Big East M5: 02.28.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 28th, 2013

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  1. Everyone remembers the last two days when I was saying that UConn was going to come to play Wednesday right? Okay so maybe I wasn’t going out on a very big limb with that prediction, but the Huskies sure made me look good last night when they took highly ranked Georgetown to double overtime before losing a game they probably should have won in agonizing fashion. Yes, Otto Porter deserves some big-time credit for his late-game heroics and his general excellence at the game of basketball, but the Huskies’ perimeter defense for most of the second half was atrocious and their offensive possessions down the stretch were not great either. UConn deserves credit for continuing to play inspired basketball without a postseason to look forward to, and Georgetown has the look of a No. 1 seed after taking a tough conference opponent’s best shot on the road and still coming out with a win. The Hoyas are hardly a finished product and if some team can figure out how to stop or even slow down Porter, John Thompson III‘s bunch will be in big trouble. But, in case you didn’t notice, Porter is pretty difficult to stop and when the backcourt duo of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks get going, opposing teams don’t have a lot of success. It is way too early to say Georgetown has the inside shot at a No. 1 seed because an early exit in the Big East Tournament can dash those hopes quickly, but they are definitely in the conversation as of right now.
  2. Notre Dame is still clinging to hope at winning the Big East regular season crown and one of the ways to improve their chances would be to get the services of senior forward Scott Martin back sometime soon. Martin has returned to practice after battling knee issues for much of the season but the Fighting Irish still have no idea when he will return to the court or if he will be able to return at all. Coach Mike Brey gave Martin’s comeback a 50-50 shot and it seems like the best the team and Martin can hope for is that the pain won’t be a major issue and Martin can play limited minutes. Even in limited minutes, Martin’s basketball IQ, floor-spacing ability, and improved long-range shooting would be a boon for a Fighting Irish team trying to find some consistency. And on a more personal note, it would be just awful for Martin if his sixth-year of eligibility and his last shot at the NCAA Tournament were wasted because of recurring knee problems. The quotes Martin gave to Jeff Goodman are, unfortunately, rather sad, and positive thinking alone won’t resurrect Martin’s career. My guess is that Brey and the team will find a way to get Martin on the court, even for a minute, on Senior Night next Tuesday but I wouldn’t expect him to make a large impact on the rest of team’s season.
  3. Until I got a chance to read this article, I had forgotten that Miami‘s star point guard Shane Larkin was at one point supposed to be playing for DePaul and coach Oliver Purnell. Even Purnell was willing to wonder what life might have been with a budding star like Larkin running the show, but alas, the Blue Demons don’t have Larkin, who has gone on to bigger and better things, while the Blue Demons have continued to slump. The story is a good one, especially because it is penned by a Virginian-Pilot reporter who was familiar with Purnell from the coach’s time at Old Dominion. The jist is that Purnell came to Chicago with the reputation of a program fixer, something DePaul was in desperate need of, and things have not gone according to plan. Aside from Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, the team is devoid of true Big East-caliber talent and the Blue Demons’ offense is so putrid at times that watching them play can be difficult. We have used this space before to wonder whether Purnell will get the axe at the end of this season, but I think at this point, the school is willing to let him have one more year to show some serious improvement before they kick him to the curb. Of course that extra season might have just as much to do with the fact that DePaul still owes Purnell a lot of money and they would like to try and recoup something of value from that investment. It’s hard to root against Purnell, who seems like such a nice guy, but Purnell’s coaching track record is not spotless, and unless he can turn things around out of the gate next season, the school may not even wait a full season to dump him.
  4. Hard to disagree with Cincinnati head honcho Mick Cronin‘s decision to make practice after the team’s blowout loss to Notre Dame light and fun. Nothing has been fun about the last few weeks for Cincinnati as they have watched themselves go from conference title contenders to bubble watchers in just six games and so Cronin’s decision to give the guys an “emotional break” seems like exactly what the doctor ordered for the team as they get ready to play UConn on Saturday. Of course that emotional break won’t help the Bearcats learn how to score, something they have not done a lot of in recent weeks. The game against the Huskies will be at home, and UConn is coming off their emotionally draining loss last night to Georgetown, so maybe the stars have aligned for Cincinnati to get back on track, or maybe the gritty Huskies will find a way to get up for this game as well and they will sink Cincinnati even lower. Maybe now, after their break, the team can relax, take some of the pressure off of themselves, and just play hard-nosed basketball. They better, because although they are safely in the tournament for now, the way they have played in the last six games, anything can happen before Selection Sunday.
  5. It is somewhat hard to follow Bud Poliquin‘s meandering, comma-filled article about Jim Boeheim‘s testy press conference after the team’s loss to Marquette but I think what the veteran columnist is trying to say is that people shouldn’t make a big deal of the fact that Boeheim got a bit snippy in a press conference because it happens all the time. Poliquin has a point. There are plenty of us who haven’t even been on Earth long enough to remember Boeheim’s first years at Syracuse and even we know that the legend likes to get combative and short when he doesn’t like the questions being asked. All of that said, Boeheim has been making plenty of news with his off-the-court remarks this season, and scolding a student reporter, or any reporter for that much, for asking pertinent questions about X’s and O’s and coaching decisions is a bit ridiculous. The questions that Boeheim didn’t like weren’t meant to question his coaching ability, they were questions that were being asked so they could get answers from the guy in the room with all of the coaching experience and ability. A question about why Boeheim didn’t use DaJuan Coleman against the Golden Eagles isn’t meant to criticize Boeheim’s decision-making, it is to learn more about his decision-making process. So yeah, let’s not make a big deal of the fact that Jim Boeheim got snarky in front of a microphone again, but only if Boeheim will agree to stop making innocent questions about a game such a big deal as well.
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Big East M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 1st, 2013

