Is This an Older But Wiser St. John’s to Start Big East Play?

Posted by Joe Dzuback on December 31st, 2013

Is St. John’s 8-4 record at this point last season versus their current 9-3 a true measure of growth for the Red Storm? According to coach Steve Lavin, the answer is no. The take on the Johnnies going into this season was one of a talented, but undisciplined, roster. Perhaps one of the two or three best teams in the conference, a squad capable of beating anyone in the Big East, but first they had to stop beating themselves.

Steve Lavin and St. John's are gearing up for conference play. (AP)

Steve Lavin and St. John’s are gearing up for conference play. (AP)

Granted, last year’s team was young with just over half a season’s worth of experience (0.64 years), but chalking their 17-16 record up to youth misses more than half the story. Suspensions, the most damaging of which was D’Angelo Harrison’s six-game hiatus at the end of the season — during which the Red Storm compiled an 0-5 record to close out conference play and crush any chance of an NCAA bid — was not the only example of time missed due to discipline problems. Baylor transfer Jamal Branch, eligible at the end of the fall 2012 semester, served a one-game suspension in early March, just over two months after first donning a Red Storm uniform.

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Big East M5: Christmas Eve Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 24th, 2013

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  1. Providence fans no long have to wait to find out the status of freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock, but unfortunately, the news is none too kind to the Friars. Providence has announced that the two will remain suspended for the rest of the 2013-14 season on Monday, ending the hopes that the two young players would help bolster this Friars squad as the Big East season comes into view.  The Friars, who already lost Kris Dunn to injury for the season, now have a major depth issue at guard, forcing Bryce Cotton to play over 37 minutes per game and leaving the Friars without a true starting point guard.
  2. St. John’s came out on fire against an overpowered Youngstown squad this weekend, highlighted by the efforts of D’Angelo Harrison, who captured the Johnnies record for three-point shots made on Saturday, knocking down his 152nd triple of his career just 26 seconds into the game to break the record previously held by Willie Shaw, en route to a 29 point outburst in a 96-87 win.  While Harrison is often branded as a gunner, this season his scoring, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage are all up, and his three-point percentage is just a shade under what he shot as a freshman, while he’s playing fewer minutes and taking fewer shots per game.  Harrison has also shown the ability to lock up some strong opposing guards on defense, and has definitely been a key to St. John’s recent stretch of strong play.
  3. With his Boston Celtics traveling to Indianapolis to face the red hot Pacers, former Butler coach Brad Stevens had a chance to reconnect with many of the people who he worked with and coached.  While Stevens is obviously focused on his first NBA season, he told The Indianapolis Star that he has watched almost all of Butler’s games and still reaches out to some of the players on this years squad to give encouragement.  While I’m sure most Bulldogs fans would take Stevens back in a minute, he remains humble, and assures everyone that the program will go on without him under Brandon Miller: “I told you guys this in July… They are going to be a lot better without me. There is nothing better than watching that.”
  4. Josh Smith had a strong start in Georgetown’s game against Kansas on Saturday, scoring the Hoyas’ first two buckets.  Unfortunately for Georgetown, Smith’s quick start encompassed almost all of the center’s production, as he struggled to stay on the court against the Jayhawks, and fouled out after just 19 minutes.  On the other side, Kansas’ Joel Embiid put together a very strong effort, finishing with 17 points on four shots and eight total rebounds is 21 minutes, in just his 11th collegiate game.  Brian Goodman frames the game, which turned into a decisive victory for Kansas, within these two performances.  Where Kansas is a very young team that is capable of dominance on any given day, Georgetown is still finding itself, and Smith’s struggles limit what the Hoyas can do on both ends of the court.
  5. Fox Sports 1 is all in on Big East basketball, and while there aren’t many live options for the college fan on Christmas day, the network will be playing classic Big East match-ups throughout the day.  Starting at noon, Big East fans can check out some great past games like 1985’s Final Four match-up between St. John’s and Georgetown, or that year’s national championship game, an all-Big East affair between a powerhouse Hoya squad and an upstart Villanova club. I won’t ruin the ending for anyone who has somehow missed those highlights pretty much every year the two teams meet, but I can assure you, it’s a good one.
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Big East M5: 12.19.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 19th, 2013

