Morning Five: Christmas Eve Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 24th, 2013


  1. If you are one of those people who is vehemently opposed to the idea of tanking, Zach Lowe of Grantland may have a solution for you. According to Lowe, the NBA is exploring the possibility of what is essentially a lottery wheel. With this proposed system, teams would know where they would be drafting up to 30 years in advance of a specific NBA Draft. The numbers and the algorithms behind the wheel are beyond the scope of a Morning Five so we would refer you over to Lowe’s column for a discussion on it along with the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal. This certainly is not a perfect solution, but could serve as an interesting point to base further discussions about how to structure the NBA Draft going forward.
  2. In this week’s Hoops Thoughts, SI‘s Seth Davis turns the tables and instead of looking at the freshmen as nearly every writer and fan has done this year he has decided to look at the top seniors. Reviewing his Senior Watch List it is apparent how many high-level seniors there are this season. We wouldn’t take this as an indication of a resurgence of upperclassmen, but instead as one of a short-term phenomenon as this year’s junior class is not particularly impressive. Still as Seth points out it is worth taking some time to appreciate this group of seniors.
  3. If any college basketball coach could use a little holiday boost this year, it might be Ed Cooley. Having already lost Kris Dunn for the season to a shoulder injury, Cooley announced yesterday that incoming freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock had been suspended for the remainder of the season. While unpleasant the news should come as a surprise to Friar fans as the pair had been suspended since November 6 for an unspecified violation of the school’s code of conduct. The school is not releasing any more information, but according to the local newspaper there are no state or local police complaints about either since they arrived on campus back in August. It is unclear if Austin and/or Bullock will stay or transfer, but they both will be allowed to practice with the team for the remainder of the season.
  4. It has certainly been an interesting past few days in South Bend. On Saturday the men’s basketball team blew a seemingly safe lead against Ohio State. On Sunday, Jerian Grant announced that he was leaving the team this season due to an undisclosed academic matter. Finally, yesterday news leaked out that Cameron Biedscheid, who was said to be redshirting, was transferring or maybe not. Biedscheid, one of the most highly touted recruits that Mike Brey has ever signed,  had an unremarkable freshman season averaging 6.2 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 1 assist per game before deciding to take a redshirt year this year with the announcement coming just before the start of the season. Early yesterday it was reported that he had asked for a release from the school, but it is unclear when the school would process such a request since it is officially closed until January 2. As Tom Noie notes, there is a chance that Brey could talk Biedscheid out of it by then, but it seems unlikely.
  5. Finally with Christmas right around the corner, The Dagger has you covered with an assortment of college basketball teams butchering your favorite Christmas carols. While we can appreciate the effort and find quite a bit of humor in their attempts, we are pretty sure these will not be mentioned in the same breath as Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. Anyways, we hope you enjoy their renditions and have a happy holiday.
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Big East M5: 12.19.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 19th, 2013


