Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Posted by Will Tucker on March 22nd, 2013

Notre Dame built a Tournament resume by beating top-10 ranked UK and collecting conference wins over Louisville, Marquette, Pitt, Villanova and Cincinnati. In the Big East Tournament, Mike Brey’s team bested Rutgers and Marquette, and then hung with Louisville for 25 minutes before ultimately succumbing in the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year. Despite being ranked for much of the season, the Irish were handed a seven seed due to a weak nonconference schedule and 2-5 record against the RPI top 25.

Perimeter defense is top priority for Notre Dame (credit Frank Franklin III)

Perimeter defense is top priority for Notre Dame against Iowa State (credit Frank Franklin III)

Region: West
Seed: No. 7
Record: 25-9 (11-7 Big East)
Matchup: v. Iowa State in Dayton

Key Player: First Team All-Big East big man Jack Cooley has been an offensive juggernaut for the Irish all year, shooting 57% and posting the best offensive rebounding rate in the Big East for the second consecutive season. Cooley isn’t known as a versatile defender though, and the agile shooters in Iowa State’s frontcourt will force him to guard spots on the floor outside his comfort zone. If he can defend the perimeter without posing a defensive liability, Mike Brey’s team will be able to dictate the methodical pace they prefer against the high octane Cyclones.

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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Cincinnati

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 22nd, 2013

Cincinnati came into the year as one of the favorites for a top four finish in the Big East, and that looked like a good bet through non-conference play. However, the Bearcats were totally inconsistent all season once the Big East schedule began, and after an injury to guard Cashmere Wright in January, Cincinnati has struggled to put points on the board. Wins over Iowa State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Villanova were enough to get the Bearcats into the tournament, but Cincinnati was probably a game or two from being in serious bubble talks.

Mick Cronin

Mick Cronin and Cincinnati came into the season as a favorite to win the Big East. Now, they get to prove that all over again. (Getty)

Region: Midwest
Seed: No. 10
Record: 22-11 (9-9 Big East)
Matchup: v. Creighton in Philadelphia, PA

Key Player: Sean Kilpatrick is far and away the most important Bearcat. He is the team’s leader in minutes, points, and is just .6 rebounds off of Titus Rubles pace for the team lead in that category, and he’s doing it from the guard position. On a team that often struggles to find the bottom of the net, Kilpatrick is the only consistent option, and the opposition knows it, which helps explain the low shooting percentages for the Yonkers native. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Syracuse Orange

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 21st, 2013

After starting the season 18-1, Syracuse looked to be poised for another run at a Big East title and a top seed in March. However, the Orange struggled down the stretch of the regular season, losing seven of their last 12 contests in Big East play. With their hot early start and a few big wins — including one at then top-ranked Louisville — the NCAA Tournament was never really in question, but their seeding looked to be in real jeopardy as the losses piled up. Jim Boeheim was able to right the ship in his last Big East Tournament, and with wins over Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, and Georgetown before a tough championship game loss to Louisville, Syracuse seems to have regained a lot of momentum heading into the Big Dance.

syracuse-arkansas

Has Syracuse Regained Its Midseason Momentum; Or Is This a Mirage?

Region: East
Seed: No. 4
Record: 26-9 (11-7 Big East)
Matchup: vs. Montana in San Jose

Key Player: Michael Carter-Williams is Syracuse’s most talented player, and C.J. Fair is certainly the most consistent player on the squad, but no individual may be more important to Syracuse’s Final Four aspirations than senior forward James Southerland. Southerland put on a clinic from long range in the Garden last week, hitting 19 of his 33 three-point attempts in Syracuse’s four games. When he is on, he’s as good a shooter as there is in the country, and his mere presence really spreads the floor for the Orange, opening things up for Carter-Williams to penetrate opposing defenses and Fair to get good looks on his dangerous mid-range jumpers.

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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Marquette Golden Eagles

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 21st, 2013

Marquette rode a dominant season at home, where the Golden Eagles finished a perfect 16-0, to a 14-4 Big East record which tied Louisville and Georgetown atop the Big East.  Buzz Williams’ team notched big wins over NCAA Tournament teams Wisconsin, Georgetown, Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh twice.  Marquette had a double bye in the Big East tournament, but dropped its quarterfinal match-up against Notre Dame.

marquette over ND

Marquette Raced to Another Great Season Under Buzz Williams

Region: East
Seed: No. 3
Record: 23-8 (14-4 Big East)
Matchup: vs. Davidson in Lexington

Key Player: When he can stay on the floor, Davante Gardner is a total mismatch for most of the teams that Marquette will run into this March.  The 6’8″, 290-pound bruiser averages over 11 points in just over 21 minutes per game with remarkable efficiency. He shoots at a 58% clip from the floor, and is among the best free throw shooters in the conference at 84% from the line. When Marquette finds a mismatch down low, he can exploit it and find himself camped there all night.

