NCAA Regional Reset: West Region

Posted by AMurawa on March 20th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent.

The West Regional begins Thursday night in Phoenix with Michigan State vs. Louisville followed by Marquette vs. Florida. Our East Regional Reset published earlier today, while our South and Midwest Regional Resets will publish Wednesday. Make sure to follow RTCWestRegion for news and analysis from Phoenix throughout the weekend.

New Favorite:  Michigan State, #1, 28-7. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Nothing has changed in the past week that would make the Spartans any less the favorite in the West, and in fact, the upset of Missouri in the round of 64 only further strengthens Tom Izzo’s odds of making it four-for-four in Final Four trips as a #1 seed. While Draymond Green has been excellent all year, if anything he has stepped his game up even more in the first two rounds of the tournament, and point guard Keith Appling has shown a toughness and an ability to make plays when they’re needed. The Spartans still have a very tough slate ahead of them, but of the teams remaining here, they are the slight favorite to advance to New Orleans.

Downtown Phoenix Hosts This Year's West Regional

Horse of Darkness:  Florida, #7, 24-10. They’re the lowest remaining seed in this region, and they haven’t really beaten anybody of great importance in their first two games, but they’ve beaten those teams with conviction. Their wins over Virginia and Norfolk State have come by an average of 30 points. And while all of their players deserve credit, freshman guard Bradley Beal may be the hottest of them all, not only scoring 14 in each of his games (with three threes mixed in there), but helping out the front line by averaging 10 boards. The Gators are still the underdogs in this region, but they match up well with a Marquette team that doesn’t do a great job of defending the three-point line, and, of course, Billy Donovan has a little bit of experience this deep in the tourney.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend):  Norfolk State 86, Missouri 84. This was really the only upset of even major proportions in the first weekend, and boy, was it a doozy. While the Lehigh upset of Duke may have earned more press among casual basketball fans just because of the Blue Devils’ reputation, the Spartan victory over Missouri was even more stunning. Not only was Mizzou a strong two-seed with an argument for a one-seed, Duke was generally considered a pretty weak two-seed. And Lehigh had a strong argument that they deserved a higher seed, while Norfolk State was plenty happy to avoid a 16-seed. In short, not only is the Kyle O’Quinn-led upset of the Tigers the most surprising result in the first weekend of the West region, it is one of the more surprising results in the history of the NCAAA Tournament.

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Rushed Reaction: #3 Marquette 88, #14 BYU 68

Posted by jstevrtc on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Not Just the Big Three For Marquette. In the first half, BYU had nobody who could contain Davante Gardner. The Marquette big fella scooped in 12 first-half points that all came from either attempts within five feet or free throws. We mention him specifically (he finished with 15/6) because his first-half performance was indicative of Marquette’s wise and efficient shot-selection on the day. Jae Crowder (10-20) was phenomenal, posting a 25 point/16 rebound performance enhanced further by the fact that he led his team with six offensive rebounds and pilfered five steals. Darius Johnson-Odom was his usual imposing self, as well (20/5), but Buzz Williams will laud his team’s effort from top to bottom; the Warriors had four players in double-figures (Todd Mayo added 10/6) and had six players pull down at least five rebounds.
  2. Hump Day. As in, the 10-point one BYU just couldn’t get over. BYU improved their shot selection in the second half and, for the most part, played much better defense than they did in the first. Seemed like every time they’d string a few nice possessions together, Marquette would drill an open three. This happened on four different occasions when the Cougars were able to cut the lead to ten.
  3. Your Turn, Kevin. No disrespect to WVU’s Kevin Jones, but Jae Crowder showed why he’s the Big East player of the year. The 6’6” senior was everywhere, playing the one, two, three, or four at any given time, talking like mad on defense, and being the leader they expect (and need) him to be.

Star of the Game. Crowder, without question. BYU was led by Brandon Davies (19/12), but he left a lot of points at the free throw line (5-11). Crowder was the best player on the floor right from the tipoff.

Sights & Sounds. What in the world was going on with the slippage? For years we’ve been talking about players slipping on the floor decals of tournament sponsors, but this wasn’t decal-related. Four stoppages of play to wipe the floor, multiple players slipping, sliding, falling…did they sneak a hockey rink under the Yum! Center floor while nobody was looking?

Marquette Fans Appreciate a Balanced Effort From Their Warriors

What’s Next?  Marquette gets Murray State on Saturday. Marquette showed that it’s going to be a tough out in this tournament. They shot well (30-66, 45.5%), hit from range (9-20 from three, 45%), and absolutely owned the boards against the Cougars (48-32). Of the two winners today, Marquette would our choice to move on based on their opening performances.

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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by AMurawa on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region here.

