Three Thoughts as Notre Dame Dominated Cincinnati

Posted by WCarey on February 24th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Sunday afternoon’s game between Cincinnati and Notre Dame. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey

Entering Sunday’s game, both Cincinnati and Notre Dame had a lot to play for in-terms of the Big East standings. The Bearcats sat at an even 7-7 in league play, but that record was a bit misleading as all but one of those conference losses was by single digits. Mick Cronin’s squad had been limited offensively since senior point guard Cashmere Wright suffered a knee injury last month and has yet to fully recover. The Irish came into the game following a win at Pittsburgh in what was one of the more peculiar games of the season. After falling behind 19-3 while shooting just 1-of-19 from the field, Notre Dame recovered to notch an important 51-42 road victory to bring its conference record to 9-5. Following the win over the Panthers, the Irish were beneficiaries of five very important off days as the team had just finished a stretch where it had played three games and six overtime periods in just nine days. Notre Dame looked like a rested team Sunday when the Irish were able to thoroughly stymie the Cincinnati offense en route to a 62-41 victory. The following are three thoughts from Sunday afternoon’s action:

  1. Cincinnati Is Not Playing Good Basketball Right Now. The Bearcats entered Sunday’s game as losers of four of their last five and that losing trend continued in embarrassing fashion against the Irish. On Sunday, the Bearcats were pretty much dominated from the opening tip and struggled to get anything going offensively as they managed to score just 41 points (only 15 in the first half) and shoot just 31.5% from the field. A lot of the Bearcats’ offensive issues can be traced to the health of Cashmere Wright, who is still struggling with a knee issue. In 23 minutes Sunday, Wright was held scoreless and only attempted two shots. Another area that give Cincinnati trouble Sunday was rebounding. The Bearcats were out-rebounded 43-27 and that advantage undoubtedly aided the Irish in transition. With five losses in six games, Cincinnati is looking further away from being a lock for an NCAA Tournament bid. If the Bearcats do not improve offensively and on the rebounding glass, they could be a team that is mentioned frequently in the bubble discussion.
  2. Notre Dame’s Defense and Rebounding Have Been Excellent Over The Past Two Games. The Irish held Pittsburgh to just 42 points on 34.8% shooting in Monday’s victory. Mike Brey’s squad also out-rebounded the Panthers by a 36-22 margin. After giving up 78 points to DePaul and 71 points to Providence in the two games prior, it was reasonable to see Monday’s performance as a bit of a fluke. The Irish were out to prove Sunday that Monday’s performance was not a stroke of luck and they succeeded by playing suffocating defense and crashing the glass with great vigor all afternoon. The 41 points scored by Cincinnati on Sunday were the fewest Notre Dame has ever given up in a Big East game. With two strong defensive and rebounding efforts under their belts, the Irish should start to be viewed as one of the premier defensive teams in the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 02.15.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 15th, 2013

