Big East M5: 01.22.14 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 22nd, 2014

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  1. So Villanova had a rough night on Monday… The Wildcats hosted Creighton in a battle for the top of the Big East standings and were immediately blitzed by a record shooting performance from the Bluejays. Creighton knocked down nine straight threes to open the game, led by sharpshooter Ethan Wragge, who finished the game a blistering 9-of-14 from deep himself. Villanova has had a stellar season thus far and it would be easy to chalk up the loss as “one of those nights,” but Jay Wright isn’t having any of that: “I could say that but I don’t believe it. I do know we can learn from what happened, but we had our guys’ attention before. It hurts. The night you go through it hurts, but then you come back from it. The season is a journey.”
  2. St. John’s has struggled immensely this season, and Rumble in the Garden writer Norman aka Pico took a long look at the team’s defensive failings, as well as Steve Lavin’s inability to find consistent, productive rotations as the key contributors to the poor start. Last season, the Red Storm’s defense surrendered 0.98 points per possession through the Big East regular season and the NIT. This year, that number is all the way up to 1.11 PPP in Big East play, greatly outpacing St. John’s o.99 mark on offense. Norman argues that this ineffectiveness has led to a lot of lineup shuffling, and now the team is halfway through the season still needing to find an identity. The Johnnies are running out of time to find something that works, with three games scheduled over the next six days including a January 28 game with Creighton.
  3. Marquette has struggled to score all season, but in Monday’s win over Georgetown the Golden Eagles found two unexpected weapons in freshman guard John Dawson and sophomore forward Steve Taylor Jr on their bench. The two players, who came into the game averaging just over a combined 20 minutes per game, played 54 productive minutes in the overtime victory. Dawson scored 12 points and dished out four assists, while Taylor went for 14 points and eight rebounds. The two little-used players were the second and third leading scorers for a squad that desperately needed a boost in that department. Given the team’s necessity and their good outings, it will be interesting to see how Buzz Williams handles their playing time going forward.
  4. Georgetown has been in a similar, if not worse, scoring drought of late. Outside of star Hoya guards D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks, there are few other scoring threats on the roster, and that fact sunk John Thompson III’s squad against the Golden Eagles Monday. CSN Washington‘s Ben Standick breaks down the gory details: “The starting frontcourt of Mikael Hopkins, Nate Lubick and Reggie Cameron shot 3-of-17 from the field. Georgetown’s bench was outscored 34-8.” The Hoyas, now at 3-4 in conference play, are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years if things don’t improve on the offensive end.
  5. We touched on Ethan Wragge‘s prolific shooting night above, and now Creighton is turning his unconscious outing into a marketable moment. Playing off of Wragge’s scruffy look and epic beard, the school is hosting “Lumberjack Night” for the February 7 showdown with DePaul. Creighton wants its fans to don flannel shirts to commemorate the occasion, and wearing Wragge-style-beards is encouraged. #Wraggebombs for everyone!
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Big East M5: 01.20.14 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 20th, 2014

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  1. Georgetown was once considered a favorite in the Big East, but these days they are just trying to hang on to their NCAA Tournament hopes. The Hoyas have dropped  two straight — 80-67 to Xavier and 67-57 to Seton Hall — and are really struggling to score. Long offensive droughts have doomed the Hoyas in the last two games, and outside of starting guards D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks, there aren’t many options available. Josh Smith and Jabril Trawick have been out for the last few games each, and Mikael Hopkins has been held to two points in three of his last five games. With Marquette on the schedule tonight, the Washington D.C. scorekeeper may not see a lot of action.
  2. Speaking of struggling Big East programs, Butler‘s inaugural Big East campaign has not started the way that Bulldogs’ faithful would have hoped with the team losing its first five Big East games. On Saturday night, however, Butler stopped the bleeding in its fourth overtime contest in six games, pulling out its first Big East win over Marquette, 67-59. Golden Eagles head coach Buzz Williams credits Butler’s culture for the program’s recent success, and says that getting back to “The Butler Way” is a path towards renewed success:

    “Maybe the reason Butler went to back-to-back Final Fours is because of the culture and who was a part of that culture, how they embraced that culture… You can’t jump to a conclusion and say, ‘We’re on Fox Sports every day, we’re sold out every game and yadda-yadda-yadda,’ and get away from how you built it. When you get away from how you built it, that’s when teams typically take a dive. You’ve got to make sure you continue to recruit guys who believe in what coach [Brandon] Miller believes, what Barry Collier is about.”

