Season In Review: Villanova Wildcats

Posted by mlemaire on May 6th, 2013

After an incredibly disappointing 13-19 finish to last season, coach Jay Wright was starting to hear murmurs of discontent from a Wildcats’ fan base that had watched their team slowly fade into obscurity following a 2009 run to the Final Four. Entering this season the pressure was on Wright to prove that he could get the program headed in the right direction again, and he rose to the challenge… barely. The Wildcats finished 20-14 on the season and 10-8 in conference play, which was good enough to slot them eighth, but they made the NCAA Tournament on the backs of three wins over the conference’s three best teams — Louisville, Georgetown, and Syracuse — and there was still plenty to be concerned about in Nova Nation. They will be looking to take another step forward next season, but first let’s take a trip back and review Villanova’s 2012-13 season.

Preseason Expectations

Coming off that ugly season and losing their two best offensive players — Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek — the Wildcats were not expected to make a lot of noise this year. Both the coaches in the conference and our writers here at the microsite pegged Villanova as the 12th-best team in the Big East because of question marks about where the offense would come from and how quickly the new faces would get adjusted. Most who followed college basketball knew that the Wildcats had more veteran talent than some of the other squads ranked ahead of them, but after watching them falter with much of the same talent the year before, it was tough to believe that Villanova was capable of finishing in the top half of the conference.

Freshman Guard Ryan Arcidiacono Was Instrumental In Getting Villanova Back To The NCAA Tournament (U.S. Presswire)

Freshman Guard Ryan Arcidiacono Was Instrumental In Getting Villanova Back To The NCAA Tournament (U.S. Presswire)

The Good

There were plenty of positives for both individuals on the Villanova roster and the team itself, but if we were ranking them in order of their importance, the two-game stretch where they beat Louisville and then Syracuse in late January basically saved the Wildcats’ season. They had lost three straight conference games heading into that brutal stretch, and even though they were both home wins, they were still crucial to making ‘Nova believe they could hang with anyone. The team itself had its good pieces and its bad ones. The defense ranked in the top 30 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and the offense got a boost from the fact that the Wildcats were the very best in the country when it came to free throw to field goal ratio. Wright also knew that certain players would need to step up if the Wildcats were going to be a factor this season, and luckily some players rose to the occasion. Senior center Mouphtaou Yarou (9.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 47.8%FG) capped a solid career on the Main Line with a dependable senior campaign, improving his free-throw shooting by nearly 10 percentage points and crashing the boards even harder in conference play (9.7 RPG). It took sophomore JayVaughn Pinkston (13.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 46.6 FG%) half a season to find his footing,  but once he did, he consistently scored in double figures and became a match-up nightmare for opposing teams. Freshman point guard Ryan Arciadiacono (11.9 PPG, 3.5 APG, 34.3% FG) averaged 34 minutes per game and proved he was more than capable of being a Big East point guard.

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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #12 Villanova

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 17th, 2012

Once among the most consistent programs in the Big East, Villanova seems to be stuck in a rut.  After an incredibly disappointing 2011-12, which led to the first NCAA Tournament miss for the Wildcats since 2003-04 and a year without any postseason berth since Steve Lappas’ 1997-98 team.  To top things off, Jay Wright lost his two top scorers from last season, and will have to choose between a transfer and a true freshman to run the point for the Wildcats this year.  The Wildcats hope to be one of the Big East’s most surprising teams, but it will have to have everything click right if the Wildcats expect a top-half finish in the conference.

2011-12 Record: 13-19, 5-13

2011-12 Postseason: None

Villanova missed the post-season for the first time in Jay Wright’s tenure in 2011-12. How will the Wildcats rebound this season?

