Big East M5: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 20th, 2014

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  1. St. John’s has been rolling, winning again in a rout of Butler on Tuesday, but they got some bad news prior to that game. Chris Obekpa, a shot-blocking machine, will be out for between 10-14 days due to an injured ankle he suffered in practice and will miss crucial games against Villanova and Xavier. Head coach Steve Lavin said about the matter: “Chris is a central part of what we do on both ends of the court. Our team will have to step up collectively in his absence.” The team will obviously miss his inside defensive presence, but with the way the Johnnies have been playing, they can still pull out two big wins in the coming week. The team has plenty of depth and God’sgift Achiuwa and Orlando Sanchez can fill in down low as capable replacements.
  2. Butler continues to struggle and Tuesday’s loss was another tough defeat to swallow for Brandon Miller’s team. After leading at the half by three, they were run out of the gym by the Red Storm, ultimately losing by 25 points. The team began conference play with a string of losses, but they were still fighting (several games went to overtime). Now, however, the Bulldogs are getting blown out in nearly every outing.  Zak Keefer takes a look at what has gone wrong with this storied program. Kameron Woods was suspended prior to Tuesday’s game and Rene Castro declared he would be transferring away from the program last week. There is considerable instability within and surrounding this program right now, a major cause for concern. Miller has respect from his peers, but losing seasons don’t wear very well at Butler, even given the uptick in competition.
  3. Villanova took another team’s best shot and responded with a double-overtime victory on the road at Providence on Tuesday. ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan takes a look at the team’s response to getting ripped apart by Creighton for the second time this seasson. As one of the premier teams in the Big East, the Wildcats are often going to get their opponents’ best shot. Jay Wright’s team has yet to lose a game this season to a team not named Creighton or Syracuse, something that should help them a great deal on Selection Sunday.
  4. Villanova’s big win was Providence‘s tough loss. In great need of a profile-boosting win, the Friars fought for 50 minutes but simply didn’t have enough to outlast the Wildcats. A win likely would have pushed them well into the projected field of 68, but instead they will have to be nearly perfect down the stretch if they want to play in the NCAA Tournament. Fortunately for Friars fans, coach Ed Cooley is moving on and ready to keep fighting. He said after the loss: “We can put our heads down and feel sorry for ourselves, but at the end of the day we have to get back up and get ready for Butler on Sunday. I know a lot of people are disappointed. I know our fans wanted to win, everybody wanted to win. But you’re playing a top 10 team coming off a loss. Give them credit. They’re a great team.” The Friars have three very winnable games with Butler, Seton Hall, and Marquette coming up, but their season finale at Creighton could be the one that solidifies a postseason berth.
  5. It has been a rollercoaster season for Marquette and head coach Buzz Williams has turned to a number of different lineup combinations to try to find the players who can consistently score. Paint Touches wrote about the lineup that has been most effective for the team this season. Williams turned to that group on Saturday in a big win over Xavier, but unfortunately, the Golden Eagles followed up that win with a tough loss to Creighton Wednesday night. The lineup is equal parts positives and negatives. Derrick Wilson and Jake Thomas have their bright spots but usually do not contribute much offensively. Todd Mayo and Jamil Wilson are solid offensive players, but they are both inconsistent and prone to silly mistakes. Davante Gardner is the team’s best player, but he struggles on the defensive end of the floor. Together the group seems to fit well and complement each other’s strengths, but Marquette, like Butler, isn’t used to being in this position.
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Big East M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 5th, 2014