West Region

Favorite: Michigan State, #1, 27-7. This is the fourth time in the Tom Izzo era that Michigan State has earned a #1 seed. The previous three times (1999, 2000, and 2001), they advanced at least to the Final Four, winning the national title in 2000. Led by likely All-American senior forward Draymond Green, this is, almost without question, the best Spartan team since those teams at the turn of the century. They do have to go forward without injured freshman Branden Dawson, out for the year with a torn ACL, but senior Brandon Wood stepped into his starting spot and he shot the ball well in the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. You can say that there are more talented teams in this region (Missouri and Marquette come to mind), but beating Izzo in March is always easier said than done.

Draymond Green And Michigan State Are The Team To Beat In The West Region (AP)

Should They Falter: Missouri, #2, 30-4. While the Spartans are the favorite, the Tigers are a solid 1-A. The Selection Committee had Mizzou as the #8 overall seed, but they have been excellent all season long behind the most efficient offense in the nation. The Tigers are undersized (only two players taller than 6’6” are in the rotation) and lack depth (they only play seven guys), but head coach Frank Haith gets every last drop out of the guys who do play. And with guards like Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil Pressey, and Michael Dixon, they have enough talent on the perimeter to cause plenty of trouble.

Grossly Overseeded: BYU, #14 (First Four), 26-8. I don’t have a whole lot of problems with any of the seeding this year; I think the Selection Committee by and large did a pretty good job. But I’m not sure why BYU is in the tournament. Their lone quality win of the season is over Gonzaga, a team who doesn’t have much in the way of quality wins itself. I would rather have seen a team like Drexel or Oral Roberts (teams admittedly without a ton of big wins either) get the Cougars’ spot. The Dragons and Golden Eagles both had better records against top 50 RPI teams, and both excelled in their conference regular season. I will even take Iona, their First Four opponent, over the Cougs despite a complete lack of quality wins on the Gaels’ resume. The committee gave Iona credit for scheduling a tough non-conference slate, and their strength of schedule out of conference even exceeds BYU’s.

Grossly Underseeded: Missouri, #2, 30-4. I’m having trouble working up a whole lot of outrage about anything in the bracket, but Missouri should not have dropped to the #8 overall seed. To me, they were right in the conversation with Kansas for the #5 overall seed (and I might have given Missouri the edge, although the committee docked them for a relatively tame non-conference schedule). The only difference for the Tigers in terms of their placement in the bracket is that had they earned the #5 overall seed, they would have been dropped in the St. Louis regional instead of being shipped West. But the good news is that they still are in the bracket with the lowest #1 seed. It all works out.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XIII

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 7th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED….pureness. Some would argue that there’s nothing better than a last-second buzzer-beater. FALSE. There’s nothing better than a last-second buzzer beater that also touches zero iron on the way down. Ohio State’s William Buford gave us one of those on Sunday against Michigan State for a huge win, and for me the swish adds even a little bit more to the drama. I’m thinking back to Isaiah Thomas’ Pac-10 conference tourney walk-off last year, and some others, too – maybe I’m just an absurdly picky fan, but nothing beats the twine tickler with the clock ticking down.

I LOVED…..Buford. The senior has had some subpar games during this conference season, and he’s the main reason why I’ve started to sour a bit on the Buckeyes. But if he plays like he can, he can take this OSU team to a different level on both ends of the floor. They need his long-range shooting to diversify their O, and his freakish athleticism on the defensive side, too. If he’s that guy in March, the Buckeyes could be there at the end.

If William Buford Can Play Like He Can, Ohio State Becomes That Much Better (USA Today)

I LOVED….the tables being turned. My UNC loyalty has been mentioned before, and I’ve truly never been as heartbroken as when Austin Rivers’ three dropped into the Dean Dome net back in February as time expired. I wondered if anything could make up for that painful disappointment, and I have to say, this might have done it. Absolutely demolishing, obliterating, dominating, embarrassing, and – oh yeah – BEATING Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Senior Night was heavenly (and I can’t say that watching Mason Plumlee cry didn’t give me some sick sort of pleasure). You make the pick though – comparing the two outcomes, which would you prefer?

I LOVED….Florida State following through. The 33-point win over Carolina, the buzzer-beater at Duke, it would been easy for these overachieving Seminoles to be happy with what they did and settle for another ho-hum conference season. But Leonard Hamilton kept FSU focused, and they’re fully deserving of their impressive 12-4 conference record and a guaranteed NCAA tourney berth. Well done down in Tallahassee.

I LOVED….Murray State both keeping pace and getting some cred in the rankings, even after that one loss. With their clutch tourney title finish, the Racers head into March Madness at 30-1 and have to start drawing some comparisons to last year’s San Diego State squad.