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  1. The U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association released its Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List yesterday, which featured Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and Louisville’s Russ Smith. The Big Ten placed four players on the list, followed by the Big East and Big 12 with two apiece. The award, which recognizes the best player in college basketball each season, hasn’t been claimed by a Big East player since St. John’s Walter Berry won it in 1986. While Carter was a consensus 4/5-star recruit with NBA prospects coming out of high school, the recognition denotes a long three-year journey for Smith, who was hardly even evaluated by national scouting services out of high school.
  2. Syracuse forward James Southerland will get an opportunity to appeal his recent academic suspension before a university panel next week, but not before missing two more games. Jim Boeheim’s leading three-point shooter will sit out for upcoming bouts at Pitt and at home against Notre Dame. But in light of DaJuan Coleman’s recent knee injury, Southerland’s presence under the basket might be missed most of all: The two combine to average 9.5 rebounds per game. The Orange bench will only go seven deep for at least two pivotal games, but at least for Syracuse fans there’s a definite possibility that Southerland could return this season.
  3. Speaking of timetables, Rick Pitino revealed during his weekly radio show yesterday that there’s a chance Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware could both return for Sunday’s game with Marquette. Blackshear (sprained shoulder) and Ware (“indefinite” suspension) both practiced yesterday for the first time this week. Blackshear was expected to recover from his injury this week, but news of Ware re-entering Pitino’s good graces came as a surprise to Louisville fans. He seemed firmly and perhaps irrevocably planted in the doghouse after the Pitt game, when his coach claimed he “isn’t coming back anytime soon.” We’re left to wonder what exactly it was that Ware did, but Pitino indicated it wasn’t an egregious offense like drug use.
  4. Though outrebounded by a Big East-record 55-24 margin, UConn managed to outduel Providence on the road in overtime last night, 82-79. It was a war of attrition Ryan Boatright claims last year’s Huskies would have surrendered: “Last year’s team, when it got tough like that, when they made all those runs, we would have folded.” Jeff Jacobs at The Hartford Courant outlines a strong argument that the Big East members’ agreement to exclude the Huskies from the conference tournament looks increasingly disingenuous as league members disperse to greener pastures. “It’s too bad all those schools that are fleeing the conference sit in judgment of UConn. At this point, the only schools that should count are Cincinnati, South Florida and the schools that are coming in to be part of the Big East’s future.”
  5. They may be sitting in third place in the league standings with a 6-3 record, but Steve Lavin recognizes his St. John’s team is “still a work in progress.” Despite two impressive wins over ranked teams in the top half of the conference, the Red Storm have narrowly avoided upset against their last two inferior opponents and the meat of their schedule undeniably lies ahead of them. Lavin’s players are well aware of the criticism and seem excited for an opportunity to make a statement against another hot team. Said D’Angelo Harrison, “Teams are probably still doubting us because if you look at our schedule we’ve played the bottom half of the league. We’re looking to prove ourselves at Georgetown next.”
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Big East M5: 01.30.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 30th, 2013

