2013-14 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on April 1st, 2014

Compiling preseason All-America teams is a difficult task because nobody knows what is going to occur during the season. There will always be players who will fail to live up to expectations and there will always be under the radar types who will unexpectedly emerge to stardom. When our group of eight RTC pollsters selected their preseason All-America teams back in November, nobody could have guessed that only six of the 15 names on that list would live up to the hype: Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Louisville’s Russ Smith, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker, Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier, and Kentucky’s Julius Randle. The only two players that were projected to to be a first team All-America and finished there were McDermott and Smith (actually, we recognized at the time that a 33 percent accuracy rate was the AP’s historical norm, so we did a little better than that). The nine players we selected as preseason All-Americans who did not make our team — Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Michigan State’s Gary Harris, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Michigan’s Mitch McGary (spent much of the year injured), Arizona State’s Jahii Carson, Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, Syracuse’s C.J. Fair, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, and Virginia’s Joe Harris — all had exceptional seasons, but they were surpassed in achievements by the names that rose to the top of our list. Here are the 2013-14 RTC All-America Teams.

Note on methodology: voters took postseason performance to date into consideration. Players earned three points for a First Team vote, two points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote. McDermott and Napier were the only two consensus First Team All-America selections. Coming tomorrowThe RTC Coach of the Year.

First Team All-America

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  • Doug McDermott, Senior, Creighton (consensus) (26.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 52.6% FG, 44.9% 3FG). McDermott was the most prolific  and talented offensive player in the country in a season that wrapped up his marvelous collegiate career. The senior led the country in scoring and his brilliant play was the biggest reason why Creighton finished the season with a sterling 27-8 record. The brilliance of “Dougie McBuckets” saw him reach several amazing career milestones this year. His career-high 45 points in March 8’s Senior Night victory over Providence put him over the 3,000-point barrier, and he wound up finishing with 3,150 points, good for fifth on the all-time scoring list. There have been few players like Doug McDermott in college basketball history, and there will be few like him in the future. He was an amazingly unique talent that we were all privileged to watch play ball for the last four years.
  • Shabazz Napier, Senior, Connecticut (consensus) (18.1 PPG, 4.9 APG, 5.9 RPG, 1.7 SPG). You can make an argument that no player has meant more to his team this season than Napier has meant to Connecticut. The Huskies improbably took home the East Region title and are headed to the Final Four, thanks in large part to the heroics of Napier. After a sensational regular season where the guard took home the AAC Player of the Year award, he has only elevated his play in the postseason. In the Huskies’ four NCAA Tournament victories, Napier is averaging 23.3 points per contest and has displayed his flare for the dramatic by hitting several important shots when his team needed them most. Connecticut won a national title in 2011 mostly due to the brilliance of then-point guard and NPOY Kemba Walker. If the Huskies are able to replicate that feat this season, it will be mostly due to the brilliance of Napier.
  • Jabari Parker, Freshman, Duke (22) (19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 47.3% FG). In a season when many freshmen around the country received a great deal of preseason hype, no other freshman lived up to the lofty expectations quite like Parker. The USBWA National Freshman of the Year became the first Duke freshman to earn consensus first-team All-America honors with selections to the AP and Wooden All-America teams. It is widely expected that Parker will enter the 2014 NBA Draft after just one season in Durham, and even though his Duke career did not include an NCAA Tournament victory, Parker’s terrific season will not soon be forgotten.
  • Russ Smith, Senior, Louisville (22) (18.2 PPG, 4.6 APG, 2.0 SPG, 46.8% FG). “Russdiculous” entered the season with high expectations and he more than lived up them by leading Louisville to another terrific campaign. After an excellent junior season, Smith only improved as a senior. Known for erratic decision-making much earlier in his career, the talented guard reinvented himself during his senior season. Smith improved his field goal percentage from by five percentage points and his three-point percentage from by six points. That brilliance led a spot as Louisville’s first consensus All-American since Clifford Rozier in the 1993-94 season. 
  • Sean Kilpatrick, Senior, Cincinnati (19) (20.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 42.3% FG, 84.5% FT). Kilpatrick finished his outstanding collegiate career with legendary Cincinnati status, as he joined NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only two Bearcats to top 2,000 career points. Along with joining Robertson in the Cincinnati record books, Kilpatrick also became the program’s all-time leader in games (140) and career minutes played (4,315). The elevation in Kilpatrick’s play as a senior also meant great things for an overachieving Cincinnati squad that was the co-AAC champion and was ranked #15 in the final AP poll.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Evening

Posted by Brian Otskey, Andrew Murawa, Walker Carey & Bennet Hayes on March 21st, 2014

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We may not know what the Friday evening sessions might have in store for us, but we can be confident in thinking there will be lots of excitement. Let’s continue our analysis of all of today’s games with the evening slate of eight contests.