Five Things I Hated This Week

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Big East Morning Five: 03.02.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 2nd, 2012

  1. This evening figures to be an unusual one emotionally for injured senior star Tim Abromaitis once senior night festivities commence prior to Notre Dame’s contest with Providence.  Abromaitis has been forced to watch for the majority of this season due to an ACL tear he suffered in November, and is trying to make peace with the fact that his career at Notre Dame may very well be over. The thing that will keep Abromaitis in a state of emotional flux is the battle between the finality of senior night and the faint glimmer of hope that he may be granted a rare sixth year of eligibility and play for the Irish again next year.  As for tonight, Abromaitis will suit up for show but will not play in any fashion, including warm-ups. To Abromaitis’ credit he is keeping things in perspective and holds no delusions of grandeur when it comes to playing again.  “I’ve kind of looked at it both ways – there’s a chance I’m coming back, so do what I need to do to keep that door open,” Abromaitis told the Chicago Tribune. “But at the same time, I am pretty rational about knowing that it very well could be the last time out there and could be a little emotional for me. I’m just trying to take it in stride and be glad for the opportunities I have had.”
  2. Villanova has not enjoyed tremendous success on the court this season but they could be receiving some good news about their future very soon as top Class of 2013 recruit Allerik Freeman narrowed his choices to Villanova and Kansas according to his Olympic (NC) High School coach Ty Baumgardner.  Freeman, a 6’4” guard who is ranked 13th nationally by ESPN.com and 24th by Rivals.com had been pursued by the likes of Georgetown, Arizona, Kansas State, North Carolina State, Ohio State, and others. Freeman has visited both Villanova and Kansas unofficially, meaning he paid his way, and could decide before taking any official visits.
  3. In keeping with the high school scene, rosters for the All-American Championship were announced yesterday.  The event, which started last year, is an all-star showcase that features four teams who will play a doubleheader on April 1 in New Orleans’ Lakefront Arena.  ESPN3 will carry the games live beginning at 3 PM EST and ESPNU will replay at 9 PM EST. Two highly sought-after Big East 2012 recruits, Nerlens Noel and Chris Obekpa, will be playing in the game.  Noel recently trimmed his list but Syracuse, Georgetown and Connecticut still appear to be in the running.  Obekpa’s list includes Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, St. John’s, Providence and West Virginia. Highly touted high school juniors and brothers, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, will be there as well.  Both are being recruited by Villanova while Andrew also holds an offer from Georgetown. There are also a number of committed Big East players who will appear: Omar Calhoun (Connecticut), Ricardo Ledo (Providence), Dajuan Coleman (Syracuse), Jerami Grant (Syracuse), D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown) and Cameron Biedscheid (Notre Dame).
  4. Perhaps Connecticut fans will be treated to a Willis Reed-like event, but it is not looking like head coach Jim Calhoun will make his return to the sideline on Saturday as hoped when the Huskies take on Pittsburgh.  Calhoun is reported to be feeling better after surgery on Monday to alleviate pain and discomfort caused by a spine-thinning condition called spinal stenosis as well as a “large disk fragment” that was found when doctors went in, but was not able to attend practice on Thursday.  Should Calhoun not be ready for Connecticut’s practice this afternoon it renders his chances of coaching on Saturday to virtually nil.  The Huskies (17-13, 7-10 Big East) somewhat remarkably remain in contention for an at-large NCAA berth despite their well-documented struggles. A loss on Saturday would certainly figure to firmly put them on the outside looking in, even in the minds of the pundits.
  5. The Naismith Men’s Basketball Player of the Year is obviously a huge honor and just to be considered is certainly something to be proud of.  To that end, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced its somewhat oddly named ‘Midseason 30’, which is a a list of the 30 finalists for the award.  Four Big East players made the cut: Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom, West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, and two from Syracuse in Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters. The Naismith recipient will be announced and awarded during the Final Four, which we presume implies that the second “half” of the season will be played in the next four weeks.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.29.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 29th, 2012

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

It’s another big Wednesday night in college hoops. Three bubble teams have home games against top 15 opponents, so we will see who really wants to earn their way into an at-large bid. Let’s jump into the breakdowns:

#8 Marquette at Cincinnati – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

Cincinnati Will be Fired Up at Home Against #8 Marquette (AP Photo/A. Behrman)

