Big East Recruiting Superlatives

Posted by mlemaire on May 23rd, 2013

Sometimes it is OK to choose an arbitrary date in the college basketball recruiting process and take stock of things, using our Big East goggles of course. That said, this date really isn’t all that arbitrary. Most of the top basketball recruits in the Class of 2013 signed National Letters of Intent last week . Rather than break down and rank the Big East recruiting classes from top to bottom — which the guys at recruiting sites do much better than we would anyway — we figured to have some fun and bring you back to high school for some good old-fashioned superlatives. Again, we recognize the Big East is breaking up, but we are still looking back rather than forward.

He Didn't Have To Look Far, But Buzz Williams Reeled In Perhaps His Best Recruiting Class Ever (AP)

He Didn’t Have To Look Far, But Buzz Williams Reeled In Perhaps His Best Recruiting Class Ever (AP)

Most Likely To Earn Praise For His Recruiting Prowess: Buzz Williams, Marquette

In the always useless world of recruiting rankings, most experts have recruiting classes at Louisville and Syracuse ranked ahead of Marquette’s class, but that shouldn’t keep Williams from receiving the praise he is due. Williams hangs his hat on his program’s ability to develop talent, not in recruiting superstars, but this class could easily be his most ballyhooed yet. Of course it helps Williams look good when much of the talent is in the same city as the school, but he still had to beat out a number of high-major programs for those kids. Duane Wilson is a local point guard with size who may earn the first crack at replacing Junior Cadougan and fellow local product Deonte Burton is a physical and athletic wing who will rebound and defend. The third local product by way of junior college in Iowa is 6’8″ forward Jameel McKay who has everyone excited about his athleticism, rebounding, and motor. The real prize for the Golden Eagles is slashing guard JaJuan Johnson who Williams and his staff plucked out of Memphis’ backyard despite an offer from the Tigers. Everyone in the Southeast recruited the attacking guard who may be asked to step in immediately and replace some of Vander Blue’s now-missing production.

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Big East M5: 04.02.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on April 2nd, 2013

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  1. Georgetown fans received some measure of consolation after a disappointing Second Round upset when the AP named Otto Porter a first-team All-American yesterday. Tying Trey Burke for the most first-team votes received, Porter became the first Hoya to claim the honor since Allen Iverson did so in 1996, and was the sixth first-team All-American in program history. (Patrick Ewing earned the distinction in three difference seasons, so Porter’s appearance is actually the eighthin Georgetown history.) Joining the Big East’s Player of the Year with AP team honors was Louisville’s Russ Smith (third team), while teammates Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva, Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley captured honorable mentions.
  2. Shortly before going into surgery to repair the compound leg fracture he’d suffered against Duke on Sunday, Louisville guard Kevin Ware borrowed a nurse’s cell phone to contact his mother, knowing “she’d be freaking out.” Six hundred miles away in suburban Atlanta, Lisa Junior was just as much in the dark regarding her son’s status as anyone watching the CBS broadcast: “He didn’t even say hello. He just said, ‘Mom, I need you to calm down.’ He knew I’d be a mess. Once I heard his voice, I was better.” Ware was walking with the aid of crutches yesterday after surgeons successfully stabilized his broken tibia with a metal rod and closed the ghastly wound where it had broken skin. He will reportedly travel to Atlanta with the Cardinals this week and sit on the bench for the Final Four match-up with Wichita State.
  3. USF has inked a home-and-home deal with Detroit, to begin in Tampa in 2013-14. Detroit’s visit to the Sun Dome will feature three returning rising senior starters, including star Ray McCallum Jr. (18.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.5 APG this season). But the return trip to Detroit in 2014-15 will be a homecoming for native sons head coach Stan Heath and incoming guard Byron Ziegler, while freshman JaVontae Hawkins will be playing an hour down the road from his hometown of Flint. It will also probably be a rebuilding year for the Titans, giving Heath a golden opportunity to recruit the area and sell the idea of a non-conference series close to home to Detroit prospects.
  4. Tulsa is slated to announce in a late-morning press conference that it will join the New Old Zombie Big East in all sports. The impending additions of Tulsa and ECU reflect an emphasis on football stature in Mike Aresco’s new lineup, but Rob Dauster points out that Golden Hurricane basketball isn’t a complete disaster, and says “[coach Danny] Manning has the team going in the right direction, despite a depleted roster from transfers.” After winning 17 games in 2011-12, Manning held serve at around .500 in his first year as head coach, going 17-16 before losing to Wright State in the CBI.
  5. Just to salt the wounds from last weekend’s loss, Carmelo Anthony subjected Marquette fans to further indignity yesterday when he shamed Golden Eagles alum and fellow Knick Steve Novak on Instagram yesterday. Novak was apparently on the losing end of a bet on the Elite Eight game between their alma maters, and well, he made good on his wager in this shot:
steve novak carmelo

