Set Your TiVo: 01.04.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 4th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Big East Morning Five: 12.19.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 19th, 2011

  1. The big news of the weekend that we will have more analysis on later is that Pittsburgh freshman Khem Birch decided to leave the program over the weekend and is in fact already gone. The article cites sources saying that Birch still may change his mind, but this is a weird story with lots of implications for the Panthers. We will save most of the story for our later post, but this is a big blow to Jamie Dixon’s team, which was already struggling. Birch wasn’t making a major impact yet, but he was improving. This will be a story to follow.
  2. The Chicago Sun-Times writes what most of the country already knows — Notre Dame is not very good this season. It obviously didn’t help to lose Tim Abromaitis before he could even play five games and this team has been stricken with injury issues, but they are still discovering their offensive identity and it might not happen for a while. There is talent on the team, like redshirt freshman Jerian Grant and sophomore Eric Atkins, but Mike Brey has his hands full this season and the Fighting Irish will need to make a lot of strides if they want to sniff the NCAA Tournament.
  3. This story is barely relevant now but it is interesting to see that Marquette star Darius Johnson-Odom was suspended for Friday’s game against Northern Colorado for violating team rules. The Golden Eagles still won handily, and we will likely never know what team rules he broke, but this isn’t really the leadership Buzz Williams is looking for out of his senior and best player. There is really no point speculating other than to say that Marquette has the talent to make a deep run this season, and Johnson-Odom’s play and leadership will be essential to that goal. Hopefully he has received the message.
  4. One of the more sordid and strange stories of the weekend came from the Syracuse Post-Standard when they took an in-depth look at what went on inside Bernie Fine‘s house. The story is long and well-worth the full read, but as our crack research team noted, it is “a bit disturbing” that his home is being called “a hangout for boys.” It’s even more disturbing if he really was taking in troubled children and then molesting them. That type of abuse of power is just sickening.
  5. Anybody want to actually talk about what Syracuse is doing on the basketball court instead? Well the link is just a boring game recap, but I am using it to talk about how deep the Orange are… again. Dion Waiters is a star in the making, and he is coming off the bench. That is insane. They have depth at every position, star talent across the board, and if their big men can continue to improve, they will be tough to beat this season and should be considered a favorite for the National Championship.
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Big East Morning Five: 12.08.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 8th, 2011

  1. Georgetown basketball players are making news off the court this week, but settle down Hoyas fans, it’s actually light-hearted news and not some sort of suspension or legal issue. Ballin Is A Habit unearthed a video in which a bunch of Georgetown students sing Handel’s Messiah. Yes, those three rather tall men in the back row are in fact senior captain Jason Clark, sophomore Nate Lubick, and walk-on John Caprio, and kudos to them for being involved in something so potentially embarrassing. John Thompson, III‘s team certainly has plenty to celebrate this holiday season as the Hoyas are exceeding expectations and look like a legitimate contender in the conference.
  2. It’s no secret that Rutgers coach Mike Rice has his work cut out for him turning the Scarlet Knights into a conference contender, but injuries to some key freshmen like Kadeem Jack and the slow development of freshmen big men like Derrick Randall has meant that Rice is playing a good deal of rotation roulette as he tries to fill in holes. Even if some of the freshman get healthy and mature quickly, the Scarlet Knights still can’t really be considered contenders this season. But it would certainly improve their chances for next season if their freshmen could get some additional seasoning and experience.
  3. After yet another nailbiting win, it is only right we give some love to Marquette‘s best player, guard Darius Johnson-Odom. The Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel alerted us to the ESPN Sports Science segment featuring the Golden Eagles’ star and its focus was on his quickness. Long story short, they established that Johnson-Odom is really quick.  Like, NBA-caliber quick. It certainly isn’t shocking news to anyone who has watched the team play this year, but it is fun to see how far Johnson-Odom has come in his time in Milwaukee. There must be something in the water up there, because not many teams develop lightly regarded combo guards quite like Marquette.
  4. It was good to see a reader call out Sports Illustrated‘s Seth Davis for his critique of Syracuse freshmen Michael Carter-Williams and Rakeem Christmas and it was just as good to see Davis acknowledge he might have jumped the gun on saying the players are developing too slowly. As I noted on this blog earlier, the Orange are unbelievably deep, and they really don’t need Carter-Williams or Christmas to be impact players right away, a luxury few teams have when it comes to talented freshmen. In one sense, it could hurt their growth in that Boeheim has given them spotty playing time, but their talent is evident, and I wouldn’t worry about these two just yet. Neither player has one-and-done potential and they will undoubtedly get their chance to prove themselves on the court. My guess is it happens before the end of this season.
  5. It is a good thing Louisville is so good defensively, because, as Rick Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journal points out, the Cardinals are going to struggle to score points. Rick Pitino was not at all happy despite the fact that his team scored 90 points in a win over IUPUI last night, and his team seemed to understand his frustration. Some of the struggles can be attributed to the fact that the rotation has fluctuated because of injuries and early-season development issues, but this team’s biggest weakness is that it doesn’t have a go-to scorer. Peyton Siva is the closest thing, but he also needs to handle the point guard duties and Kyle Kuric is more of a shooter than a scorer. The Cardinals might be the best team in the conference, but if they want to make a Final Four run, they will need to find some more consistent scoring options.
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Set Your TiVo: The Jimmy V Classic Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 6th, 2011

