Big East M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 4th, 2013

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  1. What was supposed to be a promising season for a young, talented Providence team has gone off the rails a bit as suspensions and injuries have reared their ugly heads. Ed Cooley lost Kris Dunn to injury for Sunday night’s showdown with national power Kentucky, while freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock remain suspended indefinitely. All three players, especially Dunn and Austin, were expected to be major contributors for a Friars squad looking for an NCAA berth, but for now Cooley has to dance with the players that brought him: ”I’m going to coach the team that’s on the bus.”
  2. So Feast Week was fun, right? Well next year’s slate of exotic star-studded tournaments should also be a good one. Georgetown and Butler have signed on to play in next year’s Battle 4 Atlantis, where they will have a chance to face North Carolina, UCLA, Florida, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and UAB.  This is the second straight year where there will be some potential for all-Big East tournament match-ups, after Creighton and Marquette nearly faced off in the finals of this year’s Wooden Legacy. Conference realignment is the gift that keeps on giving, it appears. While UNC, Florida, UCLA and the like are tough potential opponents, one Casual Hoya commenter looked on the bright side of this slate:gtown NE atlantis
  3. God’sgift Achiuwa hasn’t made a huge impact for St. John’s on the court this season — the forward is averaging 1.4 points in 7.7 minutes per game for the Red Storm — but he’s doing great things off the court in his community. ‘Gift’ is among 201 nominees for the 2014 Allstate NABC and WBCA Good Works Teams. A St. John’s release further details all of the great things that Achiuwa and the rest of the Red Storm are involved in around New York City:”In 2012-13 Achiuwa and members of the men’s basketball team participated in more than 131 hours of community service, volunteering their time at the St. John’s Bread and Life Soup Kitchen, the San Francisco Food Bank, the annual Red Storm Dribble For The Cure benefiting the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Men’s Shelter and in the Community Mayor program. The 2013 Dribble For The Cure raised $70,000 for pediatric cancer research in the New York area bringing its three-year total to $120,000.”

    While basketball is why we’re all here at Rush the Court, it’s always great to hear about the human stories and incredible acts of charity that so many of these players are involved with.

  4. Butler wasn’t picked by many to finish very high in the Big East this season, but the Bulldogs have done a great job managing a tough schedule thus far. Indy Star took a look at how each of the Big East teams have fared so far this season, and how the Bulldogs stack up, relatively speaking. At 5-2 with the ’2′ being a two-point overtime loss to LSU and a near take-down of a star-laden Oklahoma State team, Butler has impressed: “Butler accomplished something in Orlando, even if it won’t show up in their season record: They proved they can play with anyone in the country. Simply put, they looked like an NCAA Tournament team, and that’s something few expected to hear about this Bulldog team.”
  5. Villanova is the talk of the conference right now coming off an impressive Battle 4 Atlantis win over a possible national championship contender in Kansas and another ranked team in Iowa. The Wildcats have a deep group of talented perimeter players, headlined by Kansas-game hero Ryan Arcidiacono and swingman James Bell, who is having a breakout season, but Jay Wright believes it is Rice transfer Dylan Ennis who has made all the difference for his club: ”He shocked me. He played with great composure. He didn’t force shots. He was really impressive.” Ennis averaged 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists at Atlantis — his first three games of the season — and was especially effective from long range, knocking down eight of his 12 three point attempts.  Nova’s schedule now becomes very Philly-centric, with games against Penn, Saint Joseph’s, and La Salle over the next few weeks, but the biggest match-up for Ennis comes on December 28 when he travels to the Carrier Dome for a showdown with his little brother Tyler, who has been excellent so far this season as the starting point guard for the Orange.
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Reviewing the Performance of ACC Teams in Feast Week: Part II

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 3rd, 2013

Today we will review the final six early season tournaments involving ACC teams. To see the recap we did covering the first seven such events, click here. The ACC completed a successful Feast Week with two more championships giving the conference a total of five titles in 13 tournaments. This performance should give the ACC some momentum going into this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. With another good week, perhaps the conference will overcome the negative impact from some of those bad early non-conference losses.