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  1. The recognitions continue to roll in for Villanova sophomore Darrun Hilliard, who was named Player of the Week by the US Basketball Writers Association a day after the folks in Providence pegged him as its Big East Player of the Week. It’s a significant national distinction: Hilliard joins Victor Rudd (December 23) as the only Big East players to earn the honor this season.
  2. After watching the Villanova loss in which Louisville’s Chane Behanan struggled to handle a couple of passes down the stretch, his brother made an unconventional suggestion to improve his coordination: juggling lessons. Behanan gave Chip Cosby of Louisville’s cn|2 Sports a glimpse of his juggling baseline. Maybe he’s being tongue-in-cheek, but Cardinals fans should feel encouraged that Behanan plainly acknowledges his recent problem clutching the ball and is striving to improve.
  3. At 1-7 in the Big East, South Florida is squarely in last place in the league standings heading into February. Moreover, they’re averaging fewer points per game than all but 44 teams in Division I, and they haven’t eclipsed 70 points since before Christmas. Collin Sherwin at Voodoo Five tries to diagnose what’s right and wrong with Stan Heath’s offense right now. His conclusions are, in a word, bleak: “You can’t run a pick-and-roll if you don’t have anyone that can roll to the rim effectively. You can pick-and-pop, but our perimeter shooters aren’t exactly known for their quick triggers… And we really don’t have anyone (besides Collins) that can put the ball on the deck and get into the teeth of the defense.”
  4. Substantial Syracuse freshman Dajuan Coleman underwent knee surgery yesterday that will keep him off the court for four weeks. With Coleman rehabbing and James Southerland benched for a while, Jim Boeheim is left with only seven scholarship players. Syracuse’s enviable depth is suddenly a thing of the past, and Brent Axe at the (Syracuse) Post-Standard points out Coleman’s injury is just one of a series of mid- and late-season big man casualties for the program. Nonetheless, Axe questions how much of a substantive impact the loss of Coleman will have on Syracuse: “Coleman may start every game, but has barely been used by Jim Boeheim in game situations that matter.” It will be interesting to see whether the coaching staff elects to slide Rakeem Christmas to center or start backup five-man Baye Keita. The Orange have several days to deliberate this issue as they look to rebound from the Villanova loss against Pitt on Saturday.
  5. It’s not all doom and gloom in upstate New York, as CJ Fair was entrusted with the official Syracuse Athletics Twitter account yesterday, to the great benefit of humanity. CJ apparently liked Django and believes he’s the ‘Cuse player most likely to win the Hunger Games. No profound insights, but his blunt economy of language is what really made the cameo entertaining:
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Back To Earth: Temple Loss Exposes Some Issues For Syracuse

Posted by mlemaire on December 23rd, 2012

Maybe we should have seen this coming just five days after Syracuse blew a 20-point second-half lead against Detroit and only won by four points, but everyone was too enamored with the story of the 900th win for Jim Boeheim and the meteoric rise to stardom of sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams to realize that the Orange were not without their warts. On Saturday afternoon, playing its first worthwhile opponent since its season opening win against San Diego State, some of those warts were exposed as Temple rebounded from an ugly loss to Canisius to upset the No. 3 Orange, 83-79. To be fair to Syracuse, Temple is a veteran and talented basketball team that will absolutely be playing in March if they can survive a brutal conference slate in the Atlantic 10, and senior guard Khalif Wyatt was abnormally brilliant in a winning effort. But the Orange had plenty of chances to take control of this game and just seemingly got outhustled and outplayed at every turn by the gang from Philadelphia.

Syracuse Struggled With the Temple Defense

Syracuse Struggled With the Changing Temple Defense

The Orange came into the game with the second-most efficient defense in the country thanks to imposing length and athleticism at every position, but you would not have known it by watching the Owls get to the free throw line at will and hoist uncontested three-pointers for most of the game. For whatever reason, their lock-down zone defense took the afternoon off. Give the Owls credit for consistently finding the high-post pass to set up a number of options and executing an excellent zone offense. But while Syracuse still created a number of turnovers, they also committed a lot of fouls, were often out of position trying to help defend dribble penetration, and were very nearly outrebounded by a much smaller and less physical team. Most of these issues are easily correctable and some could be attributed to a lack of effort or focus rather than inability, but the Orange have enjoyed a very easy non-conference slate, and if they cannot achieve some consistency on the defensive end, conference opponents will be able to take advantage of those lapses much easier than Eastern Michigan or Monmouth could.

