Morning Five: 04.21.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 21st, 2014

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  1. Adam Silver promised to make changes when he replaced David Stern and it appears that the first one will have a bigger impact on college basketball than the NBA. According to reports, Silver wants to raise the age limit to 20. This probably would not go into effect until the 2016 NBA Draft at earliest, but it would have a profound impact on college basketball it was passed. Players would essentially need to go to school for two years. That is unless the players decide to go overseas or play in the NBDL (as some owners suggested). There will obviously be push back from certain groups, but if the NFL can get away with making players wait three years we don’t see why the NBA cannot get away with two years.
  2. One of the running themes of the Morning Five over the past few years has been the frequent use of family hardship waivers. It appears that the NCAA has noticed this too as the Division I Leadership Council recommended that players transferring for this reason be granted an extra year of eligibility, but would make the player sit out a year. While unpopular with some (much like the idea of raising the age limit) this would address two key issues: the abuse of the waiver and still allowing the player to get all of his or her years of eligibility. This won’t affect graduate student transfer waivers, but those are much more difficult to cheat with since the athlete should be leaving with an undergraduate diploma at that point.
  3. Tennessee’s search to replace Cuonzo Martin as its men’s basketball coach appears to be focused on Louisiana Tech coach Michael White. When Martin left Knoxville to become the new head coach at California we figured it would be much tougher for them to land a coach than their fans would expect given the way that Martin had been treated. Although White has never made a NCAA Tournament appearance, he has been successful in his three seasons at Louisiana Tech compiling a 74-31 record including going 56-15 the past two seasons. White also has a reputation for being a top-notch recruiter and with his experience at Ole Miss as a recruiter is well-versed in SEC recruiting.
  4. We have heard of short-lived commitments, but Kareem Canty might be in a class by himself. The Marshall transfer, who committed to Bruce Pearl and Auburn on Saturday night, backed out of that commitment less than 24 hours later and will visit South Florida as well. To be fair to Canty, he has not ruled out Auburn as he says he just wants to compare it to another school. Canty averaged 16.3 points and 5.5 assists per game last season and will be among the most highly sought-after recruits on the market. Normally we would not give South Florida much of a chance to land a player like this, but much like Bruce Pearl at Auburn, the presence of Orlando Antigua will make them competitive for recruits they previously would not have been in the running for.
  5. St. John’s had a big addition over the weekend, which would not be particularly newsworthy, except that the addition is current/former player Chris Obekpa. Obekpa, who is one of the premier shotblockers in the country, had announced his intent to transfer before changing his mind. It appears that Steve Lavin has accepted him back with open arms although some of that may have to do with how shorthanded the Red Storm might be next year in the frontcourt with Jakarr Sampson already declaring for the NBA Draft.
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Morning Five: 04.15.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 15th, 2014

