Season In Review: St. John’s Red Storm

Posted by Dan Lyons on April 29th, 2013

St. John’s 17-16 season saw some highs – wins over #14 Cincinnati and #20 Notre Dame – and plenty of lows  – the Red Storm dropped eight of their last 10 games en route to an 8-10 conference season and an 11th place conference finish. In postseason play, St. John’s dropped its first game of the Big East Tournament in the second round against Villanova and advanced to the second round of the NIT with a win over Saint Joseph’s before falling to Virginia.

Preseason Expectations

Here at the Big East microsite, we had St. John’s ninth in our preseason rankings, citing their youthful talent and athleticism as reasons for optimism, but we believed the team was still a year or so away from the NCAA Tournament.  The Big East coaches had St. John’s ranked 10th in their preseason poll.

(Credit AP Photo/Al Behrman)

(Credit AP Photo/Al Behrman)

The Good

D’Angelo Harrison (17.8 PPG) and Jakarr Sampson (14.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG) were two of the more underrated players in the conference last season, and should only continue to get better.  Sir’Dominic Pointer was an effective slasher for the Johnnies, shooting 51% from the field. Phil Greene IV regularly scored in double digits and became a solid third option for Steve Lavin’s squad, while Chris Obekpa was one of the nation’s premier shot-blockers, swatting four shots per game.

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Big East M5: 03.27.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 27th, 2013

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  1. If nothing else, fans of the current Big East are going to have plenty of channels to catch their favorite schools on when the schools all go their separate ways. The ACC is taking over Big Monday and should have an increased presence on ESPN, the Big East (Catholic edition) will be on FOX, and the soon-to-be-the-conference-formerly-known-as-the-Big-East just inked a deal with CBS, which will get first dibs on the conference’s games through 2019-20. Oh, and West Virginia seemed to be on ESPN like every week this year… so good for the ‘Eers.
  2. Louisville was the number one overall seed in 2009, much like it is this year. That team hoisted both the Big East regular season and tournament trophies, and made a run to the Elite Eight before falling to Michigan State. That team featured excellent former Cardinals like Terrence Williams, Andre McGee, and Earl Clark, and apparently those guys won’t stop talking about that season. Peyton Siva would like to reclaim bragging rights over the 2009 squad with the one trophy they weren’t able to claim — a national title. “I don’t know a lot (about 2009), I just know T-Will and Dre were on it and they always brag about being the No. 1 overall seed… Our whole goal for the year — they had Andre’s picture on the wall from that ’09 team — is to take him off the wall.”
  3. Otto Porter is a finalist for the Naismith Award this season, and for good reason. A very good argument can be made that there was no player more important to his team this season, and it showed in Georgetown‘s best games — Porter scored 33 points in front of over 35,000 raucous Syracuse fans to stun the Orange at the Carrier Dome — as well as their worst — Porter could only muster 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting in Georgetown’s shocking loss to Florida Gulf Coast last weekend. While Porter is up against stiff competition for the Naismith Award, he already has accolade in his back pocket as Basketball Times has named the forward its National Player of the year.
  4. Expansion fever — catch the excitement! Today in schools moving conferences, the old Big East continues it’s mission to restore the halcyon days of mid-2000s Conference USA. Brett McMurphy reports that Tulsa will become the 12th member of the conference, calling the addition “imminent.” According to McMurphy, the Golden Hurricanes will join up in 2014 with Tulane and East Carolina, who will be elevated to full-member status to balance the conference numbers and fill the critical role of having basketball-playing Pirates in the league.
  5. The Journal-Sentinel sat down with former Marquette great Brian Wardle, currently the head coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay, to discuss the state of Warriors basketball. Wardle was obviously thrilled with the success that the program has had under Buzz Williams, and before him, Tom Crean, stating that MU has entered the ranks of the elite in college ball. “The level that Marquette basketball is at now is an elite level that it has not been in for a long time… they’ve gone to three Sweet Sixteens in a row, a Final Four, everything takes time to build. Nothing happens overnight. You’ve got to go through some failures to succeed. You’re seeing Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen every year with the Michigan States, the Dukes, with Kansas.”  There is no denying the success that Marquette has had recently, though dropping the ‘e’ word seems a bit strong.  Until Marquette makes a few more Final Fours or captures a national title, they’re a rung or two below the nation’s elite schools, at least to me. However, they’re not far behind, and with the consistent success that Buzz Williams has had with the program, it may only be a matter of time until they break through.
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Big East M5: 03.26.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 26th, 2013

