanova, California, Arizona State, Xavier
  • Bad Losses: None

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 5th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. After dislocating his right kneecap, Grant Gibbs has not played in a game for Creighton in nearly a month and is still unsure when he will return. After taking three weeks to rest, he has started to do some light exercise in an effort to get ready to play again. Based on the initial prognosis that he would be out for four weeks, he should be ready to go shortly. In his absence, the team has played excellent basketball, going 5-1 and gaining significant national exposure as a member of the new Big East. Jahenns Manigat and Devin Brooks have helped pick up the load in the interim, but the team is obviously awaiting its sixth-year senior’s return to the lineup. Gibbs knows the Bluejays’ offense as well as anybody and brings the requisite leadership and experience that is crucial in March.
  2. Providence head coach Ed Cooley was selected as an assistant coach for the upcoming Team USA U-18 team next summer. He joins head coach Billy Donovan and fellow assistant Sean Miller on the bench. After hearing the news, Cooley said, “This is special to be able to work with two future Hall of Fame coaches. I feel blessed to have this opportunity to work with and learn from Billy and Sean, not to mention we get to represent our country. It is very inspiring.” Cooley will make his debut as a coach for a national team, but he was a training camp coach last year for Team USA’s U-19 team.
  3. Xavier came into February as one of the hottest teams in the Big East. The Musketeers were bordering on the Top 25 and seemed like a likely NCAA Tournament team. In the past week-plus, though, things have gone downhill as they have lost three straight games. Banners on the Parkway takes a look at some of the problems plaguing the team and some possible solutions. Semaj Christon and Matt Stainbrook are noted as players providing great effort, but Justin Martin and Dee Davis are starters who maybe should come off the bench. Pressing is another suggestion because the half-court defense has been ineffective and it could help increase the tempo and force turnovers. Obviously this Xavier team is pretty good, but it has fallen into a lull and some lineup and strategic changes could help re-energize the team down the stretch.
  4. Georgetown is one of the most historic and prestigious basketball schools in the nation. Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Roy Hibbert are some of the big man greats who went to school in DC. This year, though, the team doesn’t have any start players and thus has had to fight through adversity as it tries to find itself. Reid Forgrave at FoxSports writes about the battle the Hoyas have faced with this unfamiliar situation. After losing star Otto Porter to the NBA and Joshua Smith to academic suspension, the offense sputtered through a five-game losing streak. Forgrave concludes that this team doesn’t have the firepower to make a big run to win the Big East Tournament, but it won’t lose it’s morale either, and will continue to fight all season.
  5. St. John’s continued its torrid stretch last night with a big win on the road at Providence. If you watched the Johnnies’ last five games, you would assume it was a team that would be playing well into March. They may be playing great in early February, but they dug themselves a giant hole from November to January. Roger Rubin wrote about the work Steve Lavin’s team has cut out for it to earn a bid to March Madness. They have eight games left and a few good opportunities for big wins. They welcome Creighton to the Garden on Sunday night and visit Villanova on February 22. Besides those two games, nearly everything else is a must-win. They only have three games on the road, with one of those at DePaul, so if they can clean up at home they should be in good position. It would be quite the turnaround for St. John’s to go from 0-5 Big East cellar-dweller to NCAA Tournament team.
Share this story