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  1. After dislocating his right kneecap, Grant Gibbs has not played in a game for Creighton in nearly a month and is still unsure when he will return. After taking three weeks to rest, he has started to do some light exercise in an effort to get ready to play again. Based on the initial prognosis that he would be out for four weeks, he should be ready to go shortly. In his absence, the team has played excellent basketball, going 5-1 and gaining significant national exposure as a member of the new Big East. Jahenns Manigat and Devin Brooks have helped pick up the load in the interim, but the team is obviously awaiting its sixth-year senior’s return to the lineup. Gibbs knows the Bluejays’ offense as well as anybody and brings the requisite leadership and experience that is crucial in March.
  2. Providence head coach Ed Cooley was selected as an assistant coach for the upcoming Team USA U-18 team next summer. He joins head coach Billy Donovan and fellow assistant Sean Miller on the bench. After hearing the news, Cooley said, “This is special to be able to work with two future Hall of Fame coaches. I feel blessed to have this opportunity to work with and learn from Billy and Sean, not to mention we get to represent our country. It is very inspiring.” Cooley will make his debut as a coach for a national team, but he was a training camp coach last year for Team USA’s U-19 team.
  3. Xavier came into February as one of the hottest teams in the Big East. The Musketeers were bordering on the Top 25 and seemed like a likely NCAA Tournament team. In the past week-plus, though, things have gone downhill as they have lost three straight games. Banners on the Parkway takes a look at some of the problems plaguing the team and some possible solutions. Semaj Christon and Matt Stainbrook are noted as players providing great effort, but Justin Martin and Dee Davis are starters who maybe should come off the bench. Pressing is another suggestion because the half-court defense has been ineffective and it could help increase the tempo and force turnovers. Obviously this Xavier team is pretty good, but it has fallen into a lull and some lineup and strategic changes could help re-energize the team down the stretch.
  4. Georgetown is one of the most historic and prestigious basketball schools in the nation. Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Roy Hibbert are some of the big man greats who went to school in DC. This year, though, the team doesn’t have any start players and thus has had to fight through adversity as it tries to find itself. Reid Forgrave at FoxSports writes about the battle the Hoyas have faced with this unfamiliar situation. After losing star Otto Porter to the NBA and Joshua Smith to academic suspension, the offense sputtered through a five-game losing streak. Forgrave concludes that this team doesn’t have the firepower to make a big run to win the Big East Tournament, but it won’t lose it’s morale either, and will continue to fight all season.
  5. St. John’s continued its torrid stretch last night with a big win on the road at Providence. If you watched the Johnnies’ last five games, you would assume it was a team that would be playing well into March. They may be playing great in early February, but they dug themselves a giant hole from November to January. Roger Rubin wrote about the work Steve Lavin’s team has cut out for it to earn a bid to March Madness. They have eight games left and a few good opportunities for big wins. They welcome Creighton to the Garden on Sunday night and visit Villanova on February 22. Besides those two games, nearly everything else is a must-win. They only have three games on the road, with one of those at DePaul, so if they can clean up at home they should be in good position. It would be quite the turnaround for St. John’s to go from 0-5 Big East cellar-dweller to NCAA Tournament team.
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Otskey’s Observations: Episode X

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on January 29th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball.

Michigan Proving the Doubters Wrong

No team in America had a better month of January than the Michigan Wolverines. Since the calendar flipped to 2014, Michigan has reeled off seven consecutive wins to start Big Ten play and has won nine straight since a two-point home loss to No. 1 Arizona on December 14. Of those seven wins, an astounding four have come on the road in ridiculously tough environments. Seriously, who wins at Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan State in just over a three-week span? Michigan has established itself as a Big Ten contender with a pretty favorable schedule the rest of the way. How have the Wolverines done it? Offense. Believe it or not, Michigan’s 2013-14 adjusted offensive efficiency is greater than the number posted by last year’s Trey Burke-led squad that reached the national championship game. A lot of that can be attributed to the increase in fouls called this season, but it is impressive nonetheless. The Wolverines are shooting the ball fantastically, putting up at least 71 points in all but one of their Big Ten games. Derrick Walton Jr.’s growth has been fun to watch, encapsulated in the and-one that essentially won the game at Michigan State last Saturday. Nik Stauskas’ game speaks for itself and he should be in the running for the National Player of the Year award. Yes, national. (Side note: I love how a guy like Stauskas can back up his trash talk and swag with his game on the court. There are some guys who just run their mouths for the heck of it but Stauskas actually backs it up on the floor. I have no problem with that whatsoever.) Glenn Robinson III has emerged as a steady presence and a fairly reliable scorer behind Stauskas, something that needed to happen for Michigan to take the next step.