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  1. As expected, more details have emerged in the Jim Boeheim-Andy Katz “feud”, which came to a head last night when Boeheim called Katz an idiot and refused to answer his questions at the presser that followed Syracuse’s loss at Connecticut.  What was originally assumed by many to be an issue with Katz sharing some information about James Southerland’s academic issues now seems to be more about last year’s Bernie Fine fiasco.  Let’s hear from Boeheim: “It’s really simple. I went to New York last year to play in the (NIT Pre-Season Tip-Off) Tournament in November and he (Katz) asked if he could interview me about the tournament. And I said, ‘Yeah, but I can’t talk about the (Bernie Fine) investigation.’ We got in the room and he put me on camera — there were several witnesses there — and he asked me what I’d told him I couldn’t answer. I kept telling him, ‘I can’t answer that.’ And he asked me, like, 10 times on camera. He never took the camera off me. Two or three people in the room were so disgusted they walked out of the room. The producer came over and apologized afterward. And I told Katz right then and there, ‘Don’t talk to me. Do not try to talk to me again.'” Katz issued a response following the Syracuse.com article: “There was no deal. I don’t cut deals. He might have thought there was a deal, but I have never, ever made a deal… The reason I did that is because with guys like Jim Boeheim, John Calipari, Jim Calhoun they’ll, say there’s a certain subject they don’t want to talk about and then they’ll talk about it. If I asked it one too many times, fine, criticize me. I was just trying to see if he’d answer the question.”
  2. On the brighter side for Syracuse fans… err, maybe not so much after Wednesday night in Hartford… Michael Carter-Williams continues to grab headlines for his play.  Mike DeCourcy of  Sporting News went into depth with MCW about his high-risk, high-reward play this season, and how his scant playing time last season has helped in his maturation process.  Carter-Williams, like Dion Waiters before him, is a fiery competitor, and is has gotten the best of him in games before, including one instance last season when he snapped at Jim Boeheim after being taken out of a game: “Definitely, there were a couple of times when it got the better of me and I lashed out at Coach. Those were mistakes I made. Coach told me if I wasn’t yelling at him, he wouldn’t know what to expect from me. I was a McDonald’s All-American and I wasn’t playing … he knew I wanted to be out there.”  Carter-Williams’ play has been up and down this Big East season, but few deny his talent, and the fact that if Syracuse has a chance at making a final four run this season, it will be in large part due to MCW’s play.
  3.  College basketball is wide open this season, and the Big East is no different. It seems like half of the league is still in contention for the conference crown, and no one knows what will happen once the Big East tournament kicks off at Madison Square Garden. UConn was never supposed to be in the discussion this season.  After being handed a full post-season ban due to APR issues, and losing a number of talented players from their NCAA tournament team last season, UConn was largely an afterthought in the league.  However, with the win over Syracuse, the Huskies sit just a game out of first place in the conference, and the team may be especially dangerous, as a regular season Big East title is all that they can play for this year.
  4. Cincinnati’s offensive woes have been well-documented, especially since Cashmere Wright’s injury in January.  Sean Kilpatrick has been a one man show for the Bearcats, and that hasn’t been a winning formula.  In their recent win over Villanova, Cincinnati was able to find offense from another sourceJaQuon Parker.  Parker averages 10.9 points per game for Cincy, but had been in a bit of a scoring drought before breaking out with 19 points against the Wildcats.  The significance of his contribution was not lost on Mick Cronin: “He’s got to stay aggressive and I’ve got to help him with that. Put him in situations to where he can be aggressive and he’s thinking offense.  He’s thinking attack. For us to win, he’s got to play that way. For us to be a high-level team, he’s got to be a double-figure guy.”
  5. The ballad of Todd Mayo at Marquette has hit frequent rough notes, but he is a rare talent that could become a major asset for Buzz Williams’ squad if kept in check.  Mayo spent the early part of this season on academic suspension, and he has had his playing time cut at points since his return for what many expect is disciplinary reasons.  When Mayo does suit up, he is a dangerous offensive weapon, averaging over 17.5 points per 40 minutes played.  The trouble is, for every double digit game he tallies, he only plays five minutes in another.  There are rumblings that Mayo may not be long for Marquette, but while he is still on the team, they can certainly use him in their race for the top of the Big East.
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Big East M5: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 11th, 2013