Syracuse Wins EA Maui Invitational for the Third Time. (Photo: mauiinvitational.com)

Syracuse Wins the EA Maui Invitational for the Third Time.
(Photo: mauiinvitational.com)

Syracuse became the second ACC newcomer to win an early-season tournament by beating #18 Baylor 74-67 in the finals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational on Wednesday night. That followed wins over Minnesota, 75-67, and California, 92-81. Senior C.J. Fair was named the tournament MVP while averaging 18 points for the three games and tallying 24 in the finals. Also impressive was freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who scored 28 in the semifinals over Cal, and had an outstanding 18 to two assist-to-turnover ratio for the tournament. With the Orange’s third Maui championship along with Pittsburgh’s title in the Progressive Legends Classic, the new ACC schools are serving notice that they are ready to compete at the top of their new conference.

Duke did not fare as well in the other marquee Feast Week event, the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York’s Madison Square Garden. After beating Alabama 74-64 in Wednesday’s semifinals, the Blue Devils fell to #4 Arizona, 72-66, in Friday’s championship game. Coming into the week Duke’s defense had been struggling mightily and was the focus for improvement by Mike Kzyzewski. The Devils did look much better on that end of the court against good competition, but another glaring issue has not been resolved. Duke is still searching for production from its primary big man position – Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson combined for only two points in a total of 69 minutes over the two games.

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After Toppling Kansas, Villanova Beginning To Look The Part Of Big East Title Contender Again

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 30th, 2013

It’s not too difficult to conjure up memories of recent Villanova glory days. Just three and a half years ago, Jay Wright had his Wildcats heading to the NCAA Tournament as a #2 seed, his program fresh off a Final Four appearance the year before. The Cats had won 12 NCAA Tournament games in the five years prior, and the 2010 team was both deep and young: Of the 11 Wildcats to average eight minutes a game that year, only two were seniors. The future was bright. And then Robert Morris happened. Villanova survived the #15 seed Colonials on that fateful March day (by the thinnest of margins: 73-70 in OT), but Jay Wright is still seeking his next Tournament victory. Saint Mary’s dispatched the Wildcats from the Dance two days later, and the three years since have witnessed a program mired in mediocrity. After a detour to the NIT in 2012, last year’s plucky group managed navigate its way back to the Tournament, but nobody was mistaking those Wildcats for the talent-laden teams of the early Wright era. A team built upon a similar foundation was expected this season – a gritty, defensive minded group that would be capable of stealing wins on their homecourt. All those things may yet be true, but after a convincing win over Kansas on Friday, it may be time to add one more descriptor to the 2013-14 Villanova Wildcats – Big East title contenders.

James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, And The Rest Of The Wildcats Gave Kansas Fits On Friday Night -- Will Iowa Be Subject To The Same Torture Tonight?    (Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, And The Rest Of The Wildcats Gave Kansas Fits On Friday Night — Will Iowa Be Subject To The Same Torture This Evening? (Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

Last year’s Villanova’s team scored more than its fair share of big wins. They knocked off four of the Big East’s five best teams (all of whom were ranked in the top 20 at the time of defeat), but each of those victories came on the Wildcats’ home floor. Furthermore, when you remove that quartet of signature victories, Villanova went just 2-12 against teams that finished in in the top 75 of the Pomeroy Ratings. Throw in a charity stripe festival or two at the Wachovia Center – a +34 free throw differential assisted in the Nova upset of then #5 Georgetown – and you can see why last year’s team never quite established themselves as an upper-echelon Big East club.