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  1. Not only does Louisville own the number one overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but the Midwest region favorites are also the most profitable college basketball program in all the land. The value of the KFCYum! Center and an abundance of donations to the program have led to the landslide top ranking in this year’s Forbes list of the most valuable basketball programs in the country. Syracuse was the only other Big East squad in the top 20 of Forbes’ list, coming in at ninth.
  2. During Syracuse’s round of 32 game against California on Saturday night, Michael Carter-Williams‘ family’s house in Hamilton, Massachusetts was destroyed by a fire, which is believed to have started in the chimney. The family was inside the house watching his game when the fire started, but luckily everyone made it out of the house without injury. Carter-Williams’ aunt told the Boston Globe that the point guard is a bit “shaken up because he can’t do anything to help,” but that he remains focused on the NCAA Tournament, and won’t return home until after the East Regional games in Washington, D.C., this weekend.
  3. Saturday’s Third Round game between Marquette and Butler could very well mark the beginning of a budding rivalry in the new Big East conference. Both schools play similar, bruising styles of basketball and thrive in close-game situations, this one won by Buzz Williams’ squad. Both are private urban universities in midwestern cities with proud recent basketball histories and top flight young coaches. Where some of the programs that joined the Big East in the mid-2000s expansion failed to live up to their basketball promise, Marquette has played at a consistently high level, and the new conference led by the Catholic Seven will look to Butler to make an immediate impact in a similar fashion.
  4. While Pitt fans seem a bit split on Jamie Dixon, especially after another early NCAA flame-out, Dixon is very happy to be sticking around the ‘Steel City‘.  The university has locked the coach up for the next 10 years, ending much speculation that Dixon would take the vacant job at USC.  The signing gives Pitt security heading into a new conference, if nothing else, and gives the Dixon family a similar sense of stability: “My family’s excited. Our administration felt it needed to be done, so we’re excited and happy.”
  5. There is, of course, a fourth Big East program still dancing… or at least shuffling its feet off away from the spotlight. Providence knocked off notorious Kentucky-killers Robert Morris 77-68 in the second round of the NIT at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, setting up an upcoming quarterfinal with Baylor. In the team’s final hurrah at home, coach Ed Cooley made sure to deliver a message to the Friars faithful to try to kick-start some momentum heading into 2013-14: “We want to see this place full next season as we begin our quest for a national championship.”  While an NCAA title might be a gaudy task for next season, an NIT crown should be attainable this year, and it would be a nice feather in the cap for a program that was better than many probably thought this season.
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Big East M5: 03.11.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 11th, 2013