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  1. So, Mike Brey might be a bit prescient. Before Notre Dame’s epic five-overtime win over Louisville this weekend, the Irish coach showed his team film from great boxing matches as motivation, and made comments comparing the upcoming game to a 15-round bout. Brey may have intended his analogy to allude to Louisville’s frantic, fast-paced style of play that often wears out opponents, but as fate would have it, the game played out in a much more literal fashion. I expect that Brey will discuss first-round knockouts before this Wednesday’s game against DePaul.
  2. Steve Lavin missed St. John’s Sunday loss to Syracuse due to the passing of his father Albert “Cap” Lavin. Lavin and his father were reportedly very close, and Cap had played a part in this St. John’s season earlier this year, when the Red Storm traveled west to take on his alma mater, San Francisco. According to St. John’s assistant Rico Hines, who stepped in for Lavin during his absence in Syracuse, the players took the loss hard, as they had been able to spend time with the elder Lavin this season: “They were sad. They were really sad… Cap was one of those guys that watched every game or listened to it on the radio, and those guys knew that. … They all said they’d say a prayer for him, and we’ll try to play as hard as we can.”
  3. Syracuse’s long national nightmare is (probably) over. Shortly before tip-off against St. John’s Sunday, word leaked out that James Southerland had won his Friday appeal to a university academic panel, and that he’d be ready to play in the game. The re-introduction of Southerland to the team gives the Syracuse offense more potency from three-point range and vastly improves the Orange’s spacing on the floor, allowing guards Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche more room to operate.  Southerland played 26 minutes off the bench against the Red Storm, scoring 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field.
  4. The adjustment to Division I basketball for Pitt’s Steven Adams has been a tough one, and it has apparently had a negative impact on the seven-footer’s NBA Draft stock. Adams’ play has been improving of late, and with his newfound ability, Pitt has been playing inspired basketball. The Panthers have won four of their last five contests, and during that stretch the freshman has averaged a very solid nine points, nine rebounds, and two blocks per game.
  5. Cincinnati hasn’t been a pretty offensive team at all this year – without a significant low post threat like former Bearcat Yancy Gates manning the middle, it is almost entirely up to guards Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright to score in bunches from the outside.  Unfortunately for UC, that two-guard punch has been significantly hampered by a sprain to Wright’s right knee, which he sustained in a January 15 game against DePaul. Since returning from the injury, Wright has only scored in double-figures once, and as a team Cincinnati has averaged under 60 points per game during that stretch.  For a squad without many reliable offensive options, Wright needs to return to form as soon as possible or the Bearcats risk falling further down the Big East standings.
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Who’s Got Next? Cincinnati Lands Highly Touted Jermaine Lawrence…

Posted by CLykins on February 6th, 2013

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Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. 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 discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. 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.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

With the spring signing period rapidly approaching for the high school basketball senior class, only six players remained uncommitted from the ESPN 100 prior to Sunday. Now, there are five. New York native Jermaine Lawrence, the No. 19 overall prospect from the class of 2013, celebrated his 18th birthday over the weekend by verbally committing to the Cincinnati Bearcats. Lawrence, out of Pope John XXIII High School (New Jersey), pledged his commitment via social media by choosing the Bearcats over St. John’s and UNLV.

Jermaine Lawrence celebrated his 17th birthday by committing to the Cincinnati Bearcats

Jermaine Lawrence celebrated his 18th birthday by committing to the Cincinnati Bearcats

“I’m blessed to celebrate a milestone birthday!” Lawrence said in a statement on his Tumblr account. “My family and I would like to thank all the schools that showed interest. I’m humbled to have had the experience of being recruited. After a long decision with my parents, I’ve decided I’ll be attending the University of Cincinnati!” Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin had made Lawrence his most targeted recruit since last year’s spring recruiting period. Despite suffering a right hand injury during the AAU season that ultimately required surgery last October, Cronin and his staff remained persistent in their pursuit for the 6’9″ power forward.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.21.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 21st, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We just had one of the most memorable weekends in recent memory in college hoops. Every game seems to be up for grabs and it’s making for an exciting season. This week should be no different as each conference has its share of important match-ups. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Cincinnati at #3 Syracuse – 3:30 PM PM EST, Monday on ESPN (***)

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Jim Boeheim’s Team Looks Great After This Weekend