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

The V Foundation has been able to give over $90 million to more than 100 cancer research facilities nationwide since the organization was founded in 1993. Tonight means way more than college basketball. So while you are watching the games tonight at home, take a minute to remember what these folks are doing for our friends and family. Let’s take a look at the hoops action this evening at the Jimmy V Classic in NYC.

Marcus Denmon And The Tigers Kick Off the Jimmy V Classic in NYC (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

#10 Missouri vs Villanova – 7 PM EST on ESPN HD (***)

  • Missouri is deadly accurate from the floor. Through seven games, the Tigers are shooting 58.2% from two and 43% from three. Look for Mizzou guards Marcus Denmon and Kim English to continue their hot shooting against a Villanova team that ranks 108th in effective field goal defense. Nova was recently beat-up by another excellent shooting team in the St. Louis Billikens. If Jay Wright does not address his team’s field goal defense quickly, Missouri is going to blow out the Wildcats just like they have every other opponent this season.
  • Villanova has a distinct height advantage against Missouri. If Wright’s club is to have any chance in this game, they are going to have to use that height and grab all the offensive rebounds they possibly can. Missouri’s speed and accuracy on offense puts pressure on the opposing offense to not have any empty possessions. Keep an eye Wildcats’ 6’10” forward Mouphtaou Yarou on the inside. Yarou needs to own the offensive boards. If Villanova is missing shots against an aggressive Tiger defense and not grabbing offensive boards, the game will be over quickly for Wright’s team.
  • Missouri’s speed, accuracy, and experience will prove to be the difference in this game. Thus far, Villanova has not proven they have a defense to stop a team that shoots as well as Mizzou. If Yarou and the rest of the Wildcats can grab offensive boards, they will have a chance but ultimately the pressure Denmon and English put on the team will be too much.

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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

Dominating the SEC:  In the newly expanded Big East/SEC Challenge, the Big East came away with a decisive 8-4 victory over the SEC. Only two Big East teams (DePaul and Rutgers) lost on their home floor while four conference members snagged important road wins across the south. The most impressive was Georgetown, a 57-55 winner over Alabama at Coleman Coliseum, a victory that should put the Hoyas in the national rankings this week. Providence earned a nice win at South Carolina while Pittsburgh and Cincinnati took care of business against Tennessee and Georgia. While this event doesn’t have the buzz of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for instance, I thought this was a success for both leagues. It’s good to get some quality games early in the season instead of fattening up on cupcakes. It’s a shame four Big East schools (Marquette, Villanova, Notre Dame and South Florida) had to sit out but that’s just the way it goes since the SEC only has 12 teams.

The Emergence of Georgetown and Marquette: As mentioned above, Georgetown knocked off Alabama, part of a 3-0 week bookended by two cupcakes. At 7-1 with a close loss to Kansas, the Hoyas look much better than originally advertised. Despite Georgetown’s admirable success, the most significant Big East win this past week came courtesy of Marquette. The Golden Eagles knocked off in-state rival and top ten Wisconsin in Madison on Saturday. The Badgers almost never lose at the Kohl Center so any team that comes out of there with a win deserves major props and earns my respect. I had my doubts about Buzz Williams’ team (ranked fifth here last week) but the win at Wisconsin is as impressive as it gets. Not to mention it was without starting point guard Junior Cadougan, suspended for the game by Williams for an unspecified violation of team rules, plus Jae Crowder was saddled with foul trouble most of the game. I’m officially on board the MU bandwagon.