#8 Memphis vs. #9 George Washington – East Region Second Round (at Raleigh, NC) – 6:55 PM ET on TBS

It's Put Up or Shut Up Time for Josh Pastner (Photo: Spruce Derden/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s Put Up or Shut Up Time for Josh Pastner
(Photo: Spruce Derden/USA TODAY Sports)

On paper this is a very intriguing game. The statistics, especially those compiled by Ken Pomeroy, point to an even match-up between two teams who play similar styles. A tougher Atlantic 10 schedule caught up to George Washington in the closing weeks of the season but the Colonials still enter this game with a 7-5 record in their last 12 games. Memphis, on the other hand, is just 4-4 in its last eight after getting bounced on its home floor by Connecticut in the AAC Tournament. Mike Lonergan’s team will be led by a pair of former high-major players who transferred to his program, Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood. Creek represents the most substantial three-point threat for GW and it will be interesting to see if he can get some shots to go down against a Memphis guard unit that defends the arc fairly well. There is injury news regarding the Colonials. 6’3” guard Kethan Savage is unlikely to see significant time if at all, but Lonergan would not rule him out of action when asked on Thursday. Savage (12.7 PPG) made a one-minute appearance in last week’s conference tournament loss to VCU but has not played any significant minutes since January 18. If he can go, it would provide more of an emotional lift to GW than anything else given he is nowhere near 100 percent. As for Memphis, it will have to dominate the paint area and win the rebounding battle in order to advance to the round of 32. The Tigers have a lot of talent but it is hard to trust this team against a talented A-10 club with something to prove.

The RTC Certified Pick: George Washington

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What North Carolina Needs to Do to Beat Providence

Posted by Chris Kehoe on March 19th, 2014

North Carolina has its hands full tonight with its first round match-up against #11 Providence. The Friars are red-hot at the moment, coming off a Big East Tournament title that included an upset win over Creighton. Head coach Ed Cooley placed a premium on winning the title in Madison Square Garden because the Friars hadn’t won it since 1994 and only once in the past 34 years. Providence may have lucked out in avoiding top seed Villanova after the Wildcats were upset by Seton Hall at the buzzer, but they still managed to get past the Bluejays and college basketball’s likely NPOY. The Friars’ best player, senior guard Bryce Cotton, was a unanimous first team all-Big East selection and he is a handful for any defense. A capable scorer who has increased his distribution skills this year, Cotton is much like North Carolina’s Marcus Paige in that they are both rail-thin, ball-dominating guards that are relied upon heavily from the perimeter. Their battle at that position will be one of the key match-ups in this game, and if Paige can play Cotton even or better, the Tar Heels will be well positioned to advance.

Marcus Paige must be looking forward to his matchup with Bryce Cotton (Photo: Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

The competitor in Marcus Paige must be looking forward to his matchup with Bryce Cotton ( Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

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Rushed Reactions: Providence 65, #14 Creighton 58

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2014

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Brian Otskey attended the Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden.

It Was a Dream Come True For Providence and Ed Cooley (AP)

It Was a Dream Come True For Providence and Ed Cooley (AP)

Three key takeaways.