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  1. Anticipation of a full weekend slate games with massive Big East implications was slightly overshadowed last Friday when a statement from the league confirmed the Catholic Seven would make its exit on June 30, 2013. Realignment savant Brett McMurphy reported that the departing schools would not only inherit the Big East name and Madison Square Garden tournament, but also pocket $10 million of the $110 million in exit fees from prior defections. Most astonishingly, Mike Aresco surrendered the 29 NCAA Tournament units those schools accumulated in the past six years, which Forbes claims will distribute at least $7.25 million in 2013 alone. Conversely, the current Big East finds itself nameless, poised to lose Notre Dame a year early, and displaced from its ancestral roots. The amorphous confederation is exploring the name “America 12,” and Hartford and Memphis are early front-runners in the bid to host its refugee tournament, which would complete its metamorphosis into a Conference USA Touring Edition.
  2. UConn played its final game of the 2012-13 season last Saturday in Gampel Pavilion, overcoming Providence 63-59 in overtime to earn its 20th win of the year. More importantly, on Senior Day and perhaps Shabazz Napier’s final game as a Husky, his team won a measure of vindication after months of being told this season was meaningless. The injured guard’s overtime heroics continued as he battled an injured ankle to put up 16 points and eight rebounds in 44 minutes. If Napier does elect to return next season, his maturation as a junior will have been one of the most indispensable benefits of this year’s dress rehearsal. Speaking after Saturday’s win of his personal development, Kevin Ollie said, “Shabazz used to think he can do it by himself. Now he knows he needs his teammates. When somebody is down, he’s always, always there to pick them up.”
  3. Another Saturday rivalry matchup with Big East title implications quickly devolved into a painful juxtaposition of teams speeding in opposite directions, as Georgetown held Syracuse to its lowest point total (39) since 1962. Michael Carter-Williams was the only Syracuse player to reach double digits, but finished with two assists to five turnovers; the Orange as a team had a 4:13 assist-to-turnover ratio (31%). It was a nightmare scenario for the Orange, who will almost assuredly finish the regular season ranked outside the top 20 after reaching #3 in the polls in late January. The Hoyas wrapped up the top seed while Cuse enters the Big East Tournament seeded fifth, having lost four of their last five and seven of 12.
  4. The Big East released their regular season player honors yesterday, and Louisville (Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith, Peyton Siva) and Syracuse (Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. Fair, Brandon Triche) led the pack with six of the 16 players on the All-Big East first, second and third teams. Dieng and Smith represented the first Cardinals to make first team since Terrence Williams in 2009, while Bryce Cotton was Providence’s second selection in three years after Marshon Brooks was honored in 2011. Georgetown’s Otto Porter was the first team’s only unanimous selection and is poised to take home Player of the Year once it’s announced.
  5. On the topic of Senior Day vindication, Rick Pitino described Louisville’s 73-57 thumping of Notre Dame as a “a storybook ending” for graduating senior Peyton Siva and junior Gorgui Dieng, who is likely to declare for the draft. The two combined for 33 points on 65% shooting, avenging last month’s five-overtime choke job in South Bend before a KFC Yum! Center record crowd of 22,815. Dieng racked up his second double-double in the past three games, and tallied five blocks as he helped stymie Jack Cooley, who finished with seven points and three defensive rebounds. Siva hit multiple threes in a single game for the first time since mid-January, showing a shooting touch and aggressiveness that had been noticeably absent in Big East play. In the process, the Cardinals claimed a share of the Big East regular season title with Georgetown and Marquette. Moreover, Kevin Ware capped off the afternoon’s euphoria by delivering this subversive number –– deemed saucy by the CBS crew –– after being called for a foul on a dramatic fast break block (h/t Card Chronicle):
Kevin Ware eschewed traditional forms of foul protest

Kevin Ware eschewed traditional forms of foul call protest

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Big East M5: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 7th, 2013