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Big East M5: 12.10.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on December 10th, 2012

  1. After Georgetown edged Towson 46-40 on Saturday, the dust still settling from a tedious 37-36 decision over Tennessee the week prior, Daniel Martin at CollegeBasketballTalk says it’s time to start questioning the Hoyas. He points to streaky outside shooting in particular as the element that makes it most difficult to predict where John Thompson III’s team will end up in March. Against Towson, leading scorers Otto Porter, Markel Starks and Greg Whittington combined to shoot 2-14 (14%) from beyond the arc, and the Hoyas’ bench contributed but a single point. The team has racked up the most inefficient offense in the Big East, and it seems that an off night from Porter and Starks is all that separates the team that took Indiana to the wire from the one that couldn’t score 40 on Tennessee.
  2. Syracuse played this past Saturday as well, scoring more points than Georgetown and Towson combined as they stormed past Monmouth, 108-56. Sean Keeley at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician points out that it was the team’s most prolific offensive display since hanging 125 on East Tennessee State in 2007. This team certainly looks more talented than that NIT squad, a point C.J. Fair, DaJuan Coleman and Michael Carter-Williams each asserted with double-doubles. Carter-Williams in particular tallied 16 assists –– the third most in Syracuse history –– and is unquestionably playing better than any point guard in the Big East right now.
  3. Ed Donohue at VU Hoops crunched some numbers and reached some frightening conclusions about Villanova’s penchant for second-half collapses in the past two seasons. Since the beginning of 2011-12, ‘Nova has suffered a negative second half scoring margin in 66% of its 41 games, and has gone on to lose 10 games in which they’ve led at halftime. It’s an ominous statistic that certainly doesn’t improve the outlook on Jay Wright’s job security.
  4. Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Tim Sullivan writes that Russ Smith is burdened by the reputation for volatile play he earned in his first two seasons. Despite having cultivated that style beyond anyone’s expectations to the point of becoming an elite college guard, it’s difficult to transcend the “Russdiculous” moniker bestowed affectionately upon him by Rick Pitino. “Any mistake I do –– one mistake –– keeps that perception,” said Smith. Before the season, it was hard to imagine Smith becoming more essential to Louisville than Peyton Siva or Gorgui Dieng. Even the most unorthodox dark-horse advocates would have scoffed at the notion that Smith might receive All-American hype in December. But that’s exactly what Sullivan suggested after Smith poured in a career-high 31 points, seven boards, five assists and five steals against Kyle Korver’s little brother and a hapless band of UMKC Kangaroos on Saturday. The junior two-guard is now second in the Big East with 20.3 PPG (on a surprisingly efficient 45.4% from the field), and fifth in the nation in steals.
  5. Speaking of Louisville, Rick Pitino broke with convention to answer a reporter’s phone and coordinate cocktail hour during his post-game press conference on Saturday. It was a bizarre moment that fortunately appeared on YouTube almost immediately. More importantly, it represents a levity that you wouldn’t expect to see very often from Pitino prior to this past March, as he seems to really be enjoying his job again after several years where nothing seemed fun for the volatile head coach.

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The Freshman 10: The Best and Worst of Big East Newcomers

Posted by mlemaire on December 6th, 2012

The season is only a month and some change old but it is never too early to check in on the progress of some of the conference’s most heralded and surprising freshmen. While young bloods like Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and Nik Stauskas of Michigan have made an instant splash on the college scene, the Big East’s crop of rookies have made a more muted impact.  There was no methodology when it came to selecting which freshmen to analyze, so we just chose 10 of the most interesting freshmen to follow. Of course, conference play hasn’t even begun yet, so evaluating their body of work is somewhat of a trivial venture. But don’t you worry, we will be back later in the year to check in on some of these players again.

DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse)

The Learning Curve For Prized Freshman DaJuan Coleman Has Been Steeper Than Some Expected

It is still far too early to make a judgment call on what type of player DaJuan Coleman can become this season. But those who expected the highly touted forward to come in and immediately start anchoring the paint for the Orange probably need to adjust their expectations. To his credit, he seems to be getting better each game. But in six games against subpar competition, Coleman hasn’t seen much playing time and has shown only promise and inconsistency when he does play.

