Despite Conference Realignment, Syracuse vs. Villanova Here to Stay

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 23rd, 2014

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

It’s Northeast basketball. It used to be what the Big East was, but it’s still Northeast basketball. It’s a great rivalry. The fans know each other… — Jay Wright, Villanova head coach, 12/20/2014.

Forget about conferences, it's always fun when these two coaches go to battle.

Forget about conferences, it’s always fun when these two coaches go to battle.

Syracuse has played basketball since 1899, but did not join a conference (the Big East) until 1979. Among the colleges and universities across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and the six New England states, stable conferences like the Ivy League (1902-present) were, before the late 1970s, the exception rather than the rule. Schools either remained stubbornly independent (Boston College, Duquesne, Holy Cross, Penn State, Providence, St. Bonaventure, and Villanova, for example) or, like Fordham — which belonged to the Metro NY Conference (1933-34, 1936-39, 1942-43, 1946-63), the NJNY7 (1977-79), the East Coast Athletic Metro Conference (1980-81), the MAAC (1982-90), and the Patriot (1991-95) before finally settling into the Atlantic 10 (1996-present) — flirted with conference affiliations like Taylor Swift dangles musicians and actors. Too many of these conferences — the Eastern Intercollegiate Conference (1933-39), the Middle Three Conference (1949-52), the Little Three Conference (1947-58) and the New Jersey-New York 7 Conference (1977-79) — modeled on Philadelphia’s Big 5 series and little more than commitments to schedule round-robin play — had little in the way of longevity. The NCAA, which began its postseason invitational tournament to crown a champion in 1939, paid little attention to the region’s conference comings and goings. The influence of Marquette’s Al McGuire and CBS Sports changed all of that. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Appraising the 75th Anniversary NCAA Tournament Lists From a Big East Perspective

Posted by Will Tucker on January 17th, 2013

We’ve been meaning to devote the proper attention to the lists of top players, teams and moments in NCAA Tournament history released by the NCAA last month to commemorate 75 years of March Madness. Reader Sean Revell sent us a very compelling infographic of his creation (pictured below), which distills the unceremoniously dry, sterile data tables of the NCAA press release into an engaging visual timeline.

The NCAA's lists, in more visual terms, courtesy of Sean Revell

The NCAA’s lists, in more visual terms, courtesy of Sean Revell

The image serves as a good springboard for some analysis of the lists from a Big East perspective. The league’s current members acquitted themselves well in the list of individual performances, accounting for more players (14) in the Top 75 than any other league save the ACC, which placed 16 former stars on the list. But only three Big East teams were deemed worthy of the list of Top 25 tournament teams, placing the league in the middle of the pack below the Pac-12 and ACC, with six teams apiece. Obviously, it’s impossible to please everyone with a list like this, and revisionism and presentism are unavoidable in an era where March Madness is more culturally visible and digitally accessible than ever before. But it’s worth some attempt at measured scrutiny, so here are a few thoughts on which Big East players and teams should have made the cut:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East Morning Five: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 26th, 2012

  1. Two accusers have recanted their stories, likely meaning that Bernie Fine won’t face charges but the defamation suit brought against Jim Boeheim rolls on. The question now is whether the suit will be heard in New York City or Onondaga (NY) County. Both arguments make sense, as Boeheim’s accusers are obviously arguing that they can’t get a fair trial because of the coach’s vast support in the Syracuse area. Boeheim’s lawyers want the trial moved because all of the alleged misconduct occurred in Onondaga County. I am no legal eagle, so let’s just wait and see wait happens on this one.
  2. Kevin Jones was excellent again last night, but the rest of his West Virginia teammates were not, and they let St. John’s pull off the easy upset in Madison Square Garden. I am going to call it right now — Jones will be the Big East Player of the Year and a lottery pick. He is that talented. But the rest of his teammates, especially Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli have been inconsistent, and that’s why the Mountaineers look great some nights and ugly other nights.
  3. Marquette coach Buzz Williams is now only 303 wins behind the legendary Al McGuire after dominating South Florida on Tuesday. Williams was not the flashy hire after Tom Crean left Milwaukee for Bloomington, but he has turned into an excellent recruiter and coach and as long as he remains at MU, the Golden Eagles will be a consistent NCAA Tournament team.
  4. How about a sarcastic round of applause for a Pittsburgh team that can’t be thrilled that they finally won their first conference game by nearly the start of February. But hey, a win is a win, even if it is against an overmatched Providence team at home. Ashton Gibbs (22 points) was streaky but carried the offensive load and it only took Tray Woodall (17 points, nine assists) one game to get back to being the play-maker he was before his injury.  They have No. 9 Georgetown next at home in the Pete. If ever there was a time to make a run…
  5. Are Seton Hall fans getting nervous yet? The Pirates shot just 26% from the field and star forward Herb Pope was 2-16 in an ugly 55-42 home loss to Notre Dame on Wednesday night. Sports Illustrated‘s Andy Glockner thought Seton Hall’s resume was still good enough to put them in the NCAA Tournament right now, but that resume may be a house of cards by the end of the season.
Share this story