Carmelo’s Orange got the best of Steve’s Golden Eagles

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Appraising the 75th Anniversary NCAA Tournament Lists From a Big East Perspective

Posted by Will Tucker on January 17th, 2013

We’ve been meaning to devote the proper attention to the lists of top players, teams and moments in NCAA Tournament history released by the NCAA last month to commemorate 75 years of March Madness. Reader Sean Revell sent us a very compelling infographic of his creation (pictured below), which distills the unceremoniously dry, sterile data tables of the NCAA press release into an engaging visual timeline.

The NCAA's lists, in more visual terms, courtesy of Sean Revell

The NCAA’s lists, in more visual terms, courtesy of Sean Revell

The image serves as a good springboard for some analysis of the lists from a Big East perspective. The league’s current members acquitted themselves well in the list of individual performances, accounting for more players (14) in the Top 75 than any other league save the ACC, which placed 16 former stars on the list. But only three Big East teams were deemed worthy of the list of Top 25 tournament teams, placing the league in the middle of the pack below the Pac-12 and ACC, with six teams apiece. Obviously, it’s impossible to please everyone with a list like this, and revisionism and presentism are unavoidable in an era where March Madness is more culturally visible and digitally accessible than ever before. But it’s worth some attempt at measured scrutiny, so here are a few thoughts on which Big East players and teams should have made the cut:

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Big East M5: 01.17.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 17th, 2013