Anyone with eyes can see the wide-bodied forward is going to be an excellent rebounder and considering he is averaging 5.3 rebounds per game in just 16.3 minutes of playing time, he is already on his way to validating that obvious observation. But he isn’t a shot-blocker which is fine so long as he is an efficient scorer in the post and an elite rebounder. He has an impressive skill set and nimble feet for a man his size, but the ball rarely makes it back out to the perimeter if it goes to Coleman in the post, and he will need to take better care of it and make smarter decisions if he wants to continue to receive looks in the paint. His downfall offensively may be his sketchy free-throw shooting (55 FT%) as he is the type of strong interior player destined to draw a lot of fouls, and if he can even make his free throws at a 66 percent clip, he will be a much more productive scorer.

Jakarr Sampson (St. John’s)

It should come as no surprise that Sampson has adjusted to college basketball quickly because the Akron native was supposed to be suiting up for the Red Storm last season before lackluster academics forced him to return to prep school. But now that he is on the roster, he has wasted little time making his mark on both ends of the floor and is the clear front-runner for conference rookie of the year honors. The lanky 6’8″ forward already had a well-deserved reputation as a sensational dunker, but his game is more nuanced than that. Sampson has thus far started all nine of the team’s games, averaging 30.8 minutes per game, and he ranks second on the team in scoring (13.8 PPG), first in rebounding (6.6 RPG), and second in blocks (1.6 BPG).

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Big East M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 5th, 2012

  1. St. John’s 81-65 loss on the road at San Francisco may have seemed like just another non-conference game in preparation for the Big East gauntlet which kicks off in early January. To Steve Lavin, though, this game meant a whole lot more. Steve’s father Cap Lavin played guard at San Francisco in the early 1950s, and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 1997. With his son’s trip out west, the school honored Lavin at halftime. San Francisco Chronicle writer Steve Kroner’s piece on this father-son relationship is an excellent read. Where many sporting parents may push their children towards athletics, Cap never put any pressure on Steve, but instead made sure that his career goal of becoming a basketball coach wasn’t him taking “the path of least resistance.” Steve’s relationship with Cap was also instrumental in helping him triumph in his recent bout with prostate cancer.
  2. The Big East Tournament has always been a big event for Connecticut faithful, and this spring’s tournament, with the impending departure of rivals Syracuse and Pittsburgh, promised to be even more meaningful… until, of course, UConn was banned from all postseason play for poor APR scores. School president Susan Herbst is still fighting the ruling, citing the school’s stronger, more recent APR scores as evidence that the program has learned and improved upon past academic failures. Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs theorizes that if UConn wants to overcome the “chaos” that has befallen the program and be readmitted to the Big East Tournament — and on a larger scale, be seen as having a strong athletic department again — they need to quiet Jim Calhoun. As we discussed in yesterday’s Big East M5, Calhoun recently stated that he would “never say never” in ruling out a return to coaching. Jacobs believes that Calhoun’s thirst for attention, which doesn’t seem to have dissipated even after his very public and odd retirement, is undermining the program.
  3. While the Syracuse low-post trio of Rakeem Christmas, Dajuan Coleman, and Baye Moussa Keita have combined for a solid 18.2 points, 15.6 rebounds, and nearly four blocks per game this season, Jim Boeheim still believes that this group is the one that must progress the most if the team wants to make a championship run this season. The Orange’s 2-3 zone has been especially active and long this season to the tune of 81 steals through six games, but their corresponding interior defense has been a bit weak at times. Boeheim is worried that a good mid-range jump shooter or a strong offensive big man could do some damage against his defense. Syracuse could also use a strong presence inside on offense when the shooting stroke from outside runs cold, as it did for stretches against Eastern Michigan on Monday.
  4. USF (the Big East one this time) seems to be gaining its sea legs after a rough few games to start the year, and are prepared to take on #23 Oklahoma State in Stillwater tonight. One can point to the improved health of Anthony Collins as one reason for the Bulls’ improved play. After missing a game against Stetson due to a lingering calf injury, Collins had one of his best games of the year against Georgia, scoring 17 points and adding 10 assists. A win in Stillwater would give USF a solid non-conference road win, and re-energize the thoughts of a second straight NCAA Tournament berth. After the Oklahoma State game, USF has a 13-day break to focus on practice and schoolwork, so look for the Bulls to come out with a very strong effort knowing that rest is on the way.
  5. Pittsburgh could get back junior swingman Trey Zeigler as early as tonight for the Panthers’ City Game against Duquesne. Zeigler, who transferred from Central Michigan after his father Ernie was fired as head coach, was charged with a DUI on November 26 and was suspended indefinitely from the team. The scoring guard was a highly recruited player coming out of high school and had averaged 6.2 points per game for Pitt before his suspension — during his two years with the Chippewas, he averaged around 16 points per game so he could provide a great offensive spark for the Panthers if he gets back into a rhythm.
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Set Your DVR: Opening Weekend

