Morning Five: 04.30.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 30th, 2014

morning5

  1. USC transfer Byron Wesley has reportedly cut his list to Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, and Oklahoma State. As we mentioned last week, Wesley’s departure is a huge blow for Andy Enfield and he could become a significant addition to one of these three teams. Last season Wesley averaged 17.8 points (shooting 46.7% FG) and 6.3 rebounds per game. He will visit the three schools in the next few weeks before making his decision.
  2. Donnie Tyndall might not be able to keep Cuonzo Martin’s recruits, but he is making progress in terms of scheduling.Yesterday, Tennessee and Butler announced that they had agree to home-and-home series. Butler will travel to Knoxville this December and Tennessee will travel to Hinkle Fieldhouse in 2015. Obviously this had been in the works from well before Tyndall’s hiring, but was probably contingent on the approval of Tyndall (or whoever the new coach) was.
  3. Southern Mississippi is one of the few remaining coaching openings, but it appears that they might be closing in on their target as they offered Stephen F. Austin coach Brad Underwood their head coaching position. Underwood just completed his first year at Stephen F. Austin, but led the team to a 32-3 record including 18-0 in the Southland Conference and a NCAA Tournament win over VCU. With Donnie Tyndall having left for Tennessee fairly recently this would appear to be an outstanding hire for Southern Miss if Underwood accepts.
  4. With no new numbers to crunch one might expect Ken Pomeroy to not have much to do in the off-season. Of course, he has time to work on his algorithm, but he also has time to look back at the past such as with his review of  2002. Using his previously collected data, Pomeroy points out some key things that many people have forgotten like how ridiculously good that Duke team was that lost in the Sweet 16. If he is going to continue with this for other years, it could be one of the more interesting things to follow this off-season.
  5. On Tuesday, PJ Hairston signed with an agent. Although the articles that we have seen do not go into detail about Hairston’s agent we do not see any connection for this agent to Fats Hayden, who as you may remember was involved in the fiasco that led to Hairston losing his NCAA eligibility. Despite Hairston’s turbulent final year at North Carolina (or in and out of) he is still projected to be a mid- to late-first round pick although with his absence from the scene for nearly a year now we assume that his workouts will have a bigger effect on his draft stock than they otherwise would.
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Otskey’s Observations: Wednesday at the Big East Tournament

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

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

While the makeup of the Big East has changed, much was the same on day one of the 2014 edition of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The crowd at the Garden was certainly not sold out but it exceeded expectations for what seemed, on paper at least, like a lackluster doubleheader featuring Seton Hall, Butler, Georgetown and DePaul. In fact, attendance was similar, if not better, than the Tuesday and Wednesday rounds in Big East tournaments past. The opening rounds have never drawn well so a decent crowd on hand Wednesday night has to be a positive sign going forward for the re-configured conference. The real test will come during Thursday’s quarterfinals with four games involving the league’s better teams.

Butler's Stay at the Big East Tourney Was Short and Sweet (C. Michael)

Butler’s Stay at the Big East Tourney Was Short and Sweet (C. Michael)

In game one, Seton Hall survived Butler in a match-up of two hard-luck teams. The Pirates had lost seven games either by one point or in overtime this year but finally put a one point game in the win column, holding by the count of 51-50. Butler had lost five games by either two points or in overtime entering tonight. Seton Hall looked to be in command as it built a 13-point lead with under ten minutes to play but the Bulldogs whittled the deficit to one with only 47 seconds to play but neither team scored again, resulting in the final margin. Seton Hall did a great job taking Kellen Dunham out of the game, especially when you consider Dunham went off for 29 points when these teams met in Indianapolis just four days ago. Dunham and Alex Barlow combined to shoot 3-of-21 from the floor but senior Khyle Marshall picked up the slack, pouring in a highly efficient 22 points. The Pirates came out strong on the defensive end and it carried them to victory. The Hall isn’t a bad team when it plays hard, but getting this team to bring it every night has seemed to be head coach Kevin Willard’s major problem in his four years with the program. With nothing to lose, Seton Hall may be a tougher than expected challenge for top-seeded Villanova tomorrow afternoon, although the Wildcats should end up prevailing.

