Set Your TiVo: 01.04.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 4th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Huge games in the Big East and Big 12 highlight tonight’s action, along with Duke’s final non-conference test. Here’s your schedule for tonight:

#8 Duke at Temple – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (***)

Will Dunphy Have His Owls Ready To Upset K's Devils? (Getty)

  • The Blue Devils have shockingly stayed out of the spotlight for the past few weeks, quietly handling their business in the non-conference. Perhaps the shellacking that Mike Krzyzewski’s team took in Ohio State in November was the wake-up call that this team needed, as Duke has won five straight in impressive fashion since that game. Coach K’s team is ranked 4th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive rankings, boasting the nation’s third-best true shooting percentage (60.6%) and eighth-best points per possession statistic (1.16 PPP), amongst many other impressive offensive numbers. As Austin Rivers continues to improve his decision-making and efficiency offensively, Duke gets harder to defend. The freshman is now up to a team-leading 15.4 points per game while shooting 46% from the field and 41% from three. If Rivers can penetrate the Owls’ defense to create good looks for the other Duke guards and himself, Duke will be in good shape.
  • Temple is an elite perimeter defensive team, where the Owls hold opponents to shoot 25.6% from three-point range, the fourth-best percentage in the country. Against a Duke team that loves to shoot the three, guarding the perimeter will again be priority number one in this game. In addition, Temple is strong with the ball and their 1.28 assist-to-turnover ratio is a top-30 national number, far better than Duke’s 1.02 ratio. By limiting their opponent’s long-range makes and winning the turnover battle, Temple will seek to gain an advantage at home. Their trio of guards Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez, and Khalif Wyatt, all at 13.3 PPG or better, will look to neutralize Duke’s own trio in the scoring department. However, their best big man Michael Eric remains out with a knee injury, which could spell trouble against Duke’s 6’10” Plumlee brothers.
  • Duke is a seven-point favorite in this game and will be well-prepared in their final non-conference game. But the Blue Devils haven’t played a road game since their blowout loss at OSU, and Temple has the guards to match Duke. With Eric missing down low, Temple is without a key defensive cog, but they’ve been playing without him for over a month. Expect a hard fought game in Philly.

#17 Marquette at #9 Georgetown- 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (****)

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Big East Morning Five: 12.21.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 21st, 2011

  1. With the sudden and surprising departure of star freshman Khem Birch, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon is looking for answers up front and one of the players he will need to step up is sophomore forward Talib Zanna. Luckily, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at least, Zanna is showing improvement and playing efficiently offensively. Physically, at 6’9″ and 230 pounds, Zanna is much bigger than Birch, but he doesn’t possess the same skill-set or athleticism which means his offensive game won’t come as naturally. Frankly, the Panthers don’t need Zanna to make an impact offensively — although he is shooting 67.6% from the field. They need him to be an intimidating defensive player or at the very least a big body who knows where he is supposed to be on the floor. He also shed some light about Birch’s departure earlier in the week, so read away our like-minded friends.
  2. I must admit, when Marquette center Chris Otule went down early in December with a knee injury, I didn’t expect to see him back on the floor until the new year at the earliest, but it looks like the big man could be ready to play as soon as next Monday according to coach Buzz Williams. Okay, maybe the quote says next Monday they will gauge his progress, but still, that’s impressive given the usual severity of knee injuries. It seems silly to rush Otule back, especially since the conference slate will be a grind, but the faster the Golden Eagles can get the big man back, the better their defense and their rebounding will be because of it.
  3. Everybody is getting good news on the injury front these days (knock on wood) as a Rutgers source told Adam Zagoria that talented redshirt freshman Kadeem Jack is making great progress and could be ready to play in time for the Big East opener at the beginning of the new year. Also in the report, true freshman Malick Kone is making strides in his return from an issue with knee fluid. Kone gives the team depth but if Jack is healthy and can contribute, he instantly becomes a key member of the frontcourt that basically features only Gilvydas Biruta and Austin Johnson. Now, Jack still hasn’t played a single collegiate minute, but he is a skilled power forward who coach Mike Rice is counting on to become a centerpiece for this team in the near future. Rice won’t want to rush him back too quickly, but everyone in Piscataway should be excited he is close to getting on the court.
  4. It’s a story only tenuously tied to Big East basketball, but Big East fans who were hoping to see talented center Michael Chandler when Central Florida moved to the conference in 2013 will be disappointed to hear that the Golden Knights have backed off the 6’10” center because of potential contact with agents and runners. Chandler still hopes he can attend UCF, but given the Golden Knights’ recent issues surrounding the recruitment of Kevin Ware, coach Donnie Jones will probably want to avoid the big man no matter how talented he is. While there is no concrete evidence that agents and runners are influencing his decision, it is interesting that a center from Indiana with power conference schools hot on his tail would choose a mid-level program in Orlando. But that’s just pure speculation, so we will save our breath.
  5. Tip of the cap to our researcher Walker Carey for digging up this interesting story about the insane dichotomy of Syracuse‘s season. In the midst of one of the best starts in the program’s recent history and sitting atop the college basketball polls, the Orange are riding high on the court. Off the court, the Bernie Fine scandal continues to infect the news surrounding the team and that isn’t going to stop for the rest of the season or at least until the offseason comes around. As much as I hate reading stories about Fine and his scandal, the Orange’s pursuit of a National Championship while weathering this scandal is easily the most compelling storyline of the season this far. Coach Jim Boeheim has done an excellent job of keeping his players focused, and of course it helps when you can trot out any of 10 guys and still beat most teams easily. Still, conference play hasn’t yet started and there might still be some twists and turns in the Fine saga left. Stay tuned… as if you weren’t already.
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Big East Morning Five: 12.20.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 20th, 2011