Schedule

After a scrimmage with Carleton University, Villanova opens the regular season with Division II District of Columbia, as a part of the 2K Sports Classic.  The Wildcats host Marshall two nights later before departing to New York for the 2K Classic’s main event.  In the semifinals, Villanova takes on Purdue, followed by the winner of Alabama and Oregon State. Later in the non-conference slate, Villanova travels down to Nashville for a tough road game against Vanderbilt before returning to Philadelphia for Big 5 games against Temple, Penn, and St. Joe’s. In the Big East, Villanova has home-and-home series with Syracuse, USF, Providence, and Pittsburgh.

Who’s In

Two new players should battle it out for the starting point guard spot, as both true freshman Ryan Arcidiacono and junior Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault look to contribute right away.  Chennault received a hardship waiver from the NCAA and is eligible to play this year after averaging nine points and three assists as the starting point guard for the Demon Deacons. The Wildcats also add 6’10” freshman Daniel Ochefu, who should add some much needed beef inside for the oft-undersized squad, as well as Croatian guard Mislav Brzoja, who is a strong perimeter shooter.

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Big East Summer Capsules: Villanova Wildcats

Posted by mlemaire on July 20th, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Villanova.

1. Bidding adieu to Kennedy and saying hello to Chennault.

The Wildcats made two important changes to their roster this summer. The first was officially saying goodbye to sophomore center Markus Kennedy who announced he would transfer, then reportedly reconsidered the decision, then ended up transferring after all. The second was welcoming former Wake Forest point guard Tony Chennault into the fold – the Wildcats also added former Rice guard Dylan Ennis, but he will have to sit out a year before making his Villanova debut. Kennedy showed some promise as a freshman last season, but he expected to be buried on the depth chart and decided to transfer to SMU. The Wildcats will miss the depth, but he wasn’t expected to make much of an impact this season anyway. The more important move is the arrival of Chennault, a Philadelphia native who received an NCAA waiver because of his mother’s health issues to play right away. Chennault averaged 9.2 PPG and 2.8 APG for the Demon Deacons before transferring and his arrival will be a huge boon for the Wildcats who lost starting guards Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek to the draft. Chennault may not become the same type of scorer Wayns was, but he should get every opportunity to start and instantly becomes the most experienced guard on the roster, so there is no doubt that Jay Wright is happy to have him.

2. Are the Wildcats starting from scratch?

Jay Wright Has His Work Cut Out For Him Rebuilding The Program

That is the question that the Philadelphia Daily News posed earlier this month in a long article and interview with ‘Nova head coach Jay Wright. Last season was an unmitigated disaster, and say what you want about Wayns and Cheek, but they would have been valuable players to have this season. There is still a lot of talent on campus and more talent coming in time for this season, but this team hardly stacks up against some of the best teams Wright has assembled in the last five years. Wright acknowledges that his team has a lot of work to do before it can again achieve the success their fans have grown accustomed to recently, but he also thinks the program has built up enough credibility that a rebound can happen quickly. It will likely depend on how quickly freshmen Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu can become impact contributors and whether or not mercurial sophomore Tyrone Johnson can make the leap and become a consistent playmaker. Down the road it will depend on whether Wright can continue to land high-profile recruits, the types that helped the Wildcats make the Elite Eight and Final Four in recent years.

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Villanova: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by mlemaire on May 2nd, 2012

Our apologies for plagiarizing borrowing the ideas of our colleagues over at the Pac-12 microsite, but we liked their post-mortem team breakdowns so much that we decided to replicate them with our conference. So over the course of the next two weeks, we will break down each team’s season, starting from the bottom of the conference standings. Next up is Villanova.

What Went Wrong

Despite the fact that two teams technically finished behind the Wildcats in the conference standings, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Villanova was the Big East’s biggest disappointment this season (apologies to Pittsburgh, you will get your turn at the table of criticism later). Although they played a number of good teams close, the Wildcats routinely blew early leads, turned the ball over with regularity, didn’t shoot well from downtown, and didn’t force many turnovers either. Of course it didn’t help that key players Maalik Wayns, James Bell, and JayVaughn Pinkston all missed time due to injuries, but the team was struggling so badly on both ends of the floor that it might not have mattered either way. The team’s key trio of Wayns, Cheek, and center Mouphtaou Yarou all improved their numbers, but none of them took the step forward that would have kept Villanova in tournament contention. Also, the freshman class was so inconsistent we are surprised Jay Wright had any hair left by the end of the season.