Best Dressed: Marquette Warriors/Golden Eagles

Posted by rtmsf on June 20th, 2011

John Gorman is an RTC contributor. Every week throughout the long, hot summer, he will highlight one of the iconic uniforms from the great history of the game. We plan on rolling out 24 of these babies, so tweet your favorites at us @rushthecourt or email us directly at This week, we go modern with a superb uniform that is as interesting as any you’ll find throughout the annals. To see the entire list to date, click here.

Milwaukee might seem at first to be an odd city to be lumped in with London, Paris and New York City as a fashion mecca, but for the past half-century, it’s been just that. Marquette is the fifth avenue of college basketball, a place where color and design mingle with the backdoor cut and alley-oop.  I delved into the Golden Eagles’ uniform history enthralled, as many are, by their present-day powder blue alternate jerseys, a dynamic marriage of soft color and psychedelic accent. Anyone who watches college basketball can’t help but marvel at the joyous cocktail party of navy, gold and white flourishing at the fringe of the powder blue canvas. But to assume Marquette’s foray into uniform utopia is a recent development is to ignore the school’s trend-setting tradition.

Marquette Has Long Been a Uniform Trendsetter

Starting with the arrival of Al McGuire, a colorful coach with an eye for detail and an independent spirit, the basketball team continued to find new and inventive ways to separate itself from other hoops havens by virtue of their visual appeal. Twice in their history, Marquette’s jerseys were too bold for the NCAA, leading to bans on their outrageous fashion sense.

The bumble-bee jerseys of the early 70s, which disoriented opposing players to the point of delirium, and the un-tucked jerseys (designed by starting guard Bo Ellis) that bore an uncomfortable resemblance to baby bibs, were both outlawed in a span of less than a decade. McGuire’s fashion sense sought a competitive advantage on the court, both in recruiting and at the merchandise counter. The Golden Eagles were the hottest act in college basketball, a must-see TV spectacle due as much in part to their colorful uniforms as much as their multi-hued (and successful) brand of basketball.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Where Does Jim Calhoun Rank Historically?

Posted by nvr1983 on April 7th, 2011

We realize that Jim Calhoun hasn’t decided to retire yet and there is still a pretty good chance that he will come back for at least one more season given his frequently stated desire to always look for a fight. Still we think that it is reasonable to suggest that even if he doesn’t retire during this off-season he will be retiring in the near future given his age (he will turn 69 in May) and well-documented medical history. So we ask the question that has been on the minds of many journalists during the past few days: where does he rank historically?

Calhoun already has quite a legacy

By almost any measure (ignoring the opinions of some rival fans) Calhoun would be considered a top 10 coach all-time putting him into a category that includes such luminaries as John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight, Phog Allen, and others. That much is obvious, but once you get into that group the measures used to differentiate those coaches gets more subtle. Certainly a coach would need to have longevity and a consistent record of putting winning teams on the floor, which could be measured by the career wins. A good bar to set there would probably be 600 wins. If you want to argue for a higher standard be careful because the legendary John Wooden “only” had 664 career wins, a number that many current number-crunching analysts would deem paltry compared to others in this group. Winning championships is certainly important, but as this season clearly demonstrated it doesn’t necessarily reflect having the best team, which Northern Arizona coach Mike Adrus indicated with his vote in the final coaches’ poll. Still at some point that is what the sport boils down to. When we look back at this season we will remember UConn’s tournament run more than Pittsburgh‘s excellent regular season. Setting the bar at 2 NCAA titles narrows the group down to 13, but includes individuals like Billy Donovan, who picked up his championships in back-to-back years, and would have a hard time making a list of top 10 active coaches much less top 10 all-time. It also leaves much to be desired when you consider that highly successful coaches like Jim Boeheim and John Thompson only have one championship each despite having a much bigger historical impact on college basketball than Donovan (at least to this point). The next factor would probably be a coach’s impact on the program and the game, which is a more nebulous concept and consequently impossible  to quantify. Still all other things being equal you would probably have to give the nod to someone who turned a program from an also-ran into a national power over someone who took over at a traditional power and continued to win even if that coach did bring the program up a notch or two. Others have undertaken the endeavor of trying  to rank coaches in order with The Sporting News being the most notable among them, but that isn’t our objective (at least not for today). Instead we will focus on Calhoun, his legacy, and his place in the history of the game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 12.07.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2010

