Big East M5: 11.14.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 14th, 2012

  1. The first Naismith Award watch list, comprised of 50 players, was released yesterday. While it is difficult to take a ton of stock in a list that is so long and backed by so little in terms of on-court results, it’s always interesting to see who is highlighted. Seven current Big East players have been chosen for this first watch list.  Louisville has three players included, with guard Peyton Siva, center Gorgui Dieng, and forward Chane Behanan all named. Syracuse point guard Michael Carter Williams, Notre Dame center Jack Cooley, Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick, and Georgetown forward Otto Porter were also included.
  2. Villanova‘s Jay Wright and Purdue’s Matt Painter each look forward to their teams’ upcoming match-up in the 2k Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden, as they believe the two programs are in a similar place early on this season. Jay Wright explains how the two teams, who are generally known for quite different approaches, mirror each other: “We’re similar to Purdue in that we have a lot of young players, and a lot of returning players who are taking on new roles… Right now, we are an inconsistent team, probably like a lot of people are early.” Villanova has started the year 2-0, but wins against the District of Columbia and Marshall aren’t enough to get people excited about Wildcats basketball again. A win over a quality Big Ten opponent surely would be.
  3. Marquette got a big boost from an unlikely source in its 84-63 victory over Colgate Sunday: sophomore Juan Anderson. Anderson has been a bit of a forgotten man in the Golden Eagles program, at least he had been before coming one point and rebound short of a double-double in the game against the Red Raiders. Anderson missed much of last season due to surgery and an NCAA suspension, and he was supposed to miss the beginning of this season again after undergoing another surgery, a fact that makes his performance all the more impressive.  Buzz Williams was impressed with Anderson’s play as well, and indicated that we’d see more of the forward in the future: “His energy level is what helps us… He had energy last year; he just didn’t have purpose to his energy. I think now he better understands how to play with that energy and have purpose in what he’s doing… I’ve been telling him the last few weeks that he needs to put me in a position where I can’t keep him off the floor, and the way he’s going to do that is by doing the things he did today.”
  4. Many basketball pundits are high on Notre Dame due to their experience — the Irish return four players from last season’s starting line-up. The prestigious Rush the Court: Big East Microsite preseason rankings place Notre Dame in at #3 after perennial powers Louisville and Syracuse. For all of the experience that Mike Brey returns, there are lingering questions about the team’s depth. Enter: Garrick Sherman and Cameron Biedscheid. Notre Dame was very sluggish in the first few minutes against Monmouth on Monday, until Sherman and Biedschied entered the game and sparked a 12-0 run. Sherman led the Irish with 22 points, while Biedschied added nine points and five assists. If Notre Dame can count on consistent performances like that off the bench, Brey’s squad may be more dangerous than originally thought.
  5. Many former college basketball players who aren’t lucky enough to carve out careers in the NBA are long-forgotten, but many of these athletes have long, fulfilling careers overseas. DePaul athletics highlighted former Blue Demon stars Will Walker and Krys Faber, a pair who are playing exceptionally well in Bulgaria and Uruguay, respectively.  Walker plays guard for BC Beroe, while Faber has become a 20/20 machine for Atletico Welcome. While both players certainly have NBA aspirations, they’re making the best of their current situations. It is refreshing to see Walker spreading an important message to up and coming athletes: “no matter what, always remember it’s a blessing to be playing professionally. Don’t take any of it for granted because there are hundreds of guys wishing for a spot.”
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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #3 Notre Dame

Posted by mlemaire on November 10th, 2012

Expectations; it’s something that coach Mike Brey and Notre Dame aren’t used to. Last season the Fighting Irish were pegged to finish ninth in the preseason coaches’ poll and they went on to win 13 conference games and make it to the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament. But this season, thanks to the return of nearly every meaningful contributor from last season’s team and the addition of a few precocious freshmen, expectations are high and the Fighting Irish are expected to contend with Louisville, Syracuse, and Cincinnati for the Big East crown. Brey and his squad won’t be able to play the role of underdog anymore, but they won’t have to either as they finally have the talent and the depth to compete with any team in the conference. If they can tighten up their defense, develop more interior depth, and become more efficient offensively, this team will be one of the best in the country. But if they struggle to defend and the offense becomes stagnant, we could be looking at just the latest in a long run of Notre Dame teams to flame out on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

2011-12 Record: 22-12, 13-5

2011-12 Postseason: NCAA Tournament Round of 64, lost to Xavier 67-63.