Buzz Williams And Marquette Picked Up A Huge Win At Wisconsin

Jim Boeheim Apologizes: Syracuse’s important 72-68 victory over a quality Florida team took a back seat in the press room Friday night as Orange head coach Jim Boeheim apologized to those who accused former associate head coach Bernie Fine of sexual molestation. Saying he “misspoke very badly,” Boeheim appeared somber yet nervous as he stood in front of the large media contingent. He clearly looked like a man under a lot of pressure and he admitted as much, saying how difficult of a time this has been for him, his family, and his staff. On the surface it appears the Orange players are not distracted by all that is going on but it would be naïve to think they aren’t paying attention in some fashion. With the investigation ongoing and agencies such as the FBI and US Secret Service involved, it is highly likely that more information will come to light. The Orange players have to do their best to block out the distractions as they march deeper into a season full of high expectations. Two weeks into this, there still isn’t anyone out there who can confidently say what will happen over the next few months with regards to this investigation.

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (8-0) — Off the court issues aside, Syracuse sure is taking care of business on the court. The Orange destroyed former assistant Rob Murphy’s Eastern Michigan squad before getting by Florida on Friday at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse didn’t shoot particularly well against the Gators but managed to get to the line 21 times while out-rebounding Florida. Florida’s 20 turnovers also helped the cause. On the broadcast, Jay Bilas said Brandon Triche could become Syracuse’s best player. I can’t disagree. Triche is a solid three-point shooter who is terrific in transition and defensively on the outer flank of Jim Boeheim’s zone defense. The junior’s statistics are up pretty much across the board in five fewer minutes of game action. This week: 12/6 vs. Marshall, 12/10 vs. George Washington.
  2. Louisville (7-0) – The Cardinals had to rally to defeat Vanderbilt on Friday evening with Peyton Siva sealing the win in the final seconds. A lot of people think Louisville is overrated but I’m not one of them. While the Cardinals certainly are banged up, Rick Pitino always gets the most out of his players. If Wayne Blackshear is able to make it back onto the court, watch out. This team could do a lot of damage with its defense come Big East play and has just enough capable offensive players to be satisfactory on that end once they put it all together. It also helps when you have such an advantage like this team does at the KFC YUM! Center. This week: 12/7 vs. IUPUI, 12/10 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 12.02.11 – 12.04.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 2nd, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

As we move into December, the first big Saturday of the year (highlighted by the battle in Lexington) is now upon us. Not to mention we get a nice preview of things to come on Friday evening.

#6 Florida @ #3 Syracuse – 7 PM EST Friday on ESPN (*****)

  • Syracuse has three distinct advantages in this game despite playing a top ten opponent. One is home court, two is height, and three is depth. The Orange have taller players at every position, one through five, and Jim Boeheim can go a legitimate ten deep into his bench. Against a Florida team that will be without forward Erik Murphy, Syracuse may be able to overwhelm the guard-heavy Gators. The key for the Orange will be defense. The 2-3 zone creates a fantastic match-up given Florida’s preferred style of offense, shooting lots of threes. If the Orange can be active and extend the perimeter of the zone, Florida will have a tough time.
  • The key for Florida is simple: make threes. To do that however, the Gators must establish Patric Young early and often. Playing without Murphy, Young is Florida’s only reliable post player. If he can’t get going, Syracuse won’t have to worry about extending the zone and leaving holes in the middle. If Young gets off to a fast start, the Orange will have to respect his presence by packing its defense in a bit more inside the arc. That will give Florida’s dynamic guards the opportunity to make shots. With Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario both shooting almost 50% from deep and two other Gators lurking as potential snipers, Syracuse doesn’t want to be forced to do that.

Can UF Establish Patric Young Inside To Give Its Shooters Room?

