Big Ten Sophomore Spotlight: Illinois’ Malcolm Hill

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 11th, 2014

Many sophomores in the Big Ten have a significantly greater role this season than they did as freshmen. That is to be expected, of course, as the second year is often when players make their biggest strides in development. Some highly-recruited guys, however, continue to disappoint, while others who may not have been so highly regarded have by now become viable contributors for their teams. This series of posts is meant to check in on a few of the different sophomores in the league to determine whether they’ve improved in their first year-plus and what it means for their teams going forward. First, here’s a look at Illinois sophomore Malcolm Hill.

Malcolm Hill has shined in an expanded role for Illinois this season.(Mark Jones, Illinois Athletics)

Malcolm Hill has shined in an expanded role for Illinois this season.(Mark Jones, Illinois Athletics)

  • 2013-14: 4.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 38.3% FG, 34.1% 3FG, 77.0% FT, 14.1 MPG, 19.8% usage, 99.4 Offensive Rating
  • 2014-15: 14.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 54.8% FG, 43.8$ 3FG, 71.1% FT, 25.4 MPG, 26.3% usage, 120.1 Offensive Rating

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Nnanna Egwu is the Defensive Linchpin for Illinois

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 9th, 2014

At 7-1 with only a road loss to Miami (FL), John Groce has Illinois once again playing well in its non-conference schedule. But one notable difference this year is how improved the Fighting Illini have been on offense. Due to the addition of a couple of offseason transfers, Illinois finds itself with a wealth of combo guards and wings who can score in bunches. While that revamped offense has gotten good publicity thus far, it’s been Illinois’ ongoing successes on the defensive end (91.0 adjusted defensive rating), that has Groce’s squad primed to make a return to the NCAA Tournament. The anchor of that defense, and the only reliable inside presence on the team, is senior big man Nnanna Egwu. Illinois faces #7 Villanova in Madison Square Garden tonight and it will need Egwu to lead the charge in slowing down the Wildcats’ top 15 offense (110.7 adjusted offensive rating).

Nnanna Egwu covers up a lot mistakes on defense for the Illini.

Nnanna Egwu covers for a lot of defensive mistakes for the Illini.

Egwu is the lone active senior this year – Illinois’ other senior, Tracy Abrams, is out for the season with a torn ACL – and he is averaging 7.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 1.9 BPG in a shade under 30 minutes per contest. The native Nigerian didn’t start playing basketball until the eighth grade, but his quick development led to significant playing time on Groce’s first team in Champaign. The big man still does not have much of a back-to-the-basket game on offense, but he has nice touch and can step out and shoot from the perimeter (5-of-14 from three this season). Whatever his limits are in scoring, what he brings to Groce’s defense supersedes it. Egwu is one of the top rim-protectors in the country, serving as a safety net for guards who get beaten off the dribble. His presence inside allows Illinois’ guards to be more aggressive and gamble for steals, the proof being the Illini’s top 100 steal percentage (10.8%) despite not having the prototypical athletic and long players that dominate this category.

When the Illini play Villanova tonight at Madison Square Garden, Egwu will have his hands full guarding 6’11” center Daniel Ochefu, who converts on 63.6 percent of his attempts near the rim. In addition to Ochefu, he’ll also have to act as the eraser if Wildcats’ guards Darrun Hilliard and Dylan Ennis penetrate the lane to get to the bucket — where both are also shooting over 60 percent. With no capable replacement on the bench, Egwu must avoid fouling to stay on the court, otherwise it’ll be open season on the Illini inside the paint (Egwu to this point has avoided a disqualification on fouls this season). Illinois has relied on its center to provide a foundation to its high-quality defense, and to have any chance of walking out of the Mecca with a Top 10 scalp tonight, it will fall on Egwu to answer that call once again.

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Battle of Unbeatens: Key Questions in Illinois vs. Miami

Posted by Brendan Brody and Lathan Wells on December 2nd, 2014

As the ACC and the Big Ten teams get together on the hardwood this week, the ACC and Big Ten microsites (Brendan Brody and Lathan Wells, specifically) have also decided to team up to break down some of the key questions for a few of the games. What follows is a look at tonight’s Top 25 battle between two unbeatens: the 6-0 Illini and the 7-0 Hurricanes.