  1. In joining the Big East, Creighton hoped that the better competition and brand-name league would help raise the program’s status, and vault successful Bluejays outfits to more advantageous seeding come March. While the Big East is undoubtedly an upgrade in many regards from Creighton’s old home, the Missouri Valley, the league hasn’t quite panned out as many had hoped thus far. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi only has four teams from the Big East currently in his field, including Marquette, the league’s preseason favorite, in a play-in game. While no Big East team is truly out of the running yet this year, fans would have probably hoped for more from the top of the conference, but today Villanova is really the only squad really making a name for itself on a national scale. 
  2. While Creighton has dropped a few games it would like to have back, the team seems to be building depth behind star Doug McDermottEthan Wragge and Will Artino have swapped positions in the starting five, with Wragge entering the lineup as the Bluejays’ second leading scorer at 12.5 points per game and Artino more effective as a reserve, totaling 27 points in his last three games (after 40 through his first seven). Avery Dingman and Devin Brooks have also stepped up as of late, each filling the scorebook in a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Coach Greg McDermott was effervescent in his praise of the two players, who have made great strides in recent weeks: “Avery Dingman has had three of the best days as a Bluejay as he’s ever had. His last two days of practice and today’s game, he’s shown more confidence and urgency to his play… Devin is getting better every single day. There’s no question from the start of practice until today, he’s our most improved player… I’m really proud of him, and that’s a credit to him.”
  3. Rysheed Jordan was the crown jewel in Steve Lavin’s freshman class at St. John’s, but until the last few games, he had yet to find himself in the college game. Sunday’s match-up with New York rival Syracuse and one of the nation’s top freshman point guards, Tyler Ennis, brought out the best in Jordan, who scored a season-high 13 points. Jordan followed this game up with another strong performance — 10 points and four assists — against San Francisco on Wednesday night. St. John’s is among the most talented teams in the Big East, and if Jordan can break out to go along with established players like JaKarr Sampson, D’Angelo Harrison, and Phil Greene IV, the Johnnies will be quite dangerous in time for postseason play.
  4. Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin has put together an incredibly diverse, eclectic staff with men of all ages and backgrounds, including 77-year old college basketball legend Gene Keady as a special advisor. Keady, who helped launch Lavin’s coaching career by putting him on his staff at Purdue, brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to the group, and players and coaches agree that his basketball acumen has paid off. Forward JaKarr Sampson describes the impact that Keady has on everyone in the program: “Whenever he talks, everybody listens, even Coach Lav. With Coach Lav, I feel like he’s still learning from him. It’d be foolish not to listen to what he’s got to say.”
  5. Providence has been playing this season under a cloud of injuries and suspensions, and it is still uncertain when freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock will be allowed to suit up for the Friars. Without the highly touted Austin, the scoring burden for the Friars has fallen to veteran Bryce Cotton, whose importance to his team grows with every game that his team spends without the freshmen. According to head coach Ed Cooley, he is taking this leadership responsibility in stride: “What everybody has to know is our team has really taken on the heartbeat of Bryce. I have seen him grow unbelievably in the last two, three weeks. Vocally, his spirit, his energy. We knew he’d play well today based on how he prepared. I’m really proud of the man he is becoming. He has grown so much.”
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Big East M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 4th, 2013


  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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Big East M5: 11.25.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 25th, 2013