  • Buzz Williams’ team continues to impress. Even a suspension of four of its best players for at least one half couldn’t stop Marquette from winning at West Virginia last Friday. Now the Golden Eagles will look to add another quality road win to an already sparkling resume. Jae Crowder’s campaign for Big East Player of the Year is gaining steam as he ranks in the top 10 in the conference in points per game (17.6), rebounds per game (7.7), steals per game (2.9), field-goal percentage (52.4%), and offensive rating (123.9). He and Darius Johnson-Odom are the most potent and consistent one-two punch in the league, and they both have versatile games that should thrive against the Cincinnati zone defense. Marquette leads the conference in scoring but must adapt to the Bearcat attack that plays at a slow pace and limits turnovers.
  • The last time the Bearcats were on national television, they had another ranked Big East foe at home in what Rick Pitino called the best home court advantage his team had faced all season. Cincinnati will look to mimic that environment in this game, facing the high-flying Golden Eagles. To slow down Marquette, Cincinnati needs a big game from its veteran guards who can control pace and hit shots. As a team, the Bearcats commit just 9.6 turnovers per game, best in the conference, and they score 31.5% of their points from the three-point line. Dion Dixon, Cashmere Wright, and Sean Kilpatrick will win or lose this game for Cincy. It will be up to Yancy Gates to keep the Marquette defense honest inside as well as trying to shut down Crowder in the paint.
  • This game is a pick’em in Vegas, which feels accurate. Cincinnati will be fired up on Senior Night and a win over a top 10 opponent will guarantee its entrance into the Big Dance, but Marquette has been simply fantastic in Big East play, winning 12 of its last 13 games in a variety of fashions. As a believer in this Bearcats team, I think they pull this one out and lock up a postseason bid.
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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 27th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Temple In Big East Talks: The Big East may have a new all-sport member as early as this fall if the reports are true that the Temple Owls are in discussions about joining the conference.  Adding Temple to the mix would be terrific for Big East basketball. While Syracuse is irreplaceable, you could make an argument that Temple and Memphis offset the departures of West Virginia and Pittsburgh. The enhanced stature of these two programs in the Big East will help fuel recruiting and could easily make them equal to what WVU and Pitt are right now. Temple will make its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance next month, its 30th in a storied history. The Owls have made two Final Fours and five Elite Eights, better than both Pittsburgh and West Virginia (WVU has two Final Fours, Pitt has one). Memphis has been to more Final Fours and Elite Eights as well, although two were vacated (1985 and 2008). All in all, I’d argue that the Big East hit a grand slam with Temple and Memphis, should this all go through. The league simply couldn’t have done better given the constraints it faced.
  • Punching Your Ticket And Voiding It In The Same Week: One could argue that Seton Hall and Cincinnati punched their NCAA Tournament tickets with wins over Georgetown and Louisville, respectively, last week. However, both squads lost over the weekend (to Rutgers and South Florida), wiping out the good vibes from huge home wins earlier in the week. As of right now, the Pirates and Bearcats are likely still in the Tournament, but in much more precarious positions than before. In late-season college basketball, nothing is ever a sure thing until all the games are played. A team’s status can change at a moment’s notice.  

Syracuse Senior Scoop Jardine Helped Lead The Orange To A Title-Clinching Win Over Connecticut. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (29-1, 16-1) – The men in orange just keep moving right along, picking up two more wins this past week. Finding a way to win is so cliché, but it has been the theme with this group over the last few weeks. Syracuse has moved its record to 29-1 with seven of their nine wins since the loss to Notre Dame coming by ten points or less. In the win over South Florida, Syracuse overcame 35% shooting and a 20-7 Bulls run to start the game by going on a massive 26-0 run that started about midway through the first half and bled deep into the second. Kris Joseph struggled shooting, but Scoop Jardine picked him up by scoring 15 points. Joseph rebounded in a big way with 21 points at Connecticut while Fab Melo added 11 points and nine rebounds. This team has more weapons than any in the nation, allowing the Orange to overcome off nights by some of their key players. More importantly, Syracuse out-rebounded UConn, 39-35. That’s significant because of what the Huskies bring to the table in their front court and Syracuse’s awful rebounding numbers that have persisted throughout the season. With the win at UConn, Syracuse officially clinched the Big East regular season title, something everyone knew was going to happen as early as when the calendar flipped to January. This week: 3/3 vs. #23 Louisville.
  2. Marquette (24-5, 13-3) – There are teams more talented than Marquette out there, but you will not find one with a greater will to win than this bunch of Golden Eagles. You might as well call them their old nickname, the Warriors, because that’s exactly what they are. Jae Crowder made his case for Big East Player of the Year last week in grand fashion, totaling 53 points in two wins over Rutgers and West Virginia. Crowder dominated West Virginia’s Kevin Jones in their head-to-head matchup and may have moved in front of Jones in the POY race in the process. Crowder certainly plays for a better team and that has to enhance his case even more. Despite Buzz Williams suspending Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan for the first half against West Virginia and Todd Mayo for the second half, Marquette rallied yet again to pull out a victory. I don’t understand the half-suspensions. Sit them down for the whole game if you want to make a statement, but that’s beyond the point. The Golden Eagles shot 50% for the game and forced 19 WVU turnovers, helping to offset 16 Mountaineer offensive rebounds. In the win over Rutgers, Marquette forced 21 turnovers and Johnson-Odom added 21 points alongside Crowder’s 27 as the Golden Eagles shot 54% overall. MU can close out the Big East regular season in grand style and finish with a 15-3 record if it takes care of two tough games in the coming week. This team has a legitimate chance to win the Big East Tournament and go deep in the NCAA’s. This week: 2/29 @ Cincinnati, 3/3 vs. #9 Georgetown. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… The Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 20th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Bubble Teams Hanging On: Four Big East squads reside in the purgatory known as Bubbleville, but all are still hanging on to their projected NCAA bids. Cincinnati, Seton Hall, West Virginia, and Connecticut are all projected to be in the NCAA Tournament field as of this writing according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, but it’s the Pirates who are really skating on thin ice. The Hall is one of the “last four in” and has a huge opportunity this week against Georgetown. Cincinnati has a similar opportunity against Louisville while West Virginia has two excellent chances to seal the deal this week. As for Connecticut, the Huskies appear to be imploding. How UConn responds against Villanova on Monday night and Syracuse this coming Saturday will determine its fate.
  • South Florida Guaranteed a Winning Record: With its win at Pittsburgh on Sunday night, South Florida won its tenth Big East game for the first time ever and is now guaranteed at least a 10-8 Big East finish. However, the Bulls have their sights set higher. Thanks in part to a backloaded schedule, USF’s best win to this point is over bubble team Seton Hall, but upcoming games against Cincinnati and West Virginia could push the Bulls towards the field if they can win. South Florida needs to finish at least 12-6 in order to have a chance at a bid. Even with that, the Bulls will likely need to do a lot of work in New York City. A 12-6 league record is usually automatic, but not when your best non-conference win is Cleveland State. How much does Stan Heath want the close losses to Southern Miss (two points) and Connecticut (three points) back now?