  1. For those of you who, like us, are into such things, Ken Pomeroy added the player ratings to his website late last night.  Some of the more interesting findings after one month of the season?  Arizona’s Derrick Williams and UConn’s Kemba Walker have the two highest offensive ratings in the nation, Miami’s Reggie Johnson has been the best offensive rebounder in the country, and St. Mary’s guard Steve Holt is the nation’s best pickpocket.  Steve Holt! You can spend hours fiddling around on there learning the hidden secrets of the game, secure in the knowledge that Pomeroy’s work has made the college basketball world a slightly better place.
  2. From the you-don’t-see-this-every-day department, College of Charleston announced on Monday that the school had signed top-50 recruit Adjehi Baru, a 6’9 forward who spurned offers from several ACC schools including North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia Tech.  Needless to say, Baru represents the highest-rated recruit ever signed by the school.  The SoCon occasionally puts players into the NBA (most notably, Stephen Curry), but rarely are those players considered elite recruits coming out of high school.  Tremendous get for CofC head coach Bobby Cremins.
  3. Seth Davis takes a look at some of the intricacies of calling a foul when a player swings his elbows around, and even though he warned us, we came out of it more confused that we were before we started.  One of the more interesting nuggets of the article, though, is that it appears that the use of the block/charge semi-circle underneath the basket in select preseason tournaments was a rousing success.  We’ve been asking for that thing for years (familiarly called the “Battier zone”), and with that sort of a commendation it may be well on its way.
  4. Some injury news…  Duke’s Kyrie Irving will likely not play in Wednesday’s game at home against Bradley as a result of a toe injury that they’re hopeful will not become a serious problem.  They clearly want to be careful with him, but with games against the Braves, St. Louis, Elon and UNC-Greensboro between now and the new year, they can afford to take their time with him.  In less important-to-his-team news, Baylor will lose freshman guard Stargell Love for up to two months as a result of a stress fracture in his left foot.  He was playing about sixteen minutes per game, but with AJ Walton and LaceDarius Dunn manning most of the backcourt minutes, the Bears should be alright in his absence (assuming no further injuries).
  5. We hate doing these, but long-time Marquette Warrior Hank Raymonds passed away on Monday after a battle with cancer.  Raymonds was not nearly as well-known nationally as his boss Al McGuire, but he was an integral part of the Marquette program as the masterful x & o tactician/assistant behind the charismatic McGuire.  After the 1977 national title and McGuire’s retirement, Raymonds took over the program as head coach and athletic director, and led the Warriors to a 126-50 (.716) record in six seasons, including five NCAA Tournament appearances and a Sweet Sixteen in 1979.  In reading through the comments in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s story on Raymonds, it’s easy to see just how beloved this man was in the Marquette community.  RIP, Hank.
Share this story

Morning Five: 11.03.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on November 3rd, 2010

  1. The prospect of a local/regional tournament has popped up again, this time in an intriguing locale. Several coaches from programs in Chicago came out yesterday in favor of a Chicagoland get-together similar to what Philadelphia has had for a long time (The Big 5) and what Indiana’s going to start this year. DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell even nominated “The Chicago 5” as a possible name for their version, an apparent nod to the annual Philadelphia institution. We’re totally on board with these things (the state of Illinois was a 9-seed in our so-called State Tournament), and we wouldn’t be surprised if more of them sprang up. It looks like this one will soon happen. Could Chicago become a college hoops town again?
  2. We will not attempt to describe it, because it’s something you need to experience for yourself, but web developer/journalist/author/soothsayer (we could keep going with truthteller/interstate philosopher/truck stop expert/cartoonist) Kyle Whelliston launched the seventh season of The Mid-Majority into space on Monday. The link takes you to the front page, but set aside some time to click on as many links as you can while you’re there. You will probably not be the same by the time you’re done.
  3. Doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but ten years ago four schools agreed to become part of the Colonial Athletic Association, thereby saving it from oblivion. Hofstra, Drexel, Delaware, and Towson joined the league when Richmond, American, and East Carolina decided to make tracks, and to commemorate the 10th anniversary of those four schools joining up, is listing the accomplishments of each program since becoming part of the CAA.
  4. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a great piece on Maurice Lucas, the former NBA and Marquette star who died Monday, aged 58, of bladder cancer. Bittersweet to read now, there are some great stories in there about the methods used by Al McGuire to motivate Lucas during his time as a Warrior, and some nice insights on the man through stories relayed by his former teammates.
  5. “I really don’t see a problem with it…it was going to happen at some point. And I can talk about it so it doesn’t bother me.” Looking for courage? There’s where you’ll find it. That’s Seton Hall’s Herb Pope from an article posted by Adam Zagoria late last night at Zagsblog. Pope collapsed in April during a workout because of what was eventually found to be an “anomalous right coronary artery” (the RCA helps supply blood to the part of the heart that creates the rhythm — not exactly a part of the ticker that you want angry). CPR. Defibrillator. Three hours of cardiac surgery. Recovery. He will play basketball this year, which is astounding, considering he shouldn’t be…breathing. Got a couple of hours on a weeknight?  Take a CPR class (they’ll teach you how to use a defibrillator, too) and learn what to do for the 3-5 minutes in a situation like this before medics arrive. It’s not hard. And you never know when you’ll need it. The life you save will not be your own.
Share this story