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  1. An ugly fight broke out at Tuesday night’s Notre Dame-St. John’s game between the Red Storm’s Sir’Dominic Pointer and Irish freshman Cam Biedscheid. After battling over a rebound, Pointer appears to take a swing at Biedscheid, who then retaliated. Despite the fact that Pointer seemed to be the aggressor in this situation, Pointer and Biedscheid will both miss their teams’ next games because both engaged in the fight.  Mike Brey tried to appeal Biedscheid’s suspension to the conference to no avail: “There’s no appeals process, which is disappointing… Once it’s deemed a fight, which it was, and he was throwing punches, it is what it is.”
  2. Mike Brey seems about ready to hop off the conference realignment carousel. With the news that the Catholic 7 will be breaking away from the Big East to become… the Big East… it is unclear whether Notre Dame next year will stick around with UConn, Cincinnati, and friends, or join the Catholic 7 for a season, or head to the ACC a season early. If the ACC will have the Irish, that solution seems to make the most sense, but then again, this is conference realignment. Sense was checked at the door years ago.
  3. James Robinson has flown a bit under the radar this season for Pitt nationally, but those in the program hold the freshman in very high esteem. Former Panthers great Brandin Knight sees great potential in the young point guard: “He’s just one of those guys that you get the feeling that there’s something special about him… He has the poise and he really understands the game. He’s very mature beyond his years.”  Robinson averages 6.1 points and 3.5 assists per game in 26.7 minutes of action for Pitt, and in the team’s last game against Villanova he scored 14 points in the overtime win.
  4. Villanova has had a number of statement wins this season, but coming into Wednesday night the Wildcats were still not a sure thing for the NCAA Tournament. Knocking off Georgetown last night should help secure Nova’s spot in the Big Dance. The game with the Hoyas was an ugly affair, with three Georgetown players fouling out and the Wildcats hitting 30 free throws while the Hoyas could only muster four there. The win keeps Villanova from entering postseason play on a multiple game slide, and sets them up well for next week’s Madison Square Garden processions.
  5. Another day, another weird story coming out of Syracuse. Moments after the Orange defeated DePaul Wednesday evening, the school’s official Twitter account published a message speculating that it could be Jim Boeheim’s last game as Orange head coach with a link to a blog post, which stated that according to “sources,” Syracuse was under investigation by the NCAA and Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross had asked Boeheim to step down. After the game, Syracuse released the statement that the story was completely false, as most who read it had assumed, but the larger story here is that there has been a long line of social media incidents stemming from the official Syracuse University accounts. Last year, one of the student interns who runs @SyracuseU tweeted about the upcoming DaJuan Coleman decision before the center had formally made his college choice between Syracuse, Kentucky, and Ohio State — a clear violation of NCAA rules. There have been numerous other instances of similar mistaken tweets. On an individual level, these tweets seem like minor mistakes, but when taken as a group, it shows that the school needs to take their social media presence more seriously.
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Big East M5: 02.18.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 18th, 2013

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  1. Providence defeated its second ranked opponent in as many weeks after pasting Notre Dame 71-54 in The Dunk on Saturday. The Friars’ four-game Big East winning streak is their first since 2004, and a tangible affirmation that Ed Cooley has his program trending toward relevancy after a long series of setbacks. There was a lot for Providence fans to celebrate in Saturday’s win: Vincent Council became the school’s all-time assist leader; Bryce Cotton broke out of his shooting slump; and the Friars shut down the league’s second most efficient offense. But it was junior center Kadeem Batts who Mike Brey singled out after the game as his choice for the Big East’s Most Improved Player. Coming into the season as a question mark whose production and minutes had decreased in 2011-12, Batts has become the centerpiece of his team’s turnaround, particularly in the aftermath of Sidiki Johnson’s leave of absence.
  2. Louisville reopened its recruiting pipeline to Seattle over the weekend, as 6’7 junior guard Shaqquan Aaron committed to the Cardinals over UCLA, Syracuse and Arizona, among others. Aaron concluded Louisville was “a perfect fit” after probing current players about the rigors of playing for Rick Pitino during his official visit. “I want to play for a coach that is going to be hard on me. I like how coach P is going to push me every time.” The California native attends the same high school as former Louisville point-forward Terrence Williams, and would carry the mantle of Emerald City transplants for Pitino after Peyton Siva graduates this year. The commitment also reestablishes a presence in Seattle after the Cards’ staff struck out in the highly visible recruitment of Tony Wroten in 2010.
  3. Georgetown may be one of four nine-win teams atop the Big East bottleneck, but it’s unquestionably the hottest one after winning its seventh consecutive game on the road in Cincinnati. After Otto Porter picked up his fourth foul with more than seven minutes remaining in a three-point game, the specter of a fifth consecutive loss to the Bearcats probably loomed over many a Hoya fan’s living room. That Georgetown remained committed to its defensive game plan and rebuilt its lead on the road, against a style of opponent they’ve traditionally struggled against, quells any doubt that John Thompson III’s team is a leading Big East contender.
  4. After collecting praise and accolades in the first months of his Pittsburgh career, freshman guard James Robinson has hit a dramatic scoring slump in the past seven contests. The 6’2″ former Big East Rookie of the Week has shot 16% from the field and failed to score more than one basket in any game during that stretch, despite averaging 21 minutes per game. Moreover, Robinson has failed to score from the field at all in three of those seven contests. He continues to contribute in other ways, like hitting all eight of his combined free throws in the past two games. Nonetheless, Cardiac Hill suggests it might be time to curtail his playing time for the time-being.
  5. On the Catholic Seven front, we learned last night that the nascent league will pursue a 12-team structure by recruiting either Richmond or Siena (?) to join assured invitees Butler, Dayton, Xavier and St. Louis. More importantly, we learned that nobody wants to lead the Catholic Seven: that task fell to Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, “in large part because of a lack of interest on the part of the presidents of St. John’s, Villanova, Seton Hall, DePaul, Marquette and Providence.” The quote illuminates the kind of visionary initiative you would expect from the league that elected to cast its lot with DePaul rather than UConn and Cincinnati. Then again, they’re on the verge of stumbling into a huge payday. VU Hoops still voices some anxiety over the symbolism of allowing fairly trifling logistical concerns to dictate that the league is courting the likes of Siena and Detroit Mercy rather than Creighton.
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Providence Shows Its Growth With Recent Big East Wins