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The Final Big East Tourney As We Know It: Reflections and Thank Yous

Posted by Nick Fasulo on March 17th, 2013

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent. He has been at the Big East Tournament this week taking in all of the action. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Austin Croshere. That name evokes the first true memory I have of Big East basketball.  I’m not even making this up for effect.

It was 1995. My family had finally taken the plunge and signed up for, that’s right, cable television. I was young. Third or fourth grade, and nearly all of my college basketball consumption to date was through March Madness on CBS. I really liked Duke, but I also really didn’t know any better. Then when the number of available channels on my family’s living room television ballooned from five to 55, I became exposed to a whole new world. Most importantly for the development of my nascent mind: Championship Week.

photo (5)

Louisville, Your 2013 Big East Champions

In that year’s Big East Tournament, Austin Croshere was a sophomore role player at Providence College. The Friars were the defending champions, but had lost key players from a season before and limped into Madison Square Garden with a 7-11 conference record. In the Friars’ quarterfinal game against Syracuse, the first sporting event broadcast on cable in my home, Croshere produced an unforgettable performance. He scored a career-high 28 points – 18 of those in the game’s final 10 minutes – and led the Friars to a dramatic upset overtime victory. The New York Post‘s Howard Blatt called Croshere “an outrageous force” in his game recap. It was truly mesmerizing theater, and something you couldn’t have watched on channels 6, 8 or 13.

On its proverbial headstone, the now old Big East Conference should have an epitaph that is something along the lines of “Never be the same again.” For me, its existence began with Austin Croshere, and ended with Montrezl Harrell. Live, right in front of me. A moment in time where I actually believe I was in the center of the universe.

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Rushed Reactions: Louisville 78, Syracuse 61

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 17th, 2013

rushedreactions

Brian Otskey (@botskey) filed this report from Louisville’s second consecutive Big East championship game victory on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Three key takeaways:

Pitino Was All Smiles After Notching Back-to-Back Big East Titles

Pitino Was All Smiles After Notching Back-to-Back Big East Titles

  1. Two words: Pressure defense. Louisville turned a 45-29 deficit into a 78-61 victory over the last 16 minutes of the game. The 49-16 run to close the contest was one of the more impressive feats I’ve seen in my years watching college basketball. After a few turnovers, it was clear Syracuse was rattled by the relentless Louisville pressure. It’s Rick Pitino’s calling card and it came through when the Cards needed it most. Louisville was awful defensively in the first half and that continued out of halftime as Syracuse hit four of its first five shots out of the locker room. That’s when everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) changed. Syracuse made just one field goal over the next 14 minutes as Louisville ran away with the game. People talk about VCU’s havoc defense but there is no team in the country that pressures the ball as hard and as efficiently as Louisville.
  2. Syracuse got flustered. Even while playing in front of a decidedly pro-Orange crowd (75-80%), Syracuse let the suffocating pressure get to them in the worst way. Nobody was more affected that Michael Carter-Williams, who until midway through the second half had played one of the finest games of his young career. Carter-Williams’ body language went south and his play suffered, culminating in a flagrant one foul call that was likely the result of pent-up frustration. The Orange were never able to regroup despite the partisan Madison Square Garden crowd and Louisville simply took it to them over the balance of the game.
  3. Louisville adjusted its offense and Syracuse failed to do the same defensively. Pitino’s team shot a robust 53% overall in the second half, including an impressive 12-of-19 shooting mark from inside the arc. Louisville worked the ball inside all second half against a Syracuse zone that had been extended out what seemed to be a good five to eight feet away from the basket all night. Louisville probed the high post and dumped it down low successfully with Montrezl Harrell turning out to be the main beneficiary of those sets. Syracuse never adjusted its defense, never more so exemplified by Kevin Ware’s baseline cruise and dunk with 8:24 to play that put Louisville up by nine points.

Star of the Game: Freshman Montrezl Harrell scored 14 of his career-high 20 points in the second half. It was a coming-out party for one of the better freshmen in the nation, someone who will make plenty of breakout player lists in 2013-14. Harrell, a former Virginia Tech commitment, had his way operating along the baseline and attacked the rim at will as the Syracuse back line defenders were helpless to stop him. This kid has the skill, athleticism and motor needed to excel at this level and will be a star in the years to come for Louisville and likely at the next level as well.