Nik Stauskas is leading the way for the red-hot Michigan offense. (USA TODAY Sports)

Nik Stauskas is leading the way for the red-hot Michigan offense. (USA TODAY Sports)

I am a bit concerned about Michigan’s defense which is allowing an adjusted 105.3 points per 100 possessions in Big Ten play, good for eighth in a 12-team league. The Wolverines’ interior defense is not good at all and that’s the place where they miss Mitch McGary the most. That said, all the talk about McGary having such a negative effect on this team was a bunch of hot air from the media who became obsessed with him after last year’s NCAA Tournament. The fact is McGary bogged down Michigan’s offense (without Trey Burke feeding him) in addition to being not 100 percent healthy. We’ve seen the results without him and you cannot tell me Michigan isn’t better. Michigan has been criminally underrated all year long because of the McGary injury combined with a few close losses to very good teams. May I remind you of what I wrote in this very column a week before Christmas. Michigan has always been a factor and it has hit its stride against a strong schedule. The Wolverines are here to stay but really, they never went anywhere. Michigan has been at least top 20 good all year long, now it is a top 10 caliber team.

Do Not Sleep on Louisville

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Big East M5: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 29th, 2014

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  1. Providence coach Ed Cooley is living proof that it’s never too late to positively change your life. From nearly 350 pounds down to 230, Cooley has spent the last six months redefining his eating and exercising habits in order to get healthy. CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander detailed the incredible transformation of Cooley as he battled obesity and dealt with a house fire. He’s done all this while turning his Friars around. Providence is coming off one of its best stretches during the last decade and is closer to being a NCAA Tournament than anybody expected after some devastating early-season injuries.
  2. Are Georgetown‘s problems the fault of John Thompson III or circumstances out of his control? For FoxSports.com’s Reid Forgrave, it’s the latter. He thinks the Hoyas are just one part away from being a good team. That part could be Joshua Smith, who is now gone for the year, or Otto Porter. who went pro. It’s hard to buy that explanation because the talent at Georgetown has slowly declined since Thompson took over in the mid-2000s. He’s had a few stars come through, but for the most part the Hoyas’ depth has seemingly decreased each year. It’s come to a head in 2014 with the injuries and suspensions turning Georgetown into one of the worst teams in the Big East.
  3. Creighton’s Grant Gibbs occasionally blogs on For The Win to give college hoops fans a look inside the life of a student athlete. His latest entry gives insight over the way he bonds with his teammates, particularly Will “Big Swag” Artino. His tales about Snapchatting with “Big Swag” are a nice reminder that these college hoops players are just like many of us were in college.
  4. After Creighton thrashed Villanova for 21 three-pointers, questions about whether Villanova was going to collapse popped up. After all, Jay Wright’s clubs from 2010-2012 were a train-wreck defensively so their performance against the Blue Jays probably brought back nightmares from their awful 2012 season. Despite Villanova’s issues against Creighton, Eamonn Brennan says that loss was an anomaly thanks to two consecutive road victories.
  5. Is it time for Marquette to start thinking about next year? The Golden Eagles are 11-9 and one more loss would probably eliminate them from NCAA Tournament contention. Anonymous Eagle, SBNation’s Marquette blog, writes Buzz Williams needs to cut Jamil Wilson‘s and Jake Thomas‘ minutes. They’re both seniors and they’re both having a negative impact on the current team. Wilson is an offensive black hole–a high usage, low efficiency player–while Thomas doesn’t contribute anything except the occasional three. Anonymous Eagle wants to see more minutes going to freshmen John Dawson, Deonte Burton, and Jajuan Johnson.
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Big East M5: 01.08.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 8th, 2014