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  1. Many college basketball players will rack up on-court accomplishments for four years and never even sniff the opportunity of getting their jersey retired. But when you are Carmelo Anthony, all it takes is one season and a national championship apparently. Anthony will have his jersey retired by Syracuse in February and the No. 15 of the one of the most celebrated one-and-done players in history will hang alongside Dave Bing, Derrick Coleman, and Sherman Douglas. Of course it doesn’t matter how much time he spent in school, ‘Melo obviously deserves this honor. The Baltimore native finished in the top-10 nationally in both points and rebounds and led the program to its only national championship. He, like Kevin Durant, was one of the few true NBA superstars to even play in college, and unlike Durant, he helped his school win a championship on his way to stardom. It is definitely a bit weird to see a player who basically used Syracuse as a stepping stone for one season getting his jersey retired, but if ever there was a one-and-done player who deserved to be honored this way, it’s ‘Melo.
  2. Yesterday morning we told you that Georgetown’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, Greg Whittington, would miss his second game for a violation of team rules. Then, before last night’s game against Providence, it became apparent that Whittington violated the “don’t fail school” rule and his suspension will be indefinite in length. Whittington’s academic ineligibility didn’t matter last night as the Hoyas jumped out to a huge lead on the Friars and held on for a nine-point win and it seems unlikely he will miss the remainder of conference play. But this is a team with plenty of well-documented scoring issues that is fighting to stay in the top half of the conference standings, and without Whittington that will be difficult. Jabril Trawick is a nice player, but not nearly as productive as Whittington, and Aaron Bowen is at least athletic, but he is a long way from being the player that Whittington is. The Hoyas have an important game this weekend against South Florida, because dates with Notre Dame and Louisville loom after that, and the Hoyas will need every win they can get.
  3. Villanova may have learned some valuable lessons from their loss to Syracuse last weekend but it didn’t show last night as the Wildcats took a slim lead into the half for the second-straight game and then gave it all back in the second half to let Pittsburgh escape with a crucial road win. The game was close for most of the second half as well but with less than six minutes to play, the Panthers clamped down on defense and held ‘Nova to zero points over the last five minutes and 13 seconds of the game while they poured in 15 of their own during that stretch to seal the victory. I will buy the argument that the Wildcats proved they have what it takes to hang with good teams in the conference, but only for a half. The Wildcats have made a habit of watching their halftime leads disappear (they did it in losses to LaSalle and Temple earlier in the season) and while some of that can be attributed to a young roster without a lot of lethal scorers, some of the blame should fall at the feet of Jay Wright, who is seemingly getting out-adjusted at halftime by every coach the Wildcats play. When Villanova was dominant, they had a roster that knew how to close out close games and keep the intensity high, this team seems to inevitably fold every time their opponents start to force the issue in the second half. If they want to return to their spot atop the conference, they will need to improve on that greatly.
  4. The heart-and-soul of Cincinnati will be okay as senior guard Cashmere Wright is only day-to-day after he only sprained his knee at the end of a close win over DePaul. This is hugely important news for the Bearcats because while injuries happen to every team, Wright has been the most consistent and best player on the floor for coach Mick Cronin all season long, and I shudder to think what Cincinnati’s offense would look like without their second-leading scorer, playmaker, and floor general. The Bearcats are off until Saturday when they square off with a hot Marquette team and then play at Syracuse two days later and having Wright in the lineup for both those games will be crucial if the Bearcats want to assert their position at the top of the conference standings. It might be worth a look later in the season but I think the argument can be made that Wright is the most important player in the conference to his team.
  5. Our friend Rob Dauster (#DausterForUSC) raises an excellent issue after watching Notre Dame inexplicably fall to a St. John’s team that had just been blown out by Georgetown — why was All-America candidate Jack Cooley on the bench in the closing minutes of the loss? Dauster correctly points out that Cooley had struggled mightily in the game and that the Johnnies were playing with a smaller lineup, but there can’t be too many good reasons why senior scrub Tom Knight was on the floor while he much more talented and experienced teammate watched.  The key moment came when Knight had what appeared to be an easy put-in blocked by D’Angelo Harrison and the Red Storm were able to seal the win. There is of course no way of telling whether Cooley would have fared any better in that situation, but at least if it was Cooley who had his shot-blocked then there is no need for second-guessing, you can know that you put your best player in a position to tie the game and for whatever reason he didn’t come through. But because he wasn’t in the game, fans and pundits are left to ask why Brey kept him on the bench.
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Big East M5: 01.03.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 3rd, 2013

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  1. With Syracuse’s 78-53 takedown of Rutgers at the Carrier Dome last night, Jim Boeheim took sole ownership of second place on the Division I all-time wins list with 903 victories, passing Bob Knight. These first few months of the season have been eventful for Boeheim, whose ascent up this list has been the focus of tremendous media attention and occasional scrutiny this season. In weighing in on Boeheim’s ranking among the greatest coaches of all-time, Rob Dauster notes the affect that a single Keith Smart jumper has had on Boeheim’s perception. If that shot doesn’t fall, Boeheim is two wins ahead of Knight, has the same number of national titles (two) as the man who many consider the greatest game coach of all-time, and many writers have a lot less material come March.
  2. USF and UCF have played twice this season, splitting two contests that foreshadow what may develop into a nice rivalry for whatever the future of the Big East holds. Tampa Bay Online‘s Joey Johnston argues that the rivalry between the two schools could become a staple for the new look Big East, or whichever conference the two schools find themselves attached to in the future. Johnston believes that the natural rivalry and the high number of television sets in the I-4 corridor makes the two schools very attractive. Let the lobbying begin.
  3. Buzz Williams48-hour suspension from the Marquette basketball team has now ended, and the fiery coach will rejoin the team in preparation for Georgetown. Williams’ suspension stemmed from assistant coach Scott Monarch giving apparel and rides to a Golden Eagles recruit. Monarch, a close friend of Williams, was summarily fired. Williams was not found to have had any knowledge of the violations, but he took the school-sanctioned leave as the program is ultimately his responsibility. Marquette defeated UConn in overtime during Williams’ absence from the team.
  4. Pittsburgh‘s two losses to Michigan and Cincinnati had a very similar feel to them, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Ray Fittipaldo outlines three major factors that hurt the Panthers in both games: a lack of rebounding in the second half, especially from the center position; struggles against talented, aggressive guards on the perimeter; and, opposing teams limiting the Panthers’ transition game.  If Pitt can’t solve these issues soon, the team will have major struggles in league play. Syracuse has a strong interior presence, Louisville has excellent high-energy guard play, and Georgetown will absolutely look to control the game’s tempo, just to name three teams who will look to take advantage of these weaknesses.
  5. Syracuse.com‘s Mike Waters was asked about his all-time Big East team in his weekly mailbag. This is a fun exercise that I’m sure will come up on many sites and blogs this year, especially around Big East Tournament time. Waters weighs in on a number of Big East greats before settling on a strong starting five consisting of Sherman Douglas, Ray Allen, Chris Mullin, Derrick Coleman, and Patrick Ewing.  When a conference could have a second team of Allen Iverson, Kerry Kittles, Carmelo Anthony, Donyell Marshall, and Alonzo Mourning, you know that they’ve been doing something right for a very long time.
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Big East M5: 10.23.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 23rd, 2012