Brendan Brody: After a mediocre 17-16 mark last year, Miami is back in the Top 25 with Big 12 transfers Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (Texas) deservedly getting most of the credit. Let’s talk about how other key players like Tonyi Jekiri and Manu Lecomte have also had an impact, and how they will affect the outcome of this game.

Tonye Jekiri has been a defensive force so far for Miami. (Gerry Broome, AP)

Tonye Jekiri has been a defensive force so far for Miami. (Gerry Broome, AP)

Lathan Wells: Lecomte looks much more comfortable playing off the ball and allowing Rodriguez to run the show this season. The result is enormously efficient basketball, as he is averaging 13.3 PPG and shooting 56.7 percent from the field. If Rodriguez and McClellan are being stifled, he offers a third excellent perimeter scoring option. Jekiri, to his credit, has blossomed into a force around the basket, averaging just shy of 11 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. For a team relying on consistent guard and perimeter play, he has helped to keep the Hurricanes balanced. While it’s true Rodriguez and McClellan are driving Miami’s hot start, don’t be surprised if Lecomte comes up with a few key baskets or if Jekiri helps keep Miami on the plus-side of the rebounding margin. Illinois hangs its hat on defense first, but the Illini rank fifth in the country in averaging 90 points per game. How will they handle a lower scoring contest if Miami is able to slow things down?

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Big Ten M5: 11.26.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 26th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Frank Kaminsky has emerged as the early clubhouse leader in CollegeBasketballTalk’s player of the year rankings. The Wisconsin senior has showed off a much more complete game this season, as he is leading the Badgers in field goal percentage, points, rebounds, steals and blocks. He’s also at or near the top of all of of these categories in the Big Ten so far as well. We’ll find out more about whether these numbers are sustainable starting today when the Badgers start to play some better competition in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament this week.
  2. Michigan State has looked impressive since their loss to Duke in the Champions Classic, and a big part of that has been their ball movement on offense. On Monday night in their win against Santa Clara, the team notched 22 assists on 29 field goals The ring leader passing the ball was Travis Trice, who had a team-high eight to bring his average to an even 7.0 per game on the season. After setting a program record with 637 helpers last season, they once again have an unselfish team this year with great passers like Trice, Denzel Valentine, and Lourawls Nairn Jr. Without boatloads of NBA-caliber talent at their disposal. having players with high basketball IQ’s on offense will help this team overachieve.
  3. After starting the season averaging 100.3 points per game in their 3-0 start, Illinois struggled on that end of the floor- at least in the first half- in their win Monday night over Brown. The Illini were actually down 35-31 at the halftime break, but went on to shoot a scorching 73.1 percent from the field in scoring 58 points in the second half. Aaron Cosby lead the way with 18 points, and actually pulled off a rare feat by netting seven points in two possessions. Cosby is the team’s leader in threes thus far, as he and fellow transfer Ahmad Starks have been the catalysts for a team that plays much differently on the offensive end as they did last year.
  4. Purdue is off to a 4-1 start, and one of early takeaways from their early play has been just how much of a physical presence 7’2″ freshman center Isaac Haas has been. Haas had a huge impact against Kansas State in a losing effort, scoring 19 points and drawing countless fouls on the Kansas State big men. His sheer size made defending him without fouling almost impossible. Haas followed up Monday’s effort with six points and eight rebounds Tuesday as Purdue soundly defeated Missouri.
  5. Rutgers lost to an 0-4 St. Peter’s team by 18 at home Tuesday night. For those B1G fans who are not that familiar with the program other than last year’s 12-21 record and that they were picked unanimously to finish last in the conference in the preseason, this won’t register much on the shock and awe scale. For some that are more invested in the program, it is another crushing new low point. SBNation’s Dave White has had enough, saying nights like these continue to happen because of continuous failings of the administration in their commitment, or lack there of, to the basketball program. If this team loses to a team without their best player in their own building that hadn’t won a game yet, things could very get pretty dicey once Big Ten play starts.
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RTC Big Ten Preseason Rankings: #9 to #5

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 13th, 2014

We continue our preseason Big Ten rankings today with spots #9 through #5. The bottom tier of teams, #14 to #10, released earlier this week. These middle tier teams will be fighting to be on the right side of the bubble — and providing us with great drama — all season long.

