Conference Play Already Delivering Unexpected Drama

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 11th, 2014

We may still be in the nascent period of conference play, but early developments have hinted that a number of league races may not play out as planned. Heading into another good college basketball weekend, here are a few of the more surprising twists supplied by the early days of conference action.

The American Athletic Conference Is Up For Grabs

Remember when Louisville was supposed to be head and shoulders above the rest of this conference? Or when UConn was the Cards’ only real competition for the inaugural AAC crown? Yeah, me neither. Rick Pitino’s team may still be the AAC favorites, but after a non-conference season featuring just one victory over a top-100 team, the recent dismissal of Chane Behanan, and Thursday night’s home loss to Memphis, it’s safe to say that the Cardinals’ grasp on pole position has been significantly weakened. As for the Huskies, an ugly 0-2 beginning to conference play (losses at Houston and SMU) has altered the trajectory of their season. Shabazz Napier and company should be able to handle UCF later today, but with a trip to Memphis and a home date with Louisville looming next week, a 1-4 start to conference play is a definite possibility. It’s not the AAC we expected to see, certainly, but this unforeseen parity could give the league one of the better, more entertaining conference races the rest of the way.

It's Early, But Russ Smith And The Cardinals Have Unexpected Company In Their Chase For The American Athletic Conference Crown

It’s Early, But Russ Smith And The Cardinals Have Unexpected Company In Their Chase For The American Athletic Conference Crown

Butler Still Seeking Its First Big East Win

Expectations were initially modest for Butler this season, but a non-conference campaign with just a pair of minor blemishes – two-point losses to Oklahoma State and LSU – gave hope that the transitions between coaches (Brad Stevens to Brandon Miller) and leagues (A-10 to Big East) might be smoother than expected. Not so much, however, as the Big East has so far proved daunting for the Bulldogs, dropping their first three games: on the road at Xavier, and home games to Villanova and (gasp!) DePaul. Three total overtime periods were needed for those two home defeats, but no number of extra sessions will excuse a loss to DePaul, a program that was 7-86 in the five-plus Big East seasons that preceded their successful trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs are better than that Big East record would indicate, but a brutal upcoming schedule has the potential to permanently sink the Butler ship. Georgetown visits Indianapolis tonight, and 11 of the 12 games that follow come against teams in Ken Pom’s current top-75. At least for a season, the Butler faithful may end up missing not only Brad Stevens, but also the Atlantic 10.

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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 8th, 2014

After a bit of a holiday-induced hiatus, the week in review is back! We are in the infancy of the Big East basketball season, but the conference is beginning to take shape. Big East microsite writers Jameson Fleming, George Hershey and I bring you this week’s power rankings, all-conference team, and player and freshman of the week.

Villanova is Reaching for #1 in Our Power Rankings

Villanova is Reaching for #1 in Our Power Rankings

Player of the Week: Doug McDermott: We should probably rename this the “Doug McDermott Player of the Week Award.”  I would love to see someone else here, but then McDermott went out and scored 30 against Seton Hall and only 19 against DePaul.

Freshman of the Week: Josh Hart: The Big East doesn’t have many super freshmen this year, but Hart is carving out a nice role for Villanova. He’s scored double figures in each of his last five games and is hitting a remarkable 45.9 percent of his threes.

Power Rankings

  • 10.) DePaul (8-8, 0-3):
    Dan Lyons: New year, same DePaul?  That’s what it looks like so far this year for the Blue Demons, who have opened conference play 0-3.  They did keep it close against Georgetown and Marquette, but Creighton made quick work of DePaul yesterday.
    Jameson Fleming: The Blue Demons have been competitive against Marquette and Georgetown. That’s a good sign moving forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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Takeaways from the Big East Opening Day

Posted by George Hershey on January 1st, 2014

What an opener for the new Big East. The league had two overtime thrillers, there was an upset, and all three of the new members impressed. Here are some takeaways from a great day of hoops.

