Three Up, Three Down in the Big East

Posted by George Hershey on February 4th, 2014

There was plenty of action this past week in the Big East. Here is a look at three of the biggest improvements and three of the biggest regressions from the past week.

Three Up

Oliver Purnell might've found a gem in A. (Chicago Tribune)

Oliver Purnell might’ve found a gem in RJ Curington (Chicago Tribune)

  1. The rise of R.J. Curington — You might be wondering who this is, but Curington is a name that will become well-known around the league over the next three years. The DePaul freshman guard had played 24 total minutes in the entire season, with 12 games where he did not see any time at all. Yet with DePaul’s lineup decimated by suspensions and injuries to its key contributors, head coach Oliver Purnell has turned to Curington to play more minutes. In the last two games he has shown his promise, playing 23 and 30 minutes, respectively, in losses to Seton Hall and Providence. Against Seton Hall he helped keep the game respectable with 15 points and five rebounds, but on Saturday he blossomed, scoring 22 points to lead DePaul on a comeback that came up just short. The freshman was confident and did not back away from the pressure, taking 15 shots and going 3-of-8 from three with a clutch jumper to tie the game late. He also attacked the basket forcefully, getting to the line six times. Curington was not a big-time recruit and he barely played earlier this season, but he appears to be a very good offensive player who will complement fellow freshman Billy Garrett Jr. and Tommy Hamilton IV going forward.
  2. St. John’s getting on a roll — It was only three weeks ago when St. John’s was the laughingstock of the Big East, starting 0-5 including a loss to DePaul. Since then the Red Storm have gone 4-1, with the only loss coming on the road to Creighton, which needed a deep Doug McDermott three to win. The defense has hunkered down and they displayed it with a dominant performance over Marquette at Madison Square Garden over the weekend. Marquette could not get any good looks and the Golden Eagles’ frustration was evident all night. Steve Lavin’s offense has also played much better, showing a chemistry and cohesion that was not there before. Earlier in the season, the team was settling for too many contested jump shots, but they have begun to move the ball around better. D’Angelo Harrison hit six threes Saturday, and most of those were wide open because of better spacing and ball movement. This team’s talent has been well-publicized and criticized for its play thus far, but they have finally begun to fulfill the potential and just a few more wins will get them onto the bubble. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 1st, 2013


  1. The AP Top 25 preseason poll was released yesterday and Marquette was the only Big East team included. They came in at #17, the same as the USA Today Coaches Poll. Creighton had the 27th most votes and Villanova, Georgetown and St. John’s also received some votes. Many pundits believe Creighton should have been included.‘s Jeff Goodman tweeted “Three teams that didn’t make the cut in the Preseason Top 25 that should have: Creighton, Harvard and Colorado.” The Bluejays finished last season ranked #22 and return four starters, including stud Doug McDermott. Voters may have decided against ranking them because of their move into the Big East and some expected growing pains. It’s also surprising to see Villanova receive more votes than Georgetown even though the Hoyas have been picked by many to win the league whereas Villanova was chosen fourth in the Big East preseason poll.
  2. Two Big East schools picked up commitments from recruits this week. Class of 2014 guard Jon Davis committed to DePaul. Davis plays at a fast pace and liked the fact that he will have a chance to contribute as a freshman. He saw his stock rise this past summer when he played very well against top five recruit Emmanuel Mudiay and saw his offers increase, but he ultimately decided to play for Oliver Purnell. Providence also received good news when 2015 forward Ryan Fazekas committed to the Friars on Tuesday. Fazekas is a tall shooter who could pose match-up problems for opposing bigs.  He is not a highly ranked player by the recruiting services, but his ability to shoot and his size attracted many brand-name programs to offer him a scholarship. He is Ed Cooley’s first recruit in the class and Cooley has some momentum on the recruiting scene, signing several big recruits the past few seasons. DePaul also received some good news about Cliff Alexander’s recruitment. The consensus top five recruit in the 2014 class said that he has eliminated Michigan State from contention; he is down to Illinois, Kansas, Memphis and DePaul. Alexander would be a program changer for Purnell and could instantly propel the program to success unseen in decades.
  3. The NCAA is instituting new hand-check rules this season and Xavier coach Chris Mack is not a fan. There will be fouls called for keeping a hand or forearm on an opponent, putting two hands on an opponent, continually jabbing an opponent by extending an arm, or placing a hand or forearm on the opponent and using an arm bar to impede the progress of a dribbler. When Mack was asked about the changes, he bluntly responded “They stink. I don’t think fans… want to see one team shoot 50 free throws and the other team shoot 46 free throws. Usually at some point… you hear fans yelling out, ‘Let them play!’ And I think that’s going to be a real problem.” Mack makes a good point. The change was made to help offenses move more freely and ultimately score more points. This could result in a more exciting game and make it more similar to the NBA, but there are downsides like more players in foul trouble, longer games, and many more free throws. Marquette’s Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker tweeted his thoughts after Marquette’s scrimmage last week, “Concessions sales go up thanks to new rules emphasis. Games will be 3 hours #doublebonus #lotsoffouls.” It will take time for players and coaches to adjust, but free throws and team depth will play a huge role this season, and will decide many games.
  4. Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News wrote a great piece about five potential additions to the Big East if it ultimately decides to expand. The five teams he included were St. Louis, Richmond, Dayton, VCU and Gonzaga. He makes the point that it would be best if they stayed at 10 teams, but in today’s environment, every conference becomes infatuated with expansion. Every team playing each other twice is great for the programs and the fans. If all goes well in the first few years, moving to 12 teams would be a good decision. St. Louis and VCU seem like the best potential additions, as they are very good teams on the rise with strong fan bases. They also would help the league grow in new markets and bring in two great current coaches in Shaka Smart and Jim Crews.
  5. Happy Halloween! The Sporting News put together a slideshow of college basketball players dressed up for Halloween. St. John’s D’Angelo Harrison is the only Big East player included and looks great as Spiderman and Robin. Todd Keryc also wrote a nice Halloween piece, Trick or Treat: The Big East Schedule Edition, highlighting some of the exciting non-conference match-ups for the upcoming season.
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Big East Morning Five: 02.07.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 7th, 2012