9. Maryland

  • What they do well: Defense. Mark Turgeon has had a top 40 squad in adjusted defensive efficiency the past couple seasons and it’ll likely be his area of focus once again.
  • What they don’t do well: Retention. Seth Allen, Charles Mitchell, Nick Faust, Roddy Peters and Shaquille Cleare all transferred out of the program in the offseason — not exactly inconsequential players.
Dez Wells is one of the few familiar faces in College Park this year. (Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback)

Dez Wells is one of the few familiar faces in College Park this year. (Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback)

  • Get to know: Melo Trimble. The top 40 recruit will need to use his offensive skill set to help replace all the lost scoring from last season.
  • Why they’ll finish 9th: The exodus of key players and unfamiliarity in the Big Ten will cause some very sharp growing pains for the Terrapins.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: This team still has talent and is used to playing top-notch competition. If they can get all their new pieces to gel together, they can compete in a relatively down Big Ten.

8. Iowa

  • What they do well: Offense. Last season, the Hawkeyes were fifth nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and they bring a majority of that roster back this year.
  • What they don’t do well: Mental toughness. Last season, Iowa wilted in close games against Villanova and Iowa State. Things really spiraled out of control at the end of the season when they lost seven of their last eight contests.

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Addition by Subtraction: Tracy Abrams’ Injury Could Propel Illinois to the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 11th, 2014

Watching a senior point guard go down with a season-ending injury before his final year is always painful. Years of experience accumulate into something of a valuable commodity. Senior guards going up against younger hot-shots during conference season is a perennial story to watch year in and year out. IllinoisTracy Abrams could have been that that guard but his absence this season may actually help Illinois settle on a more effective rotation because Abrams’ minutes can be passed onto incoming transfer guards, Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby. While John Groce could rely on Abrams to run the team because he can trust his senior guard after two full seasons in Champaign, his offense should benefit with quicker, potentially more talented, guards such as the incoming transfers. The concept of “addition by subtraction” matters for teams that are on the cusp of making it into the NCAA Tournament with a few minor tweaks to the personnel. Illinois was a bubble team last year and Abrams’ loss combined with the infusion of new talent may just be enough to push them into the top five or six teams in conference.

Tracy Abrams' loss may actually help the Illini this season.  (Stephen Haas, Lee News Service)

Tracy Abrams’ loss may actually help the Illini this season.
(Stephen Haas, Lee News Service)

Before understanding how Abrams’ loss helps this season, it is crucial to understand the Illini’s key weakness from last season: long-range shooting. They shot 30.4% from the long-range, ranking tenth in the conference. Shooting from beyond the arc is not Abrams’ strength but that didn’t prevent him from hoisting 111 attempts and only making 27% of them. Pulling up from from the top of the key during crucial possessions in the second half was one of the worst traits of his game. He quickly gave up pushing the ball into the paint which resulted in a horrible free-throw rate — the Illini ranked dead last in the league averaging only 30.6% of free throw attempts per field goal attempts. Groce could count on Abrams to be calm during crunch time but his shot selection was questionable at best. Take these negatives out of the equation and add two excellent shooters, Starks and Cosby. Both Starks and Cosby shot 40% from beyond the arc at Oregon State and Seton Hall respectively and they will certainly boost the Illini offense that is desperate for outside shooting.

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Big Ten Tournament: The Future Looks Bright For Illinois

Posted by Walker Carey on March 13th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday’s first round Big Ten Tournament game between Illinois and Indiana in Indianapolis.

Both Illinois and Indiana entered Thursday afternoon’s match-up with winning the conference tournament as their only hope of earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament, so Illinois’ 64-54 victory might be viewed as a ticket to play top-seeded Michigan in the quarterfinals on Friday. While true at some level, it’s misleading at another — Illinois showed in today’s win through a variety of signs that it will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten as soon as next season. The player of the game for the Illini on Thursday afternoon was junior guard Tracy Abrams. Abrams, who entered the game averaging 10.5 points per contest, exploded for a game-high 25 points (17 of which came in the second half). The Chicago native also showcased his ability to hit big shots by nailing a huge three-pointer with 2:06 to play that increased the Illini’s lead to four and all but secured the victory, as Indiana scored just two more points over the remainder of the game.