St. John’s vs. Xavier

St. John’s is great in transition, but struggles mightily in the halfcourt:  The Johnnies rushed out to a big lead in the first eight minutes, in large part to their transition offense. They scored their first seven points in transition off of turnovers or running after rebounds. Throughout the game it was evident that the halfcourt offense was not working well and often times ended with a contested jump shot. The Red Storm made a push in the second half by pushing the ball up-court, but ended up settling for tough shots as the game winded down. D’Angelo Harrison, Rysheed Jordan, and Orlando Sanchez all are capable of running the break and Jordan had a great game as he got to the rim, hit some outside shots, and showed a nice pull-up jumper. Many talk about this team’s great talent, but their halfcourt offense is limiting their ability to use their athleticism. If the Johnnies want to win go from an under-achieving team to an NCAA Tournament one, they need to get out in transition, while they improve their offensive sets.

Seton Hall vs. Providence 

Seton Hall can get out of the cellar in the new Big East: What a game! A great double overtime thriller on opening night. Seton Hall showed incredible fight and resolve yesterday as they saw their double digit lead dissolve in the final minutes. Some questionable calls did not help them in the extra sessions, but they made winning plays when it mattered. With starting center Eugene Teague our for the game, Kevin Willard was without his best post player. The Pirates forced the Friars into 14 turnovers, eight in the first half, which helped create  most of the early offense. They limited Bryce Cotton to 1-8 from three and the Friars struggled all night to score. The win should give the team a ton of confidence going forward as Brian Oliver, Brandon Mobley, and Jaren Sina stepped up to make crucial baskets. Sina came off the bench in overtime to hit a three with two minutes left to spark the Pirates. Oliver was the player of the game as his hot shooting provided most of the offense in the second half and Mobley came up time after time, especially with his three free throws with a minute left. This team may have suffered injuries to every significant player thus far, but their win over a high quality opponent while shorthanded is impressive, and there is no reason they cannot build off this win.

Smith Should Be A Bigger Force For Georgetown

DePaul vs. Georgetown:

Joshua Smith needs to produce more offensively: The big fella came in and dominated in his first game against Oregon, but since he was beaten up by Kansas, he has struggled mightily, and yesterday was no difference. Against a smaller and inexperienced front line, he only had five points and one assist, without even recording a rebound. There is no reason why Smith, who has been heralded as an excellent low post scorer since he arrived in UCLA, should not average at least 10 points during conference play. The Hoyas have struggled at times to score so far and Smith is a player who can provide instant offense. He also can create for his teammates by attracting double teams and finding them. Smith needs to get to the line, to get opponents in foul trouble and also get some easy points. The Hoyas have a good team with many pieces that make a winning team, but they could use a player you can dump it down to and let go to work on the block.

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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 26th, 2013

Happy holidays everyone! Feast Week is upon us, and the Big East has been performing pretty well across the board so far this season. There appears to be a lot of parity in the conference, and a few surprise teams like Xavier and Providence look like they may be real contenders this season. Let’s jump into the previous week of action.

Power Rankings

Xavier is Creeping up the Power Rankings Behind Semaj Christon

  • 10.) DePaul (3-2), LW (10): DePaul looks like it might be a solid step up from where it has been the last few seasons, but last night’s game against Wichita State shows there’s still a lot of opportunities for improvement.
  • 9.) Seton Hall (4-2), LW (8): The Pirates have a penchant for close games. Four of their six games have been decided by single figures, including both of their losses: a 77-74 double-overtime heartbreaker to Mercer, and an 86-85 loss to Oklahoma.
  • T-7.) Butler (4-0), LW (9): Butler is still undefeated by the narrowest of margins, winning an overtime thriller against Vanderbilt and a one-point game against Ball State last week. Khyle Marshall and Kellen Dunham are keeping the Butler offense afloat, each by averaging 15.8 points per game.
  • T-7.) St. John’s (3-1), LW (5): Phil Greene IV had a big week for the Johnnies, scoring 16 and 22 points in tight wins over Bucknell and Monmouth, respectively. Greene’s contributions in the backcourt have been very important for a St. John’s team that is struggling to score.
  • 6.) Providence (6-1), LW (6): The Friars had as good of a week as anyone, winning three games over solid competition before dropping last night’s Paradise Jam championship to Maryland. The frontcourt combination of Kadeem BattsLaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris has been as effective as any in the league in the early part of the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 18th, 2013