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Among Possible Cinderellas, Green Bay’s Ceiling Higher Than Most

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 1st, 2014

Oakland’s Greg Kampe screamed and scolded and tried everything he could to stop Green Bay’s second half surge on Thursday night, but it was ultimately futile—the Phoenix was just too talented, too relentless, too good for the Grizzlies to handle for 40 minutes. In fact, with a dynamic point guard and an NBA-caliber center leading the charge, Brian Wardle’s club might end up being the Horizon League’s most serious NCAA Tournament threat since the great Butler teams of yesteryear. And not just a one-off threat, either. If it can take care of business in the conference tournament, this bunch has legitimate second weekend potential in the Big Dance.

Keifer Sykes and the Phoenix are capable of doing damage in the Dance. (USAT)

Keifer Sykes and the Phoenix are capable of doing damage in the Dance. (USAT)

For one thing, Green Bay has the bodies and athleticism to hold its own against a lot of high-major behemoths. Alec Brown—the aforementioned future pro—is a 7’1’’ big man who can be as effective on the perimeter as he is on the low block. Which is to say, all around really effective. Against Oakland, Brown shot 4-for-7 from the behind the arc, including a quick-release transition three, and improved his mark to nearly 47 percent on the year. He’s even more lethal in the paint (shooting well above 50 percent), and is anything but a one-way player: Brown’s block rate is good for 32nd in the country and he’s already broken his own school record for blocked shots in a season three different times. And while the senior might serve to improve on his rebounding, Jordan Fouse and Greg Mays are more than equipped to fill any void that exists on the glass. The pair of athletic forwards are fine compliments to Brown, adept at cleaning up misses and throwing down jams. Fouse, for example, racked up nine rebounds (four offensive) and shot 6-for-6 from the field against the Grizzlies, including a thunderous alley-oop dunk to accentuate the Phoenix’s 11-0 run out of the halftime break. The frontcourt’s size and athleticism is uncharacteristic for a program of Green Bay’s stature, fully capable of giving an unwitting or under-prepared high-major opponent all kinds of fits in a few weeks.

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Where Are They Now: Catching Up With Cinderellas of Years Past

Posted by Nicholas Patrick on February 26th, 2014

We find ourselves on the verge of annual basketball bliss. Over the next several weeks, the action will crescendo as we progress through the regular season sprint to the finish, with the conference tournaments on tap first followed by the NCAA Tournament. Much of the beauty of the Big Dance is that it doesn’t simply build to a single championship round. In essence, every round, from the opening games in Dayton to the title tilt in Arlington, will be a championship round for some teams, a golden chance to exceed their fans’ wildest expectations and make school history. The question every March isn’t if any teams will assume the Cinderella role, but which teams will. In some cases, teams are able to build on their NCAA success for the long term, especially if they return most of their key contributors or catch the eye of a bigger-fish conference. In other cases, Cinderella’s coach may receive a promotion of his own, moving up in prestige and pay scale, and leading to a rebuilding project for his former team.

Butler is the Cinderella Benchmark (AP/N. Wass)

Butler is the Cinderella Benchmark (AP/N. Wass)

Let’s catch up with a few of the O26 Cinderella teams from recent tourneys:

2011

  • Morehead State. As a #13 seed, the Eagles sent shock waves through the Bluegrass State by defeating Louisville before losing to Richmond in the round of 32. That team, led by rebounding machine Kenneth Faried, won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament after a third place regular season finish. Since then, Morehead State has taken two steps back before moving forward. The following season without Faried, the Eagles finished 10-6 in conference play. In 2012-13, after head coach Sean Woods (from Mississippi Valley State) replaced Donnie Tyndall (who left for Southern Mississippi), the Eagles slipped to 8-8 in the OVC. They now appear to be on the way back this season, approaching 20 wins and contending with Belmont and Murray State for an OVC title.
  • Richmond. As a #12 seed, the Spiders defeated Vanderbilt and Morehead State before losing badly to Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen. Chris Mooney was rewarded with his first NCAA Tournament wins (and second appearance) in his sixth season at the school, after showing steady improvement throughout his tenure. That team, led by seniors Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper, won the Atlantic 10 Tournament after finishing in third place during the regular season. Richmond had to regroup after losing its stars, finishing 7-9 and 8-8 in conference play in subsequent seasons. But this season, led by a balanced attack that includes Cedric Lindsay (who was a freshman on that Cinderella team), the Spiders are on their way to 20 wins, in a tight race for second place in the Atlantic 10, and find themselves squarely on the bubble heading into the final two weeks (they are included on 32 of 95 brackets, according to Bracket Matrix, as of Tuesday evening).

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Two Weeks Remaining: Assessing Big East Regular Season Title Contenders

Posted by Todd Keryc on February 21st, 2014

The latest NCAA Tournament bracket projections put somewhere in the neighborhood of four to six Big East teams in the Big Dance. Xavier is on the inside looking out for the moment, with help from a big non-conference win over Cincinnati. Providence, St. John’s and Georgetown are all hovering on the bubble, their respective fates certain to be determined over the season’s final few weeks. Creighton and Villanova are the only total locks, each heading for top four seeds and possible protected first-week locations barring a late collapse.

For both Doug McDermott and James Bell, much is still up for grabs for Creighton and Villanova.

For both Doug McDermott and James Bell, much is still up for grabs for Creighton and Villanova.

While many eyes are focused solely on the Big East bubble (which will ultimately make or break the realigned conference’s debut) the regular season champion remains very much in doubt. It’s all but certain that either Creighton or Villanova will claim it, but they are about to begin a two-week sprint to the finish. Sure, teams are remembered for what they do in the NCAA Tournament but a banner will be hung somewhere for winning the Big East regular season, so let’s assess which team has the advantage down the stretch. In the preseason poll, the pair were picked to finish third and fourth, respectively — yet they have dominated this maiden Big East season. Villanova is 11-2 in conference play, with both losses coming against Creighton. The Bluejays are 12-2, with only a pair of road losses, as well as the clear conference (and likely national) Player of the Year, Doug McDermott, and that pair of dominant performances against Villanova.

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College Basketball by the Tweets: Bayloring, Brad Stevens & “Tyler Ennis” Unis for Sale

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on February 18th, 2014

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Big/Fat Heads are all the rage in college basketball student sections these days. Personally, I believe that deviating from mainstream, easy-to-identify faces with more obscure mugs deserve bonus points. A tip of the cap, Seminole fans:

Brad Stevens is Probably a Great Person

By all accounts, The former Butler head coach is an incredible individual. Here he is visiting former player Andrew Smith after he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Yes, that means Stevens made an impromptu trip from Boston to Indy last week to check in on a friend.

Bayloring

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Big East M5: 02.18.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 18th, 2014