  1. Seton Hall has had a crazy last couple days. On Tuesday news came out that sophomore guard Tom Mayaan will most likely have to return to his home country of Israel to serve his three year military requirement. Mayaan thought he was going to receive an athletic exception after playing well for the Israeli U-20 team this summer, but his uncle returned to the US to relay the bad news. It is thought to be a misunderstanding between Mayaan and the Israel Defense Forces, but if Mayaan does have to leave it could mean the end of his collegiate basketball career. Seton Hall would lose a key role player who has provided solid play so far, dishing out 3.5 assists per game in 17 minutes. More bad news is that during the Pirates epic collapse to Oklahoma on Friday, Czech forward Patrik Auda re-injured his right foot and will be evaluated today.Kevin Willard said “The swelling went down. I don’t want to be too optimistic because when I do, something bad happens.” It will come down to if he bent the screw they put in last year. If he didn’t he could return in a month, but if he did then he will miss the year. The Pirates pulled out a win on Saturday night, but his defense and rebounding were missed.
  2. Another St. John’s player has been suspended. After having D’Angelo Harrison suspended for the end of last year and Chris Obekpa suspended this preseason, Steve Lavin has ruled freshman Rysheed Jordan out indefinitely. Jordan missed Friday’s contest against Monmouth and it doesn’t seem he will play in tomorrow’s game against Longwood. Fortunately he has not missed a big game yet, but the final big non-conference game the Johnnies have is against Syracuse on December 15. As a freshman, Jordan can use all the game experience he can get, and when (if) he comes back he may well find himself farther down the bench. The preseason Big East Freshman of the Year was hyped as an instant contributor and he has played well in his action so far, averaging four points and two assists. Hopefully Jordan pulls it together and is reinstated before his freshman year is lost.
  3. An interesting figure over the weekend was that Creighton drew over 18,000 fans for their win over Tulsa. For a private school to draw that many fans for a game against a team like Tulsa is amazing. Fans of teams outside Omaha probably do not realize how big Creighton basketball is in Omaha. A Twitter user compared the Creighton fans to Nebraska football fans, the ultimate compliment. Several Big East teams do very well in attendance each year. Creighton ranks sixth in all of Division 1 and Marquette is fifteenth. The Golden Eagles had over 13,000 in attendance for their unimpressive performance over New Hampshire. All the Big East teams are in the top 75 which speaks to the great fan bases and hoop-enthused communities, one of the things that makes Big East basketball great.
  4. The weekend saw some great individual performances from Big East players. Stud Doug McDermott poured in 33 points on Saturday night. The most interesting, and amazing, note of the week is, as Rob Anderson pointed out on Twitter, “Today was Doug McDermott’s 60th career game with 20 or more points. He’s had 19 or less in just 54 contests.” The fact that he has had more games with over 20 points than not in his entire career is phenomenal. His scoring is even more important with Grant Gibbs recent scoring slump. It may be due in part to his hurt finger, but Gibbs production will have to be made up. Gibbs continues to distribute the ball well, but if Creighton is to be a serious contender, they will need his scoring. Chris Obekpa, St. John’s defensive force, followed up his seven block performance on Tuesday with nine on Friday. To be able to do that is amazing, and Obekpa is only 6’9″, much shorter than most premier shot blockers in recent history.
  5. Providence coach Ed Cooley and his squad headed down to St. Thomas for the Paradise Jam with his two suspended freshmen–Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock— who have yet to play in a game, but have been practicing with the team the past few weeks. Austin was expected to contribute at a high level right away, like Rysheed Jordan, but if he is unable to get some run before conference play begins, it is doubtful he will have a role on the team this year. His addition would be an added boost to an already impressive Providence team, who will play in the final of the Paradise Jam tonight against Maryland, if he can work his way into the rotation soon. Kris Dunn has showed that one can come back from a brief spell off the court. Since he returned from a minor shoulder injury, he has propelled the Friars to a win over Vanderbilt and has been magnificent creating opportunities for his teammates, averaging over six assists per contest.  This Friars team looks special and will have a shot to really test themselves against Kentucky in Brooklyn next Sunday.
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Introducing the RTC Big East Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by Dan Lyons (@Dan_Lyons76) on November 8th, 2013

College basketball is back! Seven Big East teams open their seasons tonight, including a few big match-ups like St. John’s vs. Wisconsin and Georgetown vs. Oregon. There is no better time to unveil the Big East microsite’s preseason rankings, with comments and analysis from our group of Big East writers:

Marquette Needs to Go Inside Against Davidson

Marquette tops Rush the Court’s preseason Big East rankings.

10. DePaul

  • Dan Lyons – With Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young heading into their senior years, this might be DePaul’s best chance to get out of the Big East basement, but I’m definitely taking a wait and see approach with the Blue Demons.
  • George Hershey – It’s DePaul… They have some talent in Melvin and Young, but they don’t play defense.
  • Todd Keryc – It doesn’t matter what league they play in or who else is in it, the poor Blue Demons are destined for the cellar almost every year.
 9. Butler
  • DL – With the injury to Roosevelt Jones, Butler is without a returning double-figure scorer this season. I’m not one to bet against the Bulldogs, with or without Brad Stevens, but this inaugural Big East campaign isn’t shaping up too well for this Cinderella.
  • GH – They lose many pieces from last year’s team. Roosevelt Jones’ injury really hurts, but they are Butler and they always surprise everyone. Expect Kellen Dunham to have a big year.
  • TK – Bad timing for the Bulldogs. They ride two straight national title appearances into two straight conference upgrades, only to see their boy wonder coach Brad Stevens leave for the NBA.