  1. It’s Big East weekly honors time and Louisville sophomore guard Russ Smith checks in as your Player of the Week.   This represents Smith’s first career Player of the Week honor as he made the most of his third career start with career highs in points (24) and steals (7) in Louisville’s 95-87 win over Memphis.  The seven thefts by Smith tied him for third all-time in Louisville history for steals in a game. Connecticut center Andre Drummond wrestled Rookie of the Week honors back from Providence’s LaDontae Henton with a career high 24 points in a win over Holy Cross to go along with eight rebounds and five blocks.  This is Drummond’s second Rookie of the Week honor of the year.    As for the Honor Roll, guess who’s back, back again? Pope is back, back again.  Seton Hall big man Herb Pope continued his weekly award streak as he overwhelmed Mercer with 24 points and 17 boards in an overtime win for the Pirates; Cincinnati junior guard Cashmere Wright (18.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 7.0 APG), who stepped up for a short-handed Bearcat squad to lead them to two wins on the week; Marquette freshman guard Todd Mayo picked up his first career weekly honor and is first career start this past week, netting a career-high 22 points in a win over Northern Colorado; Syracuse sophomore guard Dion Waiters who also hit for 22 points in his team’s 88-72 victory over NC State; and West Virginia senior forward Kevin Jones, who shot 11 for 16 from the floor on his way to,  you guessed it, 22 points in the Mountaineers’ 84-64 rout of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
  2. There was not a lot of movement in the polls amongst Big East teams this week, but that is more attributable to the fact that it gets crowded at the top than anything else. The conference now boasts four top ten teams as Marquette (10-1) grabbed the #10 spot, joining Syracuse (11-0) who maintained its perch atop the rankings, Louisville (10-0) who held steady at #4 and Connecticut (9-1) as the Huskies climbed a notch to #8.  Pittsburgh (10-1) and Georgetown (9-1) also held their spots at #15 and #16, respectively.  We are starting to see a clear separation in the league with six teams in the top 16 and no other squad garnering so much as a vote in the Associated Press poll, although Seton Hall (9-1) did scratch out one tally in the ESPN/USA Today rankings.
  3. Former Connecticut star Kemba Walker claimed the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award last year among the many honors and accolades he received for his exploits in the Huskies’ National Championship run.  This year’s nominees for the Cousy Award were revealed yesterday by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and, to the surprise of no one, the Big East was well represented.  Was it represented well enough though? Conference nominees include Connecticut sophomore Shabazz Napier, Louisville junior Peyton Siva, Pittsburgh senior Ashton Gibbs, Villanova junior Maalik Wayans and a pair from Syracuse in senior Scoop Jardine and junior Brandon Triche.  Let the debate begin as notable omissions include Providence junior Vincent Council and Seton Hall senior Jordan Theodore.
  4. Marquette is still not certain if injured first string center Chris Otule will be back this season but Buzz Williams and company have been encouraged by the play of replacement starter Davante Gardner. With the #10 Golden Eagles soaring, Gardner is keeping his role in perspective, and the team’s goals in mind saying, “I’ve got to come through now since Chris might be out for the season.  When he got hurt, I got down a little bit, but I knew I had to start picking it up and do more for the team.” Gardner, a 6’8” sophomore, tipped the scales last season at 300-plus pounds en route to averages of 4.6 points and 2.2 rebounds in just nine minutes per game.  Following his freshman campaign, Gardner worked hard with strength and conditioning coach Todd Smith and dropped an estimated 10-15 pounds while shedding about half of his body fat.  While he still needs work on the defensive end, Gardner has put up solid offensive numbers in Otule’s absence over Marquette’s last two games, averaging 14 points and six rebounds while shooting 60% from the floor and 91% from the foul line.
  5. Kids say the darndest things.  And that is what Louisville’s youngster, freshman forward Chane Behanan, did after his team’s 95-87 victory over Memphis on Saturday when he declared, “we’re the number one team in the country in my eyes. We’re going undefeated. Point blank, period.”  You can bet Behanan will have a media relations course on his schedule next semester after that one.  While this will probably not amount to much in the grand scheme of things, it would have still been better left unsaid as it really can do nothing but hurt the team’s cause.  The Cardinals had themselves in an advantageous position psychologically as many have questioned their lofty ranking while they continued to win and rise in the polls. The no respect card plays well, and Behanan now has the Cardinals drawing into a new deck.
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Big East Morning Five: 12.16.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 16th, 2011