  • It’s always fun when a team that relies heavily on guards and the three point shot gets together with a team that plays almost exclusively zone. The Syracuse defense will tempt Florida to shoot the deep ball all night but Florida must work for open shots by establishing Young and some sort of an inside-out game. Keeping the zone off balance and moving the ball effectively are always keys to finding open shots. Defensively, Florida has to do better. Syracuse is much more efficient on that end of the floor while the Gators rank a pedestrian 52nd in the nation. Although three point shooting is the big key in this game, Florida’s defense could cost them in a tight game.
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Checking In On… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was

  • A Rough Week for the Big East: Conference teams lost 13 times this past week to the likes of UCF, Illinois State, Northeastern, and Richmond among others. Only three undefeated teams (Syracuse, Louisville, and Marquette) remain and of the 13 teams with at least one loss, only three (DePaul, Seton Hall and Georgetown) have not yet recorded a bad loss. As we enter December, the middle of the conference doesn’t appear to be as strong as in years past. The Big East has a handful of great teams and a host of teams that appear to be very average at this point. It’s a long season, but the chances of seeing nine or ten NCAA bids from this league are certainly not promising.
  • Syracuse and Marquette Take Home Titles: The Orange defeated Virginia Tech and Stanford at their second home, Madison Square Garden, to win the NIT Season Tip-Off while Marquette took home the Paradise Jam championship, albeit against a so-so field. Both teams struggled in their respective championship games, but managed to pull it out down the stretch, the sign of a good team. Each team’s schedule ramps up this week against a pair of top ten teams as Syracuse hosts Florida on Friday and Marquette visits in-state rival Wisconsin on Saturday.
  • Tim Abromaitis Tears ACL: There was awful news out of South Bend late last week when it was announced that Notre Dame fifth year senior forward Tim Abromaitis tore the ACL in his right knee during practice on Friday. The loss of Abromaitis is a huge blow to a Notre Dame team already with two neutral court losses on its resume and a pair of road games coming up this week. The Fighting Irish rotation is pretty much only seven deep now with only three or four reliable scorers. Point guard Eric Atkins has played very well, but Scott Martin and Pat Connaughton will have to step up in a big way for Notre Dame to have any chance of making the NCAA Tournament.

With A Big Game Against Florida Looming Friday, How Will Jim Boeheim Keep His Team Focused Amid The Bernie Fine Scandal?

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (6-0) – After feasting on four cupcakes to begin the season, the Orange were impressive late in victories over Virginia Tech and Stanford in the NIT Season Tip-Off. They struggled for the better part of both games, but the ability of this team to flip the switch and play like the top five team it is is something that will suit them well outside of conference play. However, Syracuse had better play well for 40 minutes once the Big East season arrives or else they’ll lose more games than you think. Jim Boeheim’s team ranks in the top ten nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency, one of only four teams at the moment. Syracuse has done a great job forcing turnovers leading to easy points in transition. Dion Waiters appears to have taken his game to the next level as a sophomore with transition play being a big part of that. How this team is affected by the Bernie Fine investigation, if at all, is something to watch over the next few weeks. This week: 11/29 vs. Eastern Michigan, 12/2 vs. #6 Florida.
  2. Louisville (6-0) – Rick Pitino was successful last year by molding a team of role players into a cohesive unit with no superstars through an incredible focus on defense. Louisville looks to be following that same formula again in 2011-12. The Cardinals rank third nationally in defensive efficiency and only one opponent has scored more than 54 points. Of course, offense is Louisville’s biggest challenge. Peyton Siva is back, but Pitino’s rotation has been scaled back due to injuries to Wayne Blackshear and Mike Marra. Blackshear may be back but Marra is lost for the season with a torn ACL. Louisville struggled against Ohio and has another tricky game with Long Beach State on Monday. Freshman Chane Behanan (9/9) is stepping up in the absence of Blackshear while Gorgui Dieng has been a shot-blocking machine in the paint at three rejections per game. This is a big week for the Cardinals as their competition gets stronger. This week: 11/28 vs. Long Beach State, 12/2 vs. #20 Vanderbilt. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Morning Five: 11.22.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on November 22nd, 2011