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  1. Only a few days after announcing his departure from the Providence basketball team, Brandon Austin has decided to transfer to Eugene to play for Dana Altman and Oregon. The impact of his loss has already been discussed, but Brendan McGair of the Woonsocket Call takes a look at Ed Cooley‘s burden after Kris Dunn was hurt in an exhibition game and the school’s administration suspended two of his players. He points out that Cooley’s job has gotten much more difficult on his quest to transform Providence back into a basketball power. Now in his third year, Cooley has shown he can recruit at a high level but his teams have failed to win enough games to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. As if things couldn’t get any worse after a 30-point pasting at Villanova on Sunday, Cooley’s house suffered some damage after catching fire earlier this week. Luckily he and his family were safe.
  2. Villanova picked up its second commitment in the class of 2015 with Delaware shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo choosing the Wildcats over Syracuse. DiVincenzo has good size and will probably play shooting guard for Jay Wright’s squad. He can shoot the ball very well, has great athleticism, and looks like a good passer and facilitator. He is the second highly ranked player coming to Villanova next year, and he appears to be a great fit as someone who will be able to learn from Ryan Arcidiacono as a freshman.
  3. Big East teams are finally gaining some respect from Top 25 voters. Villanova rose three spots to eighth in the latest AP poll while Creighton is now 23rd in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Xavier also received some votes for the first time this season, as the Musketeers have impressed with recent wins over Cincinnati, Butler, Alabama, Wake Forest and St. John’s. Xavier hosts Marquette on Thursday and will travel to Creighton for a big tilt on Sunday. Georgetown could also work its way into the rankings over the next two weeks with upcoming games against Butler and Xavier. Reid Forgrave of FoxSports.com thinks that the Big East will improve come March and that some teams — Creighton, Villanova — are setting themselves up nicely while others — Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence — are digging themselves holes.
  4. Creighton was able to pull out a tough win against DePaul last night, but the bigger news of the night for the Bluejays was the injuries sustained by the team’s two best players. Grant Gibbs came down awkwardly at one point and was unable to make it off the court under his own power because of what looked to be a knee injury. He did not return and the severity of the injury is still unknown, but he is expected to undergo an MRI today. Doug McDermott dealt with a shoulder problem all night after running into the Blue Demons’ Sandi Marcius; the NPOY candidate finished the game and said he was fine afterward, but he was clearly hurting throughout. Losing Gibbs for any period of time would be a huge blow to the Bluejays’ long-term success, as Gibbs as the point guard runs one of the nation’s most efficient offenses. Over the summer, Gibbs received a surprising sixth year of eligibility so losing him would be a tragedy for Greg McDermott’s team. Here’s hoping that Gibbs and McDermott both recover quickly from their respective injuries. 
  5. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated wrote his annual Stock Report piece, taking a look at 63 teams and deciding whether to buy, sell, or hold each going forward. Davis mentions seven Big East teams in his piece. He is optimistic about all three of the league’s new members — Xavier, Butler and Creighton —  as he rates them all a buy. Davis gives Georgetown a hold as the Hoyas have a tough stretch upcoming, but they have proven capable thus far. He gives three teams a sell, with Villanova leading that group because he thinks they won’t be able to keep up their tremendous play all season. He also is selling Marquette because they have been unable to score effectively, and he thinks St. John’s has been terribly disappointing with its over-reliance on D’Angelo Harrison and several bad losses so far this season. Overall, there were some positive signs for most of the teams and this was a fun read for fans.
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Big East M5: 12.19.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 19th, 2013

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  1. In joining the Big East, Creighton hoped that the better competition and brand-name league would help raise the program’s status, and vault successful Bluejays outfits to more advantageous seeding come March. While the Big East is undoubtedly an upgrade in many regards from Creighton’s old home, the Missouri Valley, the league hasn’t quite panned out as many had hoped thus far. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi only has four teams from the Big East currently in his field, including Marquette, the league’s preseason favorite, in a play-in game. While no Big East team is truly out of the running yet this year, fans would have probably hoped for more from the top of the conference, but today Villanova is really the only squad really making a name for itself on a national scale. 
  2. While Creighton has dropped a few games it would like to have back, the team seems to be building depth behind star Doug McDermottEthan Wragge and Will Artino have swapped positions in the starting five, with Wragge entering the lineup as the Bluejays’ second leading scorer at 12.5 points per game and Artino more effective as a reserve, totaling 27 points in his last three games (after 40 through his first seven). Avery Dingman and Devin Brooks have also stepped up as of late, each filling the scorebook in a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Coach Greg McDermott was effervescent in his praise of the two players, who have made great strides in recent weeks: “Avery Dingman has had three of the best days as a Bluejay as he’s ever had. His last two days of practice and today’s game, he’s shown more confidence and urgency to his play… Devin is getting better every single day. There’s no question from the start of practice until today, he’s our most improved player… I’m really proud of him, and that’s a credit to him.”
  3. Rysheed Jordan was the crown jewel in Steve Lavin’s freshman class at St. John’s, but until the last few games, he had yet to find himself in the college game. Sunday’s match-up with New York rival Syracuse and one of the nation’s top freshman point guards, Tyler Ennis, brought out the best in Jordan, who scored a season-high 13 points. Jordan followed this game up with another strong performance — 10 points and four assists — against San Francisco on Wednesday night. St. John’s is among the most talented teams in the Big East, and if Jordan can break out to go along with established players like JaKarr Sampson, D’Angelo Harrison, and Phil Greene IV, the Johnnies will be quite dangerous in time for postseason play.
  4. Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin has put together an incredibly diverse, eclectic staff with men of all ages and backgrounds, including 77-year old college basketball legend Gene Keady as a special advisor. Keady, who helped launch Lavin’s coaching career by putting him on his staff at Purdue, brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to the group, and players and coaches agree that his basketball acumen has paid off. Forward JaKarr Sampson describes the impact that Keady has on everyone in the program: “Whenever he talks, everybody listens, even Coach Lav. With Coach Lav, I feel like he’s still learning from him. It’d be foolish not to listen to what he’s got to say.”
  5. Providence has been playing this season under a cloud of injuries and suspensions, and it is still uncertain when freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock will be allowed to suit up for the Friars. Without the highly touted Austin, the scoring burden for the Friars has fallen to veteran Bryce Cotton, whose importance to his team grows with every game that his team spends without the freshmen. According to head coach Ed Cooley, he is taking this leadership responsibility in stride: “What everybody has to know is our team has really taken on the heartbeat of Bryce. I have seen him grow unbelievably in the last two, three weeks. Vocally, his spirit, his energy. We knew he’d play well today based on how he prepared. I’m really proud of the man he is becoming. He has grown so much.”
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Big East M5: 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 13th, 2013