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 7th, 2013

Dan Lyons is an RTC Big East microsite contributor who also writes for the Syracuse blog, “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.”  You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.  He filed this report after Wednesday night’s match-up between Cincinnati and Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

Providence has played this entire season teetering on the edge.  On one side, losses to the likes of Penn State, UMass, Brown, and DePaul don’t inspire much confidence for Ed Cooley‘s squad going forward.  On the other hand, the only game this season that really got away from the Friars was the January 2nd 80-62 loss to then #4 Louisville.  Every other Friar loss has been within ten points, with two having gone to overtime – the games against Penn State and UConn.  Since the loss to UConn, however, Providence’s luck has seemed to turn a bit.  They went to Villanova, a team that had just logged back to back home wins against the conference’s two big dogs Louisville and Syracuse, and knocked off the Wildcats, and then followed that up with last night’s close win at home against #17 Cincinnati.

Kadeem Batts' 25 points and nine rebounds were essential in Providence's upset of #17 Cincinnati.

Kadeem Batts’ 25 points and nine rebounds were essential in Providence’s upset of #17 Cincinnati.

Providence’s road to relevance under Cooley has been a treacherous one, but there has been reason for hope.  Cooley has been recruiting well above the expectations laid forth by Providence’s 42-53 record over the last three seasons.  Last season Cooley reeled in five-star prospects Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo and he currently has 2013 commitment from four-star small forward prospect Brandon Austin.  He also inherited a team with capable players like Kadeem BattsBryce Cotton, and Vincent Council.  However, in a college basketball landscape where inexperience is no longer an excuse for poor performance, Providence’s turnaround hasn’t translated to on-the-court success as quickly as some fans probably hoped.

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Big East M5: 01.31.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 31st, 2013