Posted by bmulvihill on November 9th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The college basketball season is finally here! This season Set Your DVR (ed. note: sadly, nobody has TiVos anymore) will be a twice-weekly column outlining the must-see games for the upcoming week and weekend.  This column will lay out the key factors in each game to focus on and how those factors could affect the outcome. It’s a military-themed weekend of hoops with three games taking place on aircraft carriers and one game taking place at a military base located across the Atlantic Ocean.  Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#16 San Diego State vs. #5 Syracuse – 4:00 PM EST, 11/11/12 on FSN HD (*****)

Jim Boeheim takes the Orange to the USS Midway to take on San Diego State

  • The USS Midway provides the backdrop for an exciting opener between Syracuse and San Diego State. SDSU returns four starters including Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin as well as Chase Tapley, James Rahon, and Xavier Thomas. Keep a close eye on the match-up between the Aztec guards and Syracuse point guard Brandon Triche. Triche is taking over for Scoop Jardine and faces a tough test against this crew. Steve Fisher’s squad will have to improve in two areas if they are going to start beating top-tier programs like Syracuse – shooting and offensive rebounding. The Aztecs grabbed only 30.8% of their offensive rebound opportunities last season, so if they are only going to hit 33% of their three-point attempts and 49.8% of their two-point attempts like they did in 2011-12, it’s going to be difficult to beat the best teams in the country. Watch to see if transfers Dwayne Polee II and J.J. O’Brien can help the Aztecs grab more of those missed shots.
  • After losing four starters to graduation and the NBA Draft, Syracuse is in a much different place than SDSU. Jim Boeheim’s ability to fill the talent void will be a key factor in determining if this Orange team can beat an experienced Aztec team. The ‘Cuse returns two significant contributors from last year’s team – C.J. Fair and Triche. Both players need to improve their sub-50% eFG in order to prevent the team from taking a step backwards.  The key to the Orange’s success in this game and in the future, however, may be 6’8” senior forward James Southerland. In a somewhat limited role last year, Southerland put up some impressive shooting numbers from inside the arc. Keep a close eye on Southerland’s ability to take advantage of his size inside the three-point line. Syracuse will also be able to throw additional size at the Aztecs with 6’9” sophomore Rakeem Christmas, 6’10” junior Baye Keita, and 6’7” 275 lb. wide-body freshman, DaJuan Coleman. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

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Big East M5: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on November 2nd, 2012