  3. Bryce Cotton continues to play all-conference caliber basketball for Providence, and his latest victim was Creighton. Cotton scored 23 points and doled out six assists to lead the Friars past the Bluejays on Saturday. Greg McDermott gave Cotton a lot of praise after the guard knocked off his team: “This is by far the lowest possession game we’ve played all year, and Cotton did a great job of controlling the tempo of that game. He’s got the ball in his hands all the time, and it’s difficult to get it out of his hands… He creates a lot of opportunities for his teammates, and he obviously made a lot of big plays tonight.”
  4. St. John’s winless Big East record has to be one of the shockers of the season, and the Red Storm had to be relieved to see Dartmouth pop up on the schedule to break up their conference slate. The Big Green held on in the first half of this colorful match-up, but the stifling Johnnies’ defense led them to a comfortable 69-55 win. Head coach Steve Lavin was relieved by the team’s effort: “The only way we’re going to solve the challenges we’re facing is looking within individually and collectively as a group and trying to support each other through a tough time. Eventually, you make your breaks by sticking to it.”
  5. In the midst of all of the struggling Big East programs, Villanova continues to shine. One of the only missing pieces for the Wildcats is a true post presence, but center Daniel Ochefu has strung together a few strong games in a row and may be poised to add that last element to Jay Wright’s already strong assembly of talents. Against DePaul, he scored 14 points while shooting 6-of-6 from the field, grabbed six rebounds, blocked three shots, and even dished out four assists. If Ochefu continues to get better, the Big East rich may just get richer.
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Big East M5: 01.15.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 15th, 2014

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  1. Georgetown will be playing undermanned tonight when the Hoyas travel to Cincinnati to play Xavier. Joshua Smith is still battling academic issues and Jabril Trawick will miss his second straight game after he broke his jaw against Providence last week. The Hoyas were impressive in their overtime victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, but Xavier poses a tougher test as they are 8-1 in their last nine games after a loss to Creighton on Sunday. Xavier has a very good frontcourt and will likely look to exploit Georgetown’s relative lack of size. Moses Ayegba and Reggie Cameron will have to step up and play more than the 10 minutes they have averaged so far this season. Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera must continue their own exceptional play, but not having their big men to help space the floor will make finding open shots more difficult.  
  2. Xavier lost its first game after an eight-game winning streak, but the Musketeers are ready to face Georgetown after taking away several positives from their close loss to Creighton. They had trouble guarding Doug McDermott and didn’t shoot their free throws well (59%), but the team was happy about the perseverance they showed throughout. Center Matt Stainbrook said, “it [showed] a ton of resiliency and the fact that we can all have short-term memories. You learn from your mistakes, but when it comes to misses or stuff that’s not favorable for us, we have a really short-term memory.” Going forward in conference action, Xavier will need that short memory to keep fighting when momentum is not on their side, like they experienced on Sunday when Creighton was simply unconscious from deep.
  3. Luke Fischer‘s transfer was officially announced on Monday when he began classes at Marquette; yesterday he spoke to the media. He has already begun practicing and assistant coach Jerry Wainwright sounded excited about working with the new big man. Fischer has 11 months until he can suit up, but Wainwright says he will have an instant impact on the Golden Eagles. Fischer will match up against Davante Gardner and Chris Otule in practice, giving the centers a break from each other and a new challenge on both ends. The league has several centers similar to Fischer, but few like Gardner and Otule, so they will have a player to practice against that will more closely replicate games. In other Marquette news, Paint Touches takes a look at the freshmen so far, discussing those who are coming into their own and becoming significant contributors. Cracked Sidewalks has five charts that show why Marquette should be better than it has shown this season. The Golden Eagles seem to be rounding the corner every other game, but have yet to beat a team ranked higher than themselves.
  4. The Big East may not be as strong at the top this season with only two teams currently in the Top 25, but the league has tremendous depth. While Villanova and Creighton have moved up to #6 and #20 in the latest AP poll, the rest of the league may not be ranked but there are no really bad teams this year. In years past, teams like Syracuse and Louisville were national title contenders, but the league also suffered South Florida, DePaul, Rutgers, and Providence perennially struggling to win more than a few games. As of last night, seven of the 10 conference teams were ranked in the top 70 in Ken Pomeroy’s latest rankings, and DePaul was the lowest at #130, a number likely to rise after beating St. John’s. So far, the league has only had six blowout wins, showing the relative parity among all of the teams. This had led to a ton of excitement on numerous Big East campuses this season.
  5. ESPN had a series of posts on the best venues in college basketball, and not surprisingly, Hinkle Fieldhouse, home to the Butler Bulldogs, was included. Eamonn Brennan wrote about the history of the building, including most famously being where the “Milan Miracle,” the game that inspired the making of the movie, Hoosiers, occurred, and the incredible atmosphere in the building. He gives a great description, “You ascend the same blue-tinged concrete concourse to find your seat. You see the same afternoon sunlight shine down at the same angle through the same windows on the same, original wooden floor, the oldest in college basketball.” Hinkle seems to be a magical place as there constantly outstanding games there, including five overtime periods already this season. The Big East has some great venues with the Cintas Center, Bradley Center, and CenturyLink Arena among them drawing some of the largest crowds in the nation.
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Big East M5: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 10th, 2014