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  1. Mike Aresco mentioned the likelihood of Big East and Catholic Seven schools scheduling future non-conference series in his comments the other day in Connecticut. Fittingly, neither of the first two programs to arrange such a continuation will play in the Big East in two years. Syracuse and St. John’s will kick off a home-and-home in Madison Square Garden on December 15, extending a century-old intrastate rivalry. While the second game will have no affiliation whatsoever with the Big East, it’s an encouraging bellwether of other efforts to preserve existing Big East rivalries. That’s certainly the impression given in a statement from Syracuse AD Daryl Gross, which begins “As we continue to aggressively secure rivalries that are dear to us…” Perhaps the political entanglements of realignment won’t trample all of the conference traditions fans appreciate.
  2. It’s a moot point, but one Kevin Ollie’s team should feel proud of: the consensus is that UConn would be comfortably in the NCAA Tournament field right now, were they eligible. Before last night’s win over Rutgers, Jerry Palm and Joe Lunardi projected that the Huskies would be seeded between #7-#10, checking in “the low 30s on the S-Curve” in Lunardi’s ESPN Bracketology. Much of the preseason conjecture on UConn’s outlook focused on whether they could stay motivated this season, but Shabazz Napier puts it simply: “You don’t play to lose games.” “It probably hasn’t hit a lot of guys that we’re almost done,” Napier continued, “I think the guys understand that we’re doing this for something bigger. We’re doing this to get ready for next year.”
  3. Prior to hosting Villanova last night, Notre Dame had lost a slumping starter to injury and dropped two of its last three games at the Joyce Center. Meditating on the Fighting Irish’s 65-60 win over Nova, Brian Hamilton at the Chicago Tribune says Notre Dame’s “new reality,” characterized by energetic contributions coming from unimaginable places, “might not be a bad thing.” In his second start in Scott Martin’s stead, Tom Knight scored efficiently in double digits again (10 points, four rebounds, two blocks). Talented freshmen Zach Auguste (four points) and Cam Biedscheid (18 points) contributed off the bench, with the latter scoring a career-high on 5-of-7 three-pointers. “It’s fun watching the new vibe that we have,” said Brey. For now, it’s a promising reality.
  4. In this week’s power rankings, Luke Winn points out that Russ Smith leads the nation with 7.6 transition possessions per 40 minutes, scoring 1.212 points per opportunity. To put that in perspective, deft transition scorer Shabazz Muhammad only scores 1.011 points per possession on 6.9 average chances per ballgame. That statistic underscores that Louisville isn’t utilizing its best offensive asset when the Cards haven’t scored more than seven fast break points in any of their past four games.
  5. Cincinnati managed to overcome a 10-point deficit last night with a hobbled Cashmere Wright to rally past a reeling Rutgers team, 62-54. Though Wright had eight days to rehabilitate his knee after a tough loss to Syracuse, the point guard still struggled to find his shot in 20 minutes of playing time. He’s shooting a paltry 15.7% since returning from injury: He followed last week’s 2-of-13 shooting outing against Syracuse with a 1-of-6, six-point affair tonight. Though Sean Kilpatrick and a defensive lift from Justin Jackson propelled the Bearcats, Wright’s recovery will be pivotal to their contention for a Big East title. According to Kilpatrick, you can’t fault his point guard’s effort: “With the injuries he has, I can’t see anyone playing through it. But he always gives us his everything. That’s a leader for you. He gives you everything until he can’t walk anymore.”
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Big East M5: 01.10.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 10th, 2013

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  1. Road teams won in each of the four Big East games last night, although Seton Hall and Providence gave ranked Louisville and Syracuse competitive tests, respectively. Elsewhere, Rutgers won a 58-56 nailbiter over St. John’s in Madison Square Garden. Suddenly, the Scarlet Knights –– whom we picked dead last in the league this year –– have won seven of eight games, are 2-1 in the Big East, and have added an elusive road win to a resume that already includes a victory over a ranked Pittsburgh squad. The back-to-back conference wins might not mean much in the long run, but for a program that’s often struggled to string together any momentum, it’s a big cause for celebration.
  2. The smoke has cleared from Georgetown’s worst home loss since the Nixon administration, and Rob Dauster at College Basketball Talk says the Hoyas’ offensive frustrations are seeping into their defensive effort. As if it wasn’t obvious, this team isn’t equipped to score a bunch of points: “Georgetown does not have the talent to get baskets outside of their system. Factor in that they don’t have the ideal personnel for their system, and this is the result.” But if the Hoyas let their shooting struggles sap their defensive intensity, this won’t be the last blowout they suffer in the Big East. Given the athleticism and lanky dimensions of their starting five, Dauster suggests Georgetown needs to be producing more opportunistic points off of turnovers and steals.
  3. Pete Thamel reported that representatives from the Catholic Seven and FOX met yesterday to discuss a possible television contract. Previous estimates projected a deal that could net each school $3 million annually, substantially more than the Big East was likely to fetch in its media rights negotiations. Interestingly, Thamel’s report mentions that FOX hopes to make the league’s basketball product the centerpiece of its next sports network, which it hopes to roll out this fall. If the Catholic Seven agrees in principle to a deal with the network, you can bet that their new TV partners will do everything in its power to get those schools out of the Big East before the 2013-14 season. Postscript: Weeks ago, I argued the reconstituted Big East (or, Zombie Big East as it shall henceforth be christened) should add VCU before the Catholic Seven offered. Looks like enthusiasm for the Rams within the C7 is indeed picking up steam, cultural differences notwithstanding. Oh well.
  4. Bearcats Blog broke down 10 plays Notre Dame ran against Cincinnati on Monday and sought some answers in their snapshots. What stuck out? Bad defensive rotations, missed assignments, and post-switch mismatches that Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant exploited with ease. It’s as much a tribute to Notre Dame’s flawless offensive execution as it is an indictment of Bearcats’ mistakes. But it’s a very interesting read, and you can bet Mick Cronin’s team is being shown tape of many of these plays this week.
  5. Speaking of that efficient Notre Dame offense, the Irish have three ball-handlers with assist-to-turnover ratios above 2.0, which is an impressive testament to the “culture of passing” Mike Brey has cultivated with this team. Eric Atkins (109 assists, 28 turnovers; 3.9 ratio), Pat Connaughton (42 A, 11 TO; 3.8) and Jerian Grant (79 A, 35 TO; 2.3) form a triumvirate of absurdly well-measured passers. Brey intimated to Chicago Tribune reporter Brian Hamilton that keeping his rotation small allows his players to play looser: “There is great trust, because it’s not like there are 10 guys playing. Guys know they’re going to be out there, they’re more comfortable to (share the ball) because know they’ll be out there a while.”
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Big East M5: 01.07.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 7th, 2013