morning5

  1. Yesterday was a big day for NBA Draft announcements. The biggest name to announce that he was leaving college was Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon. Despite his game being ridiculously raw, this decision seemed like a no-brainer since he is projected to be a top-10 pick. Could Gordon’s game use a little (ok, a lot of) work? Sure, but it seems unreasonable to ask him to pass up a contract that will probably be worth at least $6 million. Two other players–Gary Harris and Jerami Grant–also decided to leave college and while they are not quite at Gordon’s level in terms of draft status they are both borderline lottery picks and in the top 20 of most mock drafts, which suggests that they should be almost guaranteed first round picks despite leaving after their sophomore seasons. A slightly more surprising departure was that of Glenn Robinson III, who projected to be a borderline first round pick (more likely a second rounder). There are conflicting reports regarding whether or not Robinson has signed with an agent yet, but it would seem wise for him not to do so since he is far from a guaranteed first round pick and his father should be able to get plenty of insight without the official use of an agent.
  2. Two other likely first round picks–Willie Cauley-Stein and Montrezl Harrell–opted to stay in school for at least one more year. The two sophomores were projected to be somewhere around the #20 pick in this year’s Draft so they passed up a  pretty significant amount of money to come back and play. Both figure to be key pieces for their respective teams next year. Cauley-Stein could help Kentucky get back to the Final Four next year while Harrell makes Louisville (with more modest goals next year) a potential top-tier team in the ACC next season.
  3. We could be getting two more big draft decision announcements in the next few days and unlikely many cases we are not sure which way these players (sorry, student-athletes) will go. Nik Stauskas will announce his decision tomorrow. The decision for a Big Ten Player of the Year is a significant one for any program, but it is particularly so for Michigan with the recent departures of Jon Horford (transfer) and Glenn Robinson III (NBA Draft). Michigan won’t necessarily struggle next year if Stauskas leaves, but if he does you can forget about them contending for a Big Ten title. Jabari Parker is expected to announce his decision on Wednesday. Parker has already said that he will not be going on his LDS mission (at least not in the near-future), but is still deciding between returning to Duke for his sophomore year or entering the NBA Draft. If Parker does return (we honestly don’t see why unless he thinks he will learn to play defense as a sophomore), he would make Duke the prohibitive favorite going into next season even if they are a team loaded with freshmen.
  4. It was a busy day at St. John’s yesterday. Former St. John’s guard Max Hooper announced that he will be transferring to Oakland. This will be Hooper’s second transfer as he started his college career at Harvard and he will be eligible to play next year (with two years of eligibility remaining) as he is expected to graduate in May. Hooper is a three-point specialist and even though some are suggesting he could replace Travis Bader we don’t see that happening since Hooper only averaged 3.2 points per game. In more favorable news for St. John’s fans it appears that Chris Obekpa had a change of heart and is looking to return to St. John’s. This does not necessarily mean that Obekpa will be welcomed back by Steve Lavin, but it does place Lavin in an interesting predicament. Our guess is that he will give Obekpa some internal punishment that the other players in the program will know about just to show them that he is still committed to their program.
  5. John Calipari finally revealed what his famous “tweak” was that was credited in some circles as sparking Kentucky’s late-season run: telling Andrew Harrison to play like a point guard. According to Calipari, he showed Andrew tapes of Deron Williams and asked him what Andrew would have done in a similar situation. Invariably, Andrew answered “shoot” then Deron passed the ball for an assist. We never really bought into the whole “tweak” idea unless it was having Aaron Harrison hit ridiculous late-game three-pointers, but it served its purpose by deflecting attention away from the players even the actual idea was ridiculously simple.
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Morning Five: 04.04.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2014

morning5

  1. After being rejected by Harvard coach Tommy Amaker and deciding against Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins (possibly the most sought-after assistant in the country), Boston College announced that they were hiring Ohio coach Jim Christian to replace Steve Donahue. Christian was 49-22 at Ohio after taking over for Jim Groce, who left for Illinois. The move is an interesting one is that despite his relative success in stops at Kent State, TCU, and Ohio, Christian has only made two NCAA Tournament appearances in twelve seasons and never got past the first round.
  2. Few players have seen their NBA Draft stock drop as much as James Michael McAdoo during his three years at North Carolina. Coming in as a top-10 recruit, he was still a lottery pick, but decided to come back to school. Despite boosting his production significantly between his freshman and sophomore year, McAdoo returned to school yet again. Now after his junior year, McAdoo has finally decided to enter the NBA Draft. At this point, he is a mid- to late-second round pick. Financially it would have been better for McAdoo to enter after his freshman year and get at least one NBA contract, but in the end he probably would have ended up with the same fate: playing overseas.
  3. T.J. Warren‘s NBA prospects are significantly brighter than McAdoo’s, but he has not decided on whether he will enter the Draft or not. According to Warren’s father, T.J. will probably make his announcement on Tuesday. Warren won ACC Player of the Year honors while leading the conference in scoring (24.9) and shooting (52.5%) and ranking in the top in steals and rebounds. Warren is a borderline lottery pick so at this point we would be surprised to see him return for another season in Raleigh, but stranger things have happened.
  4. St. John’s has had a tough off-season so far. They already had JaKarr Sampson declare for the NBA Draft and now Chris Obekpa has decided to transfer. The 6’9″ sophomore might not be the college player that Sampson is, but he is a better NBA prospect because of his ability to block shots as he averaged 4 blocks per game as a freshman despite playing just 26 minutes per game. He saw his minutes and blocks drop this season, but still had a similar blocked shot percentage (15.7%) putting him among the best in the country. He is believed to be looking at Oregon and Baylor as potential transfer destinations.
  5. It takes a special kind of stupid to get arrested twice in one day, but that is what (former) Missouri player Zach Price did yesterday. Price was arrested early yesterday morning after assaulting his roommate and his roommate’s girlfriend. Price was released a short time later and managed to get arrested yesterday afternoon although the details of that arrest remain unclear. Missouri had already suspended Price following his first arrest so we would not be surprised to see them dismiss him from the program in the near future.
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Big East M5: 03.04.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on March 4th, 2014