  • Cincinnati barely snapped a three-game home losing streak on Saturday with an overtime win against Marquette. The Bearcats were without star guard Cashmere Wright as he continues to heal up from a knee injury. Wright is day-to-day so we don’t know quite yet if he will be available against Syracuse, though. If he is unable to play, his three-point shooting will be missed greatly against the Orange’s match-up zone defense. Although, even if he plays, the size of the Orange backcourt will surely create issues for the 6’0″ guard. In its huge win at Louisville over the weekend, Syracuse proved its size and length on defense makes Jim Boeheim’s team a clear title contender. Both of these teams excel on the offensive glass, so keep a close eye on which team is getting more second-chance opportunities and making the most of them — this could be another place where the Syracuse size makes a difference. More than likely this game will be won on the defensive end.  However, if the Bearcats don’t find a better shooting stroke quickly, this game will not be close regardless of their defensive effort. They shot 41.4% eFG against Marquette, so a shooting number like that won’t cut it against Syracuse.

#12 Michigan State at Wisconsin – 7:00 PM PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • It felt like Iowa was due for a big win at home and it happened to come against Wisconsin on Saturday. After the Badgers’ huge win against Indiana last week, the weekend loss to Iowa brought the team back to reality, but they don’t get much rest with the Spartans coming to town. In order for the Badgers to beat the Spartans, they must play their typically great defense. Bo Ryan‘s squad is 1-4 against teams that shoot over 50% eFG against them so it’s clear that they do not have the offense to go back and forth with teams. Luckily, the Spartans are not a great shooting team with nine games under 50% eFG themselves on the season. This should make for a very close defensive-oriented contest in Madison. Keep an eye on free throws, as they will be a major factor in determining the outcome. Wisconsin must play good defense without fouling; if they are sending Michigan State to the line early in each half, they could very easily drop two games in a row. Look for Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix to be all over Wisconsin forward Jared Berggren, forcing someone else on the Badgers to beat them. This should be another slugfest in the Big Ten.

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Morning Five: 01.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 18th, 2013

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  1. Additional details are emerging around James Southerland‘s indefinite suspension and they do not look good for Syracuse fans hoping to see him return as the suspension appears to be part of an NCAA investigation into the program’s academic records. Interestingly the sources say that Southerland’s initial suspension was for an unrelated matter (improper benefits worth around $70 that Southerland repaid), but was ruled ineligible just two days later reportedly for a term paper that the NCAA believed Southerland had a tutor write part of for him. Honestly, the entire issue is somewhat confusing although not as confusing as some other matters in college sports right now. As The Post-Standard points out the NCAA must have been tipped off about this somehow and notes that the school’s director of basketball operations resigned for what were reported to be personal reasons in December, which could lead some to speculate that he may have been involved at some level.
  2. When Ben McLemore went down with an ankle injury late in Monday’s win over Baylor there was a great deal of concern about how severe the injury was, but now it appears that he may not even miss a game as he expects to play on Saturday against Texas. If McLemore is 100% we have no issue with him playing, but if he isn’t (even if he is only 99%) we would be tempted to rest him or at least not use him unless needed given how bad this Texas team is. The Jayhawks are clearly one of the best teams in the country, but if they are going to win the national title this year it is going to be the all-around brilliance of McLemore that is going to be the driving force.
  3. Much like the school he left behind Frank Haith is still waiting on the notice of allegations from the NCAA in reference to their investigation into Nevin Shapiro’s claims. We won’t bother going through the allegations against Haith and the program that were described in great detail by Charles Robinson a couple of years ago (remember when that was a big scandal?), but as Haith’s attorney notes it has taken the NCAA an extremely long time, which the NCAA is saying is the result of the lack of cooperation they are getting from some individuals. It is worth noting that Haith’s attorney stated “Whatever happens, everyone has to understand, these are just allegations. The enforcement staff has been wrong before.” We are assuming he will only bring up the part about the enforcement staff having been wrong before if they allege any impropriety by Haith.
  4. Cincinnati senior guard Cashmere Wright is still listed as “day-to-day” by Mick Cronin after spraining his right knee in their win on Tuesday night against DePaul. Wright was held out of practice yesterday as a precautionary measure to avoid putting unnecessary stress on his surgically repaired left knee, but his teammates are expecting him to play against Marquette on Saturday. However, if Wright is unable to play they will likely use JaQuon Parker to bring the ball up as the senior guard does have some experience having done so earlier in his career. Still having Wright out would put a lot of stress on the team to find someone else to step up and score as only three players on the team average over seven points per game.
  5. In this week’s edition of Hoop Thoughts, Seth Davis discusses why he thinks there will never be another undefeated team in men’s college basketball. While the individual year odds are certainly in Seth’s favor, we would like to remind him that forever is a long time. Clearly it is an extremely difficult task and would probably require a combination of  a talented team with at least a few experienced players (for those nights when the team just doesn’t have “it”) and a fairly soft schedule (to make sure those night can be overcome just by talent and will). Of course, this all goes out the window next year when Kentucky goes 40-0 (or however many games they play) with the most ridiculous collection of talent assembled anywhere since the original Dream Team.
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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: 01.16.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 16th, 2013

