Big East M5: 11.25.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 25th, 2013


  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


  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. 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 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


  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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Ten Tuesday (Wednesday) Scribbles: On Underwhelming Teams, Soft Schedules, Wisconsin and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 6th, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. The Super Bowl marks the beginning of a two month stretch where college basketball dominates the national sports scene. From now until April 8, the focus will be squarely on our terrific sport. Sure it can be frustrating for the diehard fans that have been following every game since early November but the attention of the casual fans is what drives coverage and television ratings. The unfortunate reality is that without casual fan interest, college basketball would exclusively be a niche sport. We all have had that NCAA Tournament pool experience where the person who starts watching in February or March and knows very little other than team names and rankings wins the pool while the person who studies the efficiency metrics and knows that Travis Trice is a great three point shooter but awful inside the arc (h/t Luke Winn) finishes near the bottom of the pool standings. Nevertheless, it is an exciting time of year as bubble talk, last four in and last four out quickly creep into the daily sports conversation. Games like Tuesday night’s Ohio State/Michigan classic are what drive interest in the sport. We’ve been treated to plenty of great games this season but this one couldn’t have come at a better time, a time when most of America is now squarely focused on college basketball. Strap in, it’s going to be really fun as we head into the part of the season where every game is so big and teams make their final push towards March.
  2. As we move into this crucial part of the season, the issue of teams peaking early can become a concern for some. The season is a process, an evolution if you will, and not every team is playing its best basketball come March. As I look across the nation, there are a few teams that may have already peaked or are peaking right now and may not be able to sustain their current level of play into March. Oregon, NC State, Miami and Butler come to mind. Two losses to the Bay Area schools have put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. Is it a short term blip or a sign of things to come for the Ducks? Their ability to score and propensity for turnovers are causes for concern but Oregon’s defense is surprisingly solid. NC State’s issue is just the opposite. The Wolfpack certainly can score, although their offense was shut down in losses to Maryland and Virginia. However, defense has been a problem all year and NC State’s efficiency, ranked #141 in the country, is simply not at a level where you can win games consistently. Chances are the Wolfpack have already peaked and their inability to stop teams will catch up to them eventually. Miami is a case of a team that may be peaking as we speak. The Hurricanes have won 10 consecutive games in a variety of different ways. This fact (meaning they can play different styles/speeds) combined with a defensive efficiency ranked fourth in the country suggest Miami can sustain this level of play. Concerns for the Hurricanes include three point shooting, free throw shooting and offensive rebounding but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Miami hold steady, at least for the next few weeks. Butler is an interesting case. The Bulldogs are 18-4 (5-2) but have lost two of their four games since the emotional win over Gonzaga on January 19 while also struggling through a win over lowly Rhode Island. Butler’s league isn’t as tough as the other teams mentioned here so it will likely enter the NCAA Tournament with a very strong record. Of concern is the BU defense which is not at the elite level it was when the Bulldogs first went to the national title game three years ago. However, it would be foolish to doubt Brad Stevens and his group. With a soft schedule down the stretch, there is still time for Butler to pile up wins and gather confidence heading into the tournament. I would say Butler has not peaked yet despite some major wins already on its resume. Look out for the Bulldogs next month.

    C.J. Leslie and NC State may have peaked early (E. Hyman/RNO)

    C.J. Leslie and NC State may have peaked early (E. Hyman/RNO)

  3. As we head into February and the regular season begins to wind down, I figure this is a good time to look at a few of America’s underwhelming teams. There are teams out there with gaudy records but few quality wins or those who just haven’t gotten on track relative to preseason expectations. Notre Dame, UNLV, UCLA and Missouri come to mind immediately. Notre Dame is 18-5 and 6-4 in the Big East which appears good on the surface but this was a team many thought would finish third in that rugged conference. However, a closer inspection reveals the Irish have just two quality wins on their resume (Kentucky (maybe) and at Cincinnati). In Big East play, Notre Dame has lost twice on its home court, something that has been almost unheard of over the years in South Bend. Notre Dame has never been a defensive juggernaut under Mike Brey but this is arguably his worst defensive team in 13 years at the helm. UNLV is a team with lots of talent that always leaves you wanting more, always following up a stretch of good play with a disappointing loss. The Rebels struggle away from Vegas which is understandable but you would still like to see them beat a few good teams on the road. They have failed to do that. UNLV can still turn it around but I feel like we’ve seen this movie before. Three consecutive first round NCAA flameouts show that UNLV isn’t quite ready for primetime. In fact, the Rebels have not won a postseason game since a first round victory over Kent State in 2008. UCLA is still a work in progress but there is no denying it has been underwhelming. The Bruins have lost three of their last four games since winning 10 straight games after a disappointing 5-3 start. Defense has been a concern all season long but it’s the offense that has scuttled of late. Five of UCLA’s final seven games are on the road and one of the home games is against Arizona. Things could get a little dicey down the stretch for the Bruins. Missouri is the team I feel is the most overrated of all. Despite a resume that lacks one single freaking SEC road win and non-conference wins over fading Illinois and mediocre Stanford, the Tigers continue to be ranked in both major polls. Missouri is not a good defensive team and has given up a lot of points to pretty much every good team it has played. Phil Pressey can be a great distributor but he’s also a turnover machine and a poor jump shooter. Mizzou will probably make the NCAA Tournament but an early departure is highly likely. Read the rest of this entry »
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Tipping Off the Big East Countdown: #9 St. John’s