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

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

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

Week One Power Rankings

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

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Big East M5: 11.18.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 18th, 2013

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  1. Villanova is off to a strong start, and the bloggers over at Big East Coast Bias got together to discuss the Wildcats. The writers are all impressed by senior James Bell, who is off to a torrid start this season, averaging 18 points and 8.5 rebounds per game through three contests. They also delve into Villanova’s standing among the “City 6,” the team’s non-conference slate heading into the Battle 4 Atlantis later this month, and the overall Big East play so far this season (hint: Doug McDermott is good).  The roundtable is a good read for anyone just getting caught up with this early season.
  2. Speaking of Doug McDermott, he flashed some early season heroics in an 83-79 win over a good Saint Joseph’s team, giving the Bluejays the lead with a late jumper and drawing a foul to secure a victory for the Bluejays in a come-from-behind victory. While McDermott will get a lot of credit for the win, and deservedly so with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, Ethan Wragge, Devin Brooks and Grant Gibbs all played huge roles in the victory as well. Wragge led the way for the Bluejays with 21 points, while Brooks scored 16 in just 21 minutes of play. McDermott has never really been a question for Creighton, but many wonder how the rest of the team will respond to the increased competition in the Big East; this win over Saint Joseph’s may have gone a long way towards assuaging some of those concerns.
  3. In college basketball recruiting, there are a few selector schools, and the rest of the nation is usually fighting an uphill battle against them when it comes to landing the true blue-chip prospects that define the sport. As a major program in a basketball hotbed like Chicago, one would think that DePaul would be a player in the local recruiting battles, but they are all too often left standing at the altar. The most recent example is Cliff Alexander, the third-ranked player in ESPN’s Top 100, had both the Blue Demons and another in-state program, Illinois, on his final list, before ultimately choosing Kansas. Chicago Sun-Times writer Ken Morrissey was none too impressed, calling the signing event “a funeral.” “I feel bad for Illinois coach John Groce and DePaul coach Oliver Purnell. When Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari loses a stud recruit, he shrugs and signs another McDonald’s All-American. For Groce, there is no shrugging. I’m guessing there’s something that looks a lot like dry heaving. A player of Alexander’s skills can make all the difference in the world to an Illinois. Or he can bring a program to its knees. I believe Illinois was kneeling Friday.”
  4. In happier Big East recruiting news, Seton Hall‘s lauded 2014 recruiting class is all signed and ready to go. The class, which is currently ranked ninth by 247sports.com, includes top shooting guard prospect Isaiah Whitehead, four star power forward Angel Delgado, guard Khadeen Carrington, and forward Ismael Sanogo. The class is expected to be a transformative one for a Seton Hall program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and has gone without a conference title for 20 years. The class also makes a strong mark for the Pirates in their local recruiting areas, with Whitehead and Carrington coming from Brooklyn and Sanogo making the short trip to campus from Newark.
  5. Much has been written about the Seton Hall-Niagara 102 free throw game and what it means for a game that is taking a large step to eliminate the hand-checking that we’ve seen slow down the game in recent years, but that wasn’t the only game with a Big East team that was hugely affected. Marquette-Ohio State, a rematch of last season’s aircraft carrier game that wasn’t, devolved into a brutal slugfest of a game, ending in a 52-35 Buckeye win, a game so hard to watch that it put CBS Sports‘ Matt Norlander to sleep: “I have no shame — in fact, I think this feeling is pride — in telling you that I passed out on my couch for 20 minutes while attempting to get through this one, knowing full well I had to write about it once it was over.”  Many of these games and free throw shooting contests have been hard to watch, but as a fan of the game I still hold onto hope that this is a good thing in the long run. Ugly games in November are a small price to play for exciting, clean basketball come March.
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Three Takeaways on Wednesday’s Big East Action

