Big East Burning Questions: DePaul & Georgetown

Posted by Brad Cavallaro on October 22nd, 2018

The NBA season tipped off last week, which makes it the perfect time to roll out some new Big East content to drown out the monotony of early-season professional basketball. Over the coming weeks, the Big East microsite will be previewing all the teams, players and key storylines to watch as we approach tip-off. Be sure to follow @RTCBigEast and its contributors Justin Kundrat and Brad Cavallaro to get your fix. In the spotlight today will be (alphabetically) DePaul and Georgetown.

DePaul: Have the Blue Demons improved their overall talent level enough to climb the standings?

Dave Leitao Has Done a Nice Job at DePaul So Far (USA Today Images)

DePaul has undoubtedly improved during Dave Leitao‘s second tenure at the school. In 2016-17, the Blue Demons finished 183rd in KenPom and they ascended all the way to 99th a season ago. Although it was a remarkable improvement — most notably on the defensive end of the floor — it was not enough to change position in the Big East standings (last in both seasons). The Blue Demons have talented players like Max Strus (16.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG) and Eli Cain (11.7 PPG, 4.7 APG) returning, but will the additions a pair of quality transfers in sharp-shooting guard Jalen Coleman-Lands and skilled big man Femi Olujobi be enough to compensate for the losses of former starters Tre’Darius McCallum and Marin Macic?

Improvements from sophomores Paul Reed and Jaylen Butz in the frontcourt should also be expected, but for DePaul to be in position to jump to ninth or higher in the league standings, the team will need to shore up the point guard position. Cain suitably filled the role last year despite it not being his natural position, but if redshirt sophomore Devin Gage or freshman Flynn Cameron shows promise, Leitao’s group might be poised to finally rise out of the Big East cellar. Don’t count on it, however. This group of point guard candidates does not inspire much confidence and the Big East is simply too tough on a nightly basis for a key leadership position to be so shaky. Still, Leitao should be commended for making the Blue Demons competitive and all indications are that his team could again rank among the top 100 nationally despite finishing in last place in the league standings.

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Trick or Treat: Burning Questions for Five Big East Teams, Part I

Posted by Mike Hopkins on October 29th, 2015

With Halloween nearing, we thought it would be fun to answer a preseason burning question for each Big East team using a simple “Trick” or “Treat.” Part I of this season preview answers one key question for each of the teams picked in the bottom half of the preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll. We’ll tackle the remainder tomorrow.

St. John’s: Can Chris Mullin actually coach?

(Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)

Treat: Chris Mullin has not coached a single second of basketball at any level. That’s an indisputable fact unless there is some CYO coaching experience back in the day that we don’t know about. Mullin does, however, know the game of basketball and it will be that knowledge of the game blended with his longtime NBA experience (both as a player and executive) that will aid him on the Red Storm’s sideline. The former National Player of the Year (Wooden, UPI, USBWA – 1985) has also surrounded himself with an excellent staff that mixes college coaching with NBA player development experience. Despite having to basically bring in an entirely new roster this season, expect St. John’s to surprise some people with its effort and Mullin’s in-game coaching.

Seton Hall: Can Isaiah Whitehead lead the Pirates?

Trick: While Isaiah Whitehead is clearly the best player on Seton Hall, that doesn’t automatically mean he is the team’s leader. Last season was marred by locker room issues and a horrible 11 losses in the team’s final 14 games. Jared Sina left the program during the season and Sterling Gibbs — the player who presumably would be an ideal leader as an upperclassmen — decided to use his graduate transfer exemption and finish his collegiate career at UConn. Kevin Willard is putting all of his eggs in the Whitehead basket as he turns over the point guard duties to the Brooklyn sophomore. Whitehead spearheaded the recent decision to get the team off of social media this season — probably a good sign — but he’ll have to prove that he can lead the Pirates when things go sideways on the floor. Is he capable of that role?

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ACC Weekly Five: 06.18.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on June 18th, 2012