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  1. Sports on Earth‘s Will Leitch compiled a list of the 25 ‘best jobs’ in college basketball, and only one Big East team made the cut: Georgetown. In his one sentence recap of the pick, Leitch says “In retrospect, it’s insane that anyone not named John Thompson ever coached this team.” With its academic profile, location in Washington D.C., a strong basketball city, and tradition, it’s hard to argue against the attractiveness of the Hoyas job. While Georgetown is the only team in his top 25, the “just missing the cut” list includes Butler, Creighton, Marquette, Villanova and Xavier. It’s interesting to see the three new members of the Big East on that list, certainly bolstered by the combination of good recent tradition and a boost by the new conference.
  2. One of the major debates about the new Big East is whether the league should be considered a “power conference.” Villanova blog VU Hoops tackled this question, looking at how the league stacks up according to national basketball analysts, including Jeff Sagarin and Joe Lunardi. Sagarin’s most recent rankings place the Big East fourth among power conferences, while Lunardi has six Big East teams in his current NCAA Tournament field. While the conference lacks power at the top — only Villanova is currently ranked in the Top 25 — the top eight teams all look competitive and the league should be well represented come March. Whether that makes it a power conference is probably open to interpretation, but Big East fans have some good basketball ahead of them.
  3. Numerous publications have released “__ most surprising teams in college basketball” lists as we hit the first quarter mark of the season, and Villanova is getting a lot of play in that category. Yahoo! Sports has the Wildcats second on its list, only behind undefeated Wisconsin. Jeff Eisenberg praises Villanova’s strong rebounding despite its smaller lineups, and their tenacious on-ball defense: “Despite often playing four guards and nobody taller than 6’7″, the Wildcats have been effective rebounding the ball and dominant defensively, surrendering a Big East-best 0.89 points per possession and forcing 16.7 turnovers per game.” Coming into the season the Wildcats were generally projected to finish in the top four or five spots in the conference and likely earn an NCAA bid, but expectations are soaring after a surge into the top 10 in the AP poll and all of the big wins that they picked up in the Bahamas.
  4. St. John’s hosts Syracuse at MSG this Sunday, renewing an old Big East rivalry. The game is big for both sides, but thoughts on this game are quite different between the two fan bases. For St. John’s, this game is a chance to avenge a number of bad losses to Syracuse over the last few years and to reclaim the title of “New York’s College Team,” a slogan that Syracuse proudly boasts both in upstate New York and in Midtown Manhattan. St. John’s fans also don’t love the fact that Syracuse’s strong New York City alumni come out in droves for games at Madison Square Garden. On the other side, Syracuse fans covet games in the Garden but don’t look at the Red Storm as a major rival, at least not since the halcyon days of Lou Carnesecca and Chris Mullin in the 1980s. Georgetown and UConn take the top two slots on most Orange fans’ lists of rivals, followed by some combination of Villanova, Pittsburgh, Louisville and the Johnnies, largely depending on when that person began following the Orange. Rumble in the Garden reflected on this upcoming game, and what it means for fans of both sides.
  5. Kris Dunn‘s Providence career has been marred by injury to this point, and he will unfortunately miss the rest of this season after shoulder surgery, the second on his right shoulder during his time at PC. In an article from The Day‘s Gavin Keefe, Dunn’s father John Seldon didn’t seem thrilled by the way his son’s shoulder issues were handled, especially considering that Dunn experienced some discomfort heading into a game against Rhode Island College in early November: “I’m not a doctor and not the coach. I’m just a parent. [Coach Ed Cooley] runs his program the way he runs his program. I’m not mad at the coach… If I’ve got a kid coming off an injury, I’m going to be watching him. The kid came back from a major injury and was healthy. I would try to take care of him.” Dunn hadn’t been putting up huge numbers for the Friars, but he is a major talent and was expected to combine with Bryce Cotton to form one of the better backcourts in the Big East.
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Big East M5: 12.06.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 6th, 2013