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  1.  There is good news for Pittsburgh as senior point guard Tray Woodall‘s concussion is apparently not very severe and the playmaker will be back in action tonight when the Panthers square off with Villanova. Woodall suffered the concussion when he collided with a Marquette player four minutes into the Panthers’ overtime loss to Golden Eagles and he didn’t return. But according to Woodall, he felt fine shortly after the collision and wanted to play, but team doctors wanted to be cautious and wouldn’t let him. We are all for hedging in favor of player safety but Panthers fans should be breathing sighs of relief that Woodall is coming back so quickly. The team is about to start a crucial stretch of their conference slate and with Woodall, they stand a better chance at reeling off a few wins in a row and climbing back into the conference title race.
  2. While Woodall returns tomorrow, another key member of a NCAA Tournament contender will continue to sit as Georgetown will continue to sit versatile forward Greg Whittington Wednesday for violating team rules. Reporters asked coach John Thompson III if the violations were serious and he said “yes”, so it will be interesting to see how long the coach is willing to go without his second-leading scorer and rebounder. The Hoyas dismantled St. John’s over the weekend without Whittington and they should be okay tonight against and undermanned Providence team. But after that the schedule gets more difficult again and if they are going to replace Whittington’s production they will likely need Jabril Trawick and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera to shoulder some of the scoring load.
  3. After his team was blown out by a scuffling Georgetown team, St. John’s coach Steve Lavin was repeatedly asked if he was embarrassed by his team. Those questions seem a little premature as the Red Storm bounced back last night and upset No. 20 Notre Dame behind 17 points from freshman Jakarr Sampson. The Red Storm are one of the youngest teams in the entire conference, so it shouldn’t be surprising that their season will have a lot of ups and a lot of downs. The Johnnies don’t have a lot of offensive firepower and are prone to stupid mistakes, which is a recipe for getting blown out on occasion, but last night’s win over the Fighting Irish showed that they also have the talent in place to be a good team on occasion. It isn’t likely St. John’s will find enough consistency to make the NCAA Tournament, but it does seem like they are headed that direction anyway.
  4. The Juice has been covering the James Southerland story from all angles and yesterday they took a brief look at three players who needed to step up in Southerland’s absence. The players — Brandon Triche, Jerami Grant, and Trevor Cooney — should come as no surprise, but I think Grant and Cooney both have a larger opportunity to make a difference than Triche does. Triche already has an established role on the team and asking him to shoulder the responsibility of replacing Southerland’s production doesn’t make sense. It seems much more logical to have Grant or Cooney or both step up and fill the scoring void. As the column points out, Grant fits the bill because of his length and athleticism, while Cooney is a better outside shooter and more dangerous scorer. If Syracuse’s game against Villanova was any indication, both will get plenty of opportunities to play, and that will be a good thing come March.
  5. This was supposed to be the season that Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick exploded onto the national scene and became one of the conference’s true stars. Instead, Kilpatrick has progressed the way many thought and the Bearcats’ best player has actually been oft-unheralded senior point guard Cashmere Wright. Which is why Bearcats’ fans better be hopeful that the knee injury Wright suffered last night in a win over DePaul isn’t serious. Wright had 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting and seven assists to just two turnovers before leaving because of the injury and the floor general really has been indispensable for coach Mick Cronin and the program. Wright’s many talents were on display again last night as the Bearcats held off an upset bid from DePaul and Wright went for
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Set Your DVR: New Year’s Week Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 31st, 2012