  1. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: In January, when Georgia Tech ended up as the landing place for former Kentucky player Stacey Poole, it was a nice get for the beleaguered Yellow Jackets, but not a game-changer. However, taking on Stacey has paid dividends in the form of a younger brother, Solomon Poole. Stacey’s little brother is a five-star point guard for the Class of 2013 and he is headed to join his older brother in Atlanta. Solomon admits that his brother’s presence was a major factor in his decision to attend Georgia Tech, and I doubt if Brian Gregory could be much happier with this turn of events.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: Though conference schedules have yet to be officially released, tidbits about the schedule have been making their ways into various reports. The good folks at DBR have taken it upon themselves to round up the reports (which are focused on Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, and North Carolina). You can also see the match-ups for Florida State on the school’s athletic department website. Though it’s probably a little early to make assessments about the difficulty of a given schedule, it looks like the Tar Heels may have a rough season ahead.
  3. Durham Herald-Sun: Speaking of rough seasons for North Carolina, the troubles of  2010 and 2011 are still haunting the team, albeit in a fairly minor way. North Carolina’s streak of six years of APR Public Recognition Awards for the men’s basketball team has ended and it’s all UCLA’s fault or something like that. The APR is a simple measure of the academic status of a given collegiate athletic program. Though North Carolina has typically fared pretty well by this measure, transfers count against the school’s retention rate, and the defections of David Wear, Travis Wear, and Larry Drew to UCLA, in addition to the dismissal of Will Graves means that UNC has one really ugly looking APR season on it’s record. While complete APR scores are slated for a Wednesday release,  it bears mentioning that Duke paced the ACC with the most awards, including one for the men’s basketball team.
  4. Kansas City Star: Missouri will continue it’s reign as a landing spot for ACC coaches who enjoyed success and then moved on. Former Miami and current Missouri head coach Frank Haith has hired Dave Leitao as an assistant. Leitao, before a stint leading the Maine Red Claws of the NBDL, was of course the head coach at Virginia and the ACC Coach of the Year in 2007.  It’s a good hire for Missouri and a nice move for a guy who is good enough to be a college head coach just about anywhere.
  5. Washington Post: The situation of recently appointed Virginia Tech coach James Jones is as interesting as it is difficult . Former head coach Seth Greenberg left behind a legacy of confusion and accusations that seemed to undermine the program at every turn, nearly undoing all the building that Greenberg had accomplished during his tenure. This profile takes some time getting to know the ACC’s newest head coach and exploring the major task he faces in rebuilding a  basketball program that took some major blows in Greenberg’s wake.
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The Disappearance of Black Coaches in the ACC

Posted by KCarpenter on October 13th, 2011

Just a few years ago, seven out of the twelve head coaches in the Atlantic Coast Conference were African-American. Today, it has one: Leonard Hamilton at Florida State. Where the ACC was once a progressive leader, it is now at the rear of the pack. Now while many may find the race of coaches in college basketball an unimportant or trivial issue, the drastic change in percentages is worth examining, particularly if there is a single driving force behind the change. Where have all the black coaches gone?

Leonard Hamilton Stands Alone

Let’s check in on the seven black head coaches in the ACC in 2008 and see where they are now: Leonard Hamilton is still at Florida State where he leads a defensive powerhouse that can reliably challenge the very best in the ACC. Hamilton stands alone, though. Frank Haith, who was the head coach of Miami, accepted a new job at Missouri, where he will get to play spoiler and rival to elite Kansas. The great rebuilding artist, Oliver Purnell,was offered a Godfather-style contract from DePaul. Offered a ridiculous sum of money that he couldn’t possibly refuse, Purnell left Clemson. A failure to meet increased expectations at Georgia Tech led to the firing of Paul Hewitt. Of course, plenty of schools were happy to take a chance on Paul Hewitt and it was less than two months before Hewitt was named the head coach of the perennial Cinderella, George Mason. Dave Leitao at Virginia and Sidney Lowe at North Carolina State were fired/bought out for repeated failures in the conference. While Lowe landed on his feet as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Utah Jazz, it took Leitao a little longer before he finally landed the gig as the head coach of the Maine Red Claws, an NBA Development League  team. Al Skinner, longtime coach at Boston College, was fired after a disappointing 2010 season, despite being the winningest coach in the program’s history and leading the Eagles to seven NCAA Tournament appearances including the Sweet Sixteen once.  Skinner isn’t currently coaching anywhere.

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Tony Bennett Found His Heart in… Charlottesville?

Posted by rtmsf on March 31st, 2009

Ben of Dear Old UVa stopped by today to give his takes on their brand spanking new head coaching hire, Tony Bennett.

Now that everyone’s gotten over the initial shock of Bennett’s surprise  – to say the least – hire.   Virginia need to know what to expect from a Tony Bennett-coached team.  Well, there’s good and there’s bad.


The Good

Under Bennett, the Washington State Cougars were an excellent basketball team.   A very underrated, excellent team.

Many media pundits laud Bennett for his defense.  They’re right too.  WSU allowed 55.4 points per game this year, one of the fewest in the Pac-10.  Also, WSU finished in the top 20 in terms of defense efficiency each of the three years.  They were either first or second in the Pac-10 in defensive efficiency.

The man clearly knows how to coach defense.  His teams were well-organized and gritty.  I know the Pac-10 gets a reputation as being soft, but last year it was one of the toughest conferences in the NCAA and Bennett’s WSU helped make it that way.  They don’t make you turn it over, just force you to take bad shots.

In two years, Bennett had two 26 win seasons.  The Cougars were a 3-seed in 2007 and 4-seed in 2008. They were bounced by UNC pretty soundly last year in the Sweet Sixteen.