Posted by George Hershey on November 14th, 2013

Here are three quick thoughts on Wednesday night’s Big East action:

1.   Providence can still win when Bryce Cotton doesn’t have a great shooting game. Last night Providence was able to hold off Brown even though Cotton only had six points, going 2-of-12 from the field. Cotton is the unquestioned leader of the team, but it was reassuring to see players like LaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris step up when he wasn’t shooting the ball very well. With Cotton and Kadeem Batts (19/11) leading the way, the Friars could become a dangerous team if Henton and Harris can provide additional offense and rebounding like they did last night. Hopefully for the Friars, this goes down as Cotton’s worst game of the year, but it’s good to see some other players capable of raising their game.

Sterling Gibbs helped lead Seton Hall to a win last night (Jim O'Connor/ USA TODAY Sports)

Sterling Gibbs helped lead Seton Hall to a win last night (Jim O’Connor/ USA TODAY Sports)

2.   DePaul should have won a big non-conference game. DePaul let an early lead evaporate quickly as they led by 10 points midway through the first half before Southern Mississippi went on a run and led by five at halftime. The Blue Demons were frustrating to watch as they played great for stretches, but what did them in was that they started heaving up deep, contested threes early and often (they ended 7-of-26 from deep). They also played sloppily and lost all their momentum late in the game when they failed an alley-oop on a fast break, leading to a Golden Eagles layup on the other end. DePaul was impressive at times, though, as the team stuck with the Conference USA favorites for the whole game and got turnovers from their full court press. Overall, it’s a disappointing loss for DePaul as they had a great chance to get a big early win, but they have the pieces in place to have their most successful season in years.

3.   Sterling Gibbs is the real deal. Seton Hall held off an impressive Kent State team last night. Most importantly for the long term success of the Pirates was the way Texas transfer Sterling Gibbs played. Gibbs had a great all-around game as he led the team with 20 points and six assists and also contributed five rebounds. Gibbs could be the key for the Pirates as they have two excellent players in Fuquan Edwin and Gene Teague, but the point guard position had been unstable. He attacks the basket aggressively, and it showed as he took 13 free throws in last night’s game. Having a player who can distribute the ball and attack the rim at a high level bodes well for the Pirates this season.

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Big East M5: 11.11.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 11th, 2013