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Morning Five: 11.07.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 7th, 2013


  1. We are used to successful players transferring, but the timing of Dewayne Russell‘s announcement that he was transferring from Northern Arizona just before the start of the season seems very strange to us. Last season, as a freshman, Russell averaged 14.4 points, 3.2 assists, and 1.5 steals per game so we would expect that he will be transferring to a power conference school. Russell’s departure is obviously a big blow to Northern Arizona with its season starting on Saturday, but given the timing we have a feeling that there is more to this story than just Russell having a change of heart.
  2. The start of the season is on Friday, but we are going to go ahead and assume that Providence coach Ed Cooley just wishes this week would end. After potentially losing Kris Dunn to another shoulder injury early in the week, Cooley suspended freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock indefinitely for “not upholding their responsibilities as student-athletes.” The loss of Austin will be particularly significant as he was a top-50 recruit coming out of high school last year and had the potential to help ease the load on Bryce Cotton while Dunn recovers. We have not heard a good explanation of why the two have been suspended, but for Providence’s sake we hope it isn’t for very long as they have a fairly challenging schedule early in the season.
  3. Most of the eyes of casual fans watching college basketball this season will be fixed on Andrew Wiggins, but many of the more hardcore fans will be directing their attention to Lexington and the impressive collection of talent that Kentucky has put together yet again. Most people will point to John Calipari as the architect, but as Tim Keown notes Orlando Antigua should certainly be recognized for his contribution. Antigua’s influence and his fascinating story stretch well beyond whatever the Wildcats manage to do this season. With the way that Antigua’s teams have performed and how successfully he has recruited we would not be surprised to see Antigua putting together his own college team in the near-future.
  4. After almost seven months of silence, Mike Rice finally decided to give an interview to Jonathan Mahler of The New York Times as part of a piece that serves to explain some of the reason for why Rice is the way he is, what he has learned from his public shaming, and what he still need to learn. We will give Rice credit for being willing to discuss his troubled past with a reporter particularly one who wouldn’t produce a PR fluff piece for him that many individuals who are publicly shamed want. Our guess is that Rice will eventually get back into coaching, but his best bet is as an assistant coach with his best-case scenario probably being a NBA assistant unless some small school is willing to take a chance on him (and he is willing to go to a non-power conference school).
  5. In August, the NCAA found a case–that of former Marine Steven Rhodes–in which their ruling was so ridiculous that the public sentiment against them was so strong that they actually reversed an awful ruling. The case of Nathan Harries might not generate the same level of controversy that Rhodes’ did, but it might come close. Harris, who spent two years after high school working on a Mormon mission, received a scholarship from Colgate, but will have to sit out this season after he admitted to the NCAA that he played in three church league games. The ridiculousness of the ruling will most likely lead to enough criticism that the NCAA will take a longer look at the ruling (instead of just rubber-stamping the denial) and we suspect that Harries should be eligible in the very near-future.
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The RTC Interview Series: Big East Preview with Jon Rothstein

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the Big East, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with a Big East expert in CBS Sports Network College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein.

Jon Rothstein Shares His Big East Preseason Thoughts With Us

Jon Rothstein Shares His Big East Preseason Thoughts With Us

Rush the Court: The new Big East has formed with its roots based almost exclusively on basketball. What will that do for the conference’s reputation from a national standpoint?

Jon Rothstein: I think we are going to have to wait and see how these schools that are left in the conference perform on a national level. From the periphery, I think everyone is looking at the Big East as a conference that can send either five or six teams to the NCAA Tournament. That would put the Big East probably on the same par as the American Athletic Conference. A lot of its reputation is going to be formed by how many teams the Big East will send to the Tournament on a consistent basis.

RTC: Marquette has been the popular preseason pick to win the league. The Golden Eagles lost Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue and Trent Lockett from last season’s Elite Eight team, so what is it about this season’s squad that makes it so formidable?

Rothstein: This is the deepest and most talented frontcourt that Buzz Williams has had since he has been the head coach at Marquette. On the other hand, this is also going to be the least experienced backcourt that he has had. I initially picked Marquette to win the Big East at the start of the offseason, but going back on it now, I wish I had picked Georgetown to win the league.

RTC: What makes you believe Georgetown has the talent to win the league?