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Rushed Reactions: Syracuse 58, Georgetown 55 (OT)

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

Brian Otskey (@botskey) filed this report from Syracuse’s overtime victory over rival Georgetown in Friday night’s Big East semifinal at Madison Square Garden.

Three key takeaways:

Big John and Jim Share a Moment Before the Game

Big John and Jim Share a Moment Before the Game

  1. James Southerland and Trevor Cooney opened up Syracuse’s offense. Syracuse did most of its damage in the first half of this game thanks to Southerland’s continued hot shooting and Cooney’s surprising contribution off the bench. Southerland scored all 13 of his points in the first 24 minutes of the game (more on that next), not an unexpected performance from a guy who has been on fire all week. His four triples gave him 16 for the week, tying Gerry McNamara’s record from 2006. But it was Cooney who really energized the Orange in the first half. The seldom-used sophomore out of Delaware came off the bench and poured in 10 points, all before halftime. The outside success of these two players opened up a lot inside for Syracuse, a team that doesn’t look there all too often. Baye Keita had arguably his best game of the season with a lot of his production coming via the offensive glass. With Georgetown having to respect the Orange on the perimeter, it gave Keita more space to get in position for rebounds and scores. Even though Southerland and Cooney almost didn’t score at all in the second half and overtime, their success in the first half enabled Syracuse to hang on.
  2. Jabril Trawick’s defense on Southerland allowed Georgetown to come back. Trawick, known as Georgetown’s best defender, completely locked up the hot-shooting Southerland for the final 16 minutes of regulation and the five minute overtime, holding the Syracuse senior sharpshooter to just two field goal attempts over the final 21 minutes of action. As a team, Georgetown held Syracuse to just 28% shooting in the second frame, allowing the Hoyas to slowly chip away at the lead as regulation winded down. Georgetown made some clutch shots and free throws but team defense (and Trawick specifically) was the main reason why the Hoyas were able to force overtime.
  3. It was a fitting end to a classic Big East old guard rivalry. It’s sad that this all had to come to an end. These two teams put on a show for the 20,000+ fans gathered in Madison Square Garden on this semifinal Friday night and it seemed that nobody wanted this game to end. There will be a lot written about this in the days and weeks to come but this game will be a treasured memory for everyone in attendance, one that nobody will soon forget. We were all incredibly lucky to witness one final classic between two founding members of the original Big East.

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Fans and Players Alike Reflect on the Final Big East Episode of Hoyas-Orange

Posted by Nick Fasulo on March 15th, 2013

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent. He has been at the Big East Tournament this week taking in all of the action. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Following their narrow second round victory over Pittsburgh Thursday afternoon, Jim Boeheim was asked if it was fitting that Syracuse was going to have to go through Georgetown in their last go-around of the Big East Tournament. “I don’t know,” Boeheim said. “That’s for you guys to figure out.” The expected curt response was almost like a challenge to the entire press room: You all know the answer, but who will spin that yarn the most eloquently?

syracuse fans

Syracuse Fans Ready For Their Last Big East Tournament

Since 1979, at the league’s inception of seven teams, Syracuse and Georgetown have faced each other 90 times, including 14 in the Big East Tournament. Friday night, in the most fitting location, the final face-off for the foreseeable future went down. Syracuse won 58-55 in overtime, a classic match-up that may not carry much meaning in a week, but will mean everything for eternity. But that merely touches on the story, as you could draw a parallel that the Orange ostensibly accomplished what really needed to be accomplished on their trip to New York City: Beat someone you hate, then go proverbially take down the 1980 Finnish National Hockey team.