  1. The hardest part is over for Kevin Ollie, who escaped Gampel Pavilion with a win in his first game –– however unofficial –– as UConn’s head coach. The Huskies rallied to beat American International College 78-63 on Thursday, but the final score doesn’t reflect how uncertain the game was for the first 20 minutes. Ollie’s team missed 10 of its first 11 shot attempts and AIC quickly opened up a 12-2 lead, to the dismay of the 5,349 fans on hand. “When you go 1-for-[11], I’m like, ‘Man, this might be my only time out here,’” Ollie joked afterward to the New Haven Register. UConn never led before halftime, but prodigal freshman guard Omar Calhoun keyed a furious comeback after intermission with his 24 points on 8-14 shooting (including 3-6 from beyond the arc). Ryan Boatright woke up in the second half, finishing with 14 points, and Shabazz Napier added 11 from the two-guard spot. The Huskies have an opportunity to regroup and work out some kinks on Sunday against UMass-Lowell, before an abrupt uptick in competition when they face Michigan State in Germany on November 9.
  2. Louisville enjoyed a more emphatic win in its first exhibition of 2012, thumping Pikeville 93-57 in the KFC Yum! Center after hanging the university’s ninth Final Four banner from the rafters. Before the game, former point guard Elisha Justice received a warm welcome from the crowd of 20,277 on hand when Pitino presented him with his Final Four ring. Once things got underway, the ceremonies didn’t seem to pose a distraction for the Cardinals. Sophomores Chane Behanan and Kevin Ware were glued to the bench after being suspended for the game by Rick Pitino, but their absence was undetectable, thanks in part to a breakout debut from freshman forward Montrezl Harrell. Harrell ended with a team-high 19 points and game-high 13 rebounds, and made a variety of unrelentingly energetic plays. His performance was impressive enough that he’ll have an opportunity to compete for the starting power forward position once Behanan returns for the official opener against Manhattan.
  3. Syracuse handled its business by an eerily identical 36-point margin, dismantling an overwhelmed Pace squad, 99-63. It was a concerted effort for the Orange, as eight players logged 17 minutes or more and five ended up scoring double figures. Everything went according to plan for Jim Boeheim, who acknowledged after the game, “I’m not experimenting. We’re going to play nine guys.” Pace’s undersized frontcourt (whose tallest player is 6’6″) was no match for the freakish length of Boeheim’s big men, and it manifested in a Space Jam-esque block fest: the Orange logged six blocks in the first 10 minutes, and finished with 14. Freshman big man Dajuan Coleman got the start at center, and began his college career with 11 points and three blocks. But it was steady anchor James Southerland (18 points) and promising returner Michael Carter-Williams (16 points, seven assists) who keyed the offensive effort. The Orange open the season on the road at San Diego State on November 9, where they’ll get a chance to test their nine-man rotation against stiffer competition.
  4. Friarblog digs up an awesome New York Times piece by Pete Thamel from 2004, which recounts a late-night gas station rendezvous between Ed Cooley, at the time an assistant coach at Boston College, and former Providence assistant Bob Walsh, as their respective teams prepared for the NCAA tournament. While it “looked like a scene from a bad crime movie,” the coaches were exchanging game film on each other’s first round opponents. The PC staff was acutely aware of the difficulty of finding tape for opponents with few televised games: a recording blunder caused Walsh to accidently tape “Body by Jake” on public access in lieu of the Big West championship game. What makes this kind of story so compelling is that it humanizes the two coaches and gives fans a rare glimpse into the more mundane experiences of their profession. Walsh and Cooley will have an opportunity to catch up on Saturday when Walsh’s Rhode Island College squad visits the Dunk for an exhibition game.
  5. Lastly, South Florida blog Voodoo Five put together a very nuanced appraisal of the Bulls’ chances to succeed playing a smaller lineup this year after the departure of Gus Gilchrist and Ron Anderson Jr. Writer Collin Sherwin points out that Stan Heath’s roster lacks the outside shooting to space the floor with three point shooting: USF finished last year ranked 280th in the country in three-point shooting percentage, and facilitator Anthony Collins shot a dreadful 7-24 on the season. It will be interesting to see how Heath tailors his offense to his team’s strengths. We’ll get our first real glimpse on November 10, when USF hosts its I-4 rival, UCF.
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Big East M5: 10.15.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 15th, 2012

  1. Where many midnight madness events favor glitz and glamour over basketball substance, Louisville‘s event at the Yum! Center was all business. The Cardinals are a few months removed from a Final Four berth, and enter the 2012-13 season as one of the favorites to return, so it is little surprise that the team is taking their practice time seriously. Point guard Peyton Siva said as much about Louisville’s midnight madness event: “It’s definitely all business here,” Siva said. “I wish we could Midnight Madness and play around, but Coach P is a business-first type of guy. We have our fun after practice, but once we lace it up and step on the court, it’s all business and that’s how we play.” Don’t worry though, the Cardinals did find time to dance to “Gangnam Style”, because it is still in fact the fall of 2012.
  2. Pittsburgh’s Steven Adams continues to receive praise from various publications in their preseason lists and rankings. Today, it is Athlon Sports, who lists Adams at the top of its “Top Impact Freshman of 2012-13” rankings heading into this season, noting that Adams is the highest-rated recruit to ever sign with Pittsburgh, and that though he is raw, his talent should allow him to be very productive for the Panthers this season.
  3. That whole “will he stay home in Syracuse or join Kentucky’s stellar 2012 recruiting class” thing?  Syracuse freshman big man DaJuan Coleman said that was never even much of a debate for him. “I wasn’t close at all,” Coleman told the Post-Standard’s Donna Ditota. “I had a feeling I was going to come here since my junior year. I just wanted to go through the recruitment and everything.” Coleman joins former high school teammate Brandon Triche at Syracuse this season, and unlike some other recent Syracuse freshman bigs, many believe that Coleman has the polish to be an effective player on both ends of the court immediately. If anything, the bulky Coleman should help shore up the major rebounding problems that plagued the Orange in 2011-12.
  4. It is no secret that this basketball season in Storrs is going to be a trying one for all involved. The players have no postseason to play for, Kevin Ollie is fighting for a multi-year contract, and the administrators who need to make decisions that will impact the program going forward will be doing so under the gaze of legendary head coach emeritus Jim Calhoun, who is expected to remain a major part of the program. With all of the pressure that is being heaped on the Connecticut program, Ollie’s utilization of a sports psychologist with the whole team may be a very wise move early in his tenure. UConn is working with Dr. Joe Carr, a psychologist who worked with UMass last year en route to a strong year for the Minutemen, to work through many of the chemistry issues that plagued the Huskies in 2011-12.  Carr is no stranger to helping teams come together, as noted in the Courant’s article, and he describes the positive effects of sports psychology further: “If we can get players to develop blind trust and buy into a principle, they are going to outplay a lot of people. They are playing for something else, and that’s each other. The teams that win are usually the ones that make the most sacrifices.”
  5. Prized recruit Tyler Roberson is on the radar of many Big East teams, but he chose to head to Rutgers for this year’s midnight madness.  Roberson would be an absolute recruiting coup for Mike Rice and company, as he holds offers from Big East rivals Syracuse, Villanova, and rival-to-be SMU, as well as perennial national power Kansas.  Kentucky is also involved, as Tyler Roberson is an elite high school basketball player, and that’s sort of their thing.
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Where This Year’s McDonald’s All-America Class Fits In Next Season