Things Are Looking Up for Mike Brey, Who Might Have Assembled His Best Team Yet (AP Photo)

Schedule: Last season the Fighting Irish played the 236th-most difficult non-conference schedule and so this season, the program added a few challenges while also keeping most of the creampuffs as well. The biggest match-up will be against No. 3 Kentucky in the SEC/Big East Challenge at the end of November, but St. Joseph’s is their first opponent in the CvC Classic Championship and while they aren’t ranked, they favorite to win the Atlantic 10. And Purdue under Matt Painter won’t be an easy game either.

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Big East M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 9th, 2012

  1. Given how well coach Jay Wright recruits guards, it should never be surprising when one of those guards finds themselves as the odd man out in the rotation and leaves the program. The latest to see the writing on the wall at Villanova is sophomore New Jersey native Tyrone Johnson, who played just nine minutes in the team’s scrimmage against Carleton University last week and is expected to transfer according to a release from the school yesterday. The Wildcats appear ready to hand over the point guard reins to freshman Ryan Arcidiacono and there wasn’t going to be a lot of playing time to go around for Johnson, a Montrose Christian Academy product. Johnson struggled as a freshman in trying to play too fast at times, but he would still have been a nice player to have for depth purposes. This does however give Wright another scholarship to play with next season, when a few big names may be keeping their eyes on the ‘Cats.
  2. For those intimately familiar with Big East basketball, the hallmark of Jamie Dixon-coached teams at Pittsburgh is their defense and toughness. That focus treated the Panthers well as they became one of the conference’s premier programs. But last year, one of the primary reasons Pittsburgh slipped so drastically was because their defense fell all the way to 151st in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. Dixon isn’t about to let that happen again and has emphasized creating turnovers and pressuring the opponents on defense. The Panthers will still run a physical man-to-man scheme, but they may look to be more opportunistic this year as they try to bounce back. If the Panthers can maintain the offensive efficiency they achieved last season and regain even a portion of their defensive prowess, they will be a team to be reckoned with.
  3. Anyone who tuned in to Louisville‘s exhibition game against Bellarmine was treated to some of the ugliest basketball the Cardinals are likely to play all season. The Cardinals looked ragged, abysmal shooting the ball, and tired, which may have actually been the case since apparently coach Rick Pitino put them through a rigorous practice session earlier in the day. The Cardinals did a lot of shooting, ran zero set plays, and basically looked terrible against a team coached by former assistant Scott Davenport. The moral of this is that Rick Pitino is probably heartless inasmuch as he is also a master motivator. His team has enormous expectations surrounding them this season, and this may have been an opportunity for Pitino to show his team that they are not immortal. What else can you say? There is a reason why the guy is considered a legend in the sport.
  4. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has made a reputation off turning less-talented teams into winners but this season will be a departure from that familiar storyline as Brey is finally blessed with not just talent but also depth. Two four-star freshmen, Cameron Biedscheid and Zach Auguste, are major reasons why. The duo left high school as consensus Top 100 players in the country and play will play significant minutes this season as Brey and the Fighting Irish try to avoid a letdown after last season. Neither of the freshmen will be expected to start right away, although Biedscheid has the type of offensive versatility that is hard to keep off the floor, but they give Brey a luxury he isn’t used to having — depth.
  5. On the eve of the start of the season, Johnette Howard at ESPN gives the Big East a send-off of sorts with this lengthy piece that assesses the state of upheaval the conference now finds itself in. It spends a little bit of time explaining how Rick Pitino‘s recent tiff with Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim serves as a perfect example of the sort of potent cocktail the Big East has become, especially this season. Let’s just say that I am excited for the season to get started.
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Big East Summer Capsules: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Posted by mlemaire on August 7th, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Notre Dame.

1. You win some and you lose some… eligibility petition that is.

It was a tumultuous May for Notre Dame fans and head coach Mike Brey emotionally. The beginning of the month brought the somewhat expected  bad news in that that star forward Tim Abromaitis‘ petition for a sixth year of eligibility had been denied despite his sterling academic record and unfortunate injury history. It had always been a long shot but if Abromaitis had been able to return, the Fighting Irish could have been a contender for next season’s conference crown. A little more than a week later the news was better as forward Scott Martin‘s petition for a sixth year of eligibility was granted by the NCAA, giving the program’s fan base the shot in the arm they were looking for. Now, Martin is assuredly not the same player as Abromaitis, but he did post 9.5 PPG and 5.7 RPG last year while offering positional versatility, smart decision-making, and veteran leadership. It would have been wonderful for the program to get both players back, but they should be more than content to even get one guy back from what seemed like an unlikely possibility. Martin is a consummate glue guy and will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in Notre Dame’s success next season.