Abrams and the Illini Appear to Have a Bright Future (B.Tse)

Abrams and the Illini Appear to Have a Bright Future (B.Tse)

While Abrams led the charge in the scoring column for Illinois, John Groce’s squad also received contributions from several other underclassmen. Junior big man Nnanna Egwu was limited offensively – he managed just two points on 1-of-8 shooting – but he found a way to impact the game in other facets by collecting seven rebounds and blocking five shots. Redshirt junior guard Rayvonte Rice added 13 points and helped key the defensive effort that forced Indiana into an 0-of-10 performance from behind the arc in the second half. Freshmen guards Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn showed a bit of why John Groce felt comfortable inserting them into the starting lineup back in early February. Hill finished Thursday’s win with eight points and four rebounds, while showcasing his outside shooting prowess by knocking down both of his three-point attempts. Nunn added 10 points to the winning effort and was primarily responsible for the outstanding defensive effort on Indiana star guard Yogi Ferrell. Ferrell finished the afternoon just 3-of-13 from the field and 2-of-9 from three.

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Season In Review: Seton Hall Pirates

Posted by mlemaire on April 26th, 2013

Having lost their two best players in point guard Jordan Theodore and burly forward Herb Pope, the Pirates were not expected to make a lot of noise in the Big East this season and it became quickly apparent that Kevin Willard‘s team was not only less talented but also severely undermanned against the rest of the conference. The team finished the season 15-18 and a dismal 3-15 in conference play with two of those wins coming against the teams that finished behind them in the conference standings (South Florida and DePaul). None of this was surprising to those who followed the team and knew that the Pirates would struggle mightily to replace the production of Pope and Theodore, but if they had been slightly more competitive, it would have at least given Willard something to point to as far as improvement goes. Let’s dive a bit deeper into why Seton Hall wasn’t able to right the ship this season.

Fuquan Edwin Emerged As A Big-Time Big East Player, But He Was The Only One.

Fuquan Edwin Emerged As A Big-Time Big East Player, But He Was The Only One.

The Good

When your best win as a team was either a four-point win over Wake Forest or a one-point win over Villanova, it can be hard to find positives in what quickly became a lost season. But there were some individual positives, such as the play of junior guard Fuquan Edwin, who was always one of the best defenders in the conference but actually emerged as a versatile and dangerous offensive threat for the Pirates this season. Sophomore guard Aaron Cosby became a dangerous outside shooter and important offensive cog, and before his season ended prematurely thanks to shoulder surgery, sophomore forward Brandon Mobley was putting together a solid season and should be an important piece to next year’s team. Despite falling drastically in both offensive and defensive efficiency this season, the Pirates were still relatively judicious shot-takers and they were also an above-average defensive team, at least when they played inspired basketball.