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  1. Marquette is struggling a bit this year, having lost three of six games heading into this weekend’s intrastate rivalry game with Wisconsin. ESPN.com’s Myron Metcalf believes that the Golden Eagles and the Big East as a whole could really use a big non-conference win to boost their bona fides: “Marquette is approaching desperation in its quest for the resume-boosting non-conference victories that will pay off on Selection Sunday… A series of mishaps in holiday tournaments diminished the Big East’s buzz. The conference’s contenders failed in recent non-conference match-ups that would have enhanced their respective NCAA tournament hopes/seeds.” Don’t expect this to be the most beautiful game of hoops that anyone has ever watched — Marquette has struggled to score against quality opponents while undefeated Wisconsin is coming off a match-up where they surrendered only 38 to a solid Virginia squad.
  2. St. John’s and Fordham play almost every year, but is the annual New York City game a true rivalry? Rumble in the Garden examined the series, in which the Johnnies have been victorious in all but two of the last 23 meetings. The last few seasons have seen a number of close games, and interestingly enough Fordham’s last win was in 2010 when they overcame two significant deficits to upset a St. John’s team that ended the year with an NCAA Tournament berth. Fordham looks like it may be a feisty mid-major this year while St. John’s has been up and down so far this season, so Big Apple fans may be in for another close one on Saturday.
  3. The intrastate rivalry theme continues, as Providence managed to hold off nearby URI for a 50-49 win last night. The Rams’ E.C. Matthews had a final shot to win the game, but he was unable to knock it down, giving the Friars the victory. Tensions were reportedly high in the Ryan Center, as head coaches Ed Cooley and Dan Hurley had to be separated at one point after Cooley took exception to Hurley’s position far away from the Rams bench.
  4. Seton Hall must be happy to come away with a win against LIU-Brooklyn last night, but not all was positive in South Orange after the game. The Pirates’ top player Fuquan Edwin left the game with a sprained ankle just two minutes after tip-off, an injury that may sideline him for a few weeks. Without Edwin in the lineup, veterans Brian Oliver and Gene Teague were the obvious players for the Pirates to lean on and they performed well. Oliver went 8-of-17 with all of his shots coming from beyond the arc, finishing with 26 points. Teague added 17 points and 16 rebounds, and was a presence on the interior that LIU-Brooklyn struggled to match. Seton Hall will faces rival Rutgers on Sunday for the first time as a non-conference opponent since the split of the Big East, and without Edwin, the team will need Oliver and Teague to continue their strong recent play.
  5. As previously discussed hereCreighton is going through a rebranding of its program in conjunction with the move to the Big East, and they will take another big step this weekend with the unveiling of the new “Billy Bluejay” before the team’s game with Nebraska.  Details have been scarce, although according to Omaha.com, Creighton has described the new-look Billy as “vibrant,” “more athletic,” and released this photo of the mascot’s new kicks.
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Big East M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 4th, 2013