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  1. Butler freshman Rene Castro has decided to transfer from the program after being suspended twice and failing to see much time on the court. His roommate on the road, senior Erik Fromm, told Zak Keefer, “It didn’t have anything to do with who he was. Sometimes, things just don’t work out. Rene’s future is bright, and it’s not a bad thing that it’s not with Butler.” Castro was seen as someone who could come in and eventually take the starting spot from Alex Barlow, but it never materialized as he failed to see the court in 13 games this season. This will hurt going forward as Brandon Miller loses depth at the point guard position heading into the last few weeks of the regular season and the Big East Tournament.
  2. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi published his latest NCAA Tournament projectionsand he has five Big East teams in the field. Villanova and Creighton currently sit as #3 seeds, while Xavier, a #10 seed, Providence, a #11 seed, and St. John’s, a #12 seed, are fighting for space on the positive side of the bubble. Georgetown is his first team out, while Marquette was his seventh team out. After losing its first five league games, St. John’s has experienced quite the turnaround to get to 7-6 in Big East play and are surprisingly now considered in the field. The reality is that the league is likely to get five of its 10 teams into the NCAA Tournament this season, a very good number in its first year of existence.
  3. DePaul has had another tough season and some are calling for head coach Oliver Purnell’s dismissal at the end of it. David Webber of the DePaulia argues that with Cleveland Melvin’s recent departure, it is time for a change. Webber is not happy with athletic director Jean Lenti-Ponsetto’s results in her 12th year in Chicago, as the program has gone from a respectable Conference USA team into a Big East laughingstock. Her two hires, Jerry Wainwright and Oliver Purnell, have failed to improve the program, and Purnell only has eight conference wins in four seasons. A new arena and a coach who is familiar with and can recruit the Chicago area will help invigorate a proud but hurting program.
  4.  St. John’s is rising and earning some attention from the press as it fights for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament. Zach Braziller of the New York Post takes a look at the Red Storm’s “big three” of D’Angelo Harrison, JaKarr Sampson and Rysheed Jordan. Harrison has been clutch the past month, shooting well from the outside and not forcing the action. Jordan struggled early but he has helped Harrison and Sampson play better in recent weeks. Braziller sums up Sampson’s recent play nicely, writing, “He’s developed into a more efficient offensive player. He’s thinking less and reacting more. Even more impressive has been his defense, previously considered a weakness in his game.” Sampson is athletic, but at times hasn’t played smart and forced the action all too often. Who knows what is in store next for this red-hot team.
  5. Doug McDermott is becoming quite the college basketball legend. With two more amazing performances last week, he passed Larry Bird for 13th place on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list. Instead of writing about his play on the court, Omaha.com‘s Tom Shatel followed McDermott around after the game. McDermott signed countless autographs and smiled for pictures with strangers and some old friends. McDermott said, “How do I want to be remembered? I want to be remembered as someone who treated people well. A good guy.” For a player with so many accolades already received and many more to come, it is great to see him focused on being a good person and a role model for young people. The one thing he needs, though, is a deep run in March. Luckily, his team is in great position to do just that to top off his remarkable four-year career.
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What’s Trending: Tyler #ENNIONS, Dick Vitale Pop Art, Holly Rowe, and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on February 14th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Raw emotion meets raw weather, as Dick Vitale was caught puttering through a North Carolina blizzard only to find out the Duke vs. North Carolina game would be postponed due to the winter storm. We have applied a bit of an Andy Warhol Pop Art feel to it, while some feel like the original would be perfect album art for an upcoming indie rock band’s latest LP.

Dick Vitale snow picture

Tyler #ENNIONS Ennis Keeps Syracuse Undefeated

It will challenge for Game of the Year, capped off by a strong nominee for Play of the Year. Tyler Ennis, the savvy Orange point guard, has been huge in close games for his team all season long. You’ve seen the buzzer-beater, now check out the reaction from his giddy head coach and others around the web.

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Creighton’s Supporting Cast Appears Up to the Task

Posted by Walker Carey on February 14th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday night’s game between Creighton and Butler in Indianapolis.

When Creighton basketball has been mentioned over the past several seasons, Doug McDermott has rightfully been the primary focus of conversation regarding the Blue Jays. As a senior this season, McDermott has emerged as the heavy favorite for every national player of the year award. He is averaging over 25 points per game along with seven rebounds per contest for a 20-4 Creighton squad that is right in the thick of things in the race for the Big East crown. If the Blue Jays win the Big East and if they make noise in the NCAA Tournament will have a lot to do with the supreme talent of Doug McDermott; however, the team’s success has not and will not be only because of McDermott’s heroics. Creighton not only has arguably the best player in college basketball, but it also has a very capable supporting cast of role players that has been very essential to the team’s success.

McDermott is the Show, but Creighton is More Than Their Star (Getty Images).

McDermott is the Show, but Creighton is More Than Their Star (Getty Images).