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Big East M5: 04.03.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on April 3rd, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. In a swift and cataclysmic turn of events, Mike Rice went from temperamental curmudgeon to persona non grata over the course of yesterday afternoon, after ESPN released compromising video of the Rutgers practices that had earned Rice a suspension earlier this season. The video confirmed initial local reports that Rice had hurled basketballs at players in his first two seasons. More disturbingly, it also depicted Rice routinely putting his hands on athletes and hurling abusive, bigoted slurs in a way that appeared to create a thoroughly humiliating environment for Rutgers players. Athletic Director Tim Pernetti came to his coach’s defense after the video’s release, performing rhetorical somersaults in media interviews and remaining noncommittal on any future disciplinary actions against Rice. But based on the public outcry condemning Rice yesterday, casting his lot with Rice might have sealed Permetti’s fate as well rather than eased criticism of the third-year coach.
  2. In terms of potential incoming Big East transfers, UConn may be on the short list of destinations for NC State freshman combo guard Rodney Purvis. With Shabazz Napier and possibly Ryan Boatright out of the picture in 2014-15, Purvis could provide an explosive replacement by the time he’s eligible, and for that reason Dom Amore at the Hartford Courant says he “could be an ideal fit.” Amore also cautions that UConn’s staff, still smarting from NCAA sanctions, would closely scrutinize the academic issues that rendered Purvis ineligible at NC State for a time.
  3. Eric Crawford of WDRB (Louisville, KY) argues Russ Smith deserved to place better than the third team in the AP’s All-America recognitions. He says the notion of electing All-Americans before the NCAA Tournament begins is incongruous with a “sport that weights everything by its 68-team final exam.” Crawford points out that Smith averaged 26 points per game as he led his team to the Final Four, while first-teamers Otto Porter and Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk were bounced in the first weekend. The Louisville guard is also on pace to score the most points in an NCAA Tournament since Glen Rice notched 184 in 1989, and already tied the event’s single-game steals record (eight) on the other end of the floor. More than anything, Smith’s example offers an indictment of opinion polls that don’t reward postseason performance.
  4. UConn’s athletic department confirmed in a press release yesterday that the Huskies would kick off the 2013-14 season against Maryland in the Barclays Center on November 8. Kevin Ollie emphasized that his team’s three New York City natives were particularly excited, as are UConn fans and alumni both in the city and within Metro North’s service footprint. Between opening in Barclays and participating in the Y2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden two weeks later, UConn will enjoy tremendous exposure in the Big Apple, which should help offset the demise of the Big East Tournament in the short term. The ability to sell these kinds of marquee non-conference homecoming games will be a huge asset on the recruiting trail as well. Ollie also let slip a comment about “expecting” his top six scorers to return, which perhaps indicates Ollie believes First-Team All-Big East guard Shabazz Napier will forgo the NBA draft.
  5. Departing Seton Hall guard Aaron Cosby has narrowed his transfer prospects down to Missouri and Illinois, and will reportedly settle on a home for his final two years of eligibility this month. The 6’2″ Kentucky native, who averaged 12.6 PPG and shot 40% from beyond the arc, had chosen Kevin Willard’s program over an offer from Indiana. But Seton Hall’s struggles seemed to play a role in Cosby’s decision to transfer, as he cites a desire to play for “Top 25 NCAA Tourney caliber teams” like the Tigers and Illini. And that’s the real red flag for Willard, as out of state kids like Cosby and Aquille Carr have been integral to his rebuilding efforts.
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Big East M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 8th, 2012

  1. Few can argue with the fact that the job that Buzz Williams has done at Marquette has been incredibly impressive. What’s perhaps the most interesting thing about how he’s gone about building the program is the unique way he’s done it. Where programs like Iowa State and Missouri have plucked large amounts of transfer players from the ever-expanding college basketball waiver wire, Marquette has found many of its best players under Williams in the junior college ranks. Rob Dauster at College Basketball Talk discussed Williams’ unique perspective and relationship with these players, including a large quote from the ever-quotable Williams in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal.  In the days leading up to the Syracuse-Marquette match-up in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, I remember Williams taking the time to tell his own personal story of how he made it to among the highest levels of coaching, and it was among the more impressive things I’ve ever heard. Many are put off by Williams’ histrionics on the sideline (and often, the court), but his incredible story of triumph and love and respect for the game more than overshadow that, for me at least.
  2. One wouldn’t expect Frankfurt, Germany to be a town heavy with Connecticut fans, but a number of UConn fans serving on Ramstein Air Base, the site of Huskies’ upcoming showdown with Michigan State, prove that notion wrong. Kevin Ollie’s squad has received a warm reception at Ramstein, and seem to have done a great job of connecting with the fans serving at the base. In the Hartford Courant article, UConn fan Tony Hodges describes the impact that the game has had on those stationed at Ramstein: “It’s tremendous for the morale… It’s like being home, and it shows that people haven’t forgotten the ones who are stationed far away.”
  3. It’s been a tough year for Villanova basketball, and the hits continued yesterday with the announcement that point guard Ty Johnson would be transferring at the end of the semester. Johnson backed up Maalik Wayns at the position last year and played in every game, starting nine for the Wildcats and finishing second on the team in assists. This offseason, Villanova brought in transfer guard Tony Chennault and freshman Ryan Arcidiacono, who expect to log the majority of the minutes at the point, but I’m sure that Jay Wright would have preferred to keep Johnson for the depth he would provide.
  4. NJ.com‘s Brendan Prunty released his Seton Hall season preview, and did a great job of outlining all things Pirate-basketball. In the piece, Prunty took a look at three possible outcomes for this year’s team: an NCAA Tournament berth, a spot in the NIT, or a “long offseason.” Since the start of the season is now upon us, and that’s reason enough to be optimistic, let’s take a look at the keys for a Seton Hall tournament berth in March: “The other four spots on the floor overshadow the PG hole. Last year, the point guard spot was the strongest on the floor for the Pirates. Jordan Theodore was an all-league player, guiding Seton Hall to the cusp of March Madness. Well, with Theodore graduating and transfer Sterling Gibbs’ hardship waiver not being granted, Willard is forced to put (Aaron) Cosby in that role. Seton Hall’s success though will ride on the rest of the starting rotation — particularly transfers Oliver and Gene Teague and Fuquan Edwin — to pick up the slack.”
  5. It’s a new basketball season and that means it is time for a new Syracuse basketball rap song.  Syracuse has a long history of official team themes, which began in 2009-10 with then assistant coach Rob Murphy’s classic track “Shut it Down”.  Murphy has since left Syracuse to become the head coach at Eastern Michigan, so the basketball team has recruited rapper and Syracuse resident World Be Free to pen this year’s theme – “We Got This”.  If ‘this’ is a repeat of the 2009-10 season, or last year’s 34-3 campaign, I think that most Orange fans will be quite pleased with the result.