  1. The revolving door of healthy players at Louisville continues to spin as Rick Pitino announced freshman Kevin Ware will likely play Saturday against Memphis. A talented combo guard, Ware was a Tennessee commit until Bruce Pearl left, and a Central Florida commit until questions arose about his recruitment. It will take time, but Ware seems talented enough to make the rotation, although the Cardinals would likely prefer some frontcourt depth again.
  2. It seems petty for us to dissect a fun exercise like building a 2011-12 dream team, but we recognize it is good conversation fodder, so why not examine it. Pay attention to the rules before you read it, but only three Big East players are mentioned. Jeremy Lamb was in three out four pundits’ top eight players, and Dion Waiters and Ryan Boatright were both considered the best “true” bench players. It’s disappointing to see the conference so poorly represented, but its hard to argue with the selections. It’s early but the conference doesn’t seem as strong top to bottom as it has been in the past five years. But, again, it’s still early.
  3. When Xavier forward Kenny Frease reached out to Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates to clear the air after last weekend’s brawl, we softened our stance that the punishments weren’t harsh enough. It was easy to watch the brawl and think that some players and at least Gates deserved long punishments. But Frease is forgiving, Gates apologized, and that’s just as cool as story as they fight itself. Frease proves that he is one tough hombre, and Gates shows remorse. This is exactly why there is no reason to ban this matchup, just limit the trash talk.
  4. Credit to The Mikan Drill for highlighting one of the primary reasons Villanova has struggled early this season — its inefficient zone offense. The Wildcats are just 6-4, and BU exposed their lack of a legitimate three point threat or a true drive-and-kick guard. There are a lot of athletes on this team, so the Wildcats will always be competitive this season. But they just don’t seem to have the same offensive punch they had when they made the Final Four, and that’s why they continue to break down late in games and lose leads like they had against Temple.
  5. Raise your hand if you thought the primary player to replace Marquette‘s injured center Chris Otule was point guard Vander Blue. Now keep your hand raised if you knew that, right now, Blue was the team’s third-leading rebounder, and that statistic includes Otule. The question of Buzz Williams’ point guard controversy is pretty much over. Blue and Junior Cadougan can co-exist, even on the court together, and both will play crucial roles this season.
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Big East Checkpoint: Buy, Sell, Hold

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 14th, 2011

Midway through December and it has already been an eventful college basketball season.  Teams have logged a fair sampling of games as they head into final exams and finish up the non-conference portion of their schedules, so we thought it would be a good time to assess the state of the Big East by comparing each team to… itself.  Below is the Preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll by projected order of finish.  We are going a little Jim Cramer on you (BooYah Skee-Daddy!), placing a Buy, Sell or Hold rating based on the team’s play to date versus preseason expectations.