  1. Dancing Friars. After living on the bubble for much of the season, the Friars left no doubt in clinching the Big East’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Providence won its first Big East Tournament crown since 1994 and will be in the Big Dance for the first time since 2004. It has been a long time coming for an old Big East program with a strong fan base that has been dying for a winner to rally behind. With this team, they have a great bunch of guys to root for. Providence’s late season surge after a mid-season slump has been impressive, with its only losses coming in double-overtime to league regular season champion Villanova and at Creighton on senior night for Doug McDermott and company.
  2. Is the book now out on Creighton? Providence made every Creighton basket a chore with a 2-3 zone that in many ways resembled what Jim Boeheim and Syracuse use. Ed Cooley mixed in some full court pressure at times and that made Creighton use a lot of the shot clock on many possessions. Cooley said he went zone “because I’m crazy,” but it was definitely a smart decision. Providence rotated perfectly in sync and frustrated Creighton all game long with it. Creighton outshot the Friars but Providence was able to get to the free throw line 26 times where the nation’s No. 2 free throw shooting team converted on 23. Offensively, Cooley and Providence made a concerted effort to work the post, specifically when Ethan Wragge was forced to defend Kadeem Batts. When combined with Cotton’s ability to penetrate, Providence was able to generate a number of quality looks around the rim.
  3. Ed Cooley coached a tremendous game. His team was motivated all tournament long and you could tell the confidence of his players was brimming. It felt as if the Providence players played even harder once they realized it was not just a pro-Creighton crowd. Cooley’s defense was physical and his team hit the glass hard, outrebounding the Bluejays by three on the offensive glass. The game plan was clearly to get out on the shooters and get the ball inside when on offense. With a great floor general in Bryce Cotton executing the plan, it worked fantastically for the Friars. Providence also utilized its frontcourt depth, posting up Ethan Wragge all night long, who didn’t stand much of a chance against the bigger and more physical Friars. After the game, Cooley said that was exactly what they planned to do on that end of the floor.

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Rushed Reactions: Providence 79, St. John’s 74

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 13th, 2014

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Brian Otskey will be reporting from the Big East Tournament all week.

Three Key Takeaways.

Providence Advances to the Big East Tourney Semifinals (USA Today)

Providence Advances to the Big East Tourney Semifinals (USA Today)

  1. Providence is alive. St. John’s, not so much. With the win today, Providence lives to see another day. I’m not quite sure that the Friars are in the field of 68 just yet, but they get another opportunity for a win tomorrow night. However, that win would have to come against Seton Hall, a sub-100 RPI team. Now we know the Pirates are not a bad team, but a loss to them would qualify as a “bad” loss on Providence’s NCAA resume. The Friars surely don’t want to lose that one and put themselves in jeopardy with a chance to win their way into the NCAA Tournament. As for St. John’s, it is the unfortunate loser of what was likely an NCAA elimination game. With 12 losses on its resume and not many quality wins to boot, the Red Storm appear to be NIT-bound. Still, it has been a remarkable turnaround for a team that started 0-5 in conference play.
  2. It was important for Providence to show it can win without a strong Bryce Cotton performance. Cotton, the star Friars senior, struggled to the tune of a 1-of-10 shooting night and yet the Friars still held a comfortable advantage for most of the game. Cotton made up for that by getting to the line 13 times (making 10), but it was certainly not a dominant game for him. It was interesting to note that Cotton played “only” 34 minutes, his lowest game total since playing 32 minutes against Vermont on November 18. The good news for Providence? Cotton isn’t likely to shoot this poorly tomorrow night, and as an additional bonus, should be relatively well-rested.
  3. Free throw shooting continues to serve Providence well. The Friars are the No. 2 team in free throw shooting nationally and Carson Desrosiers’ clutch makes at the end of the game sealed this win. For the game, the Friars got to the free throw line 30 times, making 22. When you can get to the line that often (specifically Cotton), great free throw shooting can be a lethal weapon. It quells runs and seals games in the final minute. If Providence does end up in the NCAA Tournament next week, don’t be surprised if it wins a game based on free throw shooting alone.

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Previewing the New Big East Tournament

Posted by George Hershey on March 12th, 2014

The Big East Tournament kicks off tonight and it will be the first year without original members Syracuse and Connecticut. Taking their place are new members Creighton, Xavier, and Butler, which are expected to have plenty of fans making the trip to NYC. Listen to RTC’s Big East Tournament Edition podblast featuring Brian Otskey for a great preview.