Dan Lyons is a writer for Rush The Court’s Big East microsite. He also contributes to Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and Ultimate Athlete Magazine.  You can find Dan on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.

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Morning Five: 10.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 24th, 2012

  1. It’s now been about 10 days since the beginning of practices around the nation and you have to figure that coaches have started to get a sense as to what kind of team they’ll be able to put on the floor this season. But running against yourself only gets you so far by way of learning about your squad, so the NCAA allows coaches to set up so-called “secret scrimmages” between Division I schools so long as nobody other than the competitors are invited and nobody ever talks about them. CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman has mined his sources to put together a list of non-games for the next week and there are a few of which we’d like to see some surreptitious 47%-style tape released afterward — a Xavier-West Virginia battle on Saturday; a Georgetown-North Carolina tilt as well as a Creighton-Iowa contest on Sunday; and, a Stanford-St. Mary’s game late next week. How about we just tip off the season this weekend instead — these are good games!
  2. One of the few teams in America who would probably be better off from a competitive perspective playing five-on-five in its own gym rather than schlepping around to find its match is Louisville. Seth Davis reports from his time spent observing the Cardinals, and after describing in detail why he thinks that Rick Pitino truly is having the most fun coaching that he’s had in years (perhaps decades), he believes that Louisville brings back enough heart, defensive scrap and offensive firepower to make a return trip to the Final Four in 2012-13. While it’s true that outside shooting is probably going to remain a problem area and the Cards are prone to injuries, we really can’t disagree with him. With a healthy Wayne Blackshear and the continued improvement of Chane Behanan, we feel that Pitino’s offense will be quite a bit more fluid than the train wreck they often put on the floor last season.
  3. If you had to pick one college basketball team that was the most influential — not necessarily the best, mind you — in the history of the game, who would it be? The 1966 Texas Western team that shocked all-white Kentucky and blew off the doors of the stereotype that black players were undisciplined and couldn’t play championship basketball? Perhaps the undefeated 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, the last team to run the table with an undefeated season and become the archetype for “perfect basketball” forever more? These teams and many others are considered in Alexander Wolff’s latest SI piece examining this very question. His choice: the 1964 UCLA Bruins, John Wooden’s first national championship team, a group that shocked the college basketball world in how it redefined how the very game was played (did you know that this unbeaten team wasn’t even ranked in the AP Top 20 to begin the season?). It’s an interesting read, and one frankly we find more compelling than the tired debates over which teams were “better,” an impossibly futile question to answer.
  4. If you’re a college basketball junkie who loves mid-major hoops, you may want to considering finding the NBC Sports Network on your cable or satellite package this season. The network will show more than 50 games this season, but the majority of those will involve teams from four non-power leagues — the Atlantic 10, the Mountain West, the CAA, and the Ivy League. It is also the only place to find realistic television coverage of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas (apparently something called AXS.tv will cover two quarterfinal games), which for our money is by far the best of the various preseason tournaments this year — VCU, Duke, Memphis, Louisville, Northern Iowa, Missouri, Stanford and Minnesota will all be there this year. The network will also show both semifinals and the championship game of the CAA Tournament next March.
  5. Finally, we’ll end with injury news. If you still have some college eligibility left and possess some semblance of a passing game and floor leadership at the point guard position, give Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard a phone call. His only legitimate point guard, sophomore Aaron Cosby, has sprained the PCL in his right knee and will be out of action for the next four to six weeks. Although the news could certainly be worse, entering the first month of the season and facing games against the likes of Washington, LSU and Wake Forest prior to the semester break isn’t exactly a recipe for winning without someone to run the offense.
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Big East M5: 10.23.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 23rd, 2012