1 (tie). Connecticut (8-1): I am no stock market expert but when I see a team as loaded as UConn sitting at No. 9 in the most recent poll, buying stock in the Huskies is a no-brainer. Jim Calhoun has feuded with center Alex Oriakhi and questioned his team’s drive early in the season, but this team is too deep and too talented to be ranked that low in national polls. And when you consider how much freshmen Ryan Boatright and Andre Drummond will improve over the next few months, I am already starting to look for a new luxury sedan to buy with the money from my winning. Rating: BUY

Boatright Has Given the Huskies a Lift (John Wolke, Hartford Courant)

1 (tie). Syracuse (10-0): There is no way we can buy right now and that is good news for Syracuse fans, because the ‘Cuse is on top and can rise no higher at the moment. If this were a quick trade we’d sell and look to buy back after their first loss because it is hard to envision the #1 ranked team in the country staying there all year, but we are in this for the long haul and so are the Orange. Rating: HOLD

3. Louisville (9-0): It’s impossible not to be impressed with the job Rick Pitino has done at Louisville this season given the team’s rash of injuries and lack of top-flight scorers, but I am still selling the Cardinals. For starters, their early season schedule has been very soft and their only difficult opponent was Vanderbilt, whom they needed overtime to outlast. There is no doubt that their defense and depth makes them a top-10 team, but it’s hard to put them ahead of teams like UConn and North Carolina because  they just don’t have the scoring punch or the go-to player in crunch-time.  If you are determined to hold Louisville stock, you probably won’t lose much, but now is the time to sell high. Rating: SELL

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Checking In On… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. You can also find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Crosstown Knockout: Suspensions were handed down on Sunday for the embarrassing incident at the conclusion of Saturday’s Cincinnati/Xavier game, a 76-53 Musketeers victory. Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis each received six game bans while Ge’Lawn Guyn will sit out for one game. On the other side, Xavier suspended Dezmine Wells and Landen Amos (a walk-on) for four games while Mark Lyons will sit for a pair and Tu Holloway for one. As for Gates and company, six games doesn’t seem nearly enough, especially when only one of those is a Big East game (a probable loss at Pittsburgh to begin with). Mick Cronin’s comments certainly were interesting. The UC coach waxed poetic in the postgame press conference but didn’t follow those words up with strong actions. On the other hand, Cronin told’s Andy Katz that the suspensions were handed down by those above him in the Cincinnati administration. Even so, it would seem hard to believe the administration wanted to go easier on the players than the head coach. If Cincinnati wanted to be serious, it would have suspended Gates and the others for a large chunk of the Big East season and the rest of non-conference play, or simply kicked them off the team. Instead, this incident is yet another example of placing sports and winning games before justice and learning a life lesson. If this happened off the basketball court, Gates would likely have been charged with battery. Instead, Gates only has to sit six games against the steady diet of non-conference cupcakes Cronin has feasted on over the last two years. From the fight itself to the way the aftermath has been handled, this has been one huge embarrassment for both Cincinnati and Xavier.

To Many, Saturday's Brawl Between Xavier And Cincinnati Signifies A New Low For College Basketball (USAT)

  • West Virginia and Marquette Involved in Thrillers: The Mountaineers ventured to Wichita, Kansas, and took on Kansas State in what was essentially a road game despite it being played away from the Little Apple. Bob Huggins was able to defeat his student, Frank Martin, but it took two overtime periods to do so. It was a thrilling game full of big shots and lots of toughness. It was very important for West Virginia to add a quality road win to its resume and while the Wildcats may not be as good as last season, this win could make a big difference if the Mountaineers find themselves on the bubble come March.  Marquette took on Washington at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night and found itself in a dogfight with the Huskies as UW took the early lead. Marquette fought back to take a three-point halftime lead when the game really ramped up. The high level of play led to numerous lead changes in an up-and-down affair that eventually came to an end when Jae Crowder knocked down a three from the corner to win it for the Golden Eagles, one of only nine undefeated teams remaining in college basketball as of this writing.
  • Big East Continues to Disappoint:  It’s still very early but it’s also hard not to notice that the conference may be looking at eight NCAA Tournament teams in a best case scenario. The Big East lost six games this past week, three by the dregs of the conference but three others by teams considered to be NCAA contenders. It was an awful week for Villanova as it blew two chances for quality wins away from home, losing in New York to Missouri and across town in Philadelphia to Temple. The Wildcats have lost four of their past five games and have zero wins of note on their resume to date. If Villanova doesn’t win at St. Joe’s this coming week, it may have to go 10-8 in conference play just to even be considered for the Tournament. Meanwhile, Cincinnati sits at 5-3 after the Xavier loss with key players in trouble due to the brawl. The Bearcats’ best win is a road victory over 4-5 Georgia, a bottom-tier SEC team. With no quality wins and two ugly losses already on their resume, the Bearcats probably have to beat Oklahoma on December 29 and go 10-8 in league play to have any chance.
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Big East Morning Five: 12.09.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 9th, 2011