  1. While the Orange basketball season is still a few weeks away, Central New York basketball fans got a bit of a treat at the Carrier Dome last night. Syracuse hosted an NBA preseason tilt between the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers featuring former Orange legend Carmelo Anthony. The Sixers won the game 98-90, although Anthony played well, scoring 23 points and tallying six rebounds, five assists, and four steals in the game. Perhaps more notably, this weekend was Carmelo’s first chance to get a full tour of the Syracuse building which bears his name – the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center. Anthony, who donated $3 million towards the construction of the top-flight training facility, was a bit awestruck by the experience, according to Syracuse.com‘s Mike Waters:

    “I was there yesterday. That was the first time I had a chance to get around and walk through the whole facility. I watched the team practice. I actually got a work-out in over there. I was kind of surreal for me to walk around and see my name plastered around the building and the outside of the building. [...] I was … I don’t know what word to use. It was shocking to me just to see that. I called my family and sent them pictures of it. [...] It was one of those moments that I’ll never forget.’’

  2. Sporting News’ Matt Crossman wrote an excellent piece this week on Louisville center Gorgui Dieng. While it is easy for many to get caught up in the life that comes with being an elite level college athlete, especially one who has received numerous preseason accolades after last 2011-12’s Final Four run, Dieng has managed to stay exceptionally humble. Crossman discusses Dieng’s move from Senegal and his adjustment to life in America, both socially and on the court, as well as his strength as a student. More than anything, Dieng’s refreshing view on life shines through:“People forget the basics. Now, it’s all about money. It’s all about what you got,” Dieng says. “They forget happiness. There is nothing better than a smile. Nothing.”
  3. Big East basketball has a reputation for being more physical than most other leagues, and Rutgers feels as though it has struggled in the past because of this. Enter strength coach Mike Johansen, who made it his goal to improve the Scarlet Knights’ strength numbers across the board. It seems as though he’s succeeded.  According to this Daily Record report, the team’s average squat is up 73 pounds, its average clean has increased by 30 pounds, and its average bench is up 40 pounds. Time will tell if this will have a major impact for Rutgers on the court, but at the very least they should be more physically prepared for the rigors of a full Big East slate.
  4. In other New Jersey basketball news, Seton Hall has been bitten by the injury bug early this year. Point guard Aaron Cosby will be missing four to six weeks with a PCL strain. Luckily for Cosby and the Pirates, the injury does not appear to be too serious and will not require surgery. The vacant point guard job is now left up to sophomore Freddie Wilson, who played sparingly last year, and freshman Tom Mayaan, who is coming off of a torn ACL.
  5. When it comes to the use of dog logos in the state of Connecticut, UConn wants to be sure that you won’t confuse them with The Morgan School, a Clinton, Connecticut, high school with an enrollment of 558 students: “A letter from James D. Aronowitz, associate general counsel for the Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Company, which represents UConn, politely asked Clinton educators to stop using the logo. The letter said use of the similar dog could interfere with UConn’s ability to “effectively market and license” the use of the logo.” To be fair, the schools’ logos are quite similar, and The Morgan School seems to be handling the situation amicably, but let it be known — if you are a high school in New England (or even as far as Montana, as the article states) that uses the ‘husky’ as a mascot you should probably consider a switch before UConn finds you.  For maximum internet appeal, I suggest becoming the ‘Corgis’.
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Re-Drafting the NBA Draft: Top 10 Players From Recent Years