  1. While the Orange basketball season is still a few weeks away, Central New York basketball fans got a bit of a treat at the Carrier Dome last night. Syracuse hosted an NBA preseason tilt between the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers featuring former Orange legend Carmelo Anthony. The Sixers won the game 98-90, although Anthony played well, scoring 23 points and tallying six rebounds, five assists, and four steals in the game. Perhaps more notably, this weekend was Carmelo’s first chance to get a full tour of the Syracuse building which bears his name – the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center. Anthony, who donated $3 million towards the construction of the top-flight training facility, was a bit awestruck by the experience, according to Syracuse.com‘s Mike Waters:

    “I was there yesterday. That was the first time I had a chance to get around and walk through the whole facility. I watched the team practice. I actually got a work-out in over there. I was kind of surreal for me to walk around and see my name plastered around the building and the outside of the building. […] I was … I don’t know what word to use. It was shocking to me just to see that. I called my family and sent them pictures of it. […] It was one of those moments that I’ll never forget.’’

  2. Sporting News’ Matt Crossman wrote an excellent piece this week on Louisville center Gorgui Dieng. While it is easy for many to get caught up in the life that comes with being an elite level college athlete, especially one who has received numerous preseason accolades after last 2011-12’s Final Four run, Dieng has managed to stay exceptionally humble. Crossman discusses Dieng’s move from Senegal and his adjustment to life in America, both socially and on the court, as well as his strength as a student. More than anything, Dieng’s refreshing view on life shines through:“People forget the basics. Now, it’s all about money. It’s all about what you got,” Dieng says. “They forget happiness. There is nothing better than a smile. Nothing.”
  3. Big East basketball has a reputation for being more physical than most other leagues, and Rutgers feels as though it has struggled in the past because of this. Enter strength coach Mike Johansen, who made it his goal to improve the Scarlet Knights’ strength numbers across the board. It seems as though he’s succeeded.  According to this Daily Record report, the team’s average squat is up 73 pounds, its average clean has increased by 30 pounds, and its average bench is up 40 pounds. Time will tell if this will have a major impact for Rutgers on the court, but at the very least they should be more physically prepared for the rigors of a full Big East slate.
  4. In other New Jersey basketball news, Seton Hall has been bitten by the injury bug early this year. Point guard Aaron Cosby will be missing four to six weeks with a PCL strain. Luckily for Cosby and the Pirates, the injury does not appear to be too serious and will not require surgery. The vacant point guard job is now left up to sophomore Freddie Wilson, who played sparingly last year, and freshman Tom Mayaan, who is coming off of a torn ACL.
  5. When it comes to the use of dog logos in the state of Connecticut, UConn wants to be sure that you won’t confuse them with The Morgan School, a Clinton, Connecticut, high school with an enrollment of 558 students: “A letter from James D. Aronowitz, associate general counsel for the Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Company, which represents UConn, politely asked Clinton educators to stop using the logo. The letter said use of the similar dog could interfere with UConn’s ability to “effectively market and license” the use of the logo.” To be fair, the schools’ logos are quite similar, and The Morgan School seems to be handling the situation amicably, but let it be known — if you are a high school in New England (or even as far as Montana, as the article states) that uses the ‘husky’ as a mascot you should probably consider a switch before UConn finds you.  For maximum internet appeal, I suggest becoming the ‘Corgis’.
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