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  1. The college basketball season has begun! Friday night saw seven Big East teams play and the other three played on Saturday. Big East teams went 8-2 to begin and the losses were to two ranked teams, Oregon and Wisconsin. Georgetown battled with Oregon in South Korea and although the Hoyas came away with a loss, there were some positives for the team. Newcomer Joshua Smith showed his top-notch talent on the offensive end and Markel Starks took control of the offense and showed his ability to score. Smith was a beast in the post as he scored 25 points and Starks contributed 16 of his own (including the only Hoya three-pointer). Georgetown teams have gotten off to slow starts during the past few seasons, but John Thompson III typically transforms his teams into contenders by mid-season. Although they lost the game, there shouldn’t be too much concern as the Hoyas will buckle down on defense and the shooting will improve.
  2. One of the most talked about topics over the weekend was the new foul rules. The often criticized change was apparent in all the games. Games stretched well over two hours and several records for fouls in a game and free throws attempted were set. Marquette got to the line 53 times against Southern and Seton Hall and Niagara combined for 102 total attempts. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said after the game that “it’s going to take everyone a little bit of time to adjust to. Players are going to take a little time. Refs need to take a little time. It was one of those ugly, early games, but I’m just glad we won.” In Providence‘s win over Boston College, each team had three players foul out in an important, tightly-contested game. Fans were upset throughout the night and referees heard it all over the nation. Teams are obviously going to have to adapt to the rules and modify the way they play defense, but one has to hope that big games at the end of the season don’t come down to the 10th guy on the bench shooting free throws to win the game.
  3. Providence came into the season with high hopes of a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. Those hopes have faded slightly in the past week. Stud sophomore Kris Dunn hurt his shoulder going after a loose ball in the Friars’ scrimmage last week. There is particular concern because Dunn missed the beginning of last season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Dunn was ruled questionable for Friday’s season opener and he did not play. The Friars also were without freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock, who are suspended indefinitely for “not upholding their responsibilities as student-athletes.” Austin was supposed to have an important role from the start and earned national prominence for his dunk at Late Night Madness. Hopefully Dunn is able to return to the lineup soon and the freshmen are reinstated before Providence gets too far into the season, including a fun match-up with Kentucky in Brooklyn.
  4. Brandon Miller won his first game as Butler’s new head coach. Miller has big shoes to fill after Brad Stevens left for the Boston Celtics, but he got off to a good start with a convincing win over Lamar. Zak Keefer of the Indy Star pointed out some interesting stats after the Bulldogs’ win. Khyle Marshall was the best player on the floor Saturday, pouring in 19 points and 13 rebounds. Last year, Butler went 16-1 when Marshall scored in double figures and this year the team will probably go as far as he takes it. The team didn’t shoot the ball well, but were still able to win easily even with Kellen Dunham having an off night. The Bulldogs have a strong, well-balanced starting lineup, and if some reserves can contribute meaningful minutes, Butler could make a push in the Big East standings.
  5. One of the most surprising and impressive players this weekend was DePaul‘s freshman center, Tommy Hamilton IV. Hamilton poured in 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as he beat down Grambling State’s front line. The freshman has slimmed down considerably and is down to 267 pounds. He had not played in a meaningful game in two years after a knee injury derailed his junior year campaign in high school. Hamilton acknowledged he could have played better, but his performance bodes well for the Blue Demons. If Hamilton is able to play a significant amount of minutes each night at center, it will allow star Cleveland Melvin to play on the wing instead of in the post. Hamilton may have been fairly unknown coming out of high school, but his immediate contributions could be a massive help to Oliver Purnell’s squad.
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Introducing the RTC Big East Preseason Power Rankings

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

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

Marquette Needs to Go Inside Against Davidson

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

10. DePaul

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

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The RTC Interview Series: Big East Preview with Jon Rothstein

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the Big East, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with a Big East expert in CBS Sports Network College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein.

Jon Rothstein Shares His Big East Preseason Thoughts With Us

Jon Rothstein Shares His Big East Preseason Thoughts With Us

Rush the Court: The new Big East has formed with its roots based almost exclusively on basketball. What will that do for the conference’s reputation from a national standpoint?

Jon Rothstein: I think we are going to have to wait and see how these schools that are left in the conference perform on a national level. From the periphery, I think everyone is looking at the Big East as a conference that can send either five or six teams to the NCAA Tournament. That would put the Big East probably on the same par as the American Athletic Conference. A lot of its reputation is going to be formed by how many teams the Big East will send to the Tournament on a consistent basis.

RTC: Marquette has been the popular preseason pick to win the league. The Golden Eagles lost Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue and Trent Lockett from last season’s Elite Eight team, so what is it about this season’s squad that makes it so formidable?

Rothstein: This is the deepest and most talented frontcourt that Buzz Williams has had since he has been the head coach at Marquette. On the other hand, this is also going to be the least experienced backcourt that he has had. I initially picked Marquette to win the Big East at the start of the offseason, but going back on it now, I wish I had picked Georgetown to win the league.

RTC: What makes you believe Georgetown has the talent to win the league?

Rothstein: To me, Georgetown replenishes talent as well as any team in the country. The thing about the Hoyas that is interesting to me is that they are able to win with different styles. You saw them feature a perimeter attack when they had Chris Wright, Jason Clark and Austin Freeman. You saw them use an inside attack with Henry Sims leading the way. Last season, we saw Otto Porter really blossom and do a bit of everything. Georgetown always finds a way to win consistently, but it does it in different ways.