Darius Johnson-Odom And The Golden Eagles Embarrassed The Huskies On Saturday.

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (27-1, 14-1) – I can hardly remember a year with zero change at the top of the league rankings. Syracuse is simply a cut above every other team in this league although Marquette and Georgetown have closed the gap a little bit over the last few weeks. Syracuse flirted with losses twice last week, but won gutty road games at Louisville and Rutgers. The Orange held Louisville without a point over the final 3:30 and won by a point despite shooting 1-15 from deep and Scoop Jardine going 0-8. Syracuse shot 34% for the game, but limited Louisville to 35%. Against Rutgers, Syracuse shot 50% and Jardine played much better (17 points, 7 assists). C.J. Fair had a stellar game, scoring 21 points and grabbing eight rebounds off the bench. Kris Joseph added 14 for the victors as they moved their overall record to 27-1. Rebounding remains a concern (31-26 Rutgers on the glass), but the Orange continue to roll along. Syracuse will battle Kentucky for the top overall seed in next month’s NCAA Tournament. This week: 2/22 vs. South Florida, 2/25 @ Connecticut. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 13th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Big East Adds Memphis: While conference realignment is unfortunately all about football, the addition of Memphis to the Big East Conference is a boon for basketball. With the league losing Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, it needed a strong basketball program to limit the damage of three venerable programs departing. Memphis is perhaps the best the Big East could do from a basketball perspective and the Tigers will begin competing in the conference in the 2013-14 academic year. While the Big East cannot replace a program with the stature of Syracuse, Memphis is arguably at least as good, if not better, than Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Temple would be the next logical choice from a basketball perspective but Villanova has long been rumored to be firmly in opposition to the Owls joining the league. Conference realignment is a new reality and won’t end any time soon. Expect some more dominoes to fall over the coming months and years.
  • West Virginia Reportedly Settles: Just 36 hours after Memphis joined the Big East, West Virginia reportedly settled with the Big East on an exit agreement, although no official announcement was made. If the Charleston Daily Mail report is correct, West Virginia will leave the Big East on July 1 of this year in order to join the Big 12 Conference. The reported agreement says that WVU will pay the Big East $11 million, with the Big 12 contributing $9 million. Big East bylaws require all member institutions to give 27 months notice before leaving the conference. If the Mountaineers do leave the conference, the Big East will have 15 basketball members for next season (2012-13) before expanding again in the summer of 2013. Of course, West Virginia’s early exit could pave the way for agreements with Syracuse and Pittsburgh, allowing those schools to leave early for the ACC. In a worst-case scenario, the Big East will have 13 basketball teams in 2012-13. One thing is for sure, this story is far from over. Stay tuned.
  • NCAA Denies Connecticut’s Waiver Request: In what was another good move by the increasingly tough NCAA, the governing body denied a request by Connecticut to retain eligibility for the 2013 NCAA Tournament in exchange for self-imposed penalties. Those penalties included forfeiting revenue and playing a shorter schedule. The Huskies would not quality for next year’s tournament because of their low APR rating, below the four-year minimum requirement of 900 or two-year average of 930. UConn will appeal the decision, one that, if denied, could have a huge effect on the basketball program in Storrs. Will Jim Calhoun stick around? Will recruits want to come there and knowingly sit out a year? Many questions still need to be answered as the Connecticut basketball program enters a period of uncertainty.
  • Win Number 880 for Jim Boeheim: The Syracuse legend now stands alone in third place on the all-time Division I wins list behind Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight after Syracuse beat Georgetown last week. Number 880 is one better than Dean Smith, a legend in his own right at North Carolina. While it is unlikely that Boeheim can catch Krzyzewski since both will keep winning, the Orange coach can pass Knight early next season, especially if Syracuse goes on a deep NCAA Tournament run. It’s so rare to see an athlete or a coach stay at one school for his entire career in sports these days but that’s exactly what Boeheim has done. The Hall of Famer has been at Syracuse as a coach since 1969 and played for the Orange from 1962-66. What a truly remarkable career spanning 50 years (and still going strong).