Posted by EJacoby on June 25th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft takes place this Thursday, June 28 in Newark, and now that the NBA Finals has come to an early conclusion (just five games), New Jersey becomes the center of the basketball universe. No other professional sports amateur draft can have as much immediate impact as the NBA’s, witnessed by Oklahoma City’s rise to prominence with a core consisting of four first-round picks from the previous five years. While we await Thursday’s selections, the words ‘upside’ and ‘potential’ run rampant, as teams are selecting from a pool filled with unrefined prospects. Lottery picks (top 14 selections) are mainly underclassmen who scouts hope evolve into long term superstars, and that’s why the draft presents so many early busts and late sleepers that evaluators miss out on. The NBA Draft is more art than science, and that is no more evident than when you look back at many of the selections made in previous drafts.

After slipping on draft night, Tony Parker has led the Spurs to multiple championships (AP Photo)

Today we take a look at four recent NBA Drafts to give you a clear idea of how difficult it is to nail the top picks. We wanted to choose mostly older drafts whose players’ careers have longer sample sizes to evaluate, but also included a more recent draft since the implementation of the current ‘one-and-done’ rule that disallows high school players from the pool. Here are our revised top 10 picks from 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2006, with each player’s original selection in parentheses. Who ended up becoming the best players from drafts of the 2000s, and where were they selected?

2001

  1. Tony Parker (28, San Antonio)
  2. Pau Gasol (3, Memphis)
  3. Joe Johnson (10, Boston)
  4. Zach Randolph (19, Portland)
  5. Gilbert Arenas (31, Golden State)
  6. Gerald Wallace (25, Sacramento)
  7. Jason Richardson (5, Golden State)
  8. Tyson Chandler (2, LA Clippers)
  9. Shane Battier (6, Memphis)
  10. Richard Jefferson (13, Houston)

A fairly strong draft, 2001 is also scarred by the fact that #1 overall pick Kwame Brown was an enormous bust. Brown, selected first by Michael Jordan out of high school, is a great example of why it’s risky to draft young, unproven bigs. But that was also during the era when high school players were eligible for the draft, which is no longer the case today. Even though the current ‘one-and-done’ rule makes it difficult to assess young prospects, at least we get a full season to watch players compete at the highest level. The 2001 draft was full of quality sleepers late in the draft, highlighted by the three-time All-Star, Arenas, and three-time NBA champion and four-time All-Star, Parker, both falling past pick #27. Parker likely fell because he was such a young, foreign player; yet Gasol was a similar prospect who scouts nailed with the #3 overall selection. The 2001 draft proves how difficult it is to differentiate players of varying positions, ages, and levels of play.

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Big East Morning Five: 02.17.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 17th, 2012