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Big East M5: 11.18.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 18th, 2013

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  1. Villanova is off to a strong start, and the bloggers over at Big East Coast Bias got together to discuss the Wildcats. The writers are all impressed by senior James Bell, who is off to a torrid start this season, averaging 18 points and 8.5 rebounds per game through three contests. They also delve into Villanova’s standing among the “City 6,” the team’s non-conference slate heading into the Battle 4 Atlantis later this month, and the overall Big East play so far this season (hint: Doug McDermott is good).  The roundtable is a good read for anyone just getting caught up with this early season.
  2. Speaking of Doug McDermott, he flashed some early season heroics in an 83-79 win over a good Saint Joseph’s team, giving the Bluejays the lead with a late jumper and drawing a foul to secure a victory for the Bluejays in a come-from-behind victory. While McDermott will get a lot of credit for the win, and deservedly so with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, Ethan Wragge, Devin Brooks and Grant Gibbs all played huge roles in the victory as well. Wragge led the way for the Bluejays with 21 points, while Brooks scored 16 in just 21 minutes of play. McDermott has never really been a question for Creighton, but many wonder how the rest of the team will respond to the increased competition in the Big East; this win over Saint Joseph’s may have gone a long way towards assuaging some of those concerns.
  3. In college basketball recruiting, there are a few selector schools, and the rest of the nation is usually fighting an uphill battle against them when it comes to landing the true blue-chip prospects that define the sport. As a major program in a basketball hotbed like Chicago, one would think that DePaul would be a player in the local recruiting battles, but they are all too often left standing at the altar. The most recent example is Cliff Alexander, the third-ranked player in ESPN’s Top 100, had both the Blue Demons and another in-state program, Illinois, on his final list, before ultimately choosing Kansas. Chicago Sun-Times writer Ken Morrissey was none too impressed, calling the signing event “a funeral.” “I feel bad for Illinois coach John Groce and DePaul coach Oliver Purnell. When Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari loses a stud recruit, he shrugs and signs another McDonald’s All-American. For Groce, there is no shrugging. I’m guessing there’s something that looks a lot like dry heaving. A player of Alexander’s skills can make all the difference in the world to an Illinois. Or he can bring a program to its knees. I believe Illinois was kneeling Friday.”
  4. In happier Big East recruiting news, Seton Hall‘s lauded 2014 recruiting class is all signed and ready to go. The class, which is currently ranked ninth by 247sports.com, includes top shooting guard prospect Isaiah Whitehead, four star power forward Angel Delgado, guard Khadeen Carrington, and forward Ismael Sanogo. The class is expected to be a transformative one for a Seton Hall program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and has gone without a conference title for 20 years. The class also makes a strong mark for the Pirates in their local recruiting areas, with Whitehead and Carrington coming from Brooklyn and Sanogo making the short trip to campus from Newark.
  5. Much has been written about the Seton Hall-Niagara 102 free throw game and what it means for a game that is taking a large step to eliminate the hand-checking that we’ve seen slow down the game in recent years, but that wasn’t the only game with a Big East team that was hugely affected. Marquette-Ohio State, a rematch of last season’s aircraft carrier game that wasn’t, devolved into a brutal slugfest of a game, ending in a 52-35 Buckeye win, a game so hard to watch that it put CBS Sports‘ Matt Norlander to sleep: “I have no shame — in fact, I think this feeling is pride — in telling you that I passed out on my couch for 20 minutes while attempting to get through this one, knowing full well I had to write about it once it was over.”  Many of these games and free throw shooting contests have been hard to watch, but as a fan of the game I still hold onto hope that this is a good thing in the long run. Ugly games in November are a small price to play for exciting, clean basketball come March.
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Trick or Treat: The Big East Schedule Edition

Posted by Todd Keryc on October 31st, 2013

In a little more than a week, the 2013-14 college basketball season will begin. Before it does, let’s take a closer look at the Big East schedule using today’s holiday to break it down.