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  1. Xavier got a huge win on Saturday against Creighton, leading some pundits to say they were safely into the NCAA Tournament. Things were looking good until last night when they visited the Prudential Center to play Seton Hall. Within 10 minutes, Matt Stainbrook went down in a heap screaming and was  unable to return the rest of the game. Chris Mack did not know what the prognosis is for Stainbrook, telling the media, “I won’t know for sure until he sees our doctor. We’re hopeful that it’s maybe just an MCL strain.” That would be a crucial blow to the Musketeers as they were rising and were in the 7/8 seed range if they finished the year well. They struggled the rest of the night and fell to the Pirates. They host Villanova on Thursday to close the year before heading to New York. They will likely need to win at least one more game this year to be safe, but if Stainbrook misses the rest of the year, the team is going to struggle to adapt so quickly.
  2. Steve Lavin’s squad has been short-handed lately. Orlando Sanchez missed a game to be with his wife for the birth of their child two weeks ago and Chris Obekpa missed time at the end of February with an ankle injury. On Sunday the team was without freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan as he mourned the loss of his aunt. This is a crucial time for St. John’s as they sit as the third team out according to Joe Lunardi’s bracketology. They survived a scare from DePaul on Sunday and close the regular season against Marquette, on the Golden Eagles senior day. This team has had an epic turn around, but still has work to be done if they want to be dancing.
  3. Georgetown will break ground on construction for a new athletic facility this summer. The facility will be named after famed coach John Thompson Jr. and is scheduled to be completed in 2016, costing $60 million. Georgetown Athletic Director said in a statement, “We’re very excited to be able to have the opportunity to recognize the career of John Thompson Jr. in this way. Coach Thompson’s legacy as a leader, a teacher and a coach are unparalleled in college athletics. Having his name on this building is a fitting honor.” Hopefully this helps the coaching staff lure some big recruits and give the players more resources to develop.
  4. Two sixth-year seniors were in some great articles recently. Chris Otule, Marquette’s singing big man, talked to Eric Prisbell of USA Today about his long career, full of injuries and hardships. It has been well-publicized that Otule was born with glaucoma and has had to live with a prosthetic eye. He has played in three straight sweet sixteens with vision in only one eye, a feat most of us cannot even imagine. After coming to Marquette, he broke his right foot and the next year broke his left foot, missing both seasons. Two years ago as the Golden Eagles got out to a 10-0 start, Otule’s leg buckled at Madison Square Garden, leading to a torn ACL and another missed season. What separates him is his personality, leading to being awarded Marquette’s first lifetime achievement award, before he even left. Grant Gibbs is also in his sixth season and spoke with Sean Brennan. He transferred from Gonzaga after suffering a shoulder and knee injury in his first two years. Then he struggled with his knee as he waited to play for the Bluejays. He eventually got healthy and the rest is history as he has led the team alongside Doug McDermott. Both players struggled, but displayed great perseverance to continue their careers.
  5. Seton Hall senior Fuquan Edwin almost did not get to play in his final home game last night against Xavier after hurting his thumb last week. After sitting out the team’s last game, he was fortunately able to suit up and help lead the team to a nice upset. Brendan Prunty of The Star Ledger sat down with Edwin and talked to him about his journey to Seton Hall and his legacy. Edwin has some great quotes including speaking about his childhood, growing up in a rough neighborhood and deciding to go to Paterson Catholic to stay out of trouble and  staying with current Cincinnati player Shaquille Thomas. When talking about his legacy Edwin said, “I think my legacy is going hard out there, 100 percent. I think what I’ll be remembered for is playing hard. I didn’t think about that when I came here, but I came here and wanted to do something special.” Edwin hopes to make it onto an NBA roster after he finishes a great career in South Orange.
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Morning Five: 02.28.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 28th, 2014