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  1. In joining the Big East, Creighton hoped that the better competition and brand-name league would help raise the program’s status, and vault successful Bluejays outfits to more advantageous seeding come March. While the Big East is undoubtedly an upgrade in many regards from Creighton’s old home, the Missouri Valley, the league hasn’t quite panned out as many had hoped thus far. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi only has four teams from the Big East currently in his field, including Marquette, the league’s preseason favorite, in a play-in game. While no Big East team is truly out of the running yet this year, fans would have probably hoped for more from the top of the conference, but today Villanova is really the only squad really making a name for itself on a national scale. 
  2. While Creighton has dropped a few games it would like to have back, the team seems to be building depth behind star Doug McDermottEthan Wragge and Will Artino have swapped positions in the starting five, with Wragge entering the lineup as the Bluejays’ second leading scorer at 12.5 points per game and Artino more effective as a reserve, totaling 27 points in his last three games (after 40 through his first seven). Avery Dingman and Devin Brooks have also stepped up as of late, each filling the scorebook in a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Coach Greg McDermott was effervescent in his praise of the two players, who have made great strides in recent weeks: “Avery Dingman has had three of the best days as a Bluejay as he’s ever had. His last two days of practice and today’s game, he’s shown more confidence and urgency to his play… Devin is getting better every single day. There’s no question from the start of practice until today, he’s our most improved player… I’m really proud of him, and that’s a credit to him.”
  3. Rysheed Jordan was the crown jewel in Steve Lavin’s freshman class at St. John’s, but until the last few games, he had yet to find himself in the college game. Sunday’s match-up with New York rival Syracuse and one of the nation’s top freshman point guards, Tyler Ennis, brought out the best in Jordan, who scored a season-high 13 points. Jordan followed this game up with another strong performance — 10 points and four assists — against San Francisco on Wednesday night. St. John’s is among the most talented teams in the Big East, and if Jordan can break out to go along with established players like JaKarr Sampson, D’Angelo Harrison, and Phil Greene IV, the Johnnies will be quite dangerous in time for postseason play.
  4. Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin has put together an incredibly diverse, eclectic staff with men of all ages and backgrounds, including 77-year old college basketball legend Gene Keady as a special advisor. Keady, who helped launch Lavin’s coaching career by putting him on his staff at Purdue, brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to the group, and players and coaches agree that his basketball acumen has paid off. Forward JaKarr Sampson describes the impact that Keady has on everyone in the program: “Whenever he talks, everybody listens, even Coach Lav. With Coach Lav, I feel like he’s still learning from him. It’d be foolish not to listen to what he’s got to say.”
  5. Providence has been playing this season under a cloud of injuries and suspensions, and it is still uncertain when freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock will be allowed to suit up for the Friars. Without the highly touted Austin, the scoring burden for the Friars has fallen to veteran Bryce Cotton, whose importance to his team grows with every game that his team spends without the freshmen. According to head coach Ed Cooley, he is taking this leadership responsibility in stride: “What everybody has to know is our team has really taken on the heartbeat of Bryce. I have seen him grow unbelievably in the last two, three weeks. Vocally, his spirit, his energy. We knew he’d play well today based on how he prepared. I’m really proud of the man he is becoming. He has grown so much.”
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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 18th, 2013

The 2013-14 college basketball season is off and running, and it was a really interesting week for the Big East conference, which saw a number of teams compete in big non-conference games.  Only half of the teams in the league remain unscathed, so there may be some shuffling in our power rankings this week.

Few players in the entire nation have had the start that Doug McDemott has this season.

Few players in the entire nation have had the start that Doug McDemott has this season.