TRICK: Non-Conference Play Will Mean More to Big East Teams This Season: You may have heard by now that a few prominent teams left the Big East this offseason. Of the top 10 teams from last year, six of them have left for other conferences. That includes two Final Four teams and five NCAA Tournament teams, with UConn’s APR issues being the reason for their exclusion, not their performance on the court. The departure of these perennial powerhouses means Big East teams will be missing important opportunities this year to register key wins against highly-ranked opponents. This puts added pressure on them to schedule serious non-conference games and to make those outings count, rather than relying on league play later on. Georgetown took note and did something smart, scheduling Michigan State for a neutral site game on February 1 in New York. They also have big non-conference games early against Oregon in South Korea and on the road at Kansas.

Thompson Got the Memo on Non-Conference Scheduling This Year

Thompson Got the Memo on Non-Conference Scheduling This Year

TREAT: A Chance to See A Couple of Old School Big East Rivalries: While most Big East fans were heartbroken when some of the league’s biggest names walked away, there is still the chance to see a couple of old match-ups unfold in non-conference play. Next week, Boston College visits Providence in their annual New England meeting, a rivalry that continued even when BC left for the ACC in 2005. On December 8, fans of New Jersey basketball will see their two premiere programs meet again as Seton Hall heads to Rutgers. The two biggest match-ups for Big East fans both involve old friend Syracuse. The Orange returns to its downstate home, Madison Square Garden, to take on longtime rival St. John’s on December 15. Then, on December 28, Syracuse is at home and will take on familiar foe Villanova.

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Examining ACC Teams in Early Season Tournaments: Part III

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 31st, 2013

As part of our preseason coverage on the ACC microsite, we will be looking at ACC teams competing in early season tournaments in a three-part series . Today we present Part III, which includes a look at the NIT Season Tip-Off, the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Barclays Center Classic, the Corpus Christi Challenge and the Wooden Legacy. Here are links to the earlier two parts in the series – Part I and Part II.

In this final look at ACC teams in early season tournaments let’s examine just how important these events may be to the conference this year. The topic of “Greatest Conference Ever” has been a popular discussion point for the rebuilt ACC. There are many popular measures used to compare conferences, including National Championships, Final Four appearances, conference RPI, and non-conference winning percentage. But most folks judge conference strength by the number of NCAA Tourney bids that are earned. So is there a correlation between a conference’s performance in early season tournaments and the number of NCAA bids they get?

Duke Celebrates the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament Championship  (Photo Credit: cbssports.com)

Duke Celebrates the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament Championship (Photo Credit: cbssports.com)

Looking at the last three seasons provides an answer. Over that time, the two heavyweight conferences have been the old Big East and the Big Ten. From 2011 to 2013, the Big East received 28 NCAA bids out of a possible 47 (60%), and the Big Ten is right behind with 20 out of 35 (57%). The ACC has lagged way behind those two conferences with only 13 bids out of 36 (36%). Over those same three seasons, seven different Big Ten schools have combined to win nine early season tournament titles. The Big East has also claimed nine titles with eight different schools. Ironically, only new ACC member Syracuse won more than one of those. Meanwhile the ACC only claims five such titles, and even worse for overall conference strength, Duke has won three of those. By comparison, the Big Ten won five tournament titles last year alone. Furthermore, the record-setting 11 bid Big East in 2010-11 won six early season tournaments, which clearly established it as the dominant conference of that season well before conference play even started. If the ACC wants to get to that level again soon, they need to start by winning four or five of these events for a change.

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Minnesota Proved Its Worth at Atlantis, But Must Make Improvements to Reach Elite Status

Posted by KTrahan on November 27th, 2012

Minnesota has yet to prove that it can be an elite team, but after a strong three-game stretch in the Battle 4 Atlantis over the weekend, the Gophers proved they can be an awfully good one that can contend for the Big Ten title. After losing to Duke in the opening game, Minnesota came back to defeat Memphis and Stanford to close out the tournament. Of course, preseason tournament wins aren’t all that meaningful, but if anything, the Battle of Atlantis showed us one very good thing for the Gophers: They can score from anywhere.