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Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

College hoops heads into 2013 with the opening of conference season in some of the major leagues set to begin . The slate of games scheduled for New Year’s Eve is not to be missed, as the Big East and Big Ten seasons both get underway. However, it is one final non-conference match-up that leads our breakdowns. Happy New Year!

Game of the Week

#16 Gonzaga at #21 Oklahoma State – 6:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 (*****)

After Spinning His Wheels For Most Of The Season, LeBryan Nash Raised The Roof In Stillwater. (AP)

Le’Bryan Nash and company look to stop Gonzaga’s winning ways against the Big 12. (AP)

  • A win against Oklahoma State today will make Gonzaga the best team in the Big 12. Obviously, Gonzaga is still in the West Coast Conference, but they are already 4-0 against Big 12 teams this season with wins against West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Baylor. Monday’s game against the Cowboys, however, is their first true road test against a Big 12 opponent. The other games have either been at home or on neutral courts. The Zags usually have a size advantage against their opponents, but Oklahoma State can match their size and even has that advantage at the guard position. The Pokes have four guards who contribute heavily to the offense that are 6’3″ or taller, including 6’7″ Le’Bryan Nash. With Bulldog guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr. measuring at 6’2″ and 6’1″, respectively, it will be very important to watch how Mark Few’s squad chooses to defend the perimeter size of the Cowboys. Much of that defensive pressure could actually fall on the Zags’ frontcourt. The Oklahoma State guards do most of their damage inside the three-point line because they are not much of a threat from the outside. Keep an eye on how this defensive responsibility affects Gonzaga’s offense inside. The Bulldogs will still need to pound the ball down low and get to the line because it’s their best chance of winning. If they can get to the line like Virginia Tech did against Oklahoma State, they can win this game in a tough road environment.
  • No team has shot over 50% eFG in a game against Oklahoma State this season, but the Cowboys face a Gonzaga team that is lethally efficient from two-point range. The GU frontcourt’s two-point shooting breaks down like this – Elias Harris shoots 58.8%, Kelly Olynyk shoots 72.3%, Sam Dower shoots 59.7%, and Przemek Karnowski shoots 65.3%. These player will put considerable pressure on Cowboys center Phillip Jurick and freshman forward Kamari Murphy. The key will be how OSU head coach Travis Ford uses his big guards on help defense to stop the Gonzaga low post attack. If Oklahoma State can figure this out, they will pick-up an important non-conference win as they head into Big 12 play.
  • Non-conference home losses are few and far between for Oklahoma State under Travis Ford. It’s hard to believe that Gonzaga can actually go 5-0 against the Big 12 this season, especially on the road in front of the Cowboy faithful at Gallagher-Iba Arena. This game will be extremely fun to watch, but the edge has to go to the Cowboys at home.

Other Games to Watch

#10 Cincinnati at #23 Pittsburgh – 12:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 (****)

  • Pittsburgh is a very flimsy 12-1. The only good team they’ve play this season is Michigan and they lost that game. We’ll know very quickly if Pitt is any good against a tough and tested Cincinnati squad. However, the Bearcats have shot the ball quite poorly over the last three games. They cannot afford to continue to do so if they expect to win this one, especially at the “Oakland Zoo” in Pittsburgh. The match-up between Tray Woodall and Cashmere Wright should be great to watch all night. Expect Cincy to get back on track and win this game, though, from behind the three-point line. However, if they are shooting bricks like they have been in the past few outings, Pitt will get a great win to start off the Big East season.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 12.18.12