Week One Power Rankings

  • 10.) DePaul (2-1), Last Week (10): The Blue Demons very nearly knocked off a Southern Miss team that many expect to be among the top squads in Conference USA, falling to the Golden Eagles, 75-68.  Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young are off to strong starts.
  • 9.) Butler (2-0), LW (9):  After handling Lamar, the Bulldogs had a close call with Princeton, knocking off the Tigers, 70-67.  Butler is getting even scoring across the board, with five players averaging at least nine points per game.
  • 8.) Seton Hall (2-1), LW (7): Things haven’t been easy for the Pirates.  After participating in the game that launched a thousand referenda on refereeing in 2013, Seton Hall edged by Kent State by two before dropping a game at Mercer in double overtime.  Fuquan Edwin and Sterling Gibbs look very good early, but with the Pirates sitting at 231st in the nation in assists at 11.7 per game, they need to do a better job of moving the ball.
  • 7.) Xavier (3-0), LW (8): Unsurprisingly, Semaj Christon is good at scoring the basketball.  The Musketeers are glad to have Dee Davis back after missing two games—the junior guard had a well-rounded game against Morehead State, scoring seven points, grabbing five rebounds, and doling out nine assists in 35 minutes.
  • 6.) Providence (3-0), LW (6): The Friars’ opening night win against Boston College doesn’t look quite as good with the Eagles going on to drop games to UMass and Toledo, but they’ll have chances to prove themselves with games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky rapidly approaching.  Providence has an array of scorers, headlined by the consistent Bryce Cotton, and as a team hits free throws at an 85 percent clip. Don’t foul these guys, America.
  • 5.) St. John’s (1-1), LW (5): The young Red Storm nearly came away with a big win against Wisconsin in their first game.  D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson look very good through two games, while Steve Lavin and company are still waiting for freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan to put everything together.

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Introducing the RTC Big East Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by Dan Lyons (@Dan_Lyons76) on November 8th, 2013

College basketball is back! Seven Big East teams open their seasons tonight, including a few big match-ups like St. John’s vs. Wisconsin and Georgetown vs. Oregon. There is no better time to unveil the Big East microsite’s preseason rankings, with comments and analysis from our group of Big East writers:

Marquette Needs to Go Inside Against Davidson

Marquette tops Rush the Court’s preseason Big East rankings.

10. DePaul

  • Dan Lyons – With Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young heading into their senior years, this might be DePaul’s best chance to get out of the Big East basement, but I’m definitely taking a wait and see approach with the Blue Demons.
  • George Hershey – It’s DePaul… They have some talent in Melvin and Young, but they don’t play defense.
  • Todd Keryc – It doesn’t matter what league they play in or who else is in it, the poor Blue Demons are destined for the cellar almost every year.
 9. Butler
  • DL – With the injury to Roosevelt Jones, Butler is without a returning double-figure scorer this season. I’m not one to bet against the Bulldogs, with or without Brad Stevens, but this inaugural Big East campaign isn’t shaping up too well for this Cinderella.
  • GH – They lose many pieces from last year’s team. Roosevelt Jones’ injury really hurts, but they are Butler and they always surprise everyone. Expect Kellen Dunham to have a big year.
  • TK – Bad timing for the Bulldogs. They ride two straight national title appearances into two straight conference upgrades, only to see their boy wonder coach Brad Stevens leave for the NBA.

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Big East M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 8th, 2013

