Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. 

The Big East lost three of their four marquee games this week as Notre Dame lost to Ohio State and West Virginia and Villanova were swept in the Jimmy V Classic (Marquette did pick up a win at home against Wisconsin). Even teams like UConn (four point win over Buffalo) and Syracuse (came back from down 16 against Cornell) barely avoided being upset. Right now, the only team that is playing well and has played well through out the season is Pitt.

If the first quarter of the season taught us anything, it isn’t that the Big East is weaker than expected as much as the rest of the country is not as far behind as it seemed. Look at those three losses listed above. Notre Dame, a team that is not quite as good as they were expected to be, lost to a better-than-expected Ohio State team in Luke Harangody’s first game back from pneumonia (yea, he had 25 and 16, but you have to factor in the adjustment other players – i.e. Kyle McAlarney, who was 3-11 for 6 points – have to make when he comes back). West Virginia, playing without Joe Mazzulla and Alex Ruoff, lost to Davidson. Villanova lost to a very good Texas team.

While the teams may be a little different than expected, the numbers still break down basically the same way. Four teams look like Final Four contenders, three teams are all but locks to make the tourney, and another four have put themselves in excellent position to earn an at-large bid.

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Some of the Big East elite stumbled this week. Notre Dame, Louisville, Georgetown, West Virginia, Marquette, and Cincinnati all picked up their first loss of the season since the last time we checked in with RTC. Should Big East fans be worried? Was all that talk about the Big East being the best conference ever nothing but talk? In a word … maybe? Look, the bottom line is that each one of the aforementioned teams that suffered their first loss got beat by a good team. I mean, Notre Dame losing by 15 to UNC when Luke Harangody in is the early stages of pneumonia is not the same as losing by 18 to Maryland (sorry to all Spartan fans – I know Roe and Suton were hurt and Morgan was being a punk in foul trouble, just trying to make a point). Even the Louisville loss, which is inexcusable for a team of their talent (probably why Pitino apologized), was to a Western Kentucky team that looks to be hitting their stride (they have won three straight games against Southern Illinois, the ‘Ville, and Georgia, and lost one game without leading scorer AJ Slaughter in his first game back). Let’s look at it like this – Tennessee, UNC, and Dayton are all going to be NCAA tourney teams. Western Kentucky, Florida State, and Kentucky are all going to garner attention as bubble teams. While this is a startling number of losses to occur in the span of one week, it is not like UConns are losing to Delaware States, and it doesn’t change the fact that there are a number of Big East teams (UConn, Pitt, Syracuse, Villanova) that are rolling through competent competition.

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

The Big East is proving why it is the best conference in basketball, as the 16 teams in the conference have lost a grand total of five games. I mean, Seton Hall barely sneaks into the top 10 in the conference and they are 4-1 with wins over USC and Virginia Tech early on. To be fair, most of the games that have been played at this point in the season have come against cupcakes, but a Big East team has already knocked off a marquee team in every other major conference (UConn has beaten Wisconsin and Miami (FL), Syracuse beat Florida and Kansas, Notre Dame beat Texas, and Seton Hall beat USC).

Power Rankings (AP, Coaches):

CONTENDERS

1. UConn 5-0 (#2, #2) – It is pretty tough to argue with UConn atop the BIAH Big East Power Rankings. They are 5-0 and coming off of a victory in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. More on the Huskies in a bit.

2. Notre Dame 4-0 (#8, #8) – Notre Dame gets the nod at #2 because of their win over Texas in Maui. Now that Kyle McAlarney has found his stroke (13-23 from the floor, 11-20 from deep in his last two games after starting the season 2-13), it is clear that the Irish are going be able to put up points with anyone. Their biggest question mark right now is defense and rebounding. Against Texas, Notre Dame was out-rebounded 45-33 and gave up 15 on the offensive glass.