Big East Bracket

What to Expect: Villanova and Creighton lead the group as the top two seeds, but the 3-7 seeds are looking to make a run that could secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova could secure a #1 seed if they win, while Creighton also is fighting for a top seed. Xavier, St. John’s, Providence, and Georgetown need some wins this week to strengthen there resume, but with several of the bubble teams playing each other early, their hopes of dancing next week will wither. Fans of the Big East are probably hoping that Villanova and Creighton do not win so that the conference gets another team in the tournament, but it will not be easy for any of those bubble teams. Fox Sports 1 will televise every game with  Gus Johnson, Bill Raftery,and Erin Andrews on site to report all the action, which is sure to bring plenty of excitement and drama after a great regular season.

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Big East M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on March 6th, 2014

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  1. Xavier survived a scare on Monday night when Center Matt Stainbrook went down wailing in pain as his knee buckled. Stainbrook will be out tonight against Villanova, but Chris Mack’s team does not have to play again until next Thursday in the Big East Tournament, giving Stainbrook some time to recover. The team is unsure if he will be ready by then, but Stainbrook is optimistic saying, “I’m feeling a ton better, even small strides from yesterday to today. I’m pedaling the bike saying, ‘There’s no pain today.'” Xavier will probably have trouble without their top interior player and will definitely need him in the NCAA Tournament if they want to advance past their first game. The Musketeers seem to be a lock at this point, giving them some breathing room, and Stainbrook’s injury will allow freshman Jalen Reynolds to slide into his starting spot after playing very well in the past two weeks.
  2. Creighton and Isaiah Zierden were not as lucky as the freshman is out indefinitely. The school sent out a statement saying, “X-rays done today showed no fractures or bone chips in Isaiah’s right knee, but he did suffer a medial collateral ligament injury at the time of his patellar dislocation during Saturday’s game at Xavier. He will undergo an MRI on Monday in Washington, D.C. that will determine if any other possible injuries were suffered and help determine whether or not surgery is needed. He is out indefinitely.” Zierden had started to see more consistent minutes recently and was contributing outside shooting as well as giving a ton of effort defensively. There is still a chance he can come back which would strengthen Greg McDermott’s bench with little rest between tournament games.
  3. Coming into the season, everyone who had seen Doug McDermott play knew he was a rare talent. Even though he had tremendous success up to that point, there were still questions about whether he could continue to put up big numbers in a power conference. Doug has far exceeded what most envisioned him doing this season. He passed the legendary Danny Manning to move into ninth all time for points scored in his career and he has the Bluejays positioned for a run in the NCAA Tournament. McDermott is still humble and taking everything as it comes, telling the Associated Press, “When college is over, I’ll definitely realize how special it was. I’m just living in the moment right now. If I were the national player of the year, that would be really cool, something that has never been in my wildest dreams. Everything is a bonus from here on out.” It is great to see a star not making everything about himself and enjoying his time in college.
  4. McDermott is considered the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award, but Jim Donaldson argues that someone else should win Big East Player of the Year. Donaldson says that Providence senior Bryce Cotton is the most valuable player in the league and possibly the nation. Cotton played incredibly on Tuesday night in a double overtime win against Marquette on his senior night, putting up a line of 25/9/7 in 50 minutes. Fans in Omaha strongly disagree, arguing that McDermott is the easy choice, and most would agree. Donaldson may have an argument because of how many minutes Cotton plays compared to McDermott. After playing 50 on Tuesday, his average rose to 40.2 minutes per game, a truly remarkable stat. He has missed three minutes in 17 conference games including four double overtime games. McDermott “only” averages 33 minutes, but it is pretty easy to see he will win every award he is eligible, including Big East POY.
  5. Markel Starks has had quite the career at Georgetown and he capped it off emphatically on Tuesday night. In his final home game, he led the Hoyas to a much-needed upset of Creighton. Starks and company had to fend off a comeback from the Bluejays after leading by as much as 16, taking each punch and throwing enough back to hold on. Starks finished with 17 points and a career-high 11 assists, making a tough step back jumper to help put Creighton away. The win helped propel the Hoyas NCAA Tournament chances after having little chance. A trip to Philadelphia to play Villanova will give them a big chance to solidify their resume before heading to New York for the Big East Tournament.
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Big East M5: 02.14.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 14th, 2014