Tubby May Have His Best Team at Minnesota (AP)

This isn’t a guard-dominated team or a forward-dominated team; players at both positions stepped up in each of the games. The guards — particularly point guard Andre Hollins — are good. Hollins scored a career-high 41 points against Memphis and was a pivotal player in the Stanford game. He had been considered a possible breakout player in the preseason, and so far, he has shown that he is certainly worth the hype. The Gophers’ two other stars — forwards Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe — have also been impressive, as has the frontcourt that out-rebounded every opponent at Atlantis. Minnesota’s ability to be successful at all five positions makes the Gophers very difficult to defend, given how many scoring options are on the floor.

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ATB: Duke Makes Statement, Gonzaga Rolls Through Old Spice, and Rethinking Officiating Fundamentals…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 26th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC National Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The Weekend Lede. Battle 4 Atlantis Caps Terrific Set of Early-Season Tourneys. It is always a treat when two top five teams meet this early in the season. The high drama is typically saved for March, but the increasingly tasty match-ups served up by various exempt tournaments during Feast Week whet our appetites for the thrillers five months down the road. Saturday night brought us our first true marquee clash, with No. 2 Louisville meeting No. 5 Duke in the Battle 4 Atlantis final. The showdown in the Bahamas emanated a Tourney feel, and the backdrop – the sleek blue tridents, enveloped in darkness, overlooking the dim courts – only tacked on more intrigue to the proceedings. As these early-season tournaments wrap up, let us celebrate this season’s wonderful slate, and hope for a similarly tantalizing selection next season. And in case you somehow got the impression the B4A was the only big event around, think again: the nation is peppered with sneaky-good match-ups and draws. Shall we dive into the weekend’s tourney festivities?

Your Watercooler Moment. Did We Overestimate Louisville?

It’s far too early to make definitive statements about Lousville’s bottom-line. The Cardinals will be fine (Photo credit: Getty Images).

In the wake of Saturday night’s events, it’s certainly a legitimate question. Just as he did in that mostly forgettable 1992 meeting between Kentucky and Duke, when some Laettner dude hit some “shot,” Coach K got the best of Rick Pitino in the Blue Devils methodical deconstruction of the Cardinals hounding defense. Duke was no doubt the better team on the floor – Mason Plumlee has officially entered the National POY discussion; Quinn Cook proved he can be the perimeter sparkplug Duke needs him to be; Rasheed Sulaimon is a better fit system-wise than Austin Rivers was last season. There are plenty of things to like about this Duke team, and all systems were a go throughout their run in the Bahamas. Which is why I’m loathe to downgrade the Cardinals after the championship loss. The Cardinals clearly have some tinkering to do on the offensive end (it also doesn’t help when your defensive anchor and swatting connossieur, Gorgui Dieng, is sidelined with a wrist injury). Backcourt mates Peyton Siva and Russ Smith were out of sync. Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear were non-factors. Transfer Luke Hancock still needs to find his role. All of these are problems that need to be addressed – and they will be. Pitino’s Final Four team of last season wasn’t nearly the same team in November, and I expect a similar gradual development from this year’s bunch. It won’t be long before Pitino will iron out the kinks, find an optimal rotation and have his team firing on all cylinders. The Cardinals are taking their lumps early, and growing through tough losses against good teams. Saturday night’s result was more about Duke’s potential, and less about Louisville’s shortcomings.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits…