Posted by bmulvihill on December 18th, 2012

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Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are in the midst of the calm before the conference season storm. Students are finishing up finals and preparing to head home for the holidays. We have a few interesting match-ups to keep an eye on this week, so make sure to put them on as you finish up your holiday wrapping. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Last year's Cincinnati-Xavier brawl was ugly, so now everyone loses next season (AP Photo)

Let’s Hope We Don’t Have Another Scene Like This in the Xavier-Cincinnati Game on Wednesday (AP)

Stanford at North Carolina State  9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN2 (***)

  • Last season, Stanford was outshot by NC State but ended up winning the game at the free throw line. It’s not reasonable to think they can pull the upset this year on the road given the offensive struggles the Cardinal is having. Since Johnny Dawkins took over the Stanford program in 2009, the Cardinal have never experienced a two-point field goal percentage over 50%. This year is no different, as the team is currently at 46% from two (26% from three). I don’t know the road record of teams shooting under 50% from inside the arc, but I have to imagine it’s not good. With losses to the three best teams they have faced thus far — Belmont, Missouri, and Minnesota — the Cardinal are in desperate need of a signature win prior to the Pac-12 conference season. The shooting and talent gap with NC State may be too difficult for them to overcome, especially in Raleigh. NC State is shooting the ball extremely well and is led by talented offensive threats like C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown. You will still want to keep an eye on the free throw situation, though. In both of their losses this season, the Wolfpack put their opponents on the line much more than they were able to get there. If Chasson Randle is pushing the action and driving to the hoop, Stanford can stay in this game. If the Wolfpack can play solid defense without fouling him, it should be curtains for the Cardinal.

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Big East M5: 12.06.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 6th, 2012

  1. Teams that wear various shades of orange from ‘T’ states should probably quit scheduling Georgetown. In their last two games, the Hoyas gave up a combined 77 points against Tennessee and Texas. Georgetown is still finding its way on offense, but the young Hoyas have bought into what John Thompson III is selling on the defensive end. Georgetown is currently 21st in the country in giving up 56.1 points per game, and while Texas and Tennessee are far from world-beaters this season, holding any major conference team to 40 points is impressive. The Hoyas will need to get some of their other guys to step up as a scorer, as forward Otto Porter can’t afford to carry the whole load when the Big East rolls around, but Georgetown looks to be a dangerous team going forward.
  2. The Syracuse bandwagon is filling up quickly this season, but don’t expect Jim Boeheim to hop into the driver’s seat anytime soon. During his press conference following Syracuse’s win over Eastern Michigan, Boeheim went on a long, unprovoked diatribe about the expectations surrounding his team in the early season. Syracuse fans have been relatively spoiled by unprecedented regular season success – the Orange are 97-16 since the beginning of the 2009-10 season, and take up real estate in the top five of the polls on a regular basis. Boeheim doesn’t appreciate the attitude that these non-conference games are all automatic wins for his team, and he used the press conference to express this sentiment: “Anybody that we play can come in here and beat us. To just assume that we’re going to win games is the most arrogant thing that I have ever seen in my life. It’s nothing but arrogance. And I don’t like arrogance. And I don’t like arrogant people.”
  3. The Cincinnati Bearcats have flown under the radar so far this year as one of the quietest really good teams in the country. Cincy entered the year with perhaps the highest expectations the program has had in years, and have not disappointed yet. After a 7-0 start, the Bearcats find themselves at #11 in the latest AP poll. They have yet to play a real juggernaut of an opponent, but wins over Iowa State, Oregon, and Alabama all look very good on the resume. The Bearcats are getting tremendous production from their three top backcourt players Sean Kilpatrick (19.9 PPG), Cashmere Wright (15.3 PPG), and JaQuon Parker (10.9 PPG), who are each shooting over 40% from beyond the arc. The Bearcats are currently 11th in the country scoring 82.7 points per game, and could end up being one of the most fun teams to watch in the Big East this season.
  4. Many Big East squads are involved in intense rivalries, but some, like Providence-Rhode Island, slide a bit under the radar despite being quite heated. John Rooke of GoLocalProvSports has penned a great piece about the 123-or-125 game series (depending on whom you believe) over the years. Through various events like the creation of the Big East, which saw Rhody left out, to the recruitment of Sly Williams, the PC-URI game continues to grow in magnitude. It may not have the national panache of a Syracuse-Georgetown or a Cincinnati-Xavier, but to diehards in the ‘Ocean State,’ it means just as much.
  5. You’re too much sometimes, internet. As you may have noticed, a nasty rumor about Jay Wright made its way through various message boards and the Twittersphere earlier this week. The good news is that the entire sordid situation appears to be completely false. The bad news is that Jay Wright, who as a neutral observer seems to be one of the classier guys in the sport, had his name dragged through the mud for no reason other than someone was bored on the internet. We’re all so lucky to have this incredible shared space for discourse on things like college basketball, let’s not sully it by buying into and spreading inflammatory rumors.
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Big East M5: 12.03.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 3rd, 2012