  1. In the wake of news surrounding Big East expansion, St. John’s already anorexic roster experienced even more contraction.   The New York Daily News reported on Thursday that sophomore point guard Nurideen Lindsey has elected to transfer.  The report was later confirmed by Lindsey himself via Twitter, followed by  a release issued by the school.  The 6’3” Philadelphia native averaged 11.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists in nine games for the Red Storm, but his play had tailed off of late (five total points in his last two games).  St. John’s is left with just six scholarship players.  There will be much more to follow from RTC Big East on this story but initial reports indicate that there was a mutual feeling between Lindsay and St. John’s coach Steve Lavin that transferring represented his best option.  Lindsay has been gracious in his departure, expressing remorse and professing his love for St. John’s basketball and its fans.
  2. There have been a number of shots taken at the Big East’s realignment strategy, one of which has focused on its resulting diminished of stature in basketball.  While no one can deny the replacement of perennial powers Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia with Houston, Southern Methodist and Central Florida is a clear downgrade, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin put it all in perspective. “Look around our league,” Cronin said, “Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, how many (national) championships are there between us? How many Final Fours? How about the history of places like St. John’s, Seton Hall, DePaul, Georgetown, Villanova and Marquette?  Despite their lack of planking, Big East basketball maintains a solid and attractive core.  As Cronin stated, “so we go from having a league that’s been ridiculously hard to we still have a great league.”  While all of the movement and posturing are driven by football and football money, the Big East was born a basketball league, and will remain one at heart.
  3. It was confirmed on Thursday that Marquette center Chris Otule has suffered an injury to his left anterior cruciate ligament.  While not believed to be a season-ending tear, the overall extent of the injury is not yet known.   Medical personnel will continue to evaluate the situation to determine how long it may keep the 6’11” junior out of action. The injury occurred during the Golden Eagles’ Jimmy V Classic victory over Washington on Tuesday.  Otule (5.0 PPG, 4.4, RPG, 1.6 BLK) has a history of battling injuries, already missing the bulk of two seasons with foot injuries.
  4. With Houston now set to join the Big East in 2013 we have our first official ‘Old Big East – New Big East’ rivalry in the making.  There will be no love lost the first time Houston visits Providence, and the tension centers around a Houston freshman with the most unassuming of names, Joseph Young.  Young, a 6’3” guard who received All-America honors out of Houston’s Yates High School, originally signed a letter of intent to attend Providence.  Shortly after signing, Young asked for a release from his Providence commitment, citing a need to be closer to home due to a family member’s health issues.  However, Joseph’s father, Michael, a former Celtics draft pick and current Houston Director of Basketball Operations, was rumored to be against the signing from the start, believing that Houston was the best place for Joseph.  Providence refused to release Young from his letter, setting off a contentious battle where the elder Young was publicly vocal and personal with his commentary.  Both Youngs were viewed as villains in Providence circles as a result.  The matter ultimately was appealed to the NCAA and denied.  Young then enrolled at Houston and sat out a year under NCAA transfer rules.   He is currently averaging 9.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists for the 4-4 Cougars.  The Dunkin’ Donuts Center awaits.
  5. It is early assessment time in Piscataway.  Rutgers is 4-5 after its disappointing 59-57 loss to Princeton on Wednesday.  Admirably, Rutgers coach Mike Rice was not looking any further than the mirror when determining where to start pointing fingers.  “I have not connected with this team,” said Rice, “I need to figure that out. They’re not listening and I’m not coaching them well enough, not making them listen. With young players sometimes it’s hard. Usually you have some of the older guys self-policing. There are coaching tricks — making sure that when they make those mistakes — it’s not a pleasant practice for the next hour or two. We just keep doing that and thinking it’s going to be, ‘I’m going to make the difference.’ It was a selfish performance.”  The fact of the matter is, despite having talent, the Scarlet Knights are uber-young with four freshmen averaging over 20 minutes per game.  Unless you are Kentucky, that is a recipe for struggles, and things do not promise to get any easier with the Big East schedule looming.  Rice may have done some of his best coaching of the season during his press conference on Wednesday when he attempted to take some of the heat off of his young players while still holding them accountable.
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Morning Five: 12.09.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2011