Jay Wright Did Plenty Of Teaching During A Trying Season (AP Photo)

What Went Right

The number one bright spot for folks on the Main Line was the emergence of Pinkston in conference play. His production tapered off in the final few games of the season, but he scored double-digit points in 12 conference games and hauled in double-digit rebounds in five conference games. He is candidate no. 1 to fill the scoring void next season left behind by some of the early defectors, and he will be a consistent double-double threat assuming he stays healthy. Although they struggled mightily at times, freshmen Tyrone Johnson, Darrun Hilliard and Markus Kennedy all got valuable experience that will serve them well in their increased roles next season. Wildcats’ fans can also take solace in the fact that six of the team’s conference losses were by four points or less, something that should change once the young team learns how to win close games.

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Morning Five: 04.13.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 13th, 2012

  1. After pleading guilty to driving while impaired (marijuana) Derrick Nix was reinstated to the Michigan State team. Nix, who was arrested just after midnight on April 3, had 600 milligrams of marijuana on him at the time of his arrest and admitted to having smoked marijuana two hours before. Nix pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and will be sentenced on May 11. As for his role on the team, Nix has been added back to the roster, but will be monitored closely. Although we have not read anything about an eventual suspension for Nix we assume it is coming with the length to be determined by his actions between now and the start of the season.
  2. As we have pointed out multiple times in the past few weeks, just because the April 10 “deadline” has passed that does not mean your team is safe. We could talk about Connecticut losing Andre Drummond, but we won’t because everybody knew he was leaving. Instead we will look to another team in the Big East as Villanova will be without the services of Dominic Cheek, who announced that he would be leaving to play professional basketball. We say professional basketball instead of the NBA because there is no way that Cheek will get drafted in the first round and it seems more likely that he will go undrafted. Cheek says he is pursuing his dream of playing in the NBA, but it seems that if he is going to get there he is going to have to take a detour through Europe or some other version of the minor leagues before getting to the NBA. Despite Cheek’s poor NBA Draft prospects this is a big blow for Villanova, which already was hurt by the departure of Maalik Wayns.
  3. The question of what to do with teams the NCAA has erased from the record books can be a difficult issue for many schools. Michigan is the latest school to learn that. The school, which saw an explosion in popularity with the Fab Five that subsequently was scrubbed from the record books, had taken down the Final Four banners from 1992 and 1993 as well as another from a Big Ten title and a NIT championship as a result of an NCAA ruling against the school in relation to inappropriate actions during that period. On Wednesday, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, the same person who had ordered those banners be taken down, stated that she had no intention of putting those banners up next year when the NCAA’s ruling that the school disassociate itself from those teams and players would be up. Jalen Rose, a member of those Fab Five teams, was less than pleased with the decision and voiced his displeasure on Twitter. We are not sure how or even if Coleman will respond to this, but it is a sticky situation that more and more schools will have to deal with in the coming years.
  4. With the top two recruits having announced their destinations for next fall, the major recruiting services are essentially done with their rankings for the class of 2012. Two of the biggest rating services–Rivals and Scout–came out with their final rankings recently. Rivals has come out with their final Top 100 (or Top 150 if you go to their main site) while Scout has released what we think is their final Top 100. With the exception of a few small tweaks the lists are fairly similar as you would expect although we do think that herd behavior has an effect as well.
  5. Yesterday, next year’s presumed #1 overall recruit Jabari Parker was named the Gatorade National Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year. The award is notable for the fact that Parker is just the fourth junior to win the award since it was created 27 years ago. The other players who won as juniors: LeBron James, Greg Oden, and Brandon Knight. While this year’s senior class was not that loaded, it did have some high-end talent particularly with the top two guys in the fact. The fact that Parker beat out those guys suggests that we could see a ridiculous recruiting battle over the next 12 months.
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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 27th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