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  1. Three Big East players were named as finalists for the Naismith Award on Tuesday. Among the 30 mid-season finalists are Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Providence’s Bryce Cotton, and Villanova’s James Bell. McDermott may very well be the favorite to win the award, but for Cotton and Bell, it is nice to see the seniors get some attention as both have had outstanding years. Cotton has led Providence all season, playing every minute of action since January 5! Bell’s rise at Villanova has been remarkable as he has gone from a solid role player to a go-to scorer and all-around tough player. It is a great honor for all three to be selected as finalists and it certainly appears like McDermott will be taking the prestigious award home in April.
  2. Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats are along with Creighton the class of the league this year, as he told Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated, “I feel very good about this team. Not as much about the record, but about the way we play, the way they respect each other, the way they respect the game. It’s a lot of fun. This is what I want it to be. I want every experience for our guys to be this kind of experience.” He mentioned how he tried to instill a certain style last year, but it took the team too long to pick it up. This year, though, the Wildcats were firing on all cylinders from the start and have become one of the best teams in the nation. Villanova travels to play Creighton on Sunday, which could very well be the game of the year in the Big East.
  3. Kris Dunn was ready to have a great campaign after suffering through an injury during his freshman year, but it was not to be as shoulder surgery forced him out for the season. Dunn received even worse news after the injury occurred when he learned that his biological mother had passed away. He decided to spend the semester break at home with his family, and while he was away there was speculation that he was going to leave the program. Dunn received some better news recently, though, in that his alma mater, New London High School in Connecticut, will be retiring his number. In the article, he says that he is committed to staying at Providence: “I was always going to come back to school no matter what. It was just a tough time for me.” As the Friars make a push towards the NCAA Tournament in the next month, they could really use Dunn, but Bryce Cotton and Josh Fortune will have to continue to log huge and productive minutes at the guard spots.
  4. Creighton has garnered national attention with Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge leading an offensive machine in Omaha, but the past week showed that the Bluejays are not invincible. They visited St. John’s on Sunday and left with a narrow loss but followed that up with a very close win at Butler last night. When the shots are falling, Creighton is nearly impossible to beat (ask Villanova), but when they aren’t, Creighton struggles to put teams away. Austin Chatman told Steven Pivovar: “We can’t go into games thinking we can just play. We have to pay attention to detail, and some of the mistakes we made were because we didn’t have that attention.” The Bluejays now have three days to focus on preparations for Villanova, a huge game if they hope to put last weekend’s loss behind them and move up a bracket line or two in March.
  5. Derrick Wilson has been the subject of a lot of criticism from Marquette fans this year, as it is well-documented that he cannot shoot, does not attack the basket, and stagnates the offense. Paint Touches wrote an interesting recent article about how Wilson can better help the team. Mark Strotman takes a look at one specific play where Wilson breaks the press, sets up the offense, gets the ball to Davante Gardner, and eventually scores in the open lane after Jamil Wilson hit him with a nice pass. Wilson got the ball to the two best offensive players on the floor, letting the defense key on them and leaving plenty of room for him to cut to the rim. He has played better of late, averaging six assists in his past five games, but he has to continue making plays for a team that’s offense has been inefficient for the majority of the year.
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Georgetown’s Revenge Tour Will Make or Break Its Season

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on February 12th, 2014

The up-and-down nature of Georgetown’s season is enough to give people vertigo. Let’s recap. The Hoyas went into Big East play at 8-3 with a good, not great, non-conference resume. A month later, Georgetown would lose five straight conference games, dropping their overall record to 11-9 (3-6 Big East), clearly listing, and headed into a seemingly unwinnable match-up agasinst Big Ten leader and Final Four contender Michigan State. John Thompson III miraculously found a way to beat the Spartans a couple of Saturdays ago, and since then has led the Hoyas to wins in their next three games. Fast forwarding to today, the Hoyas are back to .500 in conference play and hanging around the “Last Four Out” line of the NCAA Tournament according to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi. Their latest win, an 83-72 home victory against Providence on Monday, was the first step in a crucial streak of four games where they’ll need to come away with victories in order to seal a bid on Selection Sunday.