  1.  We were very afraid of this when we saw it happen live on Tuesday night, and sure enough, the results came back yesterday. Marquette center Chris Otule has torn his left ACL and may miss the rest of the season depending on the severity of the tear and the treatment decision between he and his doctors. As we mentioned in that night’s After the Buzzer, we really hate this for the 6’11” junior. Not only is he playing with the severe disadvantage of only having vision in one eye, but he’s suffered broken bones in both his left and right foot during his time in Milwaukee. Despite his best efforts, the guy has seemingly never been able to stay healthy. No matter his decision on a treatment plan, he’s only been able to play in 57 games in four seasons, so we’re crossing our fingers that he’ll get at least one more injury-free season of basketball at Marquette.
  2. How about some better injury news? Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton is expected to officially return to his team for Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe after spending the better part of the last month rehabilitating a hamstring injury suffered in the first game of the season. His loss hasn’t impacted A&M’s fortunes terribly against a light schedule, as the Aggies have only one loss against Mississippi State so far, but he will be needed on the floor for an upcoming game against Florida and of course the 18-game Big 12 schedule. In other good news, Ohio State sounds like it expects to have its NPOY candidate, Jared Sullinger, back in action for Saturday’s monster game versus Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. Although Thad Matta played coy with his answers in the article, if Sullinger is “dancing around” his dorm room, he’ll be ready to play this weekend.
  3. In a somewhat odd turn of events, St. John’s sophomore point guard Nurideen Lindsey has decided to transfer out of the program. What makes it peculiar is that the starter has averaged nearly 30 minutes per game and is putting up good numbers in the first month of the season — 12.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG. His statements about leaving are even more confounding: “I came to St. John’s for a couple of reasons. One was to be close to my mom, whose health has been up and down due to some past experiences. The second was to play for Coach Lav. In both instances, it has not worked out how I envisioned.” He surely isn’t holding Lavin’s own health issues against him, so there has to be something else going on here. More on this later today on RTC’s Big East microsite.
  4. The number of D-I schools is apparently set to grow again, as Northern Kentucky will join the Atlantic Sun Conference and start playing a full conference slate as soon as next season. Even though the school will not be eligible for league championships and revenue sharing for a few years while going through a probationary period, NKU preferred to join the much-farther geographic footprint of the A-Sun rather than the closer-to-home OVC because it was willing to let them play games next season. The A-Sun is generally located in the deep South — Georgia, South Carolina, Florida — although it does have two schools in Tennessee and as we’ve learned in conference realignment theater, geography rarely matters anymore. The article reports that the average road trip within the league will be around 580 miles, though, which can seriously add up for mid-major school budgets.
  5. You’ve been waiting patiently for it, well here it is: Luke Winn‘s weekly power rankings. Per usual, there’s more graphs, still frame images, and thoughtful analysis than you can shake Seth Davis’ stick at, but if you look carefully, you’ll find his All-Americans after one month, his analysis as to why Louisville fails to impress us, and an rundown of why Saturday’s delightful stack of games without the annoyance of football is something worth carving your day around.  Enjoy.
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ATB: Jimmy V, Jae Crowder, Mizzou & Washington’s Late Game Management Issues…

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. We Will Not Give Up. On this same night every year, we feel compelled to join Dick Vitale and the rest in our support of the V Foundation in its fight against cancer. And every year, we find that we as a society have come a little bit closer to defeating the scourge that takes so many of our friends’ and families’ loved ones away from them too soon. As a bitter contemporary reminder, one of our colleagues lost her father to the disease yesterday. Another friend’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia last year. Yet another friend recently underwent surgery to remove a precancerous polyp. Medical research is painstakingly slow and expensive and there’s unlikely to be a one-hit wonder out there that can ‘cure’ cancer, but treatments are improving. The V Foundation has given over $100 million dollars to fund 92 cancer research grants nationwide in its nearly 20-year history, and the benefits that have resulted from those dollars are certainly immeasurable. No matter who you might feel about Vitale, or Jim Valvano, or even ESPN, this is a noble and just cause. The page to donate is located here — and remember, the V Foundation passes along 100% of its donations directly to research initiatives.