2. It certainly doesn’t seem like Mike Brey is going anywhere any time soon.

Mike Brey’s Coaching Prowess Paid Off To The Tune Of A New, 10-year Contract (AP Photo/J. Raymond)

With still three years left on his contract extension, Notre Dame didn’t bother waiting to show Brey exactly how much they appreciated his run at the helm of the program, giving him a new, 10-year contract that will run through June 2022. Brey has made a name for himself in the Big East by taking the program to eight NCAA Tournaments despite slightly lesser talent than some of his peers. Brey is a three-time conference coach of the year and he is best known for his methodical offensive approach that often allows Notre Dame to stay in close games even when they are athletically over-matched. There is no question that Brey deserves the contract and the Fighting Irish are doing the right thing by showing Brey they are committed to him as their basketball coach, because he is one of the best in the business and the university isn’t and never will be a basketball school. At the same time, a lot can happen between now and 2022.

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Big East Morning Five: 03.02.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 2nd, 2012

  1. This evening figures to be an unusual one emotionally for injured senior star Tim Abromaitis once senior night festivities commence prior to Notre Dame’s contest with Providence.  Abromaitis has been forced to watch for the majority of this season due to an ACL tear he suffered in November, and is trying to make peace with the fact that his career at Notre Dame may very well be over. The thing that will keep Abromaitis in a state of emotional flux is the battle between the finality of senior night and the faint glimmer of hope that he may be granted a rare sixth year of eligibility and play for the Irish again next year.  As for tonight, Abromaitis will suit up for show but will not play in any fashion, including warm-ups. To Abromaitis’ credit he is keeping things in perspective and holds no delusions of grandeur when it comes to playing again.  “I’ve kind of looked at it both ways – there’s a chance I’m coming back, so do what I need to do to keep that door open,” Abromaitis told the Chicago Tribune. “But at the same time, I am pretty rational about knowing that it very well could be the last time out there and could be a little emotional for me. I’m just trying to take it in stride and be glad for the opportunities I have had.”
  2. Villanova has not enjoyed tremendous success on the court this season but they could be receiving some good news about their future very soon as top Class of 2013 recruit Allerik Freeman narrowed his choices to Villanova and Kansas according to his Olympic (NC) High School coach Ty Baumgardner.  Freeman, a 6’4” guard who is ranked 13th nationally by and 24th by had been pursued by the likes of Georgetown, Arizona, Kansas State, North Carolina State, Ohio State, and others. Freeman has visited both Villanova and Kansas unofficially, meaning he paid his way, and could decide before taking any official visits.
  3. In keeping with the high school scene, rosters for the All-American Championship were announced yesterday.  The event, which started last year, is an all-star showcase that features four teams who will play a doubleheader on April 1 in New Orleans’ Lakefront Arena.  ESPN3 will carry the games live beginning at 3 PM EST and ESPNU will replay at 9 PM EST. Two highly sought-after Big East 2012 recruits, Nerlens Noel and Chris Obekpa, will be playing in the game.  Noel recently trimmed his list but Syracuse, Georgetown and Connecticut still appear to be in the running.  Obekpa’s list includes Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, St. John’s, Providence and West Virginia. Highly touted high school juniors and brothers, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, will be there as well.  Both are being recruited by Villanova while Andrew also holds an offer from Georgetown. There are also a number of committed Big East players who will appear: Omar Calhoun (Connecticut), Ricardo Ledo (Providence), Dajuan Coleman (Syracuse), Jerami Grant (Syracuse), D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown) and Cameron Biedscheid (Notre Dame).
  4. Perhaps Connecticut fans will be treated to a Willis Reed-like event, but it is not looking like head coach Jim Calhoun will make his return to the sideline on Saturday as hoped when the Huskies take on Pittsburgh.  Calhoun is reported to be feeling better after surgery on Monday to alleviate pain and discomfort caused by a spine-thinning condition called spinal stenosis as well as a “large disk fragment” that was found when doctors went in, but was not able to attend practice on Thursday.  Should Calhoun not be ready for Connecticut’s practice this afternoon it renders his chances of coaching on Saturday to virtually nil.  The Huskies (17-13, 7-10 Big East) somewhat remarkably remain in contention for an at-large NCAA berth despite their well-documented struggles. A loss on Saturday would certainly figure to firmly put them on the outside looking in, even in the minds of the pundits.
  5. The Naismith Men’s Basketball Player of the Year is obviously a huge honor and just to be considered is certainly something to be proud of.  To that end, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced its somewhat oddly named ‘Midseason 30’, which is a a list of the 30 finalists for the award.  Four Big East players made the cut: Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom, West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, and two from Syracuse in Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters. The Naismith recipient will be announced and awarded during the Final Four, which we presume implies that the second “half” of the season will be played in the next four weeks.
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