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  1. So that whole thing about the ‘Catholic Seven‘ breaking away from the Big East?  That’s looking like an even better decision than we initially thought. According to ESPN.com‘s Darren Rovell, the seven schools have an offer from FOX, which is looking to launch its own sports channel next summer, for 12 years and $500 million. According to the report, the schools would look to bring in three to five additional members who would receive lesser shares, and the seven schools would each make around $5 million per year. In the current Big East, non-football members now make between $2-$3 million per season. These schools may not have powerful football programs, but Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, and the others still hold some weight in the basketball world, as FOX’s reported offer shows.
  2. Meanwhile, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco is having a rough go of things. In a Hartford Courant article, he compares the last six weeks to “drinking from a flood”.  That time period includes the departures of Louisville and Rutgers, the news that Boise State would remain in the Mountain West, and the announcement that the ‘Catholic Seven’ would breaking away from the Big East. Unfortunately for Aresco, it is really less of a flood and more of a drought in terms of viable programs remaining in his conference. San Diego State, which was planning to join as a football-only member, may now turn its back on the conference with Boise gone, and there seems to be real questions as to whether Navy ever ends up joining for football either. To wrap this all up, there does not seem to be many other qualified programs in the east, and schools like Cincinnati, UConn, and USF will jump ship as soon as another viable conference comes calling.
  3. CBS Sports‘ basketball guru Gary Parrish recently penned his mid-season review for the Big East, and everything seemed to line up until his pick for ‘freshman of the year favorite’. Parrish chose Pitt’s Steven Adams as his selection, a players who is having a decent year, and he mentions Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono as another candidate, but as Pitt blog Cardiac Hill notes, by far the best choice for this award is St. John’s forward Jakarr Sampson. Sampson is averaging 13.9 points and seven rebounds per game to Adams’ 7.3/6.2 numbers, and has definitely been the conference’s most impressive rookie so far.
  4. Speaking of the Johnnies, they got what may end up being a signature win against Cincinnati on Saturday. Sampson had a solid night, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight boards, but in crunch time Steve Lavin gave the ball to D’Angelo Harrison. Harrison was having an off night for the Red Storm, but came through in the clutch regardless, scoring the final five points in a 53-52 win over the Bearcats. Harrison was benched by Lavin earlier this season when he wasn’t living up to his potential as a team leader and role model… and it certainly seems like his disciplinary tactics are now paying off.
  5. Brandon Triche has always been somewhat of an enigma to Syracuse fans.  He is a four-year starter, and his statistical lines read like those of a consistently good-but-not-great player. However, many people, including Jim Boeheim, envisioned more from Triche, and it seems like the senior guard may be breaking out at the right time for the Orange. In the first two Big East games of the season, Triche has scored a total of 45 points on 16-of-24 shooting, and has taken some of the play-making pressure off of point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Syracuse does not have great depth at guard, especially when freshman Trevor Cooney struggles to score, so Triche’s ability to provide consistent scoring and spell MCW by running the point has proven to be invaluable this season.
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Where Do UConn, Cincinnati, USF Turn After Loss of Catholic Seven?