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Big East M5: 03.15.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 15th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Louisville beat Villanova 74-55 in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals last night with an uncharacteristic offensive distribution, scoring almost as many threes (10) as two-point field goals (13). But the Cardinals continued to weather inconsistency on that end of the floor by featuring the most efficient defense in the country. Rick Pitino remarked after the game that the 58 deflections the Cardinals caused against the Wildcats were the most he’d ever recorded since he started tracking the statistic with his teams. Pitino’s team was rewarded with a surprise locker room cameo from college basketball scholar Bill Clinton, who has paid the Cardinals a couple visits in the past, as well.
  2. Russ Smith finished with 28 points and hit four of six attempts from beyond the arc last night, but admitted he was distracted and upset all day after learning of the death of his high school coach, Jack Curran. Curran, 82, was a legend in New York City high school basketball, who coached future NBA point guards Kenny Anderson and Kenny Smith during his 55-year tenure at Archbishop Molloy. Smith learned of his mentor’s death yesterday morning, when he performed his ritual visit of his alma mater while back in New York for a game, and said it was “hard to take it all in” on the spot. “He was everything to me, and to my mom, my family. He treated everyone with respect,” Smith continued; “Today was definitely Coach Curran day for me, and it will be the rest of my life.”
  3. Notre Dame will appear in its fourth consecutive Big East Tournament semifinals after defeating Marquette 73-65 last night. The Irish came out flat against the Golden Eagles but responded with resurgent play for the latter 30 minutes after Mike Brey asked his team in the huddle if they were scared. Jerian Grant and his teammates responded in a big way for the rest of the game, with Pat Connaughton hitting another six three-pointers to score a team-high 18 points. The comeback led Jack Cooley to make some bold postgame predictions: “I think we’re going to come out strong and handle [Louisville’s] pressure phenomenally. I think we can get to Saturday night and that would mean a lot for me.”
  4. Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins laments the demise of the Big East Tournament in a scathing essay on the misaligned priorities of college administrators. “This isn’t collegiate competition we’re watching any more,” Jenkins contends, “It’s thinly veiled money laundering, and it’s ruining the NCAA’s chief commodity, which is our affection.” She places blame on the university presidents, athletic directors and conference officials who she says have colluded to engineer more lucrative arrangements at the expense of the athlete and the fan. Jenkins recalls a press conference in which she posed a question to former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese about the ethics of vastly uneven revenue among power conference schools, to which he responded, “This isn’t communism.” In the columnist’s words “you live by the sword, you die by the sword.”
  5. Georgetown showed off its composure and balance in a 62-43 quarterfinal win over Cincinnati that was at times much closer than the score would indicate. “For the most part, this group doesn’t get rattled,” said John Thompson III, whose team weathered a three-point shooting barrage from the Bearcats that eroded a 15-point lead into a deficit early in the second half. Markel Starks said after the win that his team takes pride in its defensive adjustments, and that players’ enthusiasm for shutting down their assignments is not a new phenomenon: “It’s no formula. Everyone’s talking about our defense now, but we’ve been playing defense all year.” They’ll face a rematch from last weekend with Syracuse in the semifinals today, and will probably be making plenty of adjustments on defense as they try to beat the Orange for the third time this year.
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Big East Tournament Day Three (Night Edition): Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Posted by Will Tucker on March 14th, 2013

There are two remaining spots in the Big East Tournament semifinals after Syracuse outlasted Pitt and Georgetown blew out Cincinnati earlier this afternoon. Here are the best and worst case scenarios for the two remaining teams who haven’t played until tonight.

#3 Marquette

Marquette has already beaten Notre Dame once this month

Marquette has already beaten Notre Dame once this month (AP)

No. 3 seed Marquette is enjoying its second Big East Tournament double-bye in as many years. The Golden Eagles will take the court for the first time tonight after reeling off four straight wins to close the season with a share of the league title. They’ll try to shake off last year’s one-and-done against Louisville in Madison Square Garden and capture their first Big East postseason title.

Next game: Marquette will take on No. 6 seed Notre Dame in today’s quarterfinals in the 9:00 PM nightcap.

  • Best case: The Golden Eagles sneak by Notre Dame and draw Villanova in the semifinals, outracing the exhausted Wildcats before slipping by Syracuse in a moment of complacency to claim their first Big East Championship. A sweat-drenched Buzz Williams pirouettes his way off the MSG sideline and into a comfortable NCAA two-seed.
  • Worst case: Marquette sleepwalks through a lethargic loss to Notre Dame –– its second Big East one-and-done in two years –– and Buzz Williams’ team ends up with a five-seed on Selection Sunday, possibly facing a Arizona or Kansas State in the first weekend. Their contention for the 2012 Big East Championship was cut short in the quarterfinals by a lower seeded team that the Golden Eagles had beaten handily during the regular season. Coming off a double-bye, many teams struggle to match the intensity of an opponent that already has one or two games in the tournament atmosphere under their belts, especially when that opponent is out for revenge. And while this year’s team has proven its ability to string together consecutive wins against upper echelon Big East competition, they’re playing without the tournament experience and talent that graduated seniors Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom brought to the table last year. Given those circumstances, tonight’s quarterfinal match-up with Notre Dame is an ideal trap game, and it’s not hard to imagine a flat or nervous effort dooming the Golden Eagles in their first outing in MSG.