  • Mark Few’s Best Team Yet? Reclaiming sole possession of the WCC crown was an expected achievement for Gonzaga this season. But after six wins to begin the season, including two over Big 12 foes Oklahoma and West Virginia and one over reigning SoCon champion Davidson in the Old Spice Final Sunday, it’s time to set a new bar. Gonzaga has talent at every position, from floor operator Kevin Pangos to versatile forward Sam Dower to the recently eligible Kelly Olynyk. And if they can sustain this intensity into the league season, they’ll peak just in time for Tournament play. Let’s not rush to judge: The Bulldogs have Illinois, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State on tap before they enter WCC play. Beginning with a home date with the Illini on December 8, the turn of the calendar will reveal the depths of Gonzaga’s potential. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Louisville and Duke Set Up Monster B4A Final, Oregon Knocks Off UNLV, and Sean Woods’ Insufficient Punishment…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 24th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC National Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Battle 4 Atlantis Meets Expectations. The debate over this year’s best early-season exempt tournament was never a debate. The quality of teams assembled for the Battle 4 Atlantis far outstripped every other event across the nation. The field generated a considerable amount of hype, so the potential existed for at least some level of letdown. With a tantalizing Duke-Louisville final looming, the proceedings in the Bahamas have not disappointed. Each game provided a different dramatic twist – from Northern Iowa’s near-upset of Louisville to Andre Hollins’ 41-point outburst against Memphis to Duke’s deft maneuvering of VCU’s havoc defense. Not only did the tournament bring us great teams, it supplied a remarkably clean brand of basketball, which no doubt owes itself to the NCAA rules allowing coaches to work with their teams over the summer. Even if the championship doesn’t live up to your expectations, the rest has been thrilling to observe. Whether or not the Battle 4 Atlantis can compile the same elite field next year remains an open question. But come on, this needs to be repeated on an annual basis – in the Bahamas or otherwise.

Your Watercooler Moment. Punishment Does not Meet Offense In Sean Woods Case. 

By now, you’ve seen the video clip numerous times, read the multitude of columns written in its aftermath, and listened to the talking heads debate Sean Woods’ sideline behavior during the second-half of Morehead State’s 81-70 loss at Kentucky Wednesday night. Any rant on coach-player misconduct has the potential to branch off into 1,500-word category, but I’ll condense my thoughts into a simple statement: the behavior Woods exhibited has no place on a collegiate sideline. It’s inappropriate and cruel, callous and cold-hearted. His actions demand no less than a 5-10 game suspension and a genuine public apology. Yet after berating one of his players on a public stage, reducing him to tears, Woods’ actions merit a mere one-game punishment. Morehead State needed to send a message; a one-game absence doesn’t do nearly enough to accomplish that goal. You can understand Woods’ getting caught up in the moment, what with a potential victory over defending national champion Kentucky on the line, not to mention the prospect of beating his former alma mater. But to lose your cool in a public setting and channel your frustration over a blown lead into the denigration of one of your players is patently disrespectful. And it’s not like this is the first time we’ve seen Woods exhibit poor sideline conduct before. He notably chewed out junior center Chad Posthumus during a Nov. 12 game against Maryland. Woods’ repeated behavior merits stern punitive action. Missing one-game won’t lead to any meaningful change in sideline decor. This situation demanded harsher repercussions; Woods has shown a repeated inability to restrain his temper. Here’s to hoping that university’s minimal wrist slap will prompt a change in Woods’ demeanor.

Your Quick Hits…

  • Two of Nation’s Hottest Teams Roll Into Old Spice Final. Many felt heading into this season that this very well could be Mark Few’s best Gonzaga team since taking over in 1999. That sentiment feels especially true after the Bulldogs’ 5-0 start. And the scary part for the rest of the WCC and mid-major nation at large is that Gonzaga hasn’t even been tested yet. They handled an improving Oklahoma squad, 72-47, Friday night and enter Sunday’s Old Spice Final riding a powerful wave of momentum. They could face their biggest challenge yet in Davidson, who has posted consecutive wins over Vanderbilt and West Virginia and features a formidable frontcourt duo in Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks. Make no mistake, Gonzaga and Davidson are two of the best mid-majors in the country, and you can expect to see both playing and (pending seed and matchup) advancing in March. Sunday’s final provides a nice showcase game for two teams who should cruise through their respective league schedules. Enjoy it. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 15th, 2012