Josh Pastner Looks Forward To Embracing A More Challenging Change of Scenery In The Big East

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (25-1, 12-1) – The Orange dispatched their chief rivals in the Big East, Georgetown and Connecticut, in vastly different ways last week. Against the Hoyas, Syracuse needed overtime to put away a team that out-rebounded them 48-30 and slowed the pace to limit SU’s transition attack. Kris Joseph led Syracuse with a career-high 29 points and Fab Melo had six blocks as the Orange won by three in the extra session. Neither team played well, but Jim Boeheim picked up his 880th career win, moving ahead of Dean Smith and into sole possession of third place on the all-time list. Against Connecticut, the Orange broke open a close game in the second half with a 22-6 game-ending run. Syracuse shot much better (59%), including a scorching 63% from beyond the arc. Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair combined for 32 points and 16 rebounds off the bench while Scoop Jardine added 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting. It seems like Joseph is emerging as the go-to guy for this team, a question that had yet to be answered for the better part of the season. Syracuse faces a quick turnaround with a Big Monday game at Louisville, a team that has beaten them seven consecutive times. This week: 2/13 @ Louisville, 2/19 @ Rutgers. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… The Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • A Bad Saturday for Big East Referees:  It started in Philadelphia in the noon game between Villanova and Marquette. The referees made themselves the story of that game, calling three technical fouls and 45 total foul in a 40-minute game. That game lasted well over two hours as the officials used their whistles to take all the rhythm out of what was a very good game. James Breeding doesn’t have the best reputation across the conference for the quality of his calls, but apparently he has a short fuse as well. Breeding called all three techs and embarrassed himself on national television in the process. I realize the Big East and NCAA want better sportsmanship, but nothing Jay Wright, Buzz Williams, or Maalik Wayns did warranted a technical foul. It’s never good when officials make themselves the story of the game, but that’s exactly what James Breeding did. The bad officiating continued in the Syracuse-West Virginia game as the crew of Karl Hess, Gene Steratore and, Brian O’Connell blew a goaltending call that was obvious to the 28,740 Syracuse fans in attendance at the Carrier Dome, the ESPNU commentators, and anyone who was watching the game. While the proper call would have only resulted in a tie game and actually given Syracuse a chance to win it in regulation, it denied West Virginia a chance to force overtime. Too often, we see officials swallow their whistles in the final minute to “not affect the outcome of the game.” Once again, a crew of officials decided to do just that and that decision negatively affected the outcome. While there’s no guarantee West Virginia would have won if the game went to the extra session, the Mountaineers were denied that chance by incompetent officiating. My beef is as follows:  I’m all for player safety, but this season it has been ridiculous how many times officials have gone to the television monitor to review elbows that may or may not have been thrown during the course of a game. If they can review every elbow that was ever thrown (not needed in my opinion) as well as end-of-half scoring plays, why can’t they review a call like that? Nobody likes slow games, but the officials should be permitted to review every call they aren’t 100% sure about. All in all, Saturday was a disgrace to the officiating profession.
  • Mike Brey, Coach of the Year?: At this point, it would be hard to argue against him. The Notre Dame head coach led his team to two road wins at Seton Hall and Connecticut last week, holding the home teams to a combined 90 points. Brey’s team executed the burn offense to perfection, protected the basketball and got timely rebounds. Notre Dame, considered an afterthought after Tim Abromaitis went down with a season-ending ACL tear, is now in the thick of the NCAA Tournament conversation. Brey seems to get the most out of his teams when expectations are low, and that reputation is holding true as we head into the crucial month of February. The Irish still have work to do in order to overcome a lackluster non-conference performance but Brey has his team well on its way towards a top half conference finish.
  • Pittsburgh Wins a Pair: After starting league play 0-7, Pittsburgh has won two straight. With Tray Woodall healthy and back in the lineup, the Panthers are a team nobody wants to face down the stretch. Jamie Dixon’s NCAA dreams are almost surely extinguished, but the Panthers have an opportunity to finish the season strong and end with a respectable record. Pittsburgh’s offensive efficiency improved in a big way with Woodall’s return, but its defense was outstanding in Saturday’s win over Georgetown. The Panthers posted an 86.5 defensive efficiency rating, by far their best against a quality opponent. Their season-best was 81.0 against St. Francis (PA) on December 20, their last win before beating Providence last week. With a softer schedule in February, Pittsburgh has the potential to make some noise over the season’s final nine games.