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  1. Managing pregame nerves is a key for any team, especially at the beginning of the season when freshmen are being introduced to the college level and other players are taking on new and more important roles. The nerves haven’t avoided Creighton, which opens up the season at home tonight against Alcorn State, but for the most part, it sounds like the Bluejays are handling things well… or, at least more cleanly than some of Greg McDermott’s former players: “I once had a guy that would throw up before every game,” the Creighton coach told The Omaha World-Herald‘s Steven Pivovar. This Bluejays team is experienced, with a ton of returning pieces in both the starting rotation and coming off the bench, so nervousness about the 2013-14 season should be at a minimum. They do exist, though, as guard Grant Gibbs acknowledges: “Pregame jitters are real, especially if you haven’t played in front of a lot of people. I think that’s the biggest adjustment, having a lot of people watching you. But it’s still basketball, and it’s something you have to deal with.”
  2.  MyCentralJersey.com’s Jerry Carino filed a lengthy preview of the Seton Hall season yesterday, complete with the presumptive strengths and weaknesses of the team as well as a schedule and full roster breakdown. Carino believes this to be the deepest Pirates squad in years, and expects Kevin Willard to run as many as 11 players on to the court on a nightly basis. He’s excited about the shooting and play-making ability of guard Sterling Gibbs, who will man the point for Seton Hall this year. The schedule, without powerhouses like UConn, Syracuse, and Louisville getting in the way, should open up a bit for a team like Seton Hall that was constantly fighting to stay afloat in the old Big East. It may be a good sign that Carino’s negative list is a bit less tangible; he lists “injury hangover” and a void in vocal leadership along with a lack of depth as guard, as the reasons that Seton Hall may struggle this year.
  3. Georgetown is over in South Korea in anticipation of tonight’s Armed Forces Classic match-up with Oregon, and the Hoyas spent their first day at Camp Humphreys touring the facilities and meeting with soldiers in between practices. The team also held a clinic for the children of soldiers on the base. Forward Nate Lubick is especially grateful for the chance to connect with those serving overseas for the United States: “This was just a great opportunity to get a close up look at what life is like for the men and women who protect our country. We’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to come here and play a game and to thank them for all they do.”
  4. St. John’s has been great at manufacturing top freshmen during the Steve Lavin era, and this year’s top newcomer may be the most important. Rysheed Jordan, a highly-touted point guard out of Philadelphia, has been given the keys to Lavin’s offense, a unit with a lot of talent at its disposal between fiery shooting guard D’Angelo Harrison and athletic sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson, last year’s top Big East freshman. However, it sounds like he may make a huge impact on the other end of the floor as well. According to Lavin: “He’s one of the more special talents. He’s so disruptive defensively. There’s no frills in his game. He’s all business in practices and games. He’s all about winning and already taking leadership.” Hopes are high for a St. John’s team that has been compiling talent under Lavin, but has yet to really break through with his guys. If Jordan, who is donning the number ’23’ on the back of his red jersey, lives up to the high standards he is setting for himself, the Johnnies may contend at the top of the Big East and play meaningful ball in March.
  5. Butler guard Jackson Aldridge is having a rough go of it as of late – his playing time seems to be waning as the team has brought in impressive young players at his position, and his best friend Andrew Smeathers recently announced that he would leave the program. Despite this adversity, Aldridge has said that he will not be going down the same path as Smeathers, and will stick things out with the Bulldogs: “Leaving is not for me. As this whole (situation) has been going on this week, people don’t understand, just how attached Andy was, and I am, and everyone else is, to this program and this place.” Aldridge’s minutes were cut last year as a sophomore to six per game after averaging almost 14 MPG as a freshmen, when he also contributed 3.7 points per game. A paltry 17 percent field goal percentage is probably a major reason for the drop-off. In the team’s first exhibition this year against Nova Southeastern, Aldridge had a nice performance, scoring eight points and dishing out two assists in just 10 minutes of action. He was not quite as impressive in the second exhibition against DePauw, scoring two points in 11 minutes, but more performances like his first exhibition could help him clinch a decent role in the Bulldogs’ rotation.
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Big East M5: 11.06.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 6th, 2013