  1. College basketball’s signing day isn’t quite as frenzied for recruitniks as football’s, in large part due to the early signing period, which allows schools to ink recruits early, thus securing their commitment and ending much of the signing day “will he or won’t he” speculation. Cincinnati pulled in a nice three-player class with the opening of the early signing period yesterday, including Summit Country Day guard Kevin Johnson, a lifelong Bearcats fan who has flown under the radar due to injury. Mick Cronin heaped a lot of praise on his future guard: “He fits the mold of a lot of our current players. He can play a couple of different positions and he’s good with the ball in his hands. He’s an extremely unselfish player. He can beat his man whenever he wants.”
  2. It’s fairly common for the coach of a top-ranked team to downplay its abilities, especially early in the year, in order to reel his team in. Rick Pitino did just that when describing Louisville’s rebounding issues heading into the “Battle 4 Atlantis”, a preseason tournament featuring Duke, Missouri, and Memphis: “We are not ready to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis for that type of competition,” Pitino said. “We are not ready yet because we’re not rebounding the ball well enough.” This may not all be motivational bluster from Pitino, however. Louisville has gotten outrebounded by Bellarmine in an exhibition game and Manhattan already this season.
  3. Much has been written about Notre Dame’s experienced starting line up. While a number of players on the Irish have been making an impact for a few seasons, point guard Eric Atkins is becoming the straw that stirs the drink in South Bend. Atkins has stepped into a leadership role for Notre Dame, driven by the failure of last year’s team to put away 10th seeded Xavier in the NCAA Tournament after holding a double-digit lead over the Musketeers. The once-carefree guard is all business this year: ”I thought it would be beneficial for me — just being serious all the time, just trying to perfect everything I’m doing, being focused the whole time… in a game, I’m still smiling. But when it comes down to practice time and getting stuff done, I’m going to be serious.”
  4. Former Syracuse basketball players Fab Melo and Kris Joseph, both of whom were drafted by the Boston Celtics, have been sent to the D-League’s Maine Red Claws. Where the D-League used to be a death sentence for a player’s career, it has recently been more utilized as a minor league system for NBA teams to develop fringe talent. Melo is still a raw player with less than five years of formal basketball under his belt, while Joseph is behind Paul Pierce and former Georgetown great Jeff Green at the small forward slot in Boston. Both players should benefit from the increased playing time at that level more than they would riding the pine in Boston.
  5. The Big East will never quite be the same after the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry ends, or at the very least crosses conference lines, after this season. The rivalry is unique in that it is almost entirely based on mutual disdain from on-court events, rather than proximity or other factors that usually spurn hated rivalries. This season’s games promise to be especially heated, with both fan bases signing on for “the most vitriol-ridden, hate-spewing iteration of the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry ever seen in the 30-plus year history of the teams’ membership in the Big East Conference.”  The flames of the rivalry were fanned by an unusual source today – U2 front man Bono, who spoke at Georgetown today, and, among other things, called beloved Syracuse mascot Otto “a fruit” to the bemusement of the present Hoya faithful. This isn’t the first time that celebrities have pandered to Syracuse or Georgetown fans while on campus by putting down the other school.  During a basketball game at the Carrier Dome last season, Shaquille O’Neal uttered the popular Syracuse catch phrase “Georgetown still sucks” while promoting an anti-binge drinking campaign. At Syracuse’s 2012 commencement, screenwriter and Syracuse alumnus Aaron Sorkin discussed accepting the different viewpoints of others “unless they’re Georgetown grads, then they can go to hell.” Needless to say, that final game in the Big East rivalry on March 9 at the Verizon Center is going to be a fun one.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Stanford Cardinal

Posted by KDanna on October 12th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release are the Stanford Cardinal

Strengths: The tandem of junior Aaron Bright and sophomore Chasson Randle in the backcourt is shaping up to be one of the most dynamic duos in the Pac-12. The diminutive Bright has some characteristics reminiscent of other small guys who made names for themselves in the Seattle area, most notably the moxie to take and make big shots for his team. While he might not have the speed of a Nate Robinson or Isaiah Thomas, Bright can still get into the lane and distribute with some flashy passes. However, he doesn’t break down defenses as well as Randle, who may very well be the most significant guard to come through The Farm since Brevin Knight when it’s all said and done. Randle finished second among Pac-12 freshmen in scoring, behind only the NBA-bound Tony Wroten. The Rock Island, IL native displayed an ability to go into “put the team on my back” mode during his freshman campaign, highlighted by the 24 points he scored to lead Stanford in its 103-101 quadruple-overtime victory at Oregon State.