Dante Taylor And The Panthers Are Still A Proud Bunch. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (22-1, 9-1) – After suffering its first defeat at Notre Dame, the Orange responded well in a win at Cincinnati two days later. Kris Joseph led the victors with 17 points on eight of 11 shooting. Still without Fab Melo, the Orange big men did an admirable job in his place. Rakeem Christmas had nine rebounds as Syracuse survived an early onslaught of Bearcat three-pointers. Syracuse then beat West Virginia on Saturday in a closer-than-expected game as the Mountaineers were able to score against the zone, mostly because of rebounding. Syracuse was out-rebounded 36-20, but committed only six turnovers as it survived the blown goaltending call in the final seconds. Brandon Triche had 18 points in the win. Rebounding has been a concern all season, but it’s obvious that Syracuse is not nearly as dominant with Melo out of the lineup. Free throw shooting came and went (33% at Cincinnati, 76.5% against West Virginia) but mental toughness is one of its biggest strengths. As we head into the teeth of the season, Syracuse is more prepared to absorb and respond to every team’s best shot. This week: 2/4 @ St. John’s.
  2. Marquette (18-4, 7-2) – I’m not overly impressed every time I watch this team, but it makes the winning plays when needed most. The Golden Eagles won a pair of games last week to push their winning streak to six games. Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder, and Davante Gardner combined for 47 points in a home win over South Florida on Tuesday, equaling the total points scored by the Bulls. Marquette ventured to Villanova on Saturday and was involved in one of the more bizarre games I have seen all season across college basketball. The game lasted two and a half hours and didn’t even go to overtime. 45 fouls (three technical) were called and 57 free throws were attempted in a game that wasn’t the finest moment for the officiating crew of James Breeding, Tim Clougherty, and Pat Driscoll. Breeding in particular had a short fuse, whistling Buzz Williams for a technical when the coach simply slipped and fell down. Memo to Breeding: Get over yourself, he wasn’t showing you up. Johnson-Odom had 26 points, Crowder added 20 points and 11 boards for Marquette and Jamil Wilson added 12 points off the bench. Marquette rallied from an 18-point deficit and forced 20 Villanova turnovers to key the comeback. This is a good basketball team, but one that has a ceiling. I’m not sure the Golden Eagles have the scoring depth to make a big run in March. This week: 1/31 vs. Seton Hall, 2/4 @ Notre Dame. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Iowa State’s RTC, Syracuse’s Goaltend That Wasn’t and Robbie Hummel’s Game Winner…

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. In the season’s first non-football weekend (if you were watching the Pro Bowl, sorry, we can’t help you), we were left with a bunch of ho-hum games this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that they were unimportant. As of right now, there are approximately 60-70 teams that have a realistic shot at putting a run together the rest of the season to earn one of those elusive 37 at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Right now, it’s easier to find teams that don’t deserve an at-large than those that do, but that will probably change as teams separate themselves over the next six weeks. For the time being, here’s what we experienced this weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. Iowa State RTCs Kansas.

In one of the more predictable situations of a hot team playing great basketball facing a hungry, up-and-coming team needing a statement win in its own building, Iowa State took it to Kansas in the last few minutes of their Saturday matchup, resulting in a major RTC and one of the biggest wins in recent Cyclones basketball history. The Mayor suffered an avalanche of criticism for his lack of coaching experience upon his hire two offseasons ago, but sporting a 5-3 Big 12 record and looking every bit the part of an at-large NCAA team for the first time since 2005, it now appears that it is he who will have the last laugh. The other takeaway from this game is that NPOY candidate Thomas Robinson may have met his Kryptonite, at least at the college level, in the form of ISU’s Royce White. The beastly Cyclone big man outplayed Robinson in both of their matchups this season (18/9/5 assts vs. 13/7 yesterday; 18/17/4 assts vs. 11/14/3 blks two weeks ago), and that’s not an easy task to perform. For our money we’d love to see a Round Three in March in Kansas City at the Big 12 Tournament.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

  • The Goaltend That Wasn’t. With Syracuse up two in the closing seconds of a hard-fought game with West Virginia on Saturday, the Mountaineers’ Truck Bryant fired up this wayward shot from the outside:

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Big East Morning Five: 01.25.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 25th, 2012