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  1. Creighton let out a huge sigh of relief on Wednesday. First, Doug McDermott‘s shoulder injury turned out to be a shoulder sprain. He is expected to play on Saturday and downplayed the injury, a good sign for the stud. Later, fellow senior Grant Gibbs received good news as his scary knee injury was revealed to be a dislocated kneecap. The worst case scenario some were fearing was a torn ACL, but luckily the sixth year senior will be able to play in his final year. Gibbs is expected to be out about a month, returning in time for the final month of the Big East season and postseason tournaments. The Creighton offense has been playing spectacularly and the team will feel the loss of Gibbs, but should survive without him, as several players like Jahenns Manigat, Austin Chatman, and Devin Brooks have stepped up their games this year. Each is averaging at least seven points, three rebounds and two assists per game. 
  2. Georgetown center Joshua Smith did not travel with the team to Providence due to academic reasons. The Hoyas ended up getting run out of the gym against a Friars team that started 0-2 in the Big East. The Hoyas had their worst offensive performance of the season, shooting 39.6% from the floor while committing 15 turnovers. This situation looks similar to the suspension Greg Whittington was dealt after the first semester because of grades, and he ended up not playing the rest of the year. Hopefully Smith resolves the academic issue and returns back to the lineup because the Hoyas need his offensive presence down low to open up the floor for Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who is having a breakout year. 
  3. Doug McDermott is gaining traction as a leading candidate for National Player of the Year honors. With all the early season buzz about the top freshman across the country, McDermott is earning more recognition from the press for his remarkable season. Seth Davis wrote a great piece highlighting him as the top senior and SI.com‘s Brian Hamilton wrote about the star bucking the one-and-done trend to continue to hone his game,  and his relationship with his coach, who is also his father. CBSSPORTS.com‘s Gary Parrish gave Doug a ton of attention this week by looking at whether he will win his first scoring title as well as putting him at the top of his list for NPOY, pointing out the last player to have the numbers he is putting up was Kevin Durant.
  4. The world’s most famous bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, published his latest bracketology yesterday. He has four Big East teams in the field, with Villanova leading the way with a #2 seed. Creighton improved to a six seed and Xavier moved up to an eight seed. Georgetown regressed down to the 10 line after their loss to Providence. Butler was the eighth team out before they lost to DePaul, likely setting them back farther. Creighton and Xavier have impressed and should continue rising if their recent play continues. Seth Davis thinks the league will end up receiving five bids, but the rest of the league’s teams have not been helping their case. As unlikely as it seems now, don’t be surprised if Marquette and Providence make serious runs for berths as both have seemed to turn a corner and have the talent to win big resume boosting games.
  5. Seton Hall solidified their 2014 recruiting class with the addition of Northwestern transfer Chier Ajou. The Sudan native is 7’2″, but failed to see the court often while in Evanston. Ajou has a great story, coming to the United States after being held hostage in his home country. He will be eligible after the first semester next season and joins one of the nations top recruiting classes. The one missing piece for Kevin Willard’s team was at the center position, and he now will have a player in conference play to battle in the post. He has great size and physical tools, and will have the next year to get to know Willard’s system and improve his game. Ajou has the genes as his cousin is Luol Deng, but it will take more than that for him to play big minutes next year.
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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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D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera Ready to Become a Household Name