  1. The Big East announced its first men’s basketball weekly awards on Monday.  Seton Hall forward Herb Pope took home Player of the Week honors as he led the Pirates to a 3-1 start averaging a double-double for the week (22.5 PPG, 11,5 RPG).  Pope recorded double-doubles in three of the four games, missing by just one rebound in that contest, an 80-73 loss to Northwestern in which Pope scored 32 points.  Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant earned the Rookie of the Week award after averaging 14 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists in four Fighting Irish wins.  Grant, a sophomore, sat out last year thus preserving his rookie status.  Honor Roll recipients consisted of: Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier (18.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 6.5 APG) who messed around and got a triple-double in a win over Coppin State; Providence guard Bryce Cotton (22.0 PPG, 60% 3PT) who recorded successive career highs in each of Providence’s three victories on the week; Marquette Darius Johnson-Odom (20 PPG, 2.8 REB, 4.2 APG) highlighted by a 24-point, six-assist effort against Norfolk State; Pittsburgh guard Tray Woodall (19.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 8.0 APG) including 25 points, six rebounds and 10 assists versus Albany; and Villanova guard Dominic Cheek (22.0 PPG, 6 RPG) who scored eight overtime points in a win over city rival La Salle.
  2. South Florida big man Augustus Gilchrist injured his shoulder in the first half of Sunday’s 53-49 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament loss to Penn State, and could sideline Gilchrist for Wednesday’s game against Georgia Southern.  According to the Tampa Tribune‘s Adam Adkins, per his Twitter account, Bulls coach Stan Heath declared his senior leader questionable for the contest.  Coming into the Penn State game, in which he played just 13 minutes, Gilchrist was averaging 14 points and eight rebounds per game. Lady luck was not on South Florida’s side at Mohegan Sun as in addition to Gilchrist’s injury, the Bulls took their first two losses of the season over the weekend, the other being a 68-66 overtime setback to Old Dominion after starting the year with three straight wins.  Georgia Southern will bring a 1-2 record to Tampa on Wednesday after dropping a pair of nine-point losses to Valparaiso and Wake Forest followed by an 84-61 triumph over NAIA Webber International.  Should Gilchrist miss Wednesday’s game, fans will look toward South Florida’s next contest on Saturday at home against Florida Atlantic.
  3. Notre Dame senior forward Tim Abromaitis made his season debut last night and led the team in points and rebounds with 22  and eight, respectively. Unfortunately for the fifth-year senior, the rest of his team shot just better than 30 percent from the field and Missouri ran away with a 87-58 win, the worst loss for the Irish since 1999. Mike Brey’s team (4-1) easily won their first four games against overmatched foes, but they wilted in their first real test of the season. Brey called it “a rude awakening” for his young team. The return of Abromaitis really only proved that, while he will be excellent individually this season, there is a lot of unproven talent around him, and point guard Eric Atkins was proof last night. The sophomore also made his return after missing the last two games because of illness, but his return — eight points, three turnovers, just one assist — didn’t go quite as smoothly. They are going to need him to do his best to replace some of the production Ben Hansbrough left behind.
  4. The Louisville basketball program is finally getting to put out beneficial injury news for once. Well, kind of. The Cardinals are saying that point guard Peyton Siva will miss tonight’s game against Arkansas State but should be ready to play Friday when the Cardinals host Ohio. But there’s also more sort-of good news for Rick Pitino as the team hopes to get forward Rakeem Buckles back to practice in the next week. Buckles hasn’t been able to do much physical activity since anterior cruciate ligament surgery last February, and the team isn’t desperate to even think about playing him until he is ready, but this is a step in the right direction.
  5. Providence recruit and native Ricky Ledo may want to stay in his South Kent (CT) dorm for Thanksgiving as opposed to coming home to Rhode Island where future head coach Ed Cooley may be waiting on his door step to discuss Ledo’s recent video-taped interview with Five Star Basketball, in which Ledo volunteered the names of recruits the Friars are after.  While the players he mentioned (Chris Obekpa, JaKarr Sampson and Nerlens Noel) are well publicized and documented Friar targets, Ledo has to understand that the NCAA acts and works in mysterious ways so he does not want to do anything that could be construed as an infraction.  We are sure Cooley will very diplomatically ensure that this understanding is reached in short order.  Cooley keeps a treadmill he calls the “Focus Machine” on the sideline at practice. He may personally deliver Ledo a dose of focus very soon and give him an opportunity to work off that turkey and stuffing.  Do not hold your breath waiting for new Ricky Ledo interviews any time in the near future, Friar fans.

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RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take I


Top Storylines

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

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

  • Cautious Optimism at Georgetown, Villanova and West Virginia: These traditional powers lose a lot of talent and figure to be lodged in the middle of the conference. All three programs return key cogs but the departures of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, Casey Mitchell, John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla leave more questions than answers. These teams all need someone to step up and become a deep shooting threat while maintaining a low post presence. Guards win in college basketball but you also have to be able to rebound and score inside occasionally. Hollis Thompson, Mouphtaou Yarou and Deniz Kilicli must become better all-around post men if their respective teams hope to make the NCAA Tournament. At 6’7”, 205 lbs., Thompson isn’t one to bang with the big guys but he’s going to have to score in the paint at times. Each team has a nice recruiting class coming in, but it’s up to the returning players to make the ultimate difference.
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Morning Five: 07.13.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 13th, 2011