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 26th, 2012

Few programs in the country went through the adversity that St. John’s found itself facing last season.  Head coach Steve Lavin underwent surgery to treat prostate cancer in October of last year, and he was only able to coach four games in early November before deciding to sit out for the rest of the season. Multiple key players left during the season for various reasons, and at times the Red Storm were only able to play with a six-man rotation of scholarship players. This year should prove to be a challenge for the Johnnies, especially after the departure of Moe Harkless following last season, but they return a solid nucleus and add a number of talented freshmen who look to continue the restoration project that is Steven Lavin’s St. John’s basketball program.

2011-12 Record: 13-19, 6-12

2011-12 Postseason: None

Steve Lavin returns to the St. John’s bench in 2012-13. Can he bring back the success of the 2010-11 campaign?


St. John’s non-conference schedule is fairly light. The Storm open with Detroit and the ever-dangerous Ray McCallum at Carnesecca Arena before heading to Charleston, South Carolina, for the DirecTV Charleston Classic. In the opening round of the tournament the Storm take on host College of Charleston before facing either Auburn or Murray State. The field also features Big 12 power Baylor, Boston College, Colorado, and Dayton. St. John’s will also host South Carolina in Queens in the Big East/SEC Challenge.  St. John’s plays one non-conference game in Madison Square Garden, against Fordham, and will play one game in Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center against St. Francis. In the Big East, the team opens at Villanova on January 2, and has home-and-homes with Rutgers, Georgetown, Notre Dame, and DePaul.

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Big East Summer Capsules: St. John’s Red Storm

Posted by mlemaire on July 25th, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is St. John’s.

1. It’s probably time to fill out the coaching staff.

Former assistant and interim coach Mike Dunlap took the head gig with the Charlotte Bobcats and he left a giant hole on Coach Steve Lavin’s staff that still hasn’t been filled. Dunlap was considered an excellent tactician with a knack for developing young players and rumors are that the Red Storm will hire De La Salle (CA) High School coach Frank Allocco to fill the same role. Allocco has known Lavin since the latter’s days at UCLA and he has New Jersey roots, so the move makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons, but Lavin has said he won’t make a final decision until August. The Red Storm have dealt with plenty of upheaval in the last two years, so an absent assistant coach won’t faze them, but Lavin would be wise to get the deal done as soon as he feels comfortable so that whomever he hires can start recruiting and coaching.

2.  Looking good Steve! Feeling good team!

Steve Lavin Is Feeling Better And Ready To Lead St. John’s Again

If you don’t get the reference, go rent Trading Places and thank me later. Lavin went through prostate cancer surgery last season and despite his attempts to return to the bench, fatigue and treatment got the best of him so that he spent most of the season away from the sidelines. Now Lavin is healthy, tearing up the recruiting trail like only he can, and preparing to patrol the sideline for a St. John’s team that should engender a lot of optimism from their fan base thanks to the amount of returning talent on the roster. Now the question becomes exactly how healthy is Lavin? He already proved that he can overcome the nagging questions about his health on the recruiting trail, but if the questions come back he may not be able to overcome the uncertainty again. More importantly, he needs to be on the sideline. The players on his team committed to the program in large part because of Lavin and his personality; one can assume they would like to play for the coach who recruited them.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 06.15.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on June 15th, 2012