  1. Adam Zagoria came out with his Big East All-Rookie Team for this year and while some may say it seems a bit early to be locking in what are traditionally postseason honors, how can one not want to talk about the “Diaper Dandies” of this league?  Depth of talent has long been a trademark of the Big East and it is difficult to recall a season in which so many newcomers have played such integral roles on their teams.  This is due in some part to the fact that the conference underwent a youth movement coming into the year with many teams restocking with big freshman classes.  Handicapping the Big East coming into the year proved particularly difficult given the youth factor presented by many teams in the league.  This is also why it is not surprising that some of the more experienced teams, particularly teams with multiple key junior and senior leaders such as Syracuse, Georgetown and Marquette, are finding higher ground in the standings while the youngest teams such as St. John’s, Rutgers and Providence have displayed predictable inconsistency.  However, as illustrated by Zagoria’s list, squads up and down the conference have fantastic building blocks for the future getting valuable experience on the court this year.
  2. Big East weekly honors time again and it is difficult to find a more deserving Player of the Week than Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall.  The fact that Woodall went off last week to the tune of 26.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game would be enough to merit consideration, but the numbers are vastly overwhelmed by Woodall’s overall contribution to winning basketball. The Panthers have won four straight games since his return and have thereby pulled their season out of the dumpster.  In the spirit of the Big East’s depth of youth, it is fitting that the conference named Co-Rookies of the Week for the first time since 2005-06 in Louisville’s Chane Behanan and Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton.  Both players hit for 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in single games last week. Honor Roll recipients were: Notre Dame’s Eric Atkins who had 18 points, five assists and four rebounds in a big win over Marquette; West Virginia’s Darryl Bryant who averaged 23.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists including a 32-point torching of Providence in an overtime victory; Providence’s Gerard Coleman who averaged 22.5 points and six rebounds for the week including a career-high 30 in the loss to West Virginia; St. John’s D’Angelo Harrison who filled it up with two-game averages of 26.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists; and Georgetown big man Henry Sims who averaged 13.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in a 2-0 week for the Hoyas.
  3. The latest installment of the Top 25 came out yesterday and there was not much movement at the top as numbers one through six remained unchanged, including Big East leader No. 2 Syracuse (23-1).  Georgetown (18-4) hopped up two spots to No. 12 after earning two victories last week.  Marquette (20-5) went 1-1 last week but slid three notches to No. 18, while Louisville (19-5), winners of five in a row on the heels of last night’s drubbing of Connecticut, suddenly find themselves surging as well as back in the rankings at No. 24. That rounds out the Big East’s representation in the poll, but perhaps not for long as Notre Dame stands next in line at 26th with the 83 votes they received.
  4. While Notre Dame is certainly savoring every minute of their shorthanded success this season, steps were taken yesterday to try to lock in some experienced depth for next year as the Irish applied for rare sixth years of eligibility for injured players Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin. As the Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton points out, when evaluating for a sixth year the NCAA normally focuses on players who have missed two full years due to injury.  That is not the case for either Abromaitis, who was suspended for four games and played in two games this year before tearing his ACL, or Martin, who sat out a year due to transfer (from Purdue) in addition to missing this season with a torn ACL of his own. However there are mitigating factors in both cases that Notre Dame hopes will tip the scales in its favor. As Hamilton also points out, should the Irish secure both players for next year it will take them over the NCAA’s 13-scholarship limit, so other roster changes in the form of players paying their own way or leaving would need to be made to ensure compliance.
  5. You have to love how coaches are always coaching, motivating, and working the psyches of their players and perhaps always paranoid, invariably looking at chicken salad but seeing chicken you-know-what instead.  Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim (a.k.a Jimmy Brackets) provided some tournament analysis saying there is too much parity to define any clear cut deep-run favorites.  As for his own team, the 23-1 squad that is ranked second in the country, the one that is arguably the deepest team in the country, and the one that has a #1 seed in its sights, Boeheim says he is concerned about three-point shooting based on the Orange’s recent poor performances beyond the arc.  Hey, in true head coaching form, Boeheim has to find something to pick on, right?  The fact of the matter is if there is any team built both for the long haul of the regular season and the do-or-die tournament format, it is Syracuse.  They have experience at every position and can exploit matchup issues with their surplus of depth.  Furthermore, the Orange are a team that can impose their will defensively with a zone that coaches who play against it every year have trouble preparing for, much less those who might be faced with a day to figure it out during tournament play.
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