Trawick's Return is Huge for the Hoyas

Trawick’s Return is Huge for the Hoyas

The Hoyas are coming up on a crucial stretch of games which will make or break their season. These games are at St. John’s, at Seton Hall, Xavier and at Marquette. All four teams are middle-of-the pack conference foes and, it’s also probably worth mentioning, these are three of the four same teams that already defeated Georgetown in their January five-game skid. If the Hoyas want to prove to the selection committee that they have indeed turned a corner, they are going to need to win most of these games. The road to redemption began on Monday night in DC when Georgetown’s offense went off on Providence and the defense withstood an outstanding shooting night from Bryce Cotton, who scored 31 points on 14 shots. It was only last month that Georgetown had lost to the Friars for the first time since 2005. A second half run by the Friars marked the beginning of the Hoyas’ skid – which was further compounded by Joshua Smith’s academic issues becoming permanent and Jabril Trawick’s absence for a few games due to a broken jaw. But with Trawick now back and the big win over Providence boosting the Hoyas’ confidence, Georgetown will look to exact revenge at the same time as trying to save their season.

It can’t be overstated just how important these next two weeks are for JTIII’s team. The four rivals are in similar positions and are looking to distinguish themselves from the middle tier in the Big East. Georgetown’s offense has steadily improved throughout the last four games, and they’ve managed fewer than seven turnovers in their last three games. They’ve seemed to finally figure out the offense without Smith and will need to keep this cohesion going throughout this important stretch. Next up:  a surging St. John’s team that was also left for dead in January. The Big East drama is heating up and looks to continue simmering for the remainder of the regular season.

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Otskey’s Observations: Episode X

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on January 29th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball.

Michigan Proving the Doubters Wrong

No team in America had a better month of January than the Michigan Wolverines. Since the calendar flipped to 2014, Michigan has reeled off seven consecutive wins to start Big Ten play and has won nine straight since a two-point home loss to No. 1 Arizona on December 14. Of those seven wins, an astounding four have come on the road in ridiculously tough environments. Seriously, who wins at Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan State in just over a three-week span? Michigan has established itself as a Big Ten contender with a pretty favorable schedule the rest of the way. How have the Wolverines done it? Offense. Believe it or not, Michigan’s 2013-14 adjusted offensive efficiency is greater than the number posted by last year’s Trey Burke-led squad that reached the national championship game. A lot of that can be attributed to the increase in fouls called this season, but it is impressive nonetheless. The Wolverines are shooting the ball fantastically, putting up at least 71 points in all but one of their Big Ten games. Derrick Walton Jr.’s growth has been fun to watch, encapsulated in the and-one that essentially won the game at Michigan State last Saturday. Nik Stauskas’ game speaks for itself and he should be in the running for the National Player of the Year award. Yes, national. (Side note: I love how a guy like Stauskas can back up his trash talk and swag with his game on the court. There are some guys who just run their mouths for the heck of it but Stauskas actually backs it up on the floor. I have no problem with that whatsoever.) Glenn Robinson III has emerged as a steady presence and a fairly reliable scorer behind Stauskas, something that needed to happen for Michigan to take the next step.

Nik Stauskas is leading the way for the red-hot Michigan offense. (USA TODAY Sports)

Nik Stauskas is leading the way for the red-hot Michigan offense. (USA TODAY Sports)

I am a bit concerned about Michigan’s defense which is allowing an adjusted 105.3 points per 100 possessions in Big Ten play, good for eighth in a 12-team league. The Wolverines’ interior defense is not good at all and that’s the place where they miss Mitch McGary the most. That said, all the talk about McGary having such a negative effect on this team was a bunch of hot air from the media who became obsessed with him after last year’s NCAA Tournament. The fact is McGary bogged down Michigan’s offense (without Trey Burke feeding him) in addition to being not 100 percent healthy. We’ve seen the results without him and you cannot tell me Michigan isn’t better. Michigan has been criminally underrated all year long because of the McGary injury combined with a few close losses to very good teams. May I remind you of what I wrote in this very column a week before Christmas. Michigan has always been a factor and it has hit its stride against a strong schedule. The Wolverines are here to stay but really, they never went anywhere. Michigan has been at least top 20 good all year long, now it is a top 10 caliber team.