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  1. Georgetown is projected to finish around the top of the Big East this season, even after losing its top player from 2012-13 in forward Otto Porter, drafted third overall by the Washington Wizards. Porter is the most recent in a long line of talented forwards who have been the key player in John Thompson’s Princeton offense, following stars like Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe. This year, it is unclear if Georgetown has that type of player at the forward spot. Greg Whittington, the most obvious candidate, tore his ACL over the summer. Nate Lubick will probably get playing time but lacks some of the raw talent and skills that the others have had. Transfer Josh Smith has all the talent a coach could want, but has major question marks after a less-than-stellar two years at UCLA. Instead, this year’s Hoyas may be more focused on guard play with Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a departure from what we usually expect from Thompson’s best teams.
  2. St. John’s has announced that sophomores Felix Balamou and David Lipscomb will take redshirts this season. Balamou was a contributor last year, averaging two points in nine minutes of action per game,and appearing in all but five of the Red Storm’s contests. Lipscomb, a walk-on, appeared in seven games last season but has yet to score in college. The move should allow both guards to develop without burning a year of eligibility during a time when St. John’s already has a crowded backcourt. Players like D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene IV, Rysheed Jordan and Jamal Branch will probably see most of the meaningful minutes in this year’s backcourt, so this is a wise move for these two players’ futures.
  3. It’s hard if not virtually impossible to lose during Midnight Madness, but this year’s event has already proven problematic for Xavier. Guard Dee Davis suffered a concussion during the event and has sat out for more than a week of activities as a result; reports are now that he may not be available for the season opener against Gardner-Webb. Davis is second of all the returning Xavier players in both minutes and points per game, so the Musketeers probably want their guard back as soon as possible. Head coach Chris Mack is taking all necessary precautions: “Until he’s symptom-free we’ll do what’s wise for Dee, and that’s to sit him.”
  4. The injury bug has reared its ugly head in Providence as well. Friars’ guard Kris Dunn suffered a shoulder injury in an exhibition with Rhode Island College and may miss the season opener against Boston College. Dunn’s injury is especially worrisome because it is the same shoulder on which he had labrum surgery before last season, costing him the first nine games of 2012-13. Dunn’s perimeter mate Bryce Cotton is also entering the season hampered by a sore knee, but he is not expected to miss any time. The tandem should be one of the better backcourts in the Big East, and keeping them on the court is key if the Friars want to make a run at the NCAA Tournament this season.
  5. Josh Smith could be the player that swings this season in favor of Georgetown. The UCLA transfer has been with the program roughly a year, and it has allowed him time to grasp the role of playing power forward in John Thompson’s offense. One of the players who he is battling for playing time, Nate Lubick, doesn’t seem too thrilled with going up against the powerful Smith every day in practice: “Ugh. It’s miserable. He backs it down and dunks it on me every time. He’s good. It’s something that’s very hard for another team to prepare.” In Rob Dauster’s article on CollegeBasketballTalk, other teammates commended Smith’s underrated passing ability, which is key for big men in the Georgetown offense. If Smith’s ability in practice translates to the faster pace of real games and his conditioning continues to improve, Smith may be the missing piece for a talented Hoyas team looking to get over the NCAA Tournament hump.
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Big East Recruiting Superlatives

Posted by mlemaire on May 23rd, 2013

Sometimes it is OK to choose an arbitrary date in the college basketball recruiting process and take stock of things, using our Big East goggles of course. That said, this date really isn’t all that arbitrary. Most of the top basketball recruits in the Class of 2013 signed National Letters of Intent last week . Rather than break down and rank the Big East recruiting classes from top to bottom — which the guys at recruiting sites do much better than we would anyway — we figured to have some fun and bring you back to high school for some good old-fashioned superlatives. Again, we recognize the Big East is breaking up, but we are still looking back rather than forward.

He Didn't Have To Look Far, But Buzz Williams Reeled In Perhaps His Best Recruiting Class Ever (AP)

He Didn’t Have To Look Far, But Buzz Williams Reeled In Perhaps His Best Recruiting Class Ever (AP)

Most Likely To Earn Praise For His Recruiting Prowess: Buzz Williams, Marquette

In the always useless world of recruiting rankings, most experts have recruiting classes at Louisville and Syracuse ranked ahead of Marquette’s class, but that shouldn’t keep Williams from receiving the praise he is due. Williams hangs his hat on his program’s ability to develop talent, not in recruiting superstars, but this class could easily be his most ballyhooed yet. Of course it helps Williams look good when much of the talent is in the same city as the school, but he still had to beat out a number of high-major programs for those kids. Duane Wilson is a local point guard with size who may earn the first crack at replacing Junior Cadougan and fellow local product Deonte Burton is a physical and athletic wing who will rebound and defend. The third local product by way of junior college in Iowa is 6’8″ forward Jameel McKay who has everyone excited about his athleticism, rebounding, and motor. The real prize for the Golden Eagles is slashing guard JaJuan Johnson who Williams and his staff plucked out of Memphis’ backyard despite an offer from the Tigers. Everyone in the Southeast recruited the attacking guard who may be asked to step in immediately and replace some of Vander Blue’s now-missing production.