This year wasn’t an NCAA tournament year, but there’s no reason – given a few bounces here or there – that it couldn’t have been.  The Cougars lost close games to UCLA, USC, and Washington, all of which were NCAA tournament teams.

So, in three years, Tony Bennett has compiled a fairly impressive record for an unknown program.

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Sources: Gillispie Era is Over at Kentucky

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

If what we’re hearing from sources in Lexington is true (and apparently, Jeff Goodman is hearing the same things), Anthony Grant may want to tell Alabama that he kindly appreciates their offer but he’ll need a couple more days to think about things.   As always, the coaching carousel is getting into swing (with Dave Leitao at Virginia merely the first major casualty), but this year’s avalanche stands to once again begin at the very top of college hoops royalty known as Kentucky.   Should the Cats lose their quarterfinal NIT game tonight against Notre Dame, will that be the end of the BCG Era at UK?  Many people in Lexington think so. 


It’s no secret that the loyal followers of Big Blue are not exactly pleased with the way things have gone on the basketball court under the Gillispie regime.  Head-scratching substitution patterns, players refusing to enter games and/or leaving the team only to return later, the first NCAA whiff in an eligible year in twenty seasons…  but it’s been off-court issues that have also plagued Gillispie since his arrival in the Bluegrass that have amplified what goodwill he might otherwise have been afforded. 

His first year was filled with rumors of bar scenes where an inebriated Gillispie would make a fool of himself, getting to the point where UK was alleged to have hired a driver to keep him off the roads (even if unsubstantiated, the public perception was already enabled).  This led to speculation as to why Gillispie wouldn’t sign his contract with UK – instead working under a two-page Memorandum of Understanding – and subsequent allegations that his do-nothingness belied a motivation to avoid inclusion of a “morality clause” into the document.  Then there were the mystifyingly chilly interviews with ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards during the middle of this season, where “Billy Clyde” came off as a condescending putz unable to maintain decorum (with a lady, no less) in a public setting.  Sadly for Kentucky fans, a traditional bunch, these acts of show-your-arse by Gillispie fit the already-established narrative that their coach was a tough guy to deal with. 


As we all know, there are two parts to any job – the outcomes side and the political side.  If you’re really good at outcomes and miserable at politicking, you can still skate by for a good while before the pitchforks catch up to you.  However, if you’re patently unexceptional when it comes to outcomes and still miserable at the political side, good luck finding people who will support you when the barbarians are ultimately at the gate.  And at a program like Kentucky, the barbarians are never too far from the gate.  That’s where Gillispie is right now.  Had he come in two years ago and lit a fire under the UK program to the point where the Cats were still playing in the NCAAs, much of his general surliness and extracurricular activities, whatever they are, would be brushed aside.  But there’s a pervading sense around UK that the much-maligned previous coach, Tubby Smith, could have taken a team with two all-americans to a (severely diluted) SEC title and/or the first round of the NCAAs.  Gillispie couldn’t even do that.  

So for Gillispie the equation looks like this – outcomes: mediocre + politics: miserable =  join the rest of us in the unemployment line.   

The question will now become… who?  where?  when?  One would think Billy Donovan (yes, him again), Travis Ford, Darrin Horn and even John Pelphrey would be on the short list of hopefuls.  Even John Calipari is purportedly intrigued.   It should definitely make for an interesting next couple of weeks as the shakedowns begin in earnest. 

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Statistical Proof Iman Shumpert is a Gunner

Posted by rtmsf on February 27th, 2009

What really gets us all juiced and lathered up are statistics that appear self-evident only after someone shows you how to figure them.  You know, the kind of thing where we say, “wow, that makes a lot of sense,” and yet, we never thought of it ourselves.  Forest for the trees and all that.

So it was with particular interest that we were alerted to a post made earlier this week by our friends at the Virginia athletics blog, Dear Old UVa.  This post attempted to get to the bottom of the question about whether UVa coach Dave Leitao was properly utilizing his players on the offensive end of the court.  So how would you measure such a thing?  With the help of KenPom’s statistical treasure trove, they were able to cross-tab players’ offensive efficiencies with their percentage of team’s possessions used.  This produced a relatively simple graphical representation of every player in the ACC which quickly shows which players are being utilized properly or improperly (see below).


On the above graph, you can easily see that Jeff Teague and Ish Smith, for example, are being properly used by Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio.  Teague has a very high percentage of possessions used and his offensive efficiency is relatively high.  Smith has a low efficiency and therefore is being used more sparingly on the offensive end.  The graph can also tell you when a player might be over- or under-used.  As an example, Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert has an efficiency in the same ballpark as Ish Smith, yet he uses significantly more possessions for the Jackets – an example of a player who is overused given his skill set at this time.  The converse of course is true for players with high efficiencies but low possession utilization.

We love this stuff, so we’ll try to find some more of this kind of thing as we get closer and closer to the NCAA Tournament.  The data is as rich as it will get this season, so hopefully we’ll be able to do so.

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