Posted by EJacoby on March 30th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

It’s never too early to start talking about next season. Wednesday night showcased the very best high school basketball players in this year’s senior crop as part of the McDonald’s All-America game. There’s not a whole lot of analysis to do from Wednesday’s glorified exhibition game, but we can start to project how these elite talents are going to fit in next season. All 24 All-Americans are headed to a power conference school, so let’s break down how each conference could be impacted by all of these newcomers.

ACC

There are still five players who have yet to decide their destination next year, but as of now there are more McDonald’s All-Americans (MAA’s) headed to North Carolina State than there are committed to North Carolina and Duke combined. The Wolfpack hauls in an impressive trio that includes point guard Tyler Lewis, shooting guard Rodney Purvis, and small forward T.J. Warren. Purvis is probably the biggest name of the class and showcased quite a bit of explosiveness on Wednesday. NC State is loaded with talent already and brings back its top four players next season (assuming C.J. Leslie doesn’t hit the NBA), so Mark Gottfried’s team is going to be scary. Purvis and Warren are big-time wing athletes while Lewis will be a viable backup point guard to Lorenzo Brown. There’s a strong chance that NC State will be the favorite in the ACC next season.

North Carolina Needs Marcus Paige to Contribute Immediately Next Season (SourceMedia Group/L. Martin)

Marcus Paige is headed to North Carolina, which is suddenly in desperate need of talent after its four best players are now off to the NBA. Depending on who you ask, Paige is either the best or second-best rated point guard in this class, and he will have a great opportunity to contribute immediately for the Tar Heels to step in for Kendall Marshall. Rasheed Sulaimon is going to Duke, and he was one of the most impressive players in the MAA game. A solid 6’4” shooting guard, Sulaimon is a hard worker with a terrific outside shot and should fit in perfectly for the Blue Devils. He seems like a classic Mike Krzyzewski recruit.

Big East

Surprisingly, Providence has the top recruiting class in the conference this year, led by a pair of five-star guards. Kris Dunn is ranked as a top-three point guard in this class and played in Wednesday’s game with some impressive passing skills. He’s not a great shooter but he has good size (6’3”) and skills for a lead guard. Ricardo Ledo was not chosen for the MAA game, but he is a top-five shooting guard in this class as well. Ed Cooley did extremely well in the recruiting ranks this year for a young team that is losing nobody next year. The Friars should have the best backcourt in the Big East.

DaJuan Coleman is a big body headed for Syracuse, which also suddenly is in a huge need for a center after Fab Melo’s deaparture. Coleman is a strong big man and ranked as one of the top centers in a loaded class at that position. He will step in alongside Rakeem Christmas as an impressive young duo in the paint. The Orange are off to the ACC, though, in a couple years. Shaq Goodwin, meanwhile, is headed for Memphis, a Conference USA school, but the Tigers will join the Big East starting with the 2013-14 seson. Goodwin is an athletic power forward at 6’8”.

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