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

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

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (29-1, 16-1) – The men in orange just keep moving right along, picking up two more wins this past week. Finding a way to win is so cliché, but it has been the theme with this group over the last few weeks. Syracuse has moved its record to 29-1 with seven of their nine wins since the loss to Notre Dame coming by ten points or less. In the win over South Florida, Syracuse overcame 35% shooting and a 20-7 Bulls run to start the game by going on a massive 26-0 run that started about midway through the first half and bled deep into the second. Kris Joseph struggled shooting, but Scoop Jardine picked him up by scoring 15 points. Joseph rebounded in a big way with 21 points at Connecticut while Fab Melo added 11 points and nine rebounds. This team has more weapons than any in the nation, allowing the Orange to overcome off nights by some of their key players. More importantly, Syracuse out-rebounded UConn, 39-35. That’s significant because of what the Huskies bring to the table in their front court and Syracuse’s awful rebounding numbers that have persisted throughout the season. With the win at UConn, Syracuse officially clinched the Big East regular season title, something everyone knew was going to happen as early as when the calendar flipped to January. This week: 3/3 vs. #23 Louisville.
  2. Marquette (24-5, 13-3) – There are teams more talented than Marquette out there, but you will not find one with a greater will to win than this bunch of Golden Eagles. You might as well call them their old nickname, the Warriors, because that’s exactly what they are. Jae Crowder made his case for Big East Player of the Year last week in grand fashion, totaling 53 points in two wins over Rutgers and West Virginia. Crowder dominated West Virginia’s Kevin Jones in their head-to-head matchup and may have moved in front of Jones in the POY race in the process. Crowder certainly plays for a better team and that has to enhance his case even more. Despite Buzz Williams suspending Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan for the first half against West Virginia and Todd Mayo for the second half, Marquette rallied yet again to pull out a victory. I don’t understand the half-suspensions. Sit them down for the whole game if you want to make a statement, but that’s beyond the point. The Golden Eagles shot 50% for the game and forced 19 WVU turnovers, helping to offset 16 Mountaineer offensive rebounds. In the win over Rutgers, Marquette forced 21 turnovers and Johnson-Odom added 21 points alongside Crowder’s 27 as the Golden Eagles shot 54% overall. MU can close out the Big East regular season in grand style and finish with a 15-3 record if it takes care of two tough games in the coming week. This team has a legitimate chance to win the Big East Tournament and go deep in the NCAA’s. This week: 2/29 @ Cincinnati, 3/3 vs. #9 Georgetown. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 02.20.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 20th, 2012


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.

One bubble team looks to stop the bleeding just by getting any kind of win while another is in search of the quality win that could put it in the NCAA Tournament. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.

Connecticut @ Villanova – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (***)

  • It is not a good time to be a Connecticut fan. Jim Calhoun is out, the team is average, the chemistry is bad, and the program is facing an NCAA Tournament ban next season. Plus the women’s team lost for the first time in 99 games at home on Saturday! Shabazz Napier called out his teammates after Saturday’s loss to Marquette, UConn’s seventh in nine games. This team’s chemistry is as sour as an expired milk carton and it will take a major turnaround for the Huskies to pull out of this tailspin. To beat Villanova, Connecticut must use its terrific interior defense to make the Wildcats take deep shots. Villanova is not a good three-point shooting team and is highly inefficient overall on the offensive end. Starters Maalik Wayns and James Bell have been injured and it’s not known if they will play. Wayns is listed as questionable while Bell is doubtful. If neither plays, there is no excuse for Connecticut not to win this game. As long as the Huskies can shut down JayVaughn Pinkston and contain Dominic Cheek, they shouldwin. Of course with a team in a situation such as UConn’s, nothing is assured.