  1. Suspended Connecticut freshman Ryan Boatright’s case continues to garner a lot of attention and for good reason.  The bottom line is that the NCAA needs to make some rule changes to keep kids out of purgatory while its investigators take their sweet time trolling for violations. UConn has been forced to sit Boatright for nine games and counting over two different stretches this season while it waits for the NCAA to rule on an improper benefits issue that allegedly occurred before Boatright enrolled there.  As Joe Nocera astutely pointed out in a two-part New York Times editorial on Boatright’s plight, this case highlights three major flaws in NCAA policy.  First, the NCAA has yet to make a ruling but as a precaution Connecticut has to sit Boatright out while the decision is pending.  Otherwise they risk the possibility of forfeiting games if Boatright plays and the NCAA ultimately finds against him.  The NCAA should not be allowed to penalize retroactively unless there is a direct correlation between the school and any player involved with the offense.  Second, Boatright is being penalized for something he had no direct involvement in.  In fact, the NCAA is not investigating Boatrigh; they are investigating his mother to see if she was given money by a family friend who has no link to UConn to buy a plane ticket so she could accompany her son on an official on-campus visit.  Third, rules mandate that when schools welcome a recruit for an official visit, they can only pay the way of the player and no one else.  If someone like the player’s mother wants to accompany her child on the visit she has to foot her own expenses.  There are many problems with the recruiting process.  Perhaps if the NCAA spent its time and resources pursuing some of them, a little progress would be made.
  2. After attending the Marquette vs. Providence game on Saturday I wrote about the overall team concept the Golden Eagles portray when they play and highlighted the contributions of their senior leaders, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder (GRATUITOUS SELF-LINK ALERT!!!) Well, it appears the veteran tandem is as effective in their roles off the court as they are on it. “Jae and D.J. have been outstanding in their leadership thus far this year,” said Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, who added, “Our leadership has come from our two seniors and the bulk of their leadership has transpired off the floor and that is evident when you watch our team on the floor. I think they have been superlative in their actions off the floor and the example they have set for the other 10 guys on our team away from [the practice gym].”
  3. All you have to do is watch an Oregon or Maryland football game to know that the gear factors in to the overall business plan of a program. These are not your father’s college athletics where teams had just one home and one away uniform.  Student-athletes are young but they all seem to be going gray these days as the new uniform color-ish of choice is looking to put Just for Men out of business.  This is happening because “alternate” uniforms represent great marketing tools. They lead to additional revenue streams as fans look to gobble up the latest and greatest merchandise that their favorite teams have to offer.  The other boon for schools in the fancy pants race is on the recruiting trail, as new unis are the equivalent of recruiting bling.  Georgetown must be ahead of the curve because they have sported various shades of gray for years.  But then again the Hoyas reside in Washington, D.C., land of the gray area.  While the overall color scheme is not yet known, it appears Syracuse and Connecticut will be getting into the act as Nike is reported to be making an announcement on what is in store (or Storrs) as early as this morning.
  4. The Big East announced yesterday that Navy will join the conference as a football playing member in 2015, confirming numerous reports that surfaced on Monday.  “When people look back, they will mark this as a truly historic day for the Big East Conference,” said Big East Commissioner John Marinatto before adding, “That Navy would give up 100 years of football independence speaks to the long-term viability of the Big East.” Navy has enjoyed success on the gridiron, making a bowl game in eight of the last nine seasons.  Upon joining the Big East, Navy will continue its traditional rivalry games with non-Big East football schools Army, Air Force and Notre Dame, as well as retain the television contracts that go along with those contests.  “Stability in the Big East was a very important aspect in our discussions with the commissioner,” said Vice Admiral Michael Miller, superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy. “What we see is a very bright future for the conference.” A notable byproduct of its membership announcement is that it kicks in a previously agreed-upon increase of the Big East exit fee to $10 million (from $5 million) should any member school depart from this point forward.
  5. It has definitely been somewhat of an upside down year in the Big East with traditional powers such as Villanova and Pittsburgh at or near the bottom of the league to this point.  Entering the season, Villanova fans knew that the Wildcats were young and that they had absolutely no momentum to latch onto from last season.  It was a season where Villanova lost its final six games, including first-round exits from both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. That lack of a foundation certainly translated to this year as the Wildcats (10-10, 3-5 Big East) went just 7-5 in non-conference play that did, however, include losses to quality teams such as Missouri and Temple (I think I just heard ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes say Temple could be in the Final Four).  As a certain work in progress Villanova head coach Jay Wright hopes his team is turning the corner now that his team has won two straight games.  Wright understands that with teams like this, he needs potential breakout players such as 6’6” junior guard Dominic Cheek (12.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and 6’10 junior forward/center Mouphtaou Yarou (11.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG) to shed the potential moniker, step it up a level and join emerging star Maalik Wayns who is averaging 30.7 points per game over the last three.   Wright’s assessment is that “Mouph and Cheek are not where we thought they’d be,” but he did go on to say, “I like this group. I do think we’re getting better. It’s slow, but we’ve got to find a way to enjoy this process.”  Villanova is on the road at Louisville this evening.
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