    1. Super swatter Nerlens Noel, the #1 high school prospect in the class of 2012, spoke about his recruitment yesterday in a radio interview with Jeff Goodman on SiriusXM’s Inside College Basketball.  While it is anticipated Noel will sign during the April signing period, he stressed that he is not going to rush his decision. “I don’t really have a timeframe,” Noel told Goodman. “I just want to make sure I get in all my visits to these schools. However long that takes.” As far as what he is looking for in a school Noel said,”“Just a good program where I can go and play and be comfortable with the coaching staff, the whole program,” Noel said. “I know I can develop as long as I’m there, as a player and a person.” The interview led to a brief bit of controversy with regard to Noel’s list. On February 1 when Noel announced his intent to reclassify to the class of 2012, he released a list of seven finalists: Syracuse, Connecticut, Providence, Kentucky, Florida, Georgetown, and North Carolina. Yesterday on Goodman’s show Noel named only six, omitting Providence. The shockwaves created in the Ocean State almost caused the pineapple overlooking Providence’s Federal Hill to crumble to the ground. Noel, who will visit Kentucky this weekend, later confirmed via Twitter that he is still considering the Friars.
    2. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is getting in on the “Linsanity” and says those who think his former player, currently injured Knick star Carmelo Anthony, and Jeremy Lin, perhaps you have heard of him, will not be able to coexist when Anthony returns should Melo-out. Boeheim appeared on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and summed it up this way, “For somebody to assert that Carmelo Anthony can’t play with somebody it’s the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever heard.” Boeheim went on to say he experienced Anthony as a team player citing their 2003 National Championship run. In an interview with Stephan A. Smith on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” Anthony also made strong comments in response to the allegations he is a selfish player, “That’s like a slap in the face. None of my teammates I’ve ever played with would say that I was a selfish player. Nobody.”
    3. Perhaps lost in the ‘Nerlensanity’ is Chris Obekpa, another highly regarded class of 2012 big man being who is being courted by a number of Big East suitors. Obekpa is a 6’8” center who attends New York’s Our Savior New American and has Big East scholarship offers from Connecticut, Cincinnati, DePaul, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, and West Virginia. Like Nerlens Noel, Obekpa is best known for his shot blocking ability and defensive prowess. Obekpa’s stock has risen mightily by virtue of a great summer on the AAU circuit as well as some dominating prep performances this season. He is ranked nationally by both ESPN (50) and Rivals.com (105). Obekpa will reportedly take an unofficial visit to Connecticut this weekend and has already visited Georgia Tech, Providence, Seton Hall, and St. John’s.
    4. ESPN’s latest power rankings were released yesterday so let’s take a look at how the Big East is trending. Syracuse remains firmly entrenched in the #2 hole as they continue to firm up a one seed in the NCAA tournament. Georgetown’s close loss did not hurt their positioning, and justifiably so, as the Hoyas remained at #9. There are few coaches doing a better job than Marquette’s Buzz Williams who has his Golden Eagles, winners of nine of their last ten, getting primed for post-season play. That momentum is reflected in the power rankings as Marquette jumped up four spots to #11. Louisville has shaken off a bit of a mid-season funk and is back in the thick of it as the Cardinals surged eight spots to #15. Notre Dame is probably the story of the year in the Big East and speaking of coaches doing a great job, say hey Mike Brey. Winners of seven in a row, the Fighting Irish vaulted five notches to #20.
    5. It was approaching midnight on Thursday.  A Morning 5 hung in the balance.  Four items were complete.  The fifth proved elusive. Then it happened.  Thank you @CardChronicle for tweeting this great Louisville Courier-Journal story by C.L. Brown about Cardinals freshman Wayne Blackshear’s encouraging and discouraging path to Louisville. The discouraging part is well-documented as Blackshear was not able to appear in a game for Louisville until last weekend due to a series of setbacks. He was named a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school in Chicago but was not able to play in the game due to a left-shoulder injury. As he was recovering from the resulting surgery, Blackshear also waited for the NCAA Clearinghouse to approve his academic qualification. Shortly after he received clearance both academically and physically he tore the labrum in his right shoulder which was the injury that ultimately held him out for the better part of this season. The encouraging part of Blackshear’s story his mother’s influence in keeping him focused and grounded. “I’d always tell him, ‘You didn’t do nothing, that was nothing. I’ll tell you when you do something,’” she told the Courier-Journal. “I just didn’t ever want him to think he arrived, because he’s got a long way to go.” Yes he does but he clearly has a good guide.
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Who’s Got Next? Noel Re-Classifies to 2012, Jefferson Close To Deciding And More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on February 2nd, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Nerlens Noel Re-classifies To Class of 2012

Nerlens Noel Is Now One Of the Top Seniors In the Country. (Daryl Paunil/NRS)

Elite Junior Will Graduate A Year Early. There’s been ongoing speculation for a long time that center Nerlens Noel might re-classify from the Class of 2013 to the Class of 2012, but he didn’t gave much of an indication that he was going to. However, late Wednesday night the best shot-blocker in the prep ranks in the country confirmed that he was indeed going to graduate a year early and move to the Class of 2012. What does that mean? Well, other than getting to see him in college a year early, it means that he will have to decide which school he’s going to commit to in the next couple of months. Syracuse and Kentucky have long been the favorites for Noel and while a couple sources have told RTC that they think he will pick the Orange, it’s going to be a close race between the two. Other than John Calipari and Jim Boeheim‘s squads, Noel is considering multiple other schools and has already visited Providence and Connecticut while he plans on visiting Syracuse (February 11), Kentucky, Florida, Georgetown and North Carolina soon. He doesn’t have a timetable for committing but keep in mind that the regular signing period is April 13-May 18. We will be interviewing Noel some time in the next several days so if you’re interested in his recruitment, make sure you check back next week to see what he has to say about the schools on his list.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior star Rodney Purvis on why he’s happy he made the Jordan Brand Classic: “Being from the same city and with John [Wall] being like my big brother, I wanted to do all the things he did. I didn’t tell a lot of people, but I really, really wanted to play in the Jordan Brand Classic. Like a whole lot.”
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Big East Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 15th, 2011