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  1. With the season winding down, UCLA appears to be looking at a fairly high seed (we have seen anywhere from 4-7 in brackets), but we have to wonder about them going forward after Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, the team’s two best players were suspended for last night’s game against Oregon. The outcome of last night’s game isn’t nearly as important as the suspensions–one game each for “violating team rules”. That could certainly mean a lot of things, but it has to make you wonder about the mindset of Anderson (14.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game) and Adams (17.2 points per game) heading into March.
  2. It has been a few weeks since we had heard much about the North Carolina academic scandal so we were a bit surprised to see that Business Week had decided to make it this week’s cover story. For those who have followed this story there is not anything particularly shocking in the story, but it will only serve to further damage the school’s reputation. At this point it seems unlikely that either the NCAA or any governing body will take significant action against the school and you can argue that print media is dying, but having that cover on newsstands across the world certainly won’t help North Carolina’s brand.
  3. For the Tar Heel fans who might be feeling a little down after yet another mainstream media source took a shot at the school for their handle of the academic scandal, Grantland has a feature on a topic–the 2005 title team–that should serve as a way to perk you up. Except that it is about how the key players on that team failed to live up to expectations. We don’t mind to pile on Tar Heel fans today, but it is an interesting topic particularly when you consider that you can make a strong case for that team being one of the top teams since 2000. Oh, and if you want to know if Illinois fans are still upset about losing that title game check out the comment section.
  4. Bill Self might not want to play Wichita State, but that does not mean he does not appreciate what they are doing. When asked about the Shockers, Self reiterated his stance that he would continue to schedule games to help his program not others. This certainly won’t endear him to Wichita State fans, but Self did come out in support of the Shockers as a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they are undefeated when Selection Sunday rolls around. Honestly, we don’t understand how anybody could believe that the Selection Committee would pass on an undefeated team much less one that made it to the Final Four last year (yes, we know the last part shouldn’t matter).
  5. By now you should know that we basically link Luke Winn’s Power Rankings almost every week. It’s not that Luke pays us (that would be a nice gift though), but it is because it is one of the few columns that we learn something new from every week. This week the two things that jump out at us are the block matrix that Luke created and how Xavier Thames‘ usage and production has decreased recently. The part of the block matrix that jumped out at us is how underrated Chris Obekpa is as a defender. He won’t generate the headlines that Joel Embiid does mainly because of Obekpa’s limited offensive repertoire, but these numbers suggest that he might be able to find his way onto a NBA roster some day. As for Thames, being on the East Coast we do not get to see as much of him as we would like, but the graph showing his drop in usage and production is instructive if you are trying to figure out what is wrong with San Diego State.
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Big East M5: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 20th, 2014

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  1. St. John’s has been rolling, winning again in a rout of Butler on Tuesday, but they got some bad news prior to that game. Chris Obekpa, a shot-blocking machine, will be out for between 10-14 days due to an injured ankle he suffered in practice and will miss crucial games against Villanova and Xavier. Head coach Steve Lavin said about the matter: “Chris is a central part of what we do on both ends of the court. Our team will have to step up collectively in his absence.” The team will obviously miss his inside defensive presence, but with the way the Johnnies have been playing, they can still pull out two big wins in the coming week. The team has plenty of depth and God’sgift Achiuwa and Orlando Sanchez can fill in down low as capable replacements.
  2. Butler continues to struggle and Tuesday’s loss was another tough defeat to swallow for Brandon Miller’s team. After leading at the half by three, they were run out of the gym by the Red Storm, ultimately losing by 25 points. The team began conference play with a string of losses, but they were still fighting (several games went to overtime). Now, however, the Bulldogs are getting blown out in nearly every outing.  Zak Keefer takes a look at what has gone wrong with this storied program. Kameron Woods was suspended prior to Tuesday’s game and Rene Castro declared he would be transferring away from the program last week. There is considerable instability within and surrounding this program right now, a major cause for concern. Miller has respect from his peers, but losing seasons don’t wear very well at Butler, even given the uptick in competition.
  3. Villanova took another team’s best shot and responded with a double-overtime victory on the road at Providence on Tuesday. ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan takes a look at the team’s response to getting ripped apart by Creighton for the second time this seasson. As one of the premier teams in the Big East, the Wildcats are often going to get their opponents’ best shot. Jay Wright’s team has yet to lose a game this season to a team not named Creighton or Syracuse, something that should help them a great deal on Selection Sunday.
  4. Villanova’s big win was Providence‘s tough loss. In great need of a profile-boosting win, the Friars fought for 50 minutes but simply didn’t have enough to outlast the Wildcats. A win likely would have pushed them well into the projected field of 68, but instead they will have to be nearly perfect down the stretch if they want to play in the NCAA Tournament. Fortunately for Friars fans, coach Ed Cooley is moving on and ready to keep fighting. He said after the loss: “We can put our heads down and feel sorry for ourselves, but at the end of the day we have to get back up and get ready for Butler on Sunday. I know a lot of people are disappointed. I know our fans wanted to win, everybody wanted to win. But you’re playing a top 10 team coming off a loss. Give them credit. They’re a great team.” The Friars have three very winnable games with Butler, Seton Hall, and Marquette coming up, but their season finale at Creighton could be the one that solidifies a postseason berth.
  5. It has been a rollercoaster season for Marquette and head coach Buzz Williams has turned to a number of different lineup combinations to try to find the players who can consistently score. Paint Touches wrote about the lineup that has been most effective for the team this season. Williams turned to that group on Saturday in a big win over Xavier, but unfortunately, the Golden Eagles followed up that win with a tough loss to Creighton Wednesday night. The lineup is equal parts positives and negatives. Derrick Wilson and Jake Thomas have their bright spots but usually do not contribute much offensively. Todd Mayo and Jamil Wilson are solid offensive players, but they are both inconsistent and prone to silly mistakes. Davante Gardner is the team’s best player, but he struggles on the defensive end of the floor. Together the group seems to fit well and complement each other’s strengths, but Marquette, like Butler, isn’t used to being in this position.
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Morning Five: 02.19.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 19th, 2014