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 6th, 2014

Markel Starks is the leader; Joshua Smith is the enigma; and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR) is the scorer. These are the identities of each of Georgetown’s three best players this season. In Saturday afternoon’s blowout win against St. John’s, Smith-Rivera fulfilled his role by dropping 31 points on a remarkable 12 shots. It was a big game for the sophomore guard from Indianapolis — not only did he score in buckets, but he also grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists. After watching Georgetown through several games, it’s hard to conclude otherwise that Starks, the senior point guard and unquestioned leader of the team, is the most important player on the Hoyas’ roster. He was the reason Smith-Rivera was able to score as much as he did, by setting him up with clean passes right as he came off screens with enough space to get his shot off. But it’s equally just as difficult to come away from the weekend game without realizing the offensive powerhouse that Smith-Rivera has become and concluding that he’s poised to join the national conversation as  an elite scorer.

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is JTIII's most efficient scorer. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is JTIII’s most efficient scorer. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Smith-Rivera is part of a superb 2012 recruiting class from the state of Indiana that includes names like Yogi Ferrell, Gary Harris, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. Not as highly regarded as his Hoosier State peers, several Big Ten coaches recruited Smith-Rivera but did not make him a top priority. As a result, he decided to stay east, where he was attending Oak Hill Academy, ultimately committing to Georgetown. We need only look at Smith-Rivera’s performance for the season to understand the impact he’s had on the Hoyas’ offense. According to sportsreference.com, he leads the Big East in offensive efficiency (1.27 points per possession) and effective field goal percentage (59.7%). Among conference players, he is in the top five in the following categories: field goal percentage (48.2%), three-point field goals made (32), points per game (17.1), and win-shares (.231 per 40 minutes). These numbers alone would be impressive for any sophomore playing in a major basketball conference, but it is even more so from a player who’s considered a longshot to make the NBA (DSR is listed as the 74th-ranked sophomore at draftexpress.com) due to his physical shortcomings.

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Georgetown’s Big Three Replacing Otto Porter’s Offense Nicely

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 19th, 2013

Georgetown is on a six-game winning streak after defeating Elon at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night. Elon gave John Thompson III’s squad all it could handle after hitting eight three-pointers in the first half, but in the second half, the Hoyas’ “Big Three” of Joshua Smith, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and Markel Starks led the team back from a possible upset by scoring 36 of their 46 second half points. In a previous post on the topic, I discussed how Thompson was using these three players in tandem to replace the loss of Otto Porter by committee. Now that a quarter of the season is complete, this strategy has become even more apparent. While Smith, Smith-Rivera and Starks provide the offensive punch, JTIII relies on his role players and bench to shore up the Hoyas’ rebounding and defense.

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Georgetown’s Otto Porter By Committee Approach

The Big Three accounts for 45.2 points of the team’s 75.5 PPG, or 60 percent of the overall scoring. When Porter left after last season, he took 16.2 PPG with him. This season, Smith has added 13.6 PPG, Smith-Rivera has improved his average by 7.7 PPG, and Starks has improved his by 2.2 PPG; the sum of these is an increase of 7.3 points more than Porter’s average. While the trio has more than replaced their former teammate’s points, they have fallen well short of replacing his rebounding and defense. Last season, Porter grabbed 7.5 RPG and had a defensive rating of 85 (which means he would allow 0.85 points per possession). This season’s rebounding contribution from the Big Three — accounting for the addition of Smith and the improvement in boards from the other two — is 3.6 RPG, which is nearly four rebounds per game short of what Porter was contributing. Additionally, all three players are lacking in defensive effectiveness — Smith is the closest to Porter with a defensive rating of 94.1. The gap in defensive rating may even understate the impact of Porter’s absence since he was used extensively against the opponent’s best player, which is not captured in the rating.