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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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Morning Five: 03.04.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 4th, 2013

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  1. With top ten teams falling everyday it seems like we are the verge of finally seeing Gonzaga rise to #1 in the rankings. As we pointed out nearly a week ago Gonzaga’s likely rise to #1 will be met by skepticism in many corners as evidenced by the fact that they might not get a #1 seed even if they enter the NCAA Tournament as the #1 team in the polls. However, that shouldn’t diminish how impressive the program’s rise from the archetypal mid-major power to one that has become such a national force that even The New York Times stopped by Spokane for the annual story about the program with a piece by Greg Bishop appropriately titled “Nothing ‘Mid’ About Gonzaga”. We tend to find the “mid-major” label argument tiresome, but the growth and continued excellence of the program has been nothing short of remarkable regardless of whatever moniker you want to afix to them.
  2. Gonzaga might be reaching their post-Casey Cavalry peak later today, but their West Coast Conference rival Saint Mary’s certainly is not after the NCAA handed down some substantial sanctions on Friday (full report PDF here). We have a longer breakdown of the story from Friday afternoon, but the primary charges against the school and its coach, Randy Bennett, are that they failed to monitor an assistant coach in his recruitment of three international prospects as well as Bennett conducting impermissible training and coaching sessions. The assistant coach who was not named in the report, but is believed to be Keith Moss, was hit with a two-year show-cause.  The school was hit with four years of probation, a reduction of scholarships from 13 to 11 in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, elimination of foreign trips until the 2017-18 season, no skill instruction during the next two seasons, and they cannot participate in multi-team events for the next two seasons. Bennett will serve a five-game suspension next year (doesn’t make any sense to us why this should wait until next season) and is prohibited from recruiting off-campus next season. We are sure that St. Mary’s fans are having difficulty finding anything positive from the situation, but this should guarantee them that Bennett will not be leaving them for a higher profile job in the very near future. Of course that is operating under the assumption that administrators care about NCAA violations, which may not be the case.
  3. If Moss is looking for hope after his show-cause he can look to Steve Forbes, who shook off the NCAA’s one-year show-cause (part of the Bruce Pearl investigation) in an unusual way–going to the NJCAA. Forbes’ route is an unusual one in that he did not sit out at all and went straight into another college coaching job. Given his recent coaching success and his success at recruiting at the Division I level we would not be surprised to see his name mentioned in another month when more than a few positions. Still if Forbes is able to make it back to the Division I level (especially as a head coach) he would be joining a very short list of coaches to have done so (Todd Bozeman is the only head coach to have done so, but we are not certain on assistants making the leap).
  4. The decision by St. John’s to suspend D’Angelo Harrison for the rest of the season is one of the more interesting ones we have seen as the Red Storm were still on the bubble when they made the announcement on Friday and we still have not heard a good explanation for why Harrison was suspended for the rest of the season. Having said that we have to give Steve Lavin some credit for making the tough call as it would have been much easier just to put up with whatever Harrison was doing (assuming he isn’t in legal trouble) and finish out the season with a potential NCAA Tournament trip on the line. On top of that there is always the risk that this move will help push Harrison out the door at St. John’s whether that is to another school or (a dumb) decision to enter the NBA Draft.
  5. The University of San Diego bribery case appears to be nearing an end (at least for those of us concerned with the basketball aspect) as the school’s all-time leading scorer, Brandon Johnson, was sentenced to six months in prison for his role in the scandal. Johnson was charged with fixing four games, but continues to deny everything except that he unsuccessfully tried to recruit another player to throw games despite the fact that the FBI has a recorded conversation where Johnson stated he wished he had thrown every game and even offered to throw a NBA Developmental League game. Johnson will begin serving the sentence on May 31 after being granted a delay in sentencing so he could finish out the rest of his season as a youth league coach in Houston. Johnson says he hopes to play professional basketball again at some point, but given the evidence against him we cannot imagine any league taking him with his background.
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Big East M5: 01.17.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 17th, 2013