morning5

  1. With the way this season has been going some of the more overzealous Indiana fans might be feeling like the sky is falling and yesterday they were right as a large metal beam fell from the ceiling onto the seats yesterday. Fortunately, this happened earlier in the afternoon before their scheduled game last night. As a result and perhaps out of concern for additional danger, yesterday’s game between Iowa and Indiana was postponed. What has not been postponed is tonight’s women’s basketball against Michigan will go on as scheduled with fans kept away from the corner. We suspect that the crowd at Assembly Hall will be even thinner than usual tonight.
  2. Wyoming may have suffered a major setback late last night when Larry Nance Jr. injured his right knee in a win against Fresno State. Nance, who leads the Cowboys in scoring (15.3 per game), rebounds (8.8), blocks (2.1), and steals (1.4), was injured with 14:51 left in the game. The extent of Nance’s injury is unknown at this point, but he was on the floor for several minutes and had to be helped off unable to bear weight on that leg. We are expecting that Nance will get imaging on his knee and some sort of prognosis within the next 48 hours, but it does not look good at the time being for the Cowboys star.
  3. Chris Obekpa‘s right ankle sprain comes at a particularly bad time for St. John’s as the Red Storm have turned their season around and are at least on the bubble in many mock brackets. Obekpa’s injury–a sprain and a bone bruise–is expected to keep him out for 10 to 14 days. That will Obekpa, the team’s leading shot blocker at 3.2 per game (11th in the nation), out for Saturday’s game against Villanova and next Tuesday’s game against Xavier. Even though St. John’s was able to beat Butler easily without Obekpa their next two games will not be nearly as easy.
  4. We have heard of NCAA bracket pool winners employing a variety of deep analytic methods–picking which mascot would win a fight is a popular one–to win significant office pools. With Warren Buffett’s $1 billion perfect contest being announced a few months ago, Chris Jones of ESPN The Magazine reached out to Craig Gilmore, last year’s ESPN Tournament Challenge winner, to find out how he did it (winning the pool not going undefeated, which he didn’t). Gilmore’s strategy–four pints of Guinness–is certainly not unique (we assume at least a few college students might have had something to drink around the time they filled out their brackets), but it might be the first time we have seen it cited as a strategy. In Gilmore’s case he claims that going with his gut and not overanalyzing his bracket was the key to his success. We are expecting that we will see plenty of columns like this in the coming months with various writers trumpeting some method to help you win a billion dollars, but in the end it all comes down to one thing: luck.
  5. At this point we are very familiar with athletes using the graduate student transfer waiver. So when we heard that Aaron Bright was using it to transfer from Stanford to St. Mary’s we were not particularly surprised. That is until we tried to figure out what graduate programs St. Mary’s offered that Stanford did not. We are not trying to knock St. Mary’s which is an excellent school, but we were just curious as to what programs a school as prestigious as Stanford would not offer that a nearby school would. The best answer we have comes from RTC correspondent C.D. Bradley who pointed out that St. Mary’s offers three masters programs–Kinesiology, MA in Leadership, and MFA in Creative Writing–that Stanford does not. Honestly, we never really doubted that Bright would end up in a program that Stanford didn’t offer, but it made us wonder (even before seeing the options) how many players end up getting majors in things that they have no interest in just to obtain a graduate student waiver.
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Big East M5: 11.25.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 25th, 2013