  1. A short-handed Cincinnati took to the floor last night for the first time since Saturday’s brawl-marred contest against rival Xavier. Despite being without Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, Octavius Ellis, and Ge’Lawn Guyn, the Bearcats (6-3) had no trouble dispensing of Wright State (4-7) on the road 78-58. In another bit of good news, Cincinnati learned prior to the game that no legal action would be taken in response to the brawl and ESPN’s Andy Katz caught up with Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin to get a follow-up assessment. Cronin mentioned in the player apology press conference on Monday that those suspended would have to earn their way back into the line-up once their stated penalties were completed. Cronin elaborated that there are specific steps that need to be completed before getting back on the floor. In addition to the initial apology, the players will have to complete community service followed by another apology. All four players also took part in an anger management session on Wednesday.
  2. Mike Waters of The Post-Standard had a good piece on the resurgence of sophomore Syracuse center Fab Melo.  Melo came to upstate New York with expectations bigger than even his seven-foot frame could live up to and he summarily disappointed, averaging just 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. While those numbers were clearly not good, it was the 9.9 minutes per game that stood out the most. Talent was not the issue for Melo, it was fitness. He lost 30 pounds in the offseason and it, along with more realistic expectations perhaps, has made all the difference. “He wasn’t able to run up and down the court last year,” coach Jim Boeheim said, “so it was hard to keep him out there.” Now that Melo is not fighting fatigue from the start of the game he can focus on the job at hand. While his numbers this season are not glitzy (6.7 PPG 5.1 RPG 2.6 BPG), he is shooting 51.8% from the floor and his minutes are up to 22.3 per game for the ultra-deep Orange. More importantly a more active Melo is an ideal basket protector in the back of that famed Syracuse zone. He has more blocks in ten games this season (26) than he had all last year (25). “Now I’m not afraid to make mistakes anymore” said Melo. “I just go there and I play basketball. Last year, I was afraid to make mistakes. I went on the court with my mind blocked. I couldn’t do anything.” Weight down. Confidence up. A disheartening combination for Syracuse opponents.
  3. Speaking of Syracuse, hopes are high for the #1 Orange causing some, namely Carmelo Anthony, to speak about just how far this team can go. Of course, Anthony knows a thing or two about this subject, taking the Orange to a national championship in 2003, defeating Kansas 81-78 in the final, in his one-and-done freshman year at Syracuse.  (The other?) Melo told Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com he thinks the sky is the limit, “I think they can win it all,” Anthony said. “I’m biased, you might not agree with that. They have the talent, they have the team.”  Well, he is biased, and he should be. It’s his school and the Orange have national tile potential. Zagoria noted that Anthony texted Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine when he heard the news about the Orange’s #1 ranking this week.  Talk about a little ego stroke! Anthony also noted that it did not seem the team was distracted by the Bernie Fine scandal, which may be its toughest opponent to date despite playing teams like Stanford and Florida.
  4. Another great comeback story this year is that of Seton Hall forward Herb Pope. Just for Pope to be back healthy and at full strength after suffering a potentially life-threatening heart ailment two off-seasons ago would have been a story, add in what Pope has accomplished so far and the big guy flat out commands attention. As SI.com’s Luke Winn noted, the health issues not only impacted Pope physically, but took their toll mentally leading him to take part in therapy. It has clearly been a long hard road back, but back Pope is, and back big time.  He leads the Big East in scoring at 21.8 points per game to go with 11.3 rebounds and has been a fixture on the weekly Big East awards so far this year. Pope has been recognized in each of the four weeks of honors so far this year, taking home Player of the Week honors once and receiving Honor Roll accolades the other three. Pope has inserted himself on the short list of bona fide Big East Player of the Year candidates and most importantly has led the Pirates to an 8-1 start. Next up for Pope and the Hall is a home date with Mercer on Sunday.
  5. In its quest to add Navy as a football only member, The Big East received a vote of confidence from Navy’s Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk on Wednesday when he remarked, “Everyone in Navy’s chain of command is comfortable [with the Big East] and the direction it’s going”. When the move occurs appears to be more a matter of logistics than anything else. Of course, television contracts stand at the forefront. Navy has various agreements that run through the 2018 season and is working with the Big East to sort through it all. This does not mean Navy will need to wait until 2019 to move. It is likely more a function of Navy being able to honor the agreements, while being able to incorporate a Big East schedule. There was initial speculation that Navy and Air Force would make themselves a package deal to the Big East provided they felt there was overall conference stability. Air Force subsequently recommitted to the Mountain West, but Gladchuk indicated that has no bearing on Navy’s future plans and that he felt stability has been restored with the recent additions of Boise State, Houston, Central Florida, Southern Methodist and San Diego State.
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Who’s Got Next? Stokes Denied Appeal, Pronouncing Muhammad’s Name is an Issue…