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  1. Many college basketball players will rack up on-court accomplishments for four years and never even sniff the opportunity of getting their jersey retired. But when you are Carmelo Anthony, all it takes is one season and a national championship apparently. Anthony will have his jersey retired by Syracuse in February and the No. 15 of the one of the most celebrated one-and-done players in history will hang alongside Dave Bing, Derrick Coleman, and Sherman Douglas. Of course it doesn’t matter how much time he spent in school, ‘Melo obviously deserves this honor. The Baltimore native finished in the top-10 nationally in both points and rebounds and led the program to its only national championship. He, like Kevin Durant, was one of the few true NBA superstars to even play in college, and unlike Durant, he helped his school win a championship on his way to stardom. It is definitely a bit weird to see a player who basically used Syracuse as a stepping stone for one season getting his jersey retired, but if ever there was a one-and-done player who deserved to be honored this way, it’s ‘Melo.
  2. Yesterday morning we told you that Georgetown’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, Greg Whittington, would miss his second game for a violation of team rules. Then, before last night’s game against Providence, it became apparent that Whittington violated the “don’t fail school” rule and his suspension will be indefinite in length. Whittington’s academic ineligibility didn’t matter last night as the Hoyas jumped out to a huge lead on the Friars and held on for a nine-point win and it seems unlikely he will miss the remainder of conference play. But this is a team with plenty of well-documented scoring issues that is fighting to stay in the top half of the conference standings, and without Whittington that will be difficult. Jabril Trawick is a nice player, but not nearly as productive as Whittington, and Aaron Bowen is at least athletic, but he is a long way from being the player that Whittington is. The Hoyas have an important game this weekend against South Florida, because dates with Notre Dame and Louisville loom after that, and the Hoyas will need every win they can get.
  3. Villanova may have learned some valuable lessons from their loss to Syracuse last weekend but it didn’t show last night as the Wildcats took a slim lead into the half for the second-straight game and then gave it all back in the second half to let Pittsburgh escape with a crucial road win. The game was close for most of the second half as well but with less than six minutes to play, the Panthers clamped down on defense and held ‘Nova to zero points over the last five minutes and 13 seconds of the game while they poured in 15 of their own during that stretch to seal the victory. I will buy the argument that the Wildcats proved they have what it takes to hang with good teams in the conference, but only for a half. The Wildcats have made a habit of watching their halftime leads disappear (they did it in losses to LaSalle and Temple earlier in the season) and while some of that can be attributed to a young roster without a lot of lethal scorers, some of the blame should fall at the feet of Jay Wright, who is seemingly getting out-adjusted at halftime by every coach the Wildcats play. When Villanova was dominant, they had a roster that knew how to close out close games and keep the intensity high, this team seems to inevitably fold every time their opponents start to force the issue in the second half. If they want to return to their spot atop the conference, they will need to improve on that greatly.
  4. The heart-and-soul of Cincinnati will be okay as senior guard Cashmere Wright is only day-to-day after he only sprained his knee at the end of a close win over DePaul. This is hugely important news for the Bearcats because while injuries happen to every team, Wright has been the most consistent and best player on the floor for coach Mick Cronin all season long, and I shudder to think what Cincinnati’s offense would look like without their second-leading scorer, playmaker, and floor general. The Bearcats are off until Saturday when they square off with a hot Marquette team and then play at Syracuse two days later and having Wright in the lineup for both those games will be crucial if the Bearcats want to assert their position at the top of the conference standings. It might be worth a look later in the season but I think the argument can be made that Wright is the most important player in the conference to his team.
  5. Our friend Rob Dauster (#DausterForUSC) raises an excellent issue after watching Notre Dame inexplicably fall to a St. John’s team that had just been blown out by Georgetown — why was All-America candidate Jack Cooley on the bench in the closing minutes of the loss? Dauster correctly points out that Cooley had struggled mightily in the game and that the Johnnies were playing with a smaller lineup, but there can’t be too many good reasons why senior scrub Tom Knight was on the floor while he much more talented and experienced teammate watched.  The key moment came when Knight had what appeared to be an easy put-in blocked by D’Angelo Harrison and the Red Storm were able to seal the win. There is of course no way of telling whether Cooley would have fared any better in that situation, but at least if it was Cooley who had his shot-blocked then there is no need for second-guessing, you can know that you put your best player in a position to tie the game and for whatever reason he didn’t come through. But because he wasn’t in the game, fans and pundits are left to ask why Brey kept him on the bench.
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Big East M5: 01.07.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 7th, 2013

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