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  1. Seton Hall has had a crazy last couple days. On Tuesday news came out that sophomore guard Tom Mayaan will most likely have to return to his home country of Israel to serve his three year military requirement. Mayaan thought he was going to receive an athletic exception after playing well for the Israeli U-20 team this summer, but his uncle returned to the US to relay the bad news. It is thought to be a misunderstanding between Mayaan and the Israel Defense Forces, but if Mayaan does have to leave it could mean the end of his collegiate basketball career. Seton Hall would lose a key role player who has provided solid play so far, dishing out 3.5 assists per game in 17 minutes. More bad news is that during the Pirates epic collapse to Oklahoma on Friday, Czech forward Patrik Auda re-injured his right foot and will be evaluated today.Kevin Willard said “The swelling went down. I don’t want to be too optimistic because when I do, something bad happens.” It will come down to if he bent the screw they put in last year. If he didn’t he could return in a month, but if he did then he will miss the year. The Pirates pulled out a win on Saturday night, but his defense and rebounding were missed.
  2. Another St. John’s player has been suspended. After having D’Angelo Harrison suspended for the end of last year and Chris Obekpa suspended this preseason, Steve Lavin has ruled freshman Rysheed Jordan out indefinitely. Jordan missed Friday’s contest against Monmouth and it doesn’t seem he will play in tomorrow’s game against Longwood. Fortunately he has not missed a big game yet, but the final big non-conference game the Johnnies have is against Syracuse on December 15. As a freshman, Jordan can use all the game experience he can get, and when (if) he comes back he may well find himself farther down the bench. The preseason Big East Freshman of the Year was hyped as an instant contributor and he has played well in his action so far, averaging four points and two assists. Hopefully Jordan pulls it together and is reinstated before his freshman year is lost.
  3. An interesting figure over the weekend was that Creighton drew over 18,000 fans for their win over Tulsa. For a private school to draw that many fans for a game against a team like Tulsa is amazing. Fans of teams outside Omaha probably do not realize how big Creighton basketball is in Omaha. A Twitter user compared the Creighton fans to Nebraska football fans, the ultimate compliment. Several Big East teams do very well in attendance each year. Creighton ranks sixth in all of Division 1 and Marquette is fifteenth. The Golden Eagles had over 13,000 in attendance for their unimpressive performance over New Hampshire. All the Big East teams are in the top 75 which speaks to the great fan bases and hoop-enthused communities, one of the things that makes Big East basketball great.
  4. The weekend saw some great individual performances from Big East players. Stud Doug McDermott poured in 33 points on Saturday night. The most interesting, and amazing, note of the week is, as Rob Anderson pointed out on Twitter, “Today was Doug McDermott’s 60th career game with 20 or more points. He’s had 19 or less in just 54 contests.” The fact that he has had more games with over 20 points than not in his entire career is phenomenal. His scoring is even more important with Grant Gibbs recent scoring slump. It may be due in part to his hurt finger, but Gibbs production will have to be made up. Gibbs continues to distribute the ball well, but if Creighton is to be a serious contender, they will need his scoring. Chris Obekpa, St. John’s defensive force, followed up his seven block performance on Tuesday with nine on Friday. To be able to do that is amazing, and Obekpa is only 6’9″, much shorter than most premier shot blockers in recent history.
  5. Providence coach Ed Cooley and his squad headed down to St. Thomas for the Paradise Jam with his two suspended freshmen–Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock– who have yet to play in a game, but have been practicing with the team the past few weeks. Austin was expected to contribute at a high level right away, like Rysheed Jordan, but if he is unable to get some run before conference play begins, it is doubtful he will have a role on the team this year. His addition would be an added boost to an already impressive Providence team, who will play in the final of the Paradise Jam tonight against Maryland, if he can work his way into the rotation soon. Kris Dunn has showed that one can come back from a brief spell off the court. Since he returned from a minor shoulder injury, he has propelled the Friars to a win over Vanderbilt and has been magnificent creating opportunities for his teammates, averaging over six assists per contest.  This Friars team looks special and will have a shot to really test themselves against Kentucky in Brooklyn next Sunday.
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Three Up, Three Down in Last Night’s Big East Action

Posted by George Hershey on November 20th, 2013

Last night three Big East teams played important non-conference games and all three escaped with wins. Here are three positives and three negatives from the Butler, St. John’s and DePaul on Tuesday evening.