Chasson Randle did more than hold up his jersey during Stanford’s quadruple-overtime victory over Oregon State (credit: Rick Bowmer)

Weaknesses: Stanford is going to be physically light down low with the departures of Josh Owens and Andrew Zimmermann. While the Cardinal have to potential to be a good rebounding team again with guys like Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis still in town to crash the glass, Stanford will have to make up for a lot of toughness lost with Owens and Zimmermann gone. Although Owens was the better athlete, Zimmermann might end up being a bigger loss for head coach Johnny Dawkins. He was a guy who did all of the little things in the paint, including taking charges and talking on defense (he didn’t have a bad jump shot, either). As such, this group also needs to find a vocal leader. That might be tough, considering none of the major rotation players are seniors and haven’t been called on to be captains before.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 10.28.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 28th, 2011

  1. Over the weekend, three different Pac-12 teams played in eight-team tournaments. Arizona State, Utah and Washington State combined to go 1-8 in the Old Spice Classic, the Battle 4 Atlantis and the 76 Classic. Thankfully ASU was able to come across another BCS conference team that was worse than they were, handing Wake Forest a 28-point beatdown, but other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot to be thankful for in the Thanksgiving tournaments this year. Other tournaments this week had mixed results, as Stanford advanced to the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off and gave Syracuse just about all it could handle before succumbing in the final minutes, and USC also split its two games in Las Vegas, losing to UNLV on Friday in the semifinal, but knocking off South Carolina in the consolation game.
  2. Arizona State did get some sort of good news this weekend, however, as an update on Jahii Carson finally came through. While Carson is still not eligible to play at this point, there is at least some movement here, as Doug Haller clarified in reporting that Carson was waiting on a late ACT score to post. When that score posts, if it is high enough, Carson can begin practicing (and playing) with the team immediately. If the score is not high enough, Carson will be ineligible this season. Stay tuned.
  3. Down the road a piece in Arizona, Sean Miller is promising big changes for the Wildcats. “The same five that started against San Diego State (Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry and Kyryl Natyazhko) “will never start another game (together) at Arizona,” said Miller. Certainly Natyazhko is expected to be out of the starting lineup, although it remains to be seen whether Perry will move over to center or if freshman Angelo Chol will get a chance to start. But Mayes’ tenuous hold on the point guard position may be slipping as well, after he has struggled, handing out just three assists in his last five games. While freshman Josiah Turner has had his struggles adjusting to the new level of competition, his last few games have shown improvement and he may be ready to take over the reins. Likewise, the time could be now for Miller’s other freshman guard, Nick Johnson, who could slide in at the wing if Perry takes over in the middle. We’ll see what Miller has in mind on Tuesday night at New Mexico State.
  4. Oregon State had a fun weekend, wrapping up their week-long east coast road trip with a 20-point win over Towson in front of President Obama, among others. Devon Collier continued his strong start to his sophomore season by scoring 15 points, grabbing five offensive rebounds, handing out three assists and snagging two steals, while sophomore guard Roberto Nelson had by far his best game of the year, scoring 12 points and handing out four assists while playing under control. There were high hopes for Nelson this season, and maybe Saturday was the first sign of promising things to come.
  5. Finally, as if a 1-2 record in the Maui Invitational and a 1-4 start to the season weren’t enough for UCLA, sophomore forward Travis Wear cut his foot while snorkeling in Maui on Thursday and took five stitches. The Bruins’ second-leading scorer on this underwhelming season did not practice this weekend and will be reevaluated today to determine whether he will be able to play tonight when UCLA hosts Pepperdine at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
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