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Five Thoughts From the Big East Tournament: Thursday Afternoon Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2013

Brian Otskey attended the Thursday afternoon session of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden and filed this report. Follow him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Georgetown is suffocating. The Hoyas limited Cincinnati to just 38 shots in a 40-minute game, in some ways due to Cincinnati’s turnovers but mostly due to Georgetown’s style of play. They grind and wear opponents out, especially one that struggles to score like the Bearcats. The Hoyas aren’t the flashiest of teams but they make big plays in big moments (Nate Lubick’s three field goals came at opportune times) and always seem to have an answer on both ends of the floor. This isn’t an overly talented team but it’s one of the nation’s best-coached. Georgetown runs a disciplined offense and is ultra-physical defensively, a bad combination for a Cincinnati team that needs to play defense for the full shot clock and then can’t get points off its defense on the other end. The Bearcats couldn’t get anything going today and give most of that credit to Georgetown.

    Gto

    Georgetown Wore Down the Bearcats Today

  2. Mick Cronin understands the big picture. His team didn’t play well today and he was clearly disappointed in that, but Mick Cronin spent the majority of his postgame press conference discussing conference realignment and, essentially, his reasons for being a college basketball coach. It was a great listen and refreshing to hear a coach who understands the true meaning of college sports. Cronin blasted realignment (his school is currently left out in the cold so that’s understandable), but his larger point rang true. Everyone, whether it’s schools, conferences or the NCAA, needs to do more to promote the welfare of student-athletes. “These guys aren’t just jerseys” was a quote that stood out to me. Cronin discussed everything from how money is the sole factor in most of this to getting his players degrees and good jobs after graduation. This isn’t the first time Cronin has said what is truly on his mind. He has my respect for what he does. I only wish more coaches were as serious about all of this as he is.
  3. It was obvious coming into the week but it still needs to be noted: This tournament won’t be the same without Syracuse. No team in this league comes close to bringing to the Garden the passion of Syracuse fans. When the Garden is Orange from top to bottom and side to side, the Big East Tournament is better for it. The atmosphere was incredible for today’s Syracuse/Pittsburgh quarterfinal game and just imagine what it is going to be like tomorrow night when Syracuse meets Georgetown in the semifinals! Syracuse fans are loud and yes, sometimes too full of themselves, but this tournament simply won’t be the same without them. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Tournament Day Three: Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 14th, 2013

The quarterfinals are here, which means the Big East tournament is in full swing, and the top four seeds will get their chance at the league as-we-know-it’s final crown.  Georgetown and Cincinnati open today’s festivities at Noon, followed by a 21st century ACC donnybrook between Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

#9 Cincinnati

Cincy

The Bearcats knocked off Providence 61-44 yesterday afternoon.

No. 9 seed Cincinnati had a strong showing against Providence yesterday afternoon, defeating the Friars 61-44 behind 17 points from Sean Kilpatrick and 15 points and 10 rebounds from JaQuon Parker.

Next game: Cincinnati will look to upset top seeded Georgetown at Noon.

  • Best Case: Cincinnati nearly took down Georgetown at Fifth Third Arena in February, losing a tight one, 62-55.  Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright were a combined 3-of-15 from three point range in that one; if Cincinnati’s guards can knock down some shots from the outside they should not have much of an issue keeping up with Georgetown’s scoring.  Consistent guard play is the key for the Bearcats; if Kilpatrick keeps up his solid play and Wright finally returns to the level that he was playing at before he missed time due to injury, Cincinnati can make a run in this tournament.
  • Worst Case: The Bearcats get frustrated against Georgetown’s probing Princeton offense and Otto Porter flashes his normal brilliance, and the Hoyas run away with a double-digit victory.  Cincinnati’s next conference tournament game is played in front of 4,000 fans at the Izod Center against Tulane.

#5 Syracuse

C.J. Fair continues to act as a steadying presence for Syracuse.

Syracuse struggled down the stretch of the regular season, but a strong second half propelled them to a 75-63 win over Seton Hall. The Orange dropped their game at The Pete earlier this year, but were without forward James Southerland. Will an Orange-friendly crowd and Southerland’s three-point prowess make the difference for Jim Boeheim’s squad?

Next game: Syracuse faces No. 4 seed Pittsburgh in the 2:00 PM slot.

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