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Big East M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 4th, 2013

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  1. Headlined by national player of the year candidate Doug McDermott, Creighton is probably the most intriguing new member of the Big East, and with the season fast approaching, they want everyone to know that they are not afraid of the spotlight.  Fox Sports‘ Reid Hargrave went in depth on the Bluejays, and their fit within the new-look conference, coming away under the impression that Creighton should fit in just fine: “Just watch these kids play, spreading the floor and using non-stop ball screens and attacking from the perimeter with deadly shooting and always looking for the extra pass. This isn’t grind-it-out Big East basketball. This is the finesse game you’re more likely to see in Europe… But there’s nothing traditional about this new Big East, a conference still searching for its basketball identity.” Hargrave believes that the team’s offensive prowess takes credit away from what should  be a sound defensive unit, even when stacked up against a deeper lineup of conference rivals than what they are accustomed to. The story also includes this note — which should terrify the rest of the league — from head coach Greg McDermott on his superstar son: “But being with him every day, there’s no question he’s getting that shot off quicker.”
  2. A lot of the questions surrounding Creighton have to do with the schedules that they’ve faced in the past.  Doug McDermott thinks that recent history shows that the Bluejays are not afraid of playing high major competition, and the league that they’re coming from had quality teams similar to what they will face this winter. McDermott cites a stat that Creighton’s only losses in 11 recent games against power conference foes have been to the likes of Duke and North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Omaha.com‘s piece also brings up 2013 Final Four participant, Wichita State – a team from the Missouri Valley with high-major type talent that Creighton faced annually. The major adjustment in schedules for Creighton, Butler and Xavier will come in the consistent talent and athleticism that they will face on the floor, even from lesser Big East competition like DePaul and Seton Hall.
  3. The new Big East is quite attractive because of the basketball focus of the league. While most schools would love to have remained in a conference with the Syracuses, Louisvilles and UConns of the world, getting away from the myriad of issues surrounding college football is a good thing for the basketball-focused Big East programs, and  the league’s coaches, like Georgetown’s John Thompson III, seem to agree: “The identity is basketball is our religion. It’s a basketball conference.”  The three schools joining the “Catholic Seven” –  Butler, Creighton, and Xavier – definitely share the sentiment, as evidenced by the environments in which they play. Creighton is a regular among top-10 attendance lists, as the Bluejay faithful pack CenturyLink Center, while Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse is one of the toughest places to play in the country. The Big East may not send 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament anymore, or have a handful of top 10 teams at any given moment, but it is back to being all about the hoops.
  4. There is a lot that is new about DePaul basketball this year. The school is in a new league, the staff has added two new coaches, and the roster features eight new players this season. This isn’t a bad thing, as the Blue Demons have struggled to get the program jump-started and have gone without an NCAA Tournament bid since 2004. Oliver Purnell returns a few established players in Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young who he hopes can guide a young roster back towards the pack in the Big East. Despite being chosen at the bottom of the conference, with two established star players returning, the Blue Demons may surprise some teams yet.
  5. Villanova blog VU Hoops took a look at recruiting in the Big East and how the 10 teams compare with one another and other power conferences across the nation. Seven of the programs have at least one four-star recruit verballed already, with schools like Georgetown, Marquette  and Seton Hall — who has arguably landed the biggest name in guard Isaiah Whitehead — controlling the coveted rankings. The article goes on to compare the Big East to the rest of the recruiting landscape: “When it all shakes out, the new conference will most likely trail the SEC, ACC and Big Ten in terms of the number of commits ranked in the top 150 but not by much. Considering the Big East has fewer teams than each of those conferences, I think the numbers are very impressive and a good sign as the conference moves into the future.”
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Big East M5: 10.30.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on October 30th, 2013