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The Opportunity Cost of Georgetown’s Josh Smith

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 9th, 2013

The last time I wrote about Georgetown, I described Josh Smith as slow and uninterested on defense against Wright State. Nearly a month later, when I watched the Hoyas blow out High Point late last week, Smith was much more energetic on both ends of the floor. He was forceful in the paint, putting down a rim-shaking dunk early in the game, finishing the night with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He made a couple of standout defensive plays too – registering a steal by intercepting a lob pass in the paint, and putting a nasty block on a High Point player’s attempted layup. The problem was that Smith was also in foul trouble the entire night and played a total of only 18 minutes. It was a similar story on Saturday in a win against Colgate — 14 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes of action. The opportunity cost of Smith unable to play starter’s minutes remains the narrative for the talented but enigmatic junior — not just for this pair of games, but for his entire playing career.

Joshua Smith is playing great offense, it's playing more minutes that's the challenge. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Josh Smith is playing great offense but more minutes remains a challenge. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

By all accounts, the transfer big man is having his best start to a season so far and might be the best offensive player for the Hoyas. He is averaging a career-high 13.6 PPG while shooting 70 percent from the field, easily the best such mark on the team. If we look at the more advanced statistics, his numbers are just as impressive. Smith has an offensive player efficiency rating of 121.9 — second on the team only to D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera at 125.1 — and an average plus-minus of +10.8 points per game – trailing Smith-Rivera by only 0.2 points with significantly less time. But as previously mentioned, the issue is not Smith’s effectiveness for the minutes that he’s on the court; it’s getting him on the court and keeping him there. Whether the issue is foul trouble (he averages 7.7 fouls per 40 minutes, and has fouled out of two games) or his stamina, Smith has only managed to average 19.4 MPG through the Hoya’s first eight contests. This begs the obvious question: How much is Georgetown missing in production by not having Smith play starter’s minutes?

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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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Big East M5: 11.22.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 22nd, 2013

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  1. What’s going on, Georgetown? Losing to a good Oregon team after traveling all the way out to South Korea is one thing, but Northeastern? And it’s not even the NCAA Tournament yet? The Hoyas joined the ranks of the upset specials on Thursday afternoon, dropping their first game in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and moving on to face Kansas State, which was knocked off by Charlotte just a few hours earlier. The Hoyas led Northeastern at the half, 36-25, but went extremely cold in the second half, especially at around the 10-minute mark when Northeastern went on a 14-0 run. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera was the only Hoya in double figures, scoring 14 points. His backcourt mate Markel Starks was held to nine points on 2-of-12 shooting. Despite a significant size disadvantage, Northeastern really won this game on the interior. Their forward combination of Reggie Spencer and Scott Eatherton combined for 30 points and 19 rebounds, while the six frontcourt players who got playing time for Georgetown totaled just 26 points and 25 rebounds. Losing to a team nicknamed the “Huskies” which played a lot of zone can not feel good for the Georgetown faithful.
  2. With his team struggling to find playmakers, Creighton coach Greg McDermott has moved to a two point guard lineup, featuring both Austin Chatman and Devin Brooks in the backcourt, and the lineup has paid dividends so far.  Both played well down the stretch in the Bluejays’ comeback win against St. Joseph’s, sparking a 21-11 run. Chatman is a fan of what the lineup brings to the table: “I think this is a good option for us. It spreads the court more and opens things up. It makes it easier to get into the lane and find our shooters, and we have a lot of guys that can shoot it.” As the more experienced of the two, he usually moves off the ball and allows the explosive Brooks to take over at the point. The early dividends have been good, making Creighton a bit more diverse on offense: “When we’re out there together, it gives us more people to make plays on the court. I like playing with Dev. It’s fun.”
  3. Zone defenses have been becoming more en vogue for a few years now, and this season with the more heavy scrutinization of contact on the perimeter, even more teams are looking to implement zones in their defensive repertoire. One of those squads is St. John’swhich used a zone effectively down the stretch in a win over Bucknell. Down three with 10 minutes left, the Johnnies shifted to the zone and held the Bisons to 5-of-16 shooting from that point, securing a 67-63 Red Storm victory. Steve Lavin credits the defensive switch as one of the main reasons that his team was able to pull the game out: “The zone defense was the difference. It took them out of their rhythm and set up the blocks because it kept our bigs at home.”
  4. Marquette, known as one of the more staunch man-to-man teams in the nation under Buzz Williams, may also begin to incorporate more zone defense into its system this year. The Golden Eagles, who were picked to win the Big East by many, have been among the teams most affected by the way the game is being called this season, Williams admitted to Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: “We were fouling with all five guys the way things are being called now.” Between the more frequent fouls called on physical defense, and the loss of a number of big playmakers from last season, the Golden Eagles are a team in a bit of flux, as was apparent in an ugly loss to Ohio State last week.
  5. Xavier has had some injury issues in this early season, and those reared their head once again in Wednesday’s 77-51 win over Miami (OH) when Isaiah Philmore was forced out of the lineup with a wrist injury. Philmore is fourth on the team in scoring at nine points per game and is not someone that Chris Mack can really afford to lose for an extended stretch, especially with a big match-up against Iowa on the horizon. Luckily, the injury seems to only be a sprain, and Philmore’s status is currently day-to-day. Here’s hoping he’s back soon.
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Georgetown is Replacing Otto Porter by Committee