The most heralded member of Creighton’s supporting cast this season has been senior forward Ethan Wragge. After spending his first three seasons of eligibility in a reserve role for the Blue Jays, Wragge has stepped up his production with his entry into the starting lineup. His scoring average has gone from 7.7 points per game as a junior to 11.6 points per game as a senior. Wragge also grabbed plenty of national attention after he exploded for 27 points on nine made three-pointers in Creighton’s blowout victory at Villanova on January 20. The program has recognized the senior’s contributions and honored its bearded sharpshooter with Lumberjack Night at the CenturyLink Center when it hosted DePaul on February 7.

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Three Thoughts as Xavier Dominated Butler Last Night

Posted by WCarey on February 12th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Tuesday night’s game between Xavier and Butler in Indianapolis.

Xavier began February quite ominously with a home loss to Seton Hall and a 23-point defeat at Villanova. Coupling those two losses with a loss at Providence to end January, the Musketeers went from a team that was projected as a lock for the NCAA Tournament to a team on the bubble. Riding a three-game losing streak, Xavier was able to get back on the winning track last Saturday with a hotly contested home victory over Providence. With games at Butler and at Marquette next on its schedule, Chris Mack’s team was presented with a great opportunity to score two more Big East road wins and help improve its overall NCAA Tournament résumé in the process. The Musketeers passed the first test on Tuesday night with a thoroughly dominating 64-50 win over Butler in Indianapolis. The following are three thoughts from last evening’s action.

Xavier Got the Sweep of Butler Last Night

Xavier Got the Sweep of Butler Last Night, as the New Big East Programs Move in Opposite Directions

  1. Xavier’s Defensive Effort Was Impressive. In the Musketeers’ victory over Providence on Saturday, they held the Friars to just 53 total points and a 37.5 percent shooting mark from the field. That defensive intensity carried over to Tuesday, as Butler was held to just 50 points on the evening. The half-century mark scored by Butler was significantly below its season average of 70.9 points per game and represented the team’s lowest scoring output of the season. Xavier’s strong field goal percentage defense was on display once again, as Butler was held to just 34 percent shooting on the evening. Musketeers’ junior guard Dee Davis was tasked with the role of guarding leading scorer Kellen Dunham and he completed it with great success, as Dunham finished the evening with just two points on 1-of-10 shooting. Xavier’s interior defense was also suffocating given the fact that Butler’s starting frontline of Khyle Marshall, Kameron Woods and Andrew Chrabascz finished the evening a combined 5-of-17 from the floor. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 01.27.14 Edition