Rothstein: To me, Georgetown replenishes talent as well as any team in the country. The thing about the Hoyas that is interesting to me is that they are able to win with different styles. You saw them feature a perimeter attack when they had Chris Wright, Jason Clark and Austin Freeman. You saw them use an inside attack with Henry Sims leading the way. Last season, we saw Otto Porter really blossom and do a bit of everything. Georgetown always finds a way to win consistently, but it does it in different ways.

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Big East M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on October 28th, 2013


  1. Fox Sports 1 kicked off its coverage of the Big East with its Tip-Off Party on Friday night. Rob Stone, Bill Raftery and Tarik Turner led viewers around the Big East as most teams have now had their season opening events/scrimmages. The Fox hosts talked with several of the league coaches as well as preseason POY Doug McDermott. Fox has invested a lot of money in the new league and is already pushing its games with plenty of commercials and a new show for Bill Raftery, whom they lured away from ESPN. Bringing in a big name like Raftery and placing him alongside everyone’s favorite play-by-play announcer, Gus Johnson, will help draw some casual viewers. The Big East/Fox Sports 1 relationship will be a crucial one for both sides this season as both entities are new ventures and will need to have some early success to gain credibility.
  2. St. John’s center Chris Obekpa was recently suspended for the the Red Storm’s tip-off event and their two preseason scrimmages for violating university rules. Luckily for Obekpa and Steve Lavin, he will be able to practice and will be available for the team’s crucial season opener against Wisconsin on November 8. Obekpa had the second most blocks in the nation last year and is a huge presence down low. He is an irreplaceable player for the Red Storm so it is paramount that he does not have any more rules violations that could keep him out of the lineup. Lavin said, “We expect our student-athletes to conduct themselves in a responsible manner in representing St. John’s University. Chris understands this suspension can serve as a learning experience.” Hopefully he does not suffer too much from missing the exhibition games and will be 100 percent ready for the Badgers in a little more than a week.
  3. Villanova and Marquette both had their preseason intra-squad scrimmages this weekend. Villanova split into the Blue team, led by Ryan Arcidiacono, and White team, led by JayVaughn Pinkston. The Blue team won by 15 points and was in control from the start. was impressed by Arcidiacono, who is looking to build off a very successful freshman campaign, as well as freshman Josh Hart, who was a menace defensively. In Milwaukee, Buzz Williams decided to have a “pseudo practice”, as Andrei Greska of put it. Freshman point guard John Dawson was impressive for a guy who was looked at as a project by most, but with the loss of Duane Wilson for a few months, he will be called upon to play a few minutes each night. The other two freshman, JaJuan Johnson and Deonte Burton, were impressive and had some nice plays on offense. The most impressive player of all, though, according to Greska, was Juan Anderson. The junior wing seems to be putting it all together after a summer where he decided to leave and then return to the program.
  4. Georgetown reeled in four-star 6’8″ power forward Marcus Derrickson over the weekend. He is ranked 55th in the class of 2015 by Rivals and is the Hoyas’ first verbal commitment in the class. This weekend was huge for recruiting for several teams that held their preseason tip-offs. Seton Hall had their excellent 2014 commitments Khadeen Carrington, Isaiah Whitehead, Angel Delgado, and Ismael Sanogo in attendance as well as several local targets in the classes of 2015 and 2016. Kevin Willard is turning it around big time with the 2014 class and having all the recruits on campus will hopefully bring in some additional top talent. St. John’s also had some big recruits on campus with Isaiah Briscoe and Cheick Diallo in Carnesecca Arena. Both would be huge gets for Steve Lavin who has had great success recruiting at St. John’s.
  5. Several of the tip-off parties had some special appearances and performances on Friday night. Providence brought in singer Nick Cannon to DJ the event and Villanova had Nicki Minaj perform.  There were also some superb dunk contests. St. John’s freshman Rysheed Jordan won theirs with an amazing dunk over former Red Storm center God’s Gift Achiuwa. Another freshman, Providence’s Brandon Austin, had an incredible between-the-legs dunk to win theirs. Probably the most bizarre event from Friday around the league was at Seton Hall. Pirates coach Kevin Willard challenged competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi to a hot-dog eating contest. Willard decided to drink wine and put some mustard on his hot dog as the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion devoured 10 hot dogs in a minute and then chugged a gallon of milk.
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Season In Review: Providence Friars