I know that the Irish have two first-team all-conference players on their roster, but PG Tory Jackson is just as, if not more, valuable than both McAlarney and Luke Harangody. He is the guy that makes the potent Irish offense run. He is as quick as they come and can get into the lane against just about anyone, but he plays under control and rarely picks up a charge. When he gets into the paint, he is just as good at finishing as he is at drawing a defender and finding an open man (he’s led the Big East in dimes the last two years). To top it off, he has been knocking down his perimeter shot this season.

3. Louisville 2-0 (#3, #3) – It is tough to gauge the Cardinals at this point in the season. They have played just two games, both cupcakes and both blow outs, and they won’t really be tested until mid-December. What we do know thus far is that freshman Samardo Samuels looks as good as advertised – he’s averaging 21 ppg and 5 rpg through two games. The ‘Ville also got good news when Terrence Williams was healthy enough to play in their first two games (he underwent minor surgery after tearing the meniscus in his knee). He’s not there yet offensively (6-17 from the floor, 14 points in two games), but he has been filling up the stat sheet as usual (9.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 3.5 spg, 1.5 bpg).

4. Pitt 5-0 (#4, #4) – The Panthers, like the Cardinals, are undefeated but have yet to really play anyone. They have, however, been getting phenomenal play out of their big three of DeJuan Blair (17.5 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 71%, but he missed the Belmont game on Tuesday with swelling in his knee), Sam Young (19.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 60% FG), and Levance Fields (13.6 ppg, 7.3 apg, 1.0 t/o’s). While Pitt lost Blair for the Belmont game, they got some good news with the return of wing Gilbert Brown.

The key to the season for this Pitt team is going to be their wing play, which is a big reason why Sam Young, the Panthers best perimeter shooter, is playing on the wing this year. It is still early, but the early indication is that after Fields (10-19) and Young (5-16). If someone can step up and knock down shots (back up PG Ashton Gibbs is trying to, he’s 5-11 from deep), they will see a lot of the court.

5. Syracuse 5-0 – The ‘Cuse are for real this year. They are 5-0 with wins against Florida and Kansas (in what was essentially a road game) and have looked unstoppable on offense at times. But they have also looked disinterested and lackadaisical at times as well, especially defensively. The Orange start and end with the play of Jonny Flynn, who has reinforced the notion that he is one of the best PGs in the country. Flynn is one of the most exciting players in the country to watch (and I am a UConn fan saying that). While Flynn may be the best player on Syracuse, he is far from all that they have. Paul Harris is just as tough as always, but has added a 15-17 foot jumper that you must defend. Arinze Onuaku has gone from a 275 lb fat boy to 275 lb of muscle (seriously, he looks like he should be on World’s Strongest Man). Kristoff Ongenaet, Rick Jackson and freshman Kris Joseph all are going to be able to provide hustle, rebounds, and defense inside. And they’ve gotten back the two things they were missing last year – perimeter shooting from the wings (Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins) and another guy that can penetrate and score or create shots for others (Devendorf). But the biggest change I see in this year’s team is that Jim Boeheim has them playing a lot of man-to-man, which makes it all-the-more difficult for a team to prepare for the Orange. Boeheim has himself a tough team that is going to make some noise this year. Read the rest of this entry »

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ATB: Brandon Rush’s Triumphant Return

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2007

ATB v.4

11.25.07

Game of the Day. #4 Kansas 76, Arizona 72. The four-days-early game between Kansas and Arizona in the inaugural Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series was everything a college hoops fan could have hoped for in such a meeting between two powerhouse programs. It had stars making plays (Budinger and Rush), tightness throughout (no team had a greater than 4-pt lead in the second half), a tantalizingly close halfcourt buzzer-beater, and an overtime just to fuel the early season intensity. Our thoughts: 1) Brandon Rush (17/8) looks great for a guy who blew out his ACL a mere six months ago. He hit his first shot off the bench, took care of the ball, made both of his threes, and even threw down a couple of dunks in the OT to seal things. 2) Arizona showed a toughness we haven’t seen in a while. After getting down ten early (22-12), we expected the Wildcats to pack it in and take their 20+ pt beating while the Phog was rocking – but that didn’t happen. Instead, Arizona clawed back to tie the game at halftime, and led the game deep into the second half. We’re not sure that happens last year. 3) Chase Budinger’s (27/6) potential is mesmerizing – he always seems to be playing better than he actually is playing. For example, he hit six threes tonight, but only shot 10-23 from the field. 4) Arizona may be playing tougher, but they’re still playing dumb with the ball. 25 turnovers (14 by their starting guards) at Allen FH won’t cut it – given that stat, it’s amazing they had a chance to win the game in regulation. 5) Kansas is just scary when it comes to the talent they can put on the court. No surprise there, but this is a 30+ win team that could win the national title if things break right for them.