  1. While conference realignment has been almost entirely football-centric, there are also major ramifications for the Big East‘s non-football playing schools as well.  Washington Post‘s Liz Clarke spoke with Jay Bilas, Bill Raftery, and Jim Boeheim about the future of the Big East and the direction that the basketball schools should take. Jay Bilas described schools like UCF, Memphis, and Tulane as not passing “the straight-face test” while Raftery and Boeheim think that the schools should move forward with the new additions and make the best of it, saying that the conference still has accomplished programs and could be viable going forward.
  2. While Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng garnered most of the preseason accolades for Louisville, Rick Pitino has gotten irreplaceable performances from players who almost didn’t make it with the program. At different times, Pitino told both Russ Smith and Stephan Van Treese that they may have been better off to go to other schools where they could see ample playing time. However, both stayed, and Smith seems to be having a break out season, while Van Treese has been filling in admirably for the injured Dieng. In the Cardinals’ close 69-66 edging of Illinois State over the weekend, Smith and Van Treese led the team in minutes.
  3. Cincinnati helped contribute to the Big East’s drubbing of the SEC in this year’s SEC/Big East challenge with a win over Alabama Saturday, but the Bearcats still aren’t content with where they are as a team this season. Cashmere Wright was able to cash in on a buzzer-beating jumper to defeat the Tide, but Mick Cronin found plenty to work on in the win: “Obviously, we’ve got a lot of areas we’ve got to improve… Offensively we have to get more ball movement, more assists, get more touches on the ball. We stand around too much They did a good job keeping us off the break.Once again we get a 13-point lead and start looking around instead of continue with the pace of play that we want to play at for 40 minutes.”
  4. Just when we think we’re done with the Bernie Fine case, something pulls us back in. This week, Syracuse police chief Frank Fowler stated that he believes that the first two Fine accusers — Bobby Davis and Mike Lang — are credible, as well as the fourth accuser, Floyd Van Hooser, who had last publicly recanted his accusations against the former assistant coach. The last bit of Fine news had come a few weeks ago, when the federal investigation of him had closed without any charges or arrests. With so many variables and chapters in this case, it is unlikely that we will ever have full closure, especially with the passing of the statute of limitations at the state level.
  5. The Providence Friars may be the walking wounded these days, but that didn’t prevent them from getting in on the Big East win party this weekend. The Friars came out on top against Mississippi State, 73-63, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Saturday, and currently own a 6-2 record. The Friars entered the game with two injured players – freshman standout Kris Dunn and star senior Vincent Council – and lost point guard Bryce Cotton late in the first half.  Using only six players in the second half, the Friars played effective defense and were able to hold the Bulldogs to 35.9% shooting from the floor and just 2-22 from three-point range. Junior forward Kadeem Batts paced Providence with a career high 32 points in the win.
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