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 14th, 2013

Alex Moscoso is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Georgetown-Wright State game on Wednesday evening.

The Georgetown Hoyas are dealing with some changes this season. For starters, they are in a “new” Big East conference. While they still play many of the same opponents, the Hoyas will have new teams and a round-robin format to adjust to. Secondly and more significantly, they are trying to replace superstar Otto Porter, who left early to become the third overall pick in last summer’s NBA Draft. Porter led the team in points (16.2 PPG) and rebounds (7.5 RPG) last season, and helped them win a share of the Big East Championship. Now, with Porter gone, they are in search of a new identity. It was thought that Greg Whittington would be the next player in line to take the reins. But Whittington tore his ACL over the summer and will most likely not play this season. After two games, Joshua Smith, D’Vauntes Rivera-Smith and Markel Starks have emerged as the candidates most likely to fill Porter’s shoes, even if by committee. In order to do so, they will need to foster enough chemistry between them to become a consistently effective offense.

D'Vauntes Rivera-Smith will be part of a triumvirate leading the Hoyas offense this season.

D’Vauntes Rivera-Smith will be part of a triumvirate leading the Hoyas offense this season.

In his first game for the Hoyas, a loss to Oregon in South Korea, Smith made his presence known on the block by erupting for 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting. But in last night’s game against Wright State, Smith looked more like his old UCLA self — slow and uninterested. He ended his night with only six points. What may be more worrisome is that in both contests he only managed to grab four rebounds per game and was a liability on defense. Rivera-Smith, on the other hand, had the inverse problem. Against Oregon, his shooting was ice-cold as he went 2-of-10 from the field and 0-of-5 from deep. Last night, he was simply unconscious. Smith-Rivera scored 25 points by shooting 8-of-12 from the field including three bombs from deep. However, it has been the senior point guard Starks who has been the Hoyas’ steady hand. Starks has scored 16 and 23 points and dished out four and six assists in both games, respectively.

The loss of Whittington and Smith’s weaknesses on the defensive end means this team will have to rely on their offense to win games. This should not be a problem as the trio complements each other well. Smith’s soft touch and great hands not only make him effective on the block, but they also make him a superb passer for a big man. When he is double-teamed, he is easily able to kick the ball out to Smith-Rivera in the perimeter or hit Starks running the baseline from the weak side. If these three can find their timing and rhythm with one another to the point where they’re all consistently producing in the scoring column, they have enough pieces around them to get John Thompson III his fourth Big East title this season.

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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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