    Jim Calhoun Will Not Be Walking Through That Door

  • Villanova blew a 20-point lead and lost in overtime to Notre Dame on Saturday night. The Wildcats played without Wayns and Bell and their first half performance should be a warning shot for UConn. The Wildcats dominated Notre Dame in the first half before folding late. If Wayns can’t go, it will be up to Pinkston and Cheek to do most of the scoring. Pinkston has improved nicely as the year has gone on and Jay Wright isn’t giving up on his team. The Wildcats put a scare into Marquette and Notre Dame while picking up a handful of wins along the way. If Cheek is hitting from the outside, that’ll open things up for Pinkston inside. Pinkston can also stretch the defense and could be able to pull Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi away from the rim where they are vulnerable. Connecticut doesn’t defend the triple well but Villanova doesn’t exactly shoot it well either. If the Wildcats are to win, they’re going to have to make threes.
  • This is about as unpredictable of a game as we have had all year. Connecticut is the better team, but it certainly isn’t playing like it in 2012. The wildcard in this game is Wayns. If he can give it a go, Villanova will have a very good chance to win. If not, Pinkston, Cheek and company will have to duplicate the effort they put forth in the first half of the Notre Dame game and sustain it for 40 minutes. Picking the winner of this game is anyone’s guess.
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Set Your TiVo: 01.25.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 25th, 2012

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

There are no Top 25 matchups or truly ‘great’ games on tonight’s schedule, but it is another packed Wednesday of important conference battles so there will be plenty of action worth monitoring.

Villanova at Louisville – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN (***)

Peyton Siva Looks to Get Louisville Back on Track Tonight Against Another Top Point Guard (Getty Images/A. Lyons)

  • In what would have been billed as a big-time matchup at the beginning of the season, this game now features two unranked teams (Louisville is still #25 in one poll) with a combined 6-9 record in the Big East. But this will still be a fun game to watch, and the away team is playing its best basketball of the season. Nova has won two straight games and lost by only four points at Cincinnati in the game before, as Maalik Wayns has finally taken his game to the next level. His averages over the past three games are an insane 30.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. He’s also gone 30-33 from the free throw line in that stretch. He’s second in the conference in scoring (18.7 PPG) and leads the Big East in free throws made. Nova needs other players to be strong with the ball against Louisville’s high-pressure defense, as the Wildcats average a terrible 17 turnovers in conference games, worst in the Big East. If Jay Wright’s team can take care of the ball and get to the rim instead of settling for outside shots, they have a chance in this game. Jayvaughn Pinkston will play a key role as an emerging threat (18 points, 11.5 rebounds in his last two) at the forward position that can attack the rim.
  • If Louisville wants to get back into consideration as a ranked team, they must win this game at home. The Cardinals continue to deal with injuries but have all of their key cogs healthy in this one, as leading-scorer Kyle Kuric (13.4 PPG) returned from an ankle injury to score 21 points against Pittsburgh in their last game. Louisville has the advantage on the wings with Kuric, Russ Smith (12.5 PPG), and Chris Smith (10.1 PPG) and they will try to swarm Villanova defensively, who only has one true ballhandler in its lineup. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng have tough matchups with Maalik Wayns and Mouphtaou Yarou, respectively, that are worth watching to see who has the edge on the perimeter and in the paint. Overall, Louisville’s depth and defensive pressure should prove too much for the Wildcats.
  • Louisville is a nine-point favorite at home in the KFC Yum! Center and cannot lose this game if it wants to be taken seriously in the Big East. The 10-10 Wildcats come in with some confidence and will look to play the role of spoiler as Wayns tries to prove he’s the best point guard in the conference. Expect the Cardinals to wear out Villlanova in the second half and come out with the win.