Your Watercooler Moment. Crowder Not Crowded On the Right Wing. The second half of the Jimmy V Classic was more entertaining than the first tonight, even though it appeared that only a few hundred fans were in attendance for Marquette vs. Washington. A back-and-forth game that rarely saw either team take a lead of more than three points came down to execution in the clutch. After Washington’s Terrence Ross (a future star who had 19/9/3 assts) knocked in a tough heave off glass from the lane to give his team a one-point advantage with 19 seconds left, Marquette immediately went into its offensive set, confused two UW defenders who ended up falling on each other, and found Jae Crowder standing all alone in the corner for three. His bucket from the right wing gave Marquette the win, and showed just how important coaching is in late-game situations. Marquette is now 8-0 and playing like one of the better offensive teams in America. We just love watching Buzz Williams’ guys perform in close games.

Jae Crowder Silences the Small But Boisterous Washington Contingent in MSG (AP/F. Franklin)

Dunkdafied. Washington’s Terrence Ross and Marquette’s Vander Blue one-upped each other with huge dunks in the second half of tonight’s Jimmy V Classic nightcap.

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RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take I


Top Storylines

  • The Realignment Circus Continues: The latest blow to the Big East came just recently as West Virginia was accepted into the Big 12. That leaves the Big East with 13 basketball schools remaining and a handful of others (football schools) desperately trying to flee the sinking ship. Commissioner John Marinatto has said he is committed to holding Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia to the 27-month notice provision in the conference’s bylaws but one has to wonder if a financial settlement will be worked out in order to expedite the transition and move the conference into rebuilding mode. It’s going to be quite awkward if these three schools remain in the league until 2014. All of the current Big East members should eventually find a stable home in one form or another, but the days of Big East basketball as we know it will soon come to an end. Enjoy the 2011-12 season because it just might be the last year of this remarkable 16-team behemoth.
  • How Many Bids This Year?: After sending a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament last year, can the Big East reach that mark again? That seems unlikely but you never know how things will truly play out. I’d say there are ten contenders for NCAA bids and to make 11 you would need all of those teams plus one of the three New York City-area schools to have a wildly successful year and snatch a bid. The Big East is quite possibly the best conference in the land yet again but 11 NCAA teams is far-fetched. Eight or nine bids this season would seem to be much more realistic.
  • Can Connecticut Repeat?: The technical answer is yes but it will be extremely tough to do. There’s a reason only two teams have gone back-to-back in the last 20 years. College basketball is as deep as ever in terms of talent and quality teams, plus there’s someone missing from last year’s Connecticut team. Kemba Walker is now in the NBA and, despite Jim Calhoun’s impressive recruiting haul, there is a major leadership void to be filled. This team is stocked with talent but Walker was a one-of-a-kind leader who took complete control in Maui and parlayed that into a way of life for the rest of the season. Jeremy Lamb figures to take control but remember how young this group is. They’ll get better as the season progresses and may even win the Big East but when the chips are down in the NCAA Tournament, they won’t be able to call on Kemba and that’s why I feel they will not repeat.

Calhoun Won't Have His Mr. Everything Around This Season

  • Cautious Optimism at Georgetown, Villanova and West Virginia: These traditional powers lose a lot of talent and figure to be lodged in the middle of the conference. All three programs return key cogs but the departures of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, Casey Mitchell, John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla leave more questions than answers. These teams all need someone to step up and become a deep shooting threat while maintaining a low post presence. Guards win in college basketball but you also have to be able to rebound and score inside occasionally. Hollis Thompson, Mouphtaou Yarou and Deniz Kilicli must become better all-around post men if their respective teams hope to make the NCAA Tournament. At 6’7”, 205 lbs., Thompson isn’t one to bang with the big guys but he’s going to have to score in the paint at times. Each team has a nice recruiting class coming in, but it’s up to the returning players to make the ultimate difference.
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