  1. It may be the slowest of slow times in the college basketball year, but there’s always at least something going on. This week, Utah was fairly busy, adding to its staff and adding its second commitment for the 2013 class. First, on the recruiting front, head coach Larry Krystkowiak got good news when Salt Lake City’s own Parker Van Dyke, a combo guard who averaged 25 points per game as a junior on his way to the Utah Class 4A Most Valuable Player award (as named by The Salt Lake City Tribune), committed to the program on Monday, joining point guard Julian Jacobs in the 2013 class. However, there is something of some bad news mixed in with this signing, as Van Dyke expects to serve an LDS mission following his high school graduation, meaning he won’t actually put on a Ute uniform until 2015. Chalk it up to doing business in the state of Utah.
  2. The other change in the Utah program is with the addition of a couple new staff members. First, former Ute player Phil Cullen is returning to campus to become the new director of player development and camps for Krystkowiak. Cullen played for the Utes between 1998 and 2002 and was most recently an assistant coach at Grand Canyon University. The other hire is Charles Stephenson, who will be the program’s first-ever strength and conditioning coach. In the past, the basketball program shared strength and conditioning coach Greg Argust with the football team, but now Stephenson’s responsibility will be entirely with the men’s basketball program.
  3. Oregon State also scored a commitment this week as 7’1” center Cheikh N’Diaye out of Carlsbad, California, announced his attention to attend the Corvallis campus. He’s now the second 2013 recruit to commit to the Beavers, joining point guard L.J. Westbrook, who committed last summer. The big man is a work in progress offensively, but is a monster blocking shots on the defensive end. A native of Senegal, N’Diaye is no relation to Washington center Aziz N’Diaye.
  4. Washington State sophomore forward Patrick Simon announced his decision to transfer out of the program last week. It was a disappointing stay with the Cougs for the sharpshooter, playing just over 400 total minutes in his career and tallying only 152 points. He got off to a rousing start, scoring 27 points in 39 minutes over his first three games (including 5-of-10 shooting from deep), but by the end of the season as his jumper left him, he was getting spot minutes at best. Simon will be better off sliding down the ladder a bit, perhaps winding up at a Big Sky school, or even dropping down to Division II and becoming eligible next year.
  5. Then there’s Oregon, who learned this week that top-100 recruit Chris Obekpa, who the Ducks had been in hot pursuit of, had chosen St. John’s over them. As a result, barring last minute developments, Oregon will have two open scholarships for next season. Also of some note to Oregon fans, former Duck Matt Humphrey, who transferred out of the program in the Ernie Kent-to-Dana Altman transition and played with Boston College last year, is on the move again, on his way to finish up his college career in West Virginia.
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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 05.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on May 11th, 2012

  1. We’re at that time of the year when we the rosters start to solidify. Most of the key recruits have made their picks, and teams are beginning to add the finishing touches to their recruiting classes. For instance this week Washington State added junior college big man James Hunter, a guy who will have three seasons of eligibility in Pullman. Hunter is a raw work-in-progress, but he is a good athlete who runs the floor well and could be a good body for the Cougs in future years. Meawhile, Oregon got a commitment from combo guard Willie Moore, the sixth player signed by Dana Altman so far this season. Moore had originally committed to Duquesne, but was released from his letter of intent after the Dukes fired head coach Ron Everhart.
  2. The signing of Moore leaves the Ducks with just one remaining scholarship for the 2012-13 season, and they’re certainly hoping that they get good news about their seventh signee of the year in the coming days, as power forward Anthony Bennett, rated the seventh-best recruit in this class (by ESPNU) is expected to choose between Oregon and UNLV. Oregon is also still in the mix for Chris Obekpa, a center ranked in the top 100 recruits as well, meaning that Moore’s signing likely indicates that the Ducks have received word that they’re unlikely to land one or both of those players. And while some in the UO community seem pleased that the Ducks at least outlasted Kentucky and Florida on Bennett’s list, taking second place in a recruiting battle is no win at all. Bennett is expected to announce his decision in the next week, although he is clearly in no hurry.
  3. The other bit of intrigue remaining in the summer are the landing spots for the multitude of transfers still uncommitted. For Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett, that decision is already in the books, as last weekend he announced his decision to transfer to Marquette. Lockett, who has already earned his degree in business communications, wanted to be closer to his mother, who has been diagnosed with cancer.
  4. Once all the 2012 commitments are complete, the next big thing around the conference will be the summer trips. UCLA announced its long-rumored trip to China this week, a venture that could accomplish plenty for both the team and the conference. Most important for the Bruins is the chance to get in extra work during the summer for a talented team chock-full of newcomers. Ben Howland will get a chance to put his team through 10 practices prior the team’s flight to China on August 21. Once there, the Bruins will play a handful of Chinese teams that are expected to be “the equivalent of NCAA competition,” according to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. The team will likely also get a crack at the Chinese national team during its visit. The other benefit of the trip is the beginning of Scott’s master plan to take the Pac-12 brand to Asia. Scott expects that this will be the first of yearly trips by Pac-12 teams to China for similar summer events. Washington also announced it own plans for a summer international trip, with an itinerary that will take the Huskies to Spain, France, Monaco and Senegal. The visit to Senegal will be especially important, given that it is the home country of senior center Aziz N’Diaye. The Huskies will play one game in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, as well as putting on several basketball clinics elsewhere in the country.
  5. Lastly, a good story to read about. Utah senior guard Josh “Jiggy” Watkins was kicked off the Ute basketball team in January. But, instead of taking the easy route and quitting school, Watkins stuck around Salt Lake City and, last week, earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology. Watkins and his mom met with Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak prior to the ceremony and Watkins admits that, while it was hard to have basketball taken away from him, he harbors no ill will towards his former coach and still thinks of him as a “great coach.” Watkins now expects to pursue a professional basketball career overseas, and we here at RTC wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. It was a rough senior season basketball-wise for Watkins, but in the end, he finished off a major accomplishment. Well done, Josh.
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