#8 Duke at Maryland- 9:00 PM ET on ESPN (***)

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Big East Morning Five: 01.25.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 25th, 2012

  1. Suspended Connecticut freshman Ryan Boatright’s case continues to garner a lot of attention and for good reason.  The bottom line is that the NCAA needs to make some rule changes to keep kids out of purgatory while its investigators take their sweet time trolling for violations. UConn has been forced to sit Boatright for nine games and counting over two different stretches this season while it waits for the NCAA to rule on an improper benefits issue that allegedly occurred before Boatright enrolled there.  As Joe Nocera astutely pointed out in a two-part New York Times editorial on Boatright’s plight, this case highlights three major flaws in NCAA policy.  First, the NCAA has yet to make a ruling but as a precaution Connecticut has to sit Boatright out while the decision is pending.  Otherwise they risk the possibility of forfeiting games if Boatright plays and the NCAA ultimately finds against him.  The NCAA should not be allowed to penalize retroactively unless there is a direct correlation between the school and any player involved with the offense.  Second, Boatright is being penalized for something he had no direct involvement in.  In fact, the NCAA is not investigating Boatrigh; they are investigating his mother to see if she was given money by a family friend who has no link to UConn to buy a plane ticket so she could accompany her son on an official on-campus visit.  Third, rules mandate that when schools welcome a recruit for an official visit, they can only pay the way of the player and no one else.  If someone like the player’s mother wants to accompany her child on the visit she has to foot her own expenses.  There are many problems with the recruiting process.  Perhaps if the NCAA spent its time and resources pursuing some of them, a little progress would be made.
  2. After attending the Marquette vs. Providence game on Saturday I wrote about the overall team concept the Golden Eagles portray when they play and highlighted the contributions of their senior leaders, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder (GRATUITOUS SELF-LINK ALERT!!!) Well, it appears the veteran tandem is as effective in their roles off the court as they are on it. “Jae and D.J. have been outstanding in their leadership thus far this year,” said Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, who added, “Our leadership has come from our two seniors and the bulk of their leadership has transpired off the floor and that is evident when you watch our team on the floor. I think they have been superlative in their actions off the floor and the example they have set for the other 10 guys on our team away from [the practice gym].”
  3. All you have to do is watch an Oregon or Maryland football game to know that the gear factors in to the overall business plan of a program. These are not your father’s college athletics where teams had just one home and one away uniform.  Student-athletes are young but they all seem to be going gray these days as the new uniform color-ish of choice is looking to put Just for Men out of business.  This is happening because “alternate” uniforms represent great marketing tools. They lead to additional revenue streams as fans look to gobble up the latest and greatest merchandise that their favorite teams have to offer.  The other boon for schools in the fancy pants race is on the recruiting trail, as new unis are the equivalent of recruiting bling.  Georgetown must be ahead of the curve because they have sported various shades of gray for years.  But then again the Hoyas reside in Washington, D.C., land of the gray area.  While the overall color scheme is not yet known, it appears Syracuse and Connecticut will be getting into the act as Nike is reported to be making an announcement on what is in store (or Storrs) as early as this morning.
  4. The Big East announced yesterday that Navy will join the conference as a football playing member in 2015, confirming numerous reports that surfaced on Monday.  “When people look back, they will mark this as a truly historic day for the Big East Conference,” said Big East Commissioner John Marinatto before adding, “That Navy would give up 100 years of football independence speaks to the long-term viability of the Big East.” Navy has enjoyed success on the gridiron, making a bowl game in eight of the last nine seasons.  Upon joining the Big East, Navy will continue its traditional rivalry games with non-Big East football schools Army, Air Force and Notre Dame, as well as retain the television contracts that go along with those contests.  “Stability in the Big East was a very important aspect in our discussions with the commissioner,” said Vice Admiral Michael Miller, superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy. “What we see is a very bright future for the conference.” A notable byproduct of its membership announcement is that it kicks in a previously agreed-upon increase of the Big East exit fee to $10 million (from $5 million) should any member school depart from this point forward.
  5. It has definitely been somewhat of an upside down year in the Big East with traditional powers such as Villanova and Pittsburgh at or near the bottom of the league to this point.  Entering the season, Villanova fans knew that the Wildcats were young and that they had absolutely no momentum to latch onto from last season.  It was a season where Villanova lost its final six games, including first-round exits from both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. That lack of a foundation certainly translated to this year as the Wildcats (10-10, 3-5 Big East) went just 7-5 in non-conference play that did, however, include losses to quality teams such as Missouri and Temple (I think I just heard ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes say Temple could be in the Final Four).  As a certain work in progress Villanova head coach Jay Wright hopes his team is turning the corner now that his team has won two straight games.  Wright understands that with teams like this, he needs potential breakout players such as 6’6” junior guard Dominic Cheek (12.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and 6’10 junior forward/center Mouphtaou Yarou (11.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG) to shed the potential moniker, step it up a level and join emerging star Maalik Wayns who is averaging 30.7 points per game over the last three.   Wright’s assessment is that “Mouph and Cheek are not where we thought they’d be,” but he did go on to say, “I like this group. I do think we’re getting better. It’s slow, but we’ve got to find a way to enjoy this process.”  Villanova is on the road at Louisville this evening.
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Set Your TiVo: 01.11.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 11th, 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.