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  1. What was supposed to be a promising season for a young, talented Providence team has gone off the rails a bit as suspensions and injuries have reared their ugly heads. Ed Cooley lost Kris Dunn to injury for Sunday night’s showdown with national power Kentucky, while freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock remain suspended indefinitely. All three players, especially Dunn and Austin, were expected to be major contributors for a Friars squad looking for an NCAA berth, but for now Cooley has to dance with the players that brought him: “I’m going to coach the team that’s on the bus.”
  2. So Feast Week was fun, right? Well next year’s slate of exotic star-studded tournaments should also be a good one. Georgetown and Butler have signed on to play in next year’s Battle 4 Atlantis, where they will have a chance to face North Carolina, UCLA, Florida, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and UAB.  This is the second straight year where there will be some potential for all-Big East tournament match-ups, after Creighton and Marquette nearly faced off in the finals of this year’s Wooden Legacy. Conference realignment is the gift that keeps on giving, it appears. While UNC, Florida, UCLA and the like are tough potential opponents, one Casual Hoya commenter looked on the bright side of this slate:gtown NE atlantis
  3. God’sgift Achiuwa hasn’t made a huge impact for St. John’s on the court this season — the forward is averaging 1.4 points in 7.7 minutes per game for the Red Storm — but he’s doing great things off the court in his community. ‘Gift’ is among 201 nominees for the 2014 Allstate NABC and WBCA Good Works Teams. A St. John’s release further details all of the great things that Achiuwa and the rest of the Red Storm are involved in around New York City:”In 2012-13 Achiuwa and members of the men’s basketball team participated in more than 131 hours of community service, volunteering their time at the St. John’s Bread and Life Soup Kitchen, the San Francisco Food Bank, the annual Red Storm Dribble For The Cure benefiting the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Men’s Shelter and in the Community Mayor program. The 2013 Dribble For The Cure raised $70,000 for pediatric cancer research in the New York area bringing its three-year total to $120,000.”

    While basketball is why we’re all here at Rush the Court, it’s always great to hear about the human stories and incredible acts of charity that so many of these players are involved with.

  4. Butler wasn’t picked by many to finish very high in the Big East this season, but the Bulldogs have done a great job managing a tough schedule thus far. Indy Star took a look at how each of the Big East teams have fared so far this season, and how the Bulldogs stack up, relatively speaking. At 5-2 with the ‘2’ being a two-point overtime loss to LSU and a near take-down of a star-laden Oklahoma State team, Butler has impressed: “Butler accomplished something in Orlando, even if it won’t show up in their season record: They proved they can play with anyone in the country. Simply put, they looked like an NCAA Tournament team, and that’s something few expected to hear about this Bulldog team.”
  5. Villanova is the talk of the conference right now coming off an impressive Battle 4 Atlantis win over a possible national championship contender in Kansas and another ranked team in Iowa. The Wildcats have a deep group of talented perimeter players, headlined by Kansas-game hero Ryan Arcidiacono and swingman James Bell, who is having a breakout season, but Jay Wright believes it is Rice transfer Dylan Ennis who has made all the difference for his club: “He shocked me. He played with great composure. He didn’t force shots. He was really impressive.” Ennis averaged 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists at Atlantis — his first three games of the season — and was especially effective from long range, knocking down eight of his 12 three point attempts.  Nova’s schedule now becomes very Philly-centric, with games against Penn, Saint Joseph’s, and La Salle over the next few weeks, but the biggest match-up for Ennis comes on December 28 when he travels to the Carrier Dome for a showdown with his little brother Tyler, who has been excellent so far this season as the starting point guard for the Orange.
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Kentucky Provides Us With a Glimpse of What It Can Be in Win Over Providence

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on December 2nd, 2013

Brian Otskey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Kentucky’s victory over Providence on Sunday night at the Barclays Center.

By all accounts, Kentucky is still a team finding its identity despite an impressive 7-1 start to the season. “I still haven’t figured this team out,” said Wildcats head coach John Calipari after the game. After Sunday night’s 79-65 win over Providence (7-2), Calipari and Kentucky may have found something that will serve them very well down the road. Led by Willie Cauley-Stein’s near triple-double performance (15 points, eight rebounds, nine blocks), the Wildcats dominated both ends of the floor in the victory. Cauley-Stein’s nine rejections were a career-high and the most by a UK player since Nerlens Noel blocked 12 shots against Mississippi back in January. Kentucky shot a piping-hot 64.3 percent from the floor while limiting Providence to 31.1 percent despite the Friars attempting 19 more shots thanks to a strong offensive rebounding performance and 14 Wildcat turnovers. Bryce Cotton led short-handed Providence with a game-high 23 points in defeat as the Friars played without point guard Kris Dunn (shoulder) and suspended freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock.