Posted by Will Tucker on December 24th, 2012

Last week, the Catholic Seven quashed any hopes that the Big East could reconstitute in the image of its former self. In a final stroke of tragedy, that group seems to have absconded with the lucrative television deal that evaded Mike Aresco for months. All of the sudden USF, Cincinnati and Connecticut look to be the only programs in the current Big East standings that won’t head for greener pastures in 2014-15. So how do these Big East incumbents position themselves in the new conference landscape? Do they control their own fate, or are they destined to wait patiently in the widow’s walk for their own realignment lifeboat to reach their shores?

UConn needs to set an example of stability by committing to Kevin Ollie (John Woike/Hartford Courant)

Memphis, UCF, SMU, Houston, and Temple are scheduled to fully integrate their athletic departments into the Big East next summer. Boise State and San Diego State already grace next season’s conference football schedules, but it now appears the Mountain West Conference has convinced them to steal a page from the TCU book of cold feet.

Outlook

Leadership at UConn and Cincinnati are still licking their wounds from their latest unsuccessful attempts to escape Big East entropy. Cincinnati is taking proactive measures already to make itself a more attractive candidate in the next round of conference expansion. Athletic Director Whit Babcock poached football coach Tommy Tuberbville from a decent Big 12 program and announced plans to update Nippert Stadium. Emails between administrative leaders illustrated a coordinated effort to flank Louisville and UConn for the most recent opening in the ACC, and UC had briefly flirted with the Big 12 the previous year. Cincinnati is only interested in the Big East insofar as it maintains an environment that will facilitate its exit as soon as possible: Namely, one that provides acceptable strength of schedule in basketball and football, and some enticing names on the home slate to attract a very fickle local fan base to attend games.

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Big East Burning Question: Should The ‘Catholic Seven’ Have Left The Big East?

Posted by mlemaire on December 20th, 2012

We admit it. We blatantly stole this topic idea from our colleagues over at the Pac-12 microsite but hopefully they’ll view this as somewhat of an homage to their creative topic ideas rather than lazy theft. Anyway, the big news over the weekend was the decision by the Big East’s seven Catholic schools to leave the conference for destinations yet unknown. The news has been a hot-button issue in recent days with arguments for both sides landing some excellent points. But what’s the final verdict? Was it a good decision for these schools to turn their backs on the Big East or will this decision be a bad one?

Dan Lyons: The Catholic Seven are absolutely making the right decision by leaving the Big East. In fact, they probably should have done it sooner. The marriage between the football schools and basketball schools was always a very tenuous one, as much fun as it was for the Big East basketball faithful. Because of the huge influence of football money on college sports, it was never going to be possible for these two groups to come to any legitimate consensus on the direction that the conference should take – we saw this play out in the Big East media deal negotiations that ended up being a major factor in the departures of Syracuse and Pittsburgh. It was unfair to expect non-football schools to share the same vision for their athletic conference as their football-playing peers. On an individual basis, I’m very glad that I was able to see the 16-team Big East as a basketball fan, as unwieldy as the conference was internally. I will forever relish the rivalries, the Big Monday match-ups, the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, which was an unmatchable event. However, it was only a matter of time before massive defections took place, and though I’m on the outside looking in on the “Catholic Seven” in terms of my personal fanship, I’m glad that those teams will be able to keep their history without having it watered down by trips to SMU and Tulane.  Even without Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Notre Dame, and the panache of being in a “major” conference, the Catholic league should be a fun one to watch.

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