Will the number one team in the land survive a rivalry road test? Can Missouri bounce back from its recent beatdown to win an away game? Here’s what to expect from two Top 10 teams in tough spots tonight:

#1 Syracuse at Villanova – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (***)

Can Villanova Save Its Season Tonight by Beating #1 Syracuse? (AP Photo)

  • Undefeated Syracuse comes into this game playing as well as any team in the country, but their toughest away games of the season have been at NC State and Providence, so they’re not exactly road tested. The Orange will certainly have the advantage in this one, as their 2-3 zone defense has been incredibly effective this season at forcing turnovers and limiting paint opportunities. Nova’s a team that struggles in these two areas to begin with, and also a team that fires up a lot of threes (over 20 per game) at a low conversion rate (30%, ranked in the bottom 50 nationally). If Syracuse simply executes defensively and forces the Wildcats into a three-point barrage, they’ll have a huge advantage. Jim Boeheim’s team will come at Villanova with their deep array of weapons, where Kris Joseph (14.1 PPG) and Dion Waiters (12.5 PPG) should have opportunities to score in transition and on the wings against Villanova’s poor perimeter defense.
  • Villanova is in the midst of a year to forget, but they can change the outlook of the entire season with a win tonight. The Wildcats are dying for a victory of this caliber, and fans must be fired up in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for this rivalry home game against the number one team in the land. If the Wildcats are going to have a chance to win, they need to stop chucking up threes, especially in this game against a zone defense that will encourage them to shoot from the outside. Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek each attempt over four three-pointers per game and both are shooting under 30% from deep! Instead, these talented guards need to play off of each other. Wayns (17.4 PPG, 4.75 APG) is one of the quickest guards in America and can penetrate the teeth of a zone defense, and from there he must make good decisions and find teammates moving amongst the trees for good shot opportunities. Jay Wright’s team also must stay out of foul trouble and defend the perimeter if they want to have a chance.
  • This seems like an uneven matchup on paper, but it could be a serious trap game for Syracuse. They haven’t yet played a good conference team on the road, and Villanova is a rival who will be fired up for this one. If Nova can find early success against the Syracuse zone, then they could have a chance in this one.
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Checking In On… The Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 9th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Top Tier Chaos: As you see in the poll question, it’s awfully hard to rank the top half of this league right now. Syracuse is the clear #1 by a wide margin, but the second spot is up for grabs between six teams: Seton Hall and West Virginia are playing the best basketball but Connecticut, Georgetown, Marquette, and Louisville remain threats. Big East teams always beat each other up in conference, play but that usually happens in the middle of the league. This year, it is happening at the top. One thing is for sure: the race for second place will be an up-and-down affair over the next two months.
  • UConn Hates Jersey: Before Tuesday, Connecticut had won 21 combined games in a row against Seton Hall and Rutgers. After Saturday, the Huskies headed back up the New Jersey Turnpike with two losses to Jersey’s Big East teams. Kevin Willard has his team rolling at 14-2 and absolutely crushed the Huskies on Tuesday night in Newark while Mike Rice continued to show signs of improvement in a 67-60 win Saturday night in Piscataway. As Jeff Borzello put it on Twitter, the North Jersey road trip has become a whole lot tougher. If St. John’s can get back to where it was last year and Seton Hall and Rutgers continue to improve, New York City-area basketball could be on the verge of a renaissance.
  • Seton Hall Ranked?: We will see what happens on Monday, but Seton Hall is on the verge of a top 25 ranking for the first time since January 30, 2001. That year, the Pirates were headed in the opposite direction, out of the top 25 after a preseason top ten ranking. Tommy Amaker (now at Harvard) had signed a ballyhooed freshman class highlighted by the late Eddie Griffin, Andre Barrett, and Marcus Toney-El, but it all fell apart for the Pirates as they finished 16-15 and lost in the first round of the NIT to Alabama. Seton Hall came close to a ranking in 2004, but never made it into the poll. This time around, the Pirates are 14-2 (3-1) with wins over VCU and St. Joe’s on a neutral floor and Dayton on the road, in addition to West Virginia and Connecticut at home. The Hall is in position for a terrific seed in the NCAA Tournament if it keeps up this level of play and Kevin Willard, along with John Thompson III and Jim Boeheim, has to be among the top contenders for Big East Coach of the Year. The Pirates were picked 13th in the preseason Big East coaches poll. 