  1. It’s one thing to win a national player of the year award, but it’s quite another to parlay (trifecta?) your fame into having a race horse named after you.  JimmerMania has now officially jumped the shark with the news out of Saratoga (NY) that a two-year old colt owned by Elliott Walden and WinStar Farms was named “Jimmer.”  What… no The?  The connection is that the wife of Glens Falls (NY) HS head coach, Tony Hammel, works on the barn staff at WinStar and suggested the name to the owners.  We may have to wait a while to see The Jimmer on the game’s greatest stage, but if you have some free time this summer, you can always take the New York State Thruway up a bit past Albany to see his equine namesake eating some oats, trotting around a track, and whatever else it is that these elegant animals do.  (h/t Larry Brown Sports)
  2. An otherwise mundane story by Gary Parrish about Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis‘ presence in Lexington and the allegations surrounding his recruitment last summer that suggested the player’s family took $200,000 caused a bit of a firestorm Tuesday night on Twitter.  The article rehashed last August’s report from Chicago Sun-Times writer Michael O’Brien that Davis’ father negotiated a deal to send his son to UK, but Parrish was careful to articulate that there have been no further allegations to that effect and that the support for it was “thin.”  UK’s sports information director DeWayne Peevy later tweeted out about “one media seat that will be available at Rupp this year,” a clear shot across the bow of Parrish for daring to write about the Davis situation.  Quite a few in the twitterati (including ourselves, a group who have collectively had nothing but good experiences with the Kentucky administrator) were surprised about the reaction, and an hour later Peevy tweeted that he may feel differently tomorrow, but he is always going to “protect [his] kids.”  Protect them from what, exactly, we’re not certain.  Having now carefully read Parrish’s article several times, we fail to see much to get excited about, but we’ll presume that everyone will come to their clearer senses today and this thing will be soon forgotten.
  3. Speaking of UK, A Sea of Blue did an interesting recent analysis of the value per win among the ten highest-paid coaches in college basketball over the last two seasons.  Forgiving the standard disclaimers that the sample size is very small and ASoB’s assumptions of valuation are mere estimates, the data shows that from 2009-11, at least, Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun and Ohio State’s Thad Matta provide the most bang for the buck.  Add Calhoun’s 2011 national title to the mix, and it’s quite clear that the irascible New Englander has been well worth the money, despite what Ken Krayeske has to say about it these days.  Interestingly, Louisville’s Rick Pitino finishes tenth on this list, making the second-most money (tied with John Calipari, but behind Mike Krzyzewski) but earning the fewest overall wins and zero NCAA wins in this two-year period.
  4. The most hated man in basketball apparently has trouble even impressing collegiate stars these days.  Marquette’s rising senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom is coming off some time spent at the LeBron James’ Skills Academy this summer, and to hear him tell it, his team defeated the world’s greatest runner-up twice while he was there.  When queried as to playing with James, DJO said, “he’s a solid player” with a straight face before elaborating about the “King’s” passing skills.  Realizing that the game has changed an awful lot in the intervening years, we still have to wonder what might have happened if some young guy circa 1989 had beaten Michael Jordan’s team in pick-up ball.  And then said in an interview that he was “solid.”  Is there any question, really?
  5. Ken Pomeroy is nothing if not creative.  In a blog post yesterday, he brought to light what he calls ScheduleMatic, a new algorithm that attempts to solve the problem of worthless early season mismatches by pitting two similarly-talented local teams in competitive games.  Call it KenPom Fantasy Camp, if you like, but what he suggests makes sense.  One of the particularly annoying problems we’ve derided for long on this site is that the college basketball season begins with a whimper.  For the past couple of years, a random early November Monday has served as “Opening Night,” and nobody outside of our insular community much cared.   As Pomeroy puts it, “with ScheduleMatic, 344 compelling games [each team plays a home and road game] are added to the first week of play, each with some doubt surrounding the outcome. Exciting finishes would be frequent and every team would have a significant test or two on which to be judged early.”  Even he recognizes that the NCAA and its participating schools would never go for something like this, but perhaps his creative thinking on the topic will help the suits in Indianapolis and Bristol continue to think through more interesting ways to start the regular season.  [note: both the Veterans Day aircraft carrier game and the 24 Hours of Hoops are examples of this kind of thinking; we just need more if it.]
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