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 27th, 2014

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  1. Things aren’t going well for Georgetown as demonstrated by this sad fan which may be the funniest college basketball meme of the season. The Hoyas have lost five of six games to fall to 11-8 on the season and are on the outside looking in with respect to the NCAA Tournament. That stretch began with Joshua Smith’s first missed game (and he’ll miss the rest of the season), and Jabril Trawick only played in the first loss to Providence. Those two certainly have their flaws, but they’re significantly better than the other players who remain in John Thompson III’s frontcourt. It appears that it will be a long 2014 for the Hoyas and Sad Scott is only going to get sadder over the next two months.
  2. Creighton is fully embracing Ethan Wragge‘s status as a three-point shootin’ lumberjack. More importantly, Wragge has also adopted the persona as depicted in an excellent Omaha.com profile about the nation’s best shooter. Wragge revealed in the article that at one time he considered transferring from Creighton, but thankfully for Bluejays’ and college basketball fans everywhere, he stuck around. Wragge currently leads the nation in effective field goal percentage at 73.4 percent and true shooting percentage at 74.1 percent, and his 50 percent three-point stroke makes him a key part of the top offense in college hoops this season.
  3. Xavier coach Chris Mack thought he had escaped LaDontae Henton when the Providence wing picked the Big East’s Friars over the Atlantic 10’s Dayton during his recruitment. Then the Musketeers joined the Big East and Mack was stuck facing Henton, who had 23 points in the Friars’ win on Saturday, anyway. Henton’s improvement is one of the primary reasons why Providence has been able to weather a storm of player injuries and suspensions to be in a position to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.
  4. Butler‘s Big East struggles culminated over the weekend with a 17-point home loss to St. John’s. The Bulldogs, a team that had already dropped six of seven conference games heading into the Saturday match-up, may have finally hit rock bottom according to IndyStar.com writer Zak Keefer. With three road games in a row coming up next, Butler is likely to find itself looking up at DePaul in the league standings for the rest of the season. This could turn out to be the first year that the Blue Demons don’t finish last in Big East play since 2008.
  5. Are things already going sour for Steve Lavin at St. John’s? The Red Storm only have one NCAA Tournament appearance in four years under the head coach and they likely aren’t headed to the Big Dance once again this year. The pressure may be on Lavin after a recent report suggested his relationship with the school is going south. He’s already denied the report, of course, but Lavin needs to start winning with the tremendous amount of talent he keeps bringing into this Big East staple.
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Big East M5: 01.20.14 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 20th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Georgetown was once considered a favorite in the Big East, but these days they are just trying to hang on to their NCAA Tournament hopes. The Hoyas have dropped  two straight — 80-67 to Xavier and 67-57 to Seton Hall — and are really struggling to score. Long offensive droughts have doomed the Hoyas in the last two games, and outside of starting guards D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks, there aren’t many options available. Josh Smith and Jabril Trawick have been out for the last few games each, and Mikael Hopkins has been held to two points in three of his last five games. With Marquette on the schedule tonight, the Washington D.C. scorekeeper may not see a lot of action.
  2. Speaking of struggling Big East programs, Butler‘s inaugural Big East campaign has not started the way that Bulldogs’ faithful would have hoped with the team losing its first five Big East games. On Saturday night, however, Butler stopped the bleeding in its fourth overtime contest in six games, pulling out its first Big East win over Marquette, 67-59. Golden Eagles head coach Buzz Williams credits Butler’s culture for the program’s recent success, and says that getting back to “The Butler Way” is a path towards renewed success:

    “Maybe the reason Butler went to back-to-back Final Fours is because of the culture and who was a part of that culture, how they embraced that culture… You can’t jump to a conclusion and say, ‘We’re on Fox Sports every day, we’re sold out every game and yadda-yadda-yadda,’ and get away from how you built it. When you get away from how you built it, that’s when teams typically take a dive. You’ve got to make sure you continue to recruit guys who believe in what coach [Brandon] Miller believes, what Barry Collier is about.”

  3. Bryce Cotton continues to play all-conference caliber basketball for Providence, and his latest victim was Creighton. Cotton scored 23 points and doled out six assists to lead the Friars past the Bluejays on Saturday. Greg McDermott gave Cotton a lot of praise after the guard knocked off his team: “This is by far the lowest possession game we’ve played all year, and Cotton did a great job of controlling the tempo of that game. He’s got the ball in his hands all the time, and it’s difficult to get it out of his hands… He creates a lot of opportunities for his teammates, and he obviously made a lot of big plays tonight.”
  4. St. John’s winless Big East record has to be one of the shockers of the season, and the Red Storm had to be relieved to see Dartmouth pop up on the schedule to break up their conference slate. The Big Green held on in the first half of this colorful match-up, but the stifling Johnnies’ defense led them to a comfortable 69-55 win. Head coach Steve Lavin was relieved by the team’s effort: “The only way we’re going to solve the challenges we’re facing is looking within individually and collectively as a group and trying to support each other through a tough time. Eventually, you make your breaks by sticking to it.”
  5. In the midst of all of the struggling Big East programs, Villanova continues to shine. One of the only missing pieces for the Wildcats is a true post presence, but center Daniel Ochefu has strung together a few strong games in a row and may be poised to add that last element to Jay Wright’s already strong assembly of talents. Against DePaul, he scored 14 points while shooting 6-of-6 from the field, grabbed six rebounds, blocked three shots, and even dished out four assists. If Ochefu continues to get better, the Big East rich may just get richer.
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