Posted by Will Tucker on April 29th, 2013

The Friars (19-15; 9-9) made huge progress in Ed Cooley’s second year at the helm of the rebuilding project in Providence. After limping through the first half of the season with injuries to key players, chemistry issues and no bench to speak of, the Friars rattled off seven of their last nine games to close out Big East play. They posted their first .500 conference record since 2008-09, and with it earned a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2008-09 as well, losing their first game of the NIT on the road at No. 2 seed Baylor.

Preseason expectations

Big East coaches pegged the Friars #13 at media day, while we slightly more optimistically ranked them #11 here at the microsite. Ed Cooley returned the Big East’s reigning two-time assists leader in senior Vincent Council, but his highly-anticipated recruiting class had unraveled in the offseason and his frontcourt remained somewhat of a mystery. In short, nobody really knew what to expect from the program that had been a dismal 12-42 (.286) in Big East play since its last postseason bid.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Reigning Big East Most Improved Player Kadeem Batts returns in 2013-14 (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The Good

Ed Cooley finally got his team to play on both ends of the floor, stamping out the paper bag defense that was Keno Davis’ indelible legacy in Providence. KenPom ranked the Friars 74th in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency –– a figure that, while not outstanding, displayed uncharacteristic balance: Their defense had ranked outside the top 200 in two of the past three years. On paper, only Syracuse was more efficient in defending the three among Big East teams, and Providence snuck into the league’s top 10 in scoring defense as well. At the individual level, it was Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts who led the team’s resurgence. In his junior year, Cotton (19.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.9 APG) stepped into a leadership role few outside of Tucson, Arizona, could have envisioned for the spot-up shooter whose only Division I offer came from Providence. Cotton led the Big East in scoring and three-pointers (98 makes) despite playing more minutes per game (37.8 MPG) than all but six other players in the nation. In the frontcourt, Batts (14.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 47.8% FG) fashioned himself into the Big East’s Most Improved Player after an underwhelming sophomore season that left the 6’9″ forward shrouded in uncertainty entering 2012-13.

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Providence Shows Its Growth With Recent Big East Wins

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 7th, 2013

Dan Lyons is an RTC Big East microsite contributor who also writes for the Syracuse blog, “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.”  You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.  He filed this report after Wednesday night’s match-up between Cincinnati and Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

Providence has played this entire season teetering on the edge.  On one side, losses to the likes of Penn State, UMass, Brown, and DePaul don’t inspire much confidence for Ed Cooley‘s squad going forward.  On the other hand, the only game this season that really got away from the Friars was the January 2nd 80-62 loss to then #4 Louisville.  Every other Friar loss has been within ten points, with two having gone to overtime – the games against Penn State and UConn.  Since the loss to UConn, however, Providence’s luck has seemed to turn a bit.  They went to Villanova, a team that had just logged back to back home wins against the conference’s two big dogs Louisville and Syracuse, and knocked off the Wildcats, and then followed that up with last night’s close win at home against #17 Cincinnati.

Kadeem Batts' 25 points and nine rebounds were essential in Providence's upset of #17 Cincinnati.

Kadeem Batts’ 25 points and nine rebounds were essential in Providence’s upset of #17 Cincinnati.

Providence’s road to relevance under Cooley has been a treacherous one, but there has been reason for hope.  Cooley has been recruiting well above the expectations laid forth by Providence’s 42-53 record over the last three seasons.  Last season Cooley reeled in five-star prospects Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo and he currently has 2013 commitment from four-star small forward prospect Brandon Austin.  He also inherited a team with capable players like Kadeem BattsBryce Cotton, and Vincent Council.  However, in a college basketball landscape where inexperience is no longer an excuse for poor performance, Providence’s turnaround hasn’t translated to on-the-court success as quickly as some fans probably hoped.

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