Three Up:

Butler's Khyle Marshall Took Over the Game Last Night (KC Star)

Butler’s Khyle Marshall Took Over the Game Last Night (KC Star)

  1. Khyle Marshall down the stretch: Butler was able to beat Vanderbilt in large part to Marshall’s outstanding play in the last 10 minutes of that game. Marshall scored 16 of the Bulldogs final 23 points, including outscoring the Commodores by himself in overtime. Marshall took control of the game when his team needed him the most and it was truly stunning to watch him go to work. To begin overtime, he scored on a layup, using a nifty spin to get by his defender, then had two similar falling 10-footers, using his quickness and size to create the necessary separation. In a tight game against a solid SEC team, Marshall stepped up and was a joy to watch as he continually got into the lane and finished with eight made baskets around the rim.
  2. DePaul’s Seniors: Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young put on a clinic against Wisconsin-Milwaukee last night. They both played 36 minutes in a tightly contested game. Melvin shot the ball great all night, finishing with four made threes and 20 points. Young distributed the ball nicely as well, assisting on four three-pointers, and adding 19 points. Maybe most impressive was their contribution rebounding the ball. With an inexperienced front line, the seniors stepped up and constantly helped to rebound against a tough team, combining for 16 boards.  It was great to see the seniors give the extra effort on the glass to add to their usual offensive performances in order to come away with a win. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on October 28th, 2013

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  1. Fox Sports 1 kicked off its coverage of the Big East with its Tip-Off Party on Friday night. Rob Stone, Bill Raftery and Tarik Turner led viewers around the Big East as most teams have now had their season opening events/scrimmages. The Fox hosts talked with several of the league coaches as well as preseason POY Doug McDermott. Fox has invested a lot of money in the new league and is already pushing its games with plenty of commercials and a new show for Bill Raftery, whom they lured away from ESPN. Bringing in a big name like Raftery and placing him alongside everyone’s favorite play-by-play announcer, Gus Johnson, will help draw some casual viewers. The Big East/Fox Sports 1 relationship will be a crucial one for both sides this season as both entities are new ventures and will need to have some early success to gain credibility.
  2. St. John’s center Chris Obekpa was recently suspended for the the Red Storm’s tip-off event and their two preseason scrimmages for violating university rules. Luckily for Obekpa and Steve Lavin, he will be able to practice and will be available for the team’s crucial season opener against Wisconsin on November 8. Obekpa had the second most blocks in the nation last year and is a huge presence down low. He is an irreplaceable player for the Red Storm so it is paramount that he does not have any more rules violations that could keep him out of the lineup. Lavin said, “We expect our student-athletes to conduct themselves in a responsible manner in representing St. John’s University. Chris understands this suspension can serve as a learning experience.” Hopefully he does not suffer too much from missing the exhibition games and will be 100 percent ready for the Badgers in a little more than a week.
  3. Villanova and Marquette both had their preseason intra-squad scrimmages this weekend. Villanova split into the Blue team, led by Ryan Arcidiacono, and White team, led by JayVaughn Pinkston. The Blue team won by 15 points and was in control from the start. VUHoops.com was impressed by Arcidiacono, who is looking to build off a very successful freshman campaign, as well as freshman Josh Hart, who was a menace defensively. In Milwaukee, Buzz Williams decided to have a “pseudo practice”, as Andrei Greska of PaintTouches.com put it. Freshman point guard John Dawson was impressive for a guy who was looked at as a project by most, but with the loss of Duane Wilson for a few months, he will be called upon to play a few minutes each night. The other two freshman, JaJuan Johnson and Deonte Burton, were impressive and had some nice plays on offense. The most impressive player of all, though, according to Greska, was Juan Anderson. The junior wing seems to be putting it all together after a summer where he decided to leave and then return to the program.
  4. Georgetown reeled in four-star 6’8″ power forward Marcus Derrickson over the weekend. He is ranked 55th in the class of 2015 by Rivals and is the Hoyas’ first verbal commitment in the class. This weekend was huge for recruiting for several teams that held their preseason tip-offs. Seton Hall had their excellent 2014 commitments Khadeen Carrington, Isaiah Whitehead, Angel Delgado, and Ismael Sanogo in attendance as well as several local targets in the classes of 2015 and 2016. Kevin Willard is turning it around big time with the 2014 class and having all the recruits on campus will hopefully bring in some additional top talent. St. John’s also had some big recruits on campus with Isaiah Briscoe and Cheick Diallo in Carnesecca Arena. Both would be huge gets for Steve Lavin who has had great success recruiting at St. John’s.
  5. Several of the tip-off parties had some special appearances and performances on Friday night. Providence brought in singer Nick Cannon to DJ the event and Villanova had Nicki Minaj perform.  There were also some superb dunk contests. St. John’s freshman Rysheed Jordan won theirs with an amazing dunk over former Red Storm center God’s Gift Achiuwa. Another freshman, Providence’s Brandon Austin, had an incredible between-the-legs dunk to win theirs. Probably the most bizarre event from Friday around the league was at Seton Hall. Pirates coach Kevin Willard challenged competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi to a hot-dog eating contest. Willard decided to drink wine and put some mustard on his hot dog as the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion devoured 10 hot dogs in a minute and then chugged a gallon of milk.
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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: 03.01.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 1st, 2013