Enberg’s Play About McGuire Still Going Strong

Posted by jstevrtc on September 28th, 2010

Are you a college basketball fan, but also long to be a patron of the arts? Well, get yourself to a performance of Coach: The Untold Story of College Basketball Legend Al McGuire, a one-man  play written by none other than  the inestimable sportscaster Dick Enberg about the former Marquette coach. McGuire, who died of leukemia in 2001, was a good friend of Enberg’s as well as his former television broadcast partner. Enberg debuted the playat Marquette in 2005 and it’s been traveling the country since then, but we mention it now because two of its upcoming performances have special significance.

During its run, the play has garnered praise both for the personal and touching nature of Enberg’s tribute to his friend as well as the portrayal by actor Cotter Smith, an award-winning stage actor who you may remember most recently from the HBO movie about the life of Jack Kevorkian entitled You Don’t Know Jack.

The two upcoming performances we mentioned above are the ones taking place at Belmont Abbey College on October 9th and at Indiana University on October 23rd. As just about every college hoophead knows, McGuire led Marquette to the 1977 national championship in his final season as a head coach. Before he took the head coaching position at Marquette in 1964, though, he spent seven years at Belmont Abbey, the site of his first head coaching job. Enberg is an undergraduate alum of Central Michigan University, but holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Indiana in the field of health sciences. The two shows at those venues will be special, indeed. Mr. Enberg — who we should actually refer to as Dr. Enberg, though he’d probably be the first to quell that notion — is scheduled to appear at both of those performances.

McGuire debuted as a college basketball analyst for NBC in 1977 with Enberg and Billy Packer, and is seen as the first real “character” in the realm of basketball broadcasting. He was always insightful and interesting, but the guy could be downright zany, to put it mildly. Who could ever forget this:

Enberg is one of many sportscasters who sees McGuire as having paved the way for future commentators to have fun and show more of their true personalities (we’re lookin’ at you, Mr. Vitale) on the air. Understandable, then, is that tagline on the playbill — a quote from Enberg about his subject: “He’s the most unforgettable human being I’ve ever met, and there’s nobody in second place.”

Share this story

Floriani At Jersey City’s Hamilton Park League

Posted by jstevrtc on July 31st, 2010

JERSEY CITY, NJ — I can’t really file this under “How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation,” because for those of us devotedly fanatic about this game there is no time off.  No college games are contested, but there are other items such as the NBA Draft in June, the NBA playoffs, and of course, on the college front, the summer circuit and recruiting.

The City Game.

Players who want to take it to the proverbial next level also realize there is no extended down time. Summer is a time to work on your game and improve. A place where players can do both is the Hamilton Park Summer League in Jersey City, one of the most popular leagues. As you’d suspect, it derives its name from the Hamilton Park location (the late Al McGuire always said, “keep it simple, stupid”).

For officials, it is a great way to stay sharp and work on deficiencies. Games are fast, competitive, and a test to one’s judgment and game-management skills. To yours truly, on the officiating and reporting end it is a virtual Nirvana, an opportunity to work and write about some excellent games and programs putting it all out there.

We're betting Mr. Floriani plunked down a few bucks to sample the cuisine. And we don't blame him.

The past few seasons saw the HP league operate with a grade school, girls’, and boys’ high school divisions. This summer saw a shift as the girls are at Dickinson High School while the grade school relocated to High Tech about six miles away in North Bergen. The action this season is limited to the boys with a strong 17-team contingent.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story