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Other Games We Saw. NC State 69, #25 Villanova 68. The finals of the Old Spice Classic championship was another close game with a particularly insane ending. After battling toe-to-toe for most of the game (the biggest lead by either team was 7 pts), it appeared that Villanova was going to take the prize when Dante Cunningham tipped in a missed shot with 2.2 seconds remaining to give Nova a 1-pt lead. NC State then passed the ball length-of-the-court to Gavin Grant, who stepped behind the three-point line and was fouled in a ticky-tack call on the shot attempt by Cunningham with 0.4 seconds on the clock. Grant made two of three to put NCSU up by one, so it was then Villanova’s turn to throw the ball to the other end in hopes of a miracle. And they damn near got it – knowing they only had time for a tip, Villanova made two tips at the basket (the second attempt was very close and got off before the red light illuminated, according to our Tivo slo-mo) and neither dropped. Still, it was an exciting ending to a competitive game. Courtney Fells led the way for NCSU with 21, but it was a balanced attack from the Wolfpack (Grant & Hickson – 15 each; McCauley – 10) that led to the win. Villanova was paced by freshman Corey Fisher’s 21 pts, but special notoriety should go to Casiem Drummond, who with 17 rebounds singlehandedly kept numerous possessions alive for the Wildcats.

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USC 70, #18 S. Illinois 45. This game completely shocked us – not just the result but the margin of victory (SIU’s worst loss in seven years). The usually disciplined Salukis couldn’t get anything to drop (eFG% = 38%), while the Men of Troy, led by Davon Jefferson (20/5), simply could not miss (eFG% = 65%). We’d watched two or three USC games already this year, and each time they looked uninterested, umotivated and overall underwhelming. Not tonight. Perhaps it had something to do with OJ Mayo’s benching (for what reason, Tim Floyd?), but the takeaway is that USC outclassed a reliably good team in every possible way tonight. Randal Falker is the only player who showed up for SIU, producing 17/12 for his efforts.

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Other Ranked Teams.

  • #8 Washington St. 71, Air Force 62. Wazzu guards combine for 46/15/13 assts.
  • #10 Duke 78, Eastern Kentucky 43. Where did Taylor King (27 pts) come from?
  • #19 Kansas St. 82, Rider 69. Jason Thompson of Rider (24/7/3 assts/4 blks) outplayed Michael Beastley (13/10) in this one.

Other Scores of Note.

  • UCF 70, Penn St. 59. Another horrid loss for the Big 10, thanks to our friends in State College.
  • Missouri St. 73, Winthrop 69. Hard to believe that Winthrop would blow a 16-pt halftime lead at home (24 game winning streak), but they did.
  • George Mason 69, South Carolina 68. Mason picks up more major conference pelts as Will Thomas dominated SC inside (22/11).
  • Miami (OH) 67, Mississippi St. 60. Does MSU have any other players besides Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes?

On Tap Tonight (all times EST). Big 10/ACC gets started in Iowa City, but not much else on the slate for Monday.

  • Wake Forest (-2) v. Iowa (ESPN2) 7pm – hard to believe Wake could be favored on the road just about anywhere.
  • Davidson (-3.5) v. Appalachian St. 7pm. this is a key SoCon game – why so early?
  • Connecticut (NL) v. Florida A&M (ESPN FC) 7pm - already tired of UConn.
  • Washington (-22.5) v. Long Beach State 10:30pm – which UW will show up?
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