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  1. Renowned college basketball stats guru Ken Pomeroy released his preseason rankings for the upcoming season. The Big East comes in as the second best conference in the nation, behind the Big Ten. This is surprising after Louisville, Syracuse, and several other quality teams left, as well as seeing ESPN writer Dan Hanner have the Big East in the middle of the pack of the power seven conferences. Pomeroy has Creighton leading the league, ranked 13th, with Georgetown right behind them at 14. Marquette and Villanova follow at 24 and 26. Pomeroy’s rankings look fairly different than Hanner’s, which has Marquette as the top team in the league and ranks the bottom seven teams lower giving the Big East a much lower rating. Pomeroy admits that his predictions have the “simplest algorithm possible without being a complete joke.” This is not the best way to predict how well a team will play during the season, but it is fun to see what a respected statistician says about the upcoming season. The high ranking for the Big East should give fans optimism and reason to believe the Big East will compete to be one of the top conferences in the nation.
  2. CBS Sports writer Jeff Borzello wrote an interesting piece about the team outside his top 25 that he thinks has the most potential and St. John’s was his clear cut choice. With so much talent, it is easy to see why. The Red Storm return all five starters as well as Jamal Branch and God’s Gift Achiuwa, who will have major roles. He points out that the biggest addition is freshman Rysheed Jordan. Steve Lavin said “He has tremendous poise and makes good judgments on the court. He plays with a hard edge, which is an indication of his competitiveness and that’s why he has had success since a young age on the court.” Jordan was named Big East Preseason Rookie of the Year and his addition raises the potential even higher. Last year’s team also had talent, but a lot of inexperience. This year players like D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson will have to take a big step forward in becoming more complete and smarter basketball players. Lavin will also have to impress this year after having a reputation for being a great recruiter, but not being able to win with top talent. All the pieces are in place for this to be a big season in Queens.
  3. Last night, Butler scrimmaged against Nova Southeastern and won handily 101-64. Obviously it was an easy game for them, but it is still nice to see it wasn’t close, as opposed to DePaul‘s scrimmage against Lewis University, which saw the Blue Demons trail at halftime before using an early run in the second half to win by five. Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star took a look at Butler freshman Rene Castro. Castro is a point guard who looks like he could end up being a key contributor this season and possible starter by the end of the season, as Keefer predicts. Castro has a good bit of improving to do especially on the defensive side of the ball and needs to adjust to the college game, but he has impressed and is working hard on his outside shot. First-year coach Brandon Miller could use Castro’s physical abilities to bring another aspect to the team. If Castro is the real deal, he could make sophomore Kellen Dunham’s life much easier by using his quickness to get into the lane and kick it out to him for three’s. Castro has big goals, saying “Our goal is to make the NCAA Tournament and fight for a championship.”
  4. The Big East is benefiting from the thrilling World Series on Fox, as Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal points out. Fox is airing several commercials publicizing the upcoming season on Fox Sports 1 and is reaching millions as game 4 on Sunday night outdrew the NFL. The commercials are pushing it’s opening night games of Providence-Boston College and Lafayette-Villanova. Fox Sports also announced its lineup of announcers for the upcoming season. Besides the already announced star combo of Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery, Justin Kutcher, Dick Stockton, Thom Brennaman, Brian Anderson, Eric Collins and Kevin Kugler will have play-by-play duties and Kevin O’Neill, Gary Williams, Donny Marshall as well as several other former players and coaches will serve as analysts. FS1 has some big names announcing games with Stockton and Brennaman being well-known announcers who have plenty of experience. O’Neill and Williams should be interesting to have in the booth as they will be making their debuts, but have had great success coaching and will have interesting analysis.
  5. The Big East announced that it has hired Tom Jernstedt as senior adviser. He will be tasked with helping commissioner Val Ackerman on officiating, scheduling, postseason play and an entire strategic plan. Jernstedt worked for the NCAA for almost 40 years and Ackerman says that “few have as keen a grasp as he does of the intricacies of the NCAA and the college basketball world.” ESPN’s Dana O’Neill makes the point that the hiring is very important as it gives the Big East credibility from the start. His past experience will be key in getting the Big East through the tough early stages of establishing itself as a power conference. Their is a lot of work to be done and Ackerman will benefit from having someone who knows the ins and outs of the NCAA and the college basketball world.
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