Do Not Sleep on Louisville

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Three Up, Three Down in the Big East

Posted by George Hershey on January 27th, 2014

Every Big East team played on Saturday. Some had impressive outing, while others fell flat and disappointed. Here we highlight some of the positives and negatives from the weekend’s action with Three Up, Three Down.

Three Up

The Providence Role Players, Including Denton, Are Stepping Up

The Providence Role Players, Including Denton, Are Stepping Up

  1. Providence’s Supporting Cast. Coming into the season the emphasis was placed on senior scoring machine Bryce Cotton. In the non-conference slate, the team fared well but started with a poor 0-2 mark in conference play with a bad home loss to Seton Hall and a blowout defeat to Villanova. In those early losses, players like LaDontae Henton, Kadeem Batts, Tyler Harris and Josh Fortune had rough performances. They turned the ball over too much — 15 from the starters vs. Villanova — played poor defense, and failed to make the key plays that win games. More recently, Providence has been on a roll and these players are the primary reason for the difference. In the Friars’ win on Saturday against Xavier, four starters had at least 10 points with Henton dropping 23, Harris and Batts scoring 12 each, and Fortune hitting a key three as he was fouled to stymie a Xavier run. Carson Desrosiers was also very impressive on the defensive end, with six blocks against the Musketeers. Providence has now won five in a row to move to 5-2 in league play, good for third place in the conference standings. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 01.24.14 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 24th, 2014

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  1. Following his amazing performance against Villanova, Creighton’s Ethan Wragge has become something of a ‘cult hero’ on the national stage. Omaha.com‘s Tom Shatel dove into Wragge’s journey to this point, and things haven’t been very easy for a fifth-year senior who struggled as an underclassman and occasionally considered transferring elsewhere. After averaging between spot duty minutes off the bench for nearly four years, Wragge has finally broken into the starting lineup and is hitting around four three-pointers (and for the most part, only three-pointers) per game at a 50 percent clip. We’ve already touched on the “Lumberjack Day” which will be held in his honor in a few weeks; finding out his full Creighton story makes him that much easier to root for.
  2. With Villanova coming to town this weekend, Marquette can use all the help it can get. Luckily, it sounds like the cavalry may arrive in the form of JaJuan Johnson, who is expected to return from a sprained his ankle he suffered in practice. Playing time won’t be guaranteed for anyone, however, as Buzz Williams expects to cut down his rotation as Marquette makes a push for the postseason. Journal-Sentinel writer Michael Hunt says it will be the veterans who carry the Golden Eagles if they are to go dancing: “If Marquette is to go to the tournament for the sixth time in Williams’ six years, it will largely be up to the four seniors to carry the team, particularly Davante Gardner, who has put together consistently good games since moving into the starting lineup five games ago, and Jamil Wilson, who is starting to get it together on a consistent basis.”
  3. Marquette and Georgetown were expected to be the standard-bearers for the Big East this season, at least until some of the newcomers got their bearings in the new league. However, both of those teams are struggling while Creighton and Xavier sit in two of the three slots in the conference standings. Omaha World-Herald writer Steve Pivovar believes that while his hometown Bluejays are a good story, the Big East needs the recognizable brand-name programs to step up: “Unfortunately, not everyone will have at their fingertips on the mountain of data that the Division I basketball tournament committee members will possess to judge the Big East fairly. That’s where having the league’s two most recognizable names — Georgetown and Marquette — at the top of the standings might help in how the Big East is perceived.”
  4. Many didn’t expect much from Xavier or Providence this season, and it’s not hard to see why on paper. The two teams are built on the backs of transcendent players in Semaj Christon and Bryce Cotton, but it wasn’t always obvious where their depth would come from. Of course, Christon and Cotton have played their parts, with Cotton as one of the conference’s most prolific scorers and Christon leading the way for a team that is only one half-game out of first place. The two teams face off this weekend in an important match-up for the Big East standings, as crazy as that may have sounded back in October.
  5. Xavier head coach Chris Mack has done a great job with the Musketeers this season, and he will now be celebrated as all top sports figures should — with a bobblehead doll. Mack gave Cincinnati.com an incredibly funny interview about the giveaway, which features some self-promotion: Each figure has Mack’s Twitter handle @CoachChrisMack etched into the base.
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