Posted by Josh Paunil on November 23rd, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Jarnell Stokes Still Ineligible For His Senior Season

Jarnell Stokes Is Ineligible For His Senior Basketball Season. (Wildcat Blue Nation)

Top-20 Recruit Left Searching For Other Options. The TSSAA Board of Control, the body of people responsible for deciding whether Class of 2012 power forward Jarnell Stokes can play basketball his senior season, announced Monday that they denied his appeal to the August ruling that said he cannot play in the 2011-12 season. Stokes was initially ruled ineligible by Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association executive director Bernard Childress after transferring from Central High School (TN) to Southwind High School (TN). Stokes has lived in the same address for the past nine years in the Southwind district but was able to attend Central on an academic exemption as a freshman. However, Stokes’ academic record over the last three years doesn’t meet any of the ten TSSAA guidelines that would have allowed him to transfer and become eligible at Southwind this season. Despite the setback, Stokes and his family still have several other options. One option, something that Stokes’ father says is a possibility, is that Stokes can graduate early and enroll in college in January (keep in mind though that he is still uncommitted). Another option he has is to return back to Central, but his father says that almost certainly won’t happen. Stokes is a good enough player though that, even if he doesn’t player basketball this year, the likes of Arkansas, Memphis and Kentucky will still recruit him and his recruitment should be unaffected.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior standout Ricardo Ledo on who Providence is going after: “We’re trying to get [Class of 2012 power forward] Chris Obekpa, we’re trying to get [Class of 2013 center] Nerlens Noel, we’re going hard at him. We’re trying to get [Class of 2012 small forward] JaKarr Sampson.”

Ricardo Ledo Says Providence Is Going After Chris Obekpa, Nerlens Noel And JaKarr Sampson.

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20 Questions: Can a Team of Freshmen Win a National Championship?

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 8th, 2011

Brian Joyce is an SEC microsite staffer and occasional contributor.

Question: Can a Team of Freshmen Win a National Championship?

It’s an easy question, so I have a simple answer. Yes, of course, a team of mostly one-and-done players can win the national title. That’s the beauty of college basketball, and more specifically the “lose and you’re out” nature of March Madness. Any team can win it all, as VCU and Butler proved this past year by advancing to the Final Four.

The question has been answered already on a number of occasions. Several teams with a nucleus of freshmen players have taken their teams to Final Fours and even come awfully close to winning a National Championship. The infamous Fab Five of the 1991-92  Michigan Wolverines were arguably the greatest recruiting class ever assembled. Despite their youth at a time when juniors and seniors dominated the college basketball landscape, the Fab Five overpowered opponents all the way to the national title game. It was there that Michigan met one of the best college basketball teams ever in the Duke Blue Devils, and simply didn’t have the focus and ability to play their level of basketball.

The Fab Five Were Arguably the Best Freshman Class Ever (AP)

A similar scenario occurred years later as the 2006-07 Ohio State Buckeyes put together a tremendous freshmen class led by Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr., that took the Buckeyes all the way to the final game. Ohio State ran into a team on a mission for its second consecutive title, as the young Buckeyes couldn’t handle Joakim Noah, Al Horford and the rest of the Florida Gators.

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