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  1.  Just when you thought the conference realignment mumbo jumbo couldn’t get more confusing, news broke yesterday that the Catholic 7 will be starting their own league next season and they will be calling themselves the Big East conference. From what I can tell, the old Big East, now built around football, will be selling its name to the Catholic 7 and renaming itself something different. Meanwhile the Catholic 7 gets to keep a conference name that is synonymous with excellent basketball and plans to add Xavier, Butler, and probably Creighton as it establishes itself as a basketball-first conference. The move is being spearheaded by the Fox Sports Network which has promised the schools from the Catholic 7 a lucrative TV deal and is helping grease the wheels for their impending exit. Ignoring the ridiculousness of a television network being the driving factor in conference realignment (hardly a new idea) the best part of this news is that for once, we will have a basketball-first conference.
  2. The NCAA tried its best to make sure that St. John’s forward Orlando Sanchez never played a single game for the Red Storm, but in the end, the school and the talented big man won their appeal, on their fourth try. Sanchez has sat out the entire season while waiting for the NCAA to sort out his eligibility issues that stem from his time with a club team in the Dominican Republic. The NCAA denied his appeal three times and the Red Storm were actually forced to bring in seasoned litigators and threaten to go to federal court and now finally Sanchez is free to play…next season anyway. The news is great for coach Steve Lavin and his club. Sanchez will be 25 when he suits up next season and has impressed scouts with his size, versatility, and athleticism. The Johnnies have been sorely lacking an offensive threat on the interior and if they can put Sanchez on the floor with shot-blocking phenom Chris Obekpa, the Johnnies could be a dangerously balanced team next season.
  3. Not everything about UConn‘s double overtime loss to Georgetown on Wednesday was disheartening as mercurial sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels had his best game as a collegiate, finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double. Daniels’ impressive performance was probably one part excitement for fans who have been waiting for the uber-talented underclassmen to live up to his hype as a recruit, and one part frustration as it is somewhat puzzling as to why Daniels hasn’t been able to have more games like this. The fact that a player of Daniels’ size and athleticism has just one double-double is somewhat absurd and only serves to highlight what a streaky player he has been this season. But assuming Daniels returns to school next season alongside the rest of his team, and assuming he continues to improve and get better, the Huskies could be a very dangerous team next season.
  4. The Pittsburgh Panthers are likely headed back to the NCAA Tournament this season after a one-season hiatus. But while it is a nice accomplishment and one that the team and coach Jamie Dixon should be proud of, the program has set the bar so high in the past decade, that the new questions about what it will take for Pitt to have serious success in the NCAA Tournament have already started to arise. Somehow, for all of their success and talent, the Panthers never made the Final Four under Ben Howland or Jamie Dixon, and they have made the Elite Eight just once. Most programs would take 11 tournament appearances in the last 12 seasons and boast about it for years, but Panthers’ fans expect more and Dixon expects more as well. Dixon really only has himself to blame for helping set the bar so high, but the program’s shortcomings in the NCAA Tournament are troublesome and rather glaring. They have never beat a higher seed? That is shocking given how good some of Dixon’s teams have been. This season will be another interesting case study because as much as advanced metrics love the Panthers and as much talent as they have on their roster, they have been inconsistent this season and they need to make sure that occasional complacency doesn’t spill over into the NCAA Tournament.
  5. At this point I feel like Bud Poliquin is just trolling the rest of us with his column. One day after a jumbled and meandering column about Jim Boeheim‘s decorum in press, Poliquin was back, republishing a column from 1989 that centers around Boeheim getting a little bit combative in a press conference and proves Poliquin was just as difficult to follow then as he is today. The man is an institution at the Syracuse Post-Standard and an excellent columnist, especially when it comes to Syracuse basketball, but the column from March of ’89, just like the column from the other day, doesn’t really make much of a point and contains so much flowery language and prose that it is very difficult to follow along. So let me try to synthesize what the previous two columns have been about: Jim Boeheim, coach of the Syracuse basketball team, can occasionally get a bit snarky with reporters when he doesn’t like their questions, and he has been doing this for years.
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