Good Things Come In Threes For Seton Hall (Jim O'Conner/US Presswire)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (17-0, 4-0) – Marquette put a second-half scare into the Orange at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, but Syracuse made the winning plays down the stretch to hang on. Syracuse remains a juggernaut and an easy (by Big East standards) road schedule awaits. Syracuse already went to DePaul and Providence and has trips to Villanova, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, St. John’s, and Rutgers on the schedule. Quite frankly, that sequence is a joke for a team everyone knew would be at or near the top of the league. I realize this team has a target on its back every night, but the only true road tests for the Orange could be at Louisville and Connecticut in February. Syracuse shot 61% for the game at Providence on Wednesday, placing six players in double figures. No Syracuse player took over eight shots, a testament to this team’s depth and balance. Scoop Jardine had 11 assists and only one turnover in the victory. Against Marquette, Syracuse jumped out to a huge lead but let the Golden Eagles climb back in it. Dion Waiters was the spark off the bench yet again, totaling 12 points and seven assists. The Orange shot only 39% at home against MU, but escaped with the win. This week: 1/11 @ Villanova, 1/14 vs. Providence.
  2. Georgetown (13-2, 3-1) – Let the controversy begin. Truth be told, ten different people could very well come up with ten different ways to rank the top seven teams in the Big East. Despite losing at West Virginia and struggling for the balance of the game against Marquette, I’m moving the Hoyas up to the second spot. Why? It has more to do with the performances of Louisville, Connecticut and Marquette rather than Georgetown itself. After all, the Hoyas did beat a good team (Marquette) this week, something none of the aforementioned three teams can say. The Hoyas overcame a 17-point deficit against Marquette, led by Jason Clark‘s 26 points. That 26 could have been 30+ if Clark made his free throws (6-13 from the stripe). Hollis Thompson also added 16 points on 6-7 shooting as Georgetown shot a sizzling 63% against the Golden Eagle defense. Against West Virginia, Georgetown allowed the Mountaineers to shoot 50% but the Hoyas couldn’t convert from deep (2-14 3FG). Thompson led the way with 20 points, but it wasn’t enough on the road. Regardless of what the rankings may have said coming into the game, I’m not going to hammer the Hoyas for losing at West Virginia, an extremely difficult place to play. Believe it or not, I don’t think Georgetown is as good as its resume. That may sound confusing but I’m not sure Georgetown is as good as its record. However, the Hoyas may not lose again until early February if they play to their potential. A relatively soft stretch begins this week. This week: 1/9 vs. Cincinnati, 1/15 @ St. John’s. Read the rest of this entry »
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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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