Willie Cauley-Stein Dominated the Paint Defensively (credit: USA Today)

Willie Cauley-Stein Dominated the Paint Defensively (credit: USA Today)

Cauley-Stein was the story of this game. It was a breakout performance on both ends of the floor for the seven-foot sophomore from the Kansas City suburbs. More importantly, it is more evidence that this Kentucky squad is full of potential and still has room to grow over the next three months. One particular sequence encapsulated everything Cauley-Stein brought to this game. The big man blocked a shot right at the rim and proceeded to sprint down the floor in time to throw down a thunderous dunk off a beautifully executed fast break that had the partisan Kentucky crowd going crazy. Asked about that sequence, Cauley-Stein not surprisingly said, “I was extremely hyped.” He played a fantastic game and was the main reason why Providence shot just 9-of-42 (21.4%) from two-point range. It was the difference in the game as both teams shot well from beyond the arc but it was the Wildcats who dominated the points in the paint to the tune of 36-14.

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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: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 16th, 2013

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  1. Welcome back to Rush the Court’s Big East Microsite, fans old and new. Basketball season is nearly upon us, which means we are officially in “long, somewhat arbitrary list” season, and there’s no longer list to obsess over for the next few days than CBS Sports‘ top 100 college hoops players in 2013-14. Six Big East players from six different programs made the group. As one would expect, Creighton’s Doug McDermott headlined the sextet, coming in at the #3 spot, only behind anointed Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart. Matt Norlander calls McDermott “the premier scorer in college basketball.” Xavier guard Semaj Christon comes in at #19, Providence guard Bryce Cotton at #66, Georgetown’s Markel Starks at #75, St. John’s forward Jakarr Sampson at #85, and Marquette’s forward/free throw assassin Devante Gardner rounds out the league’s top players at #96. A few commenters argued that the Big East is underrepresented on the list, citing Seton Hall’s Fuquan Edwin and Butler’s Kellen Dunham as possible snubs, but ultimately, these lists in early October mean very little.
  2. NBC SportsCollegeBasketballTalk is working through its team-by-team season preview, and yesterday was all about Marquette. Rob Dauster calls the Golden Eagles the favorite to win the Big East this year, citing a frontcourt which he expects to be “one of the best in the country.”  The big question marks for Buzz Williams’ team lie in the backcourt, where he will have to rely on fairly untested junior Derrick Wilson (13.1 MPG, 1.1 PPG in 2012-13), and streaky senior Todd Mayo in the starting lineup.  However, Marquette’s greatest strength, Dauster argues, is Williams’ ability to manage his teams to fit their individual strengths and talents on a year to year basis, and there’s no reason to disagree with that.
  3. The “best names” lists are not the only places where you can find St. John’s guard Sir’Dominic Pointer. CBS Sports‘ Jon Rothstein included the junior in his recent “Ten Glue Guys to Watch” post along with Creighton’s Grant Gibbs and Georgetown’s Nate Lubick. In discussing Pointer, Rothstein talks about coach Steve Lavin’s nickname for his guard (who, honestly, does not need a nickname): “Costco,” which refers to his ability to give the Red Storm “a little of everything” on the stat sheet. Rothstein also praises Gibbs’ maturity as a sixth-year senior and his clutch passing ability, as well as Lubick’s ability to facilitate from the high post — a key attribute for a Georgetown forward in coach John Thompson III’s Princeton offense.
  4. Normally, Big East teams don’t want to hear from John Cahill any earlier than they have to, but his presence at practice was welcomed by Creighton earlier this week. As the newly named supervisor of officials in the Big East, Cahill traveled to Omaha to discuss the conference, new NCAA mandates, and how the Bluejays can expect the rules of the game to be enforced in their new league. According to Cahill, this season will see far more fouls called for hand-checking contact on the perimeter in an effort to increase overall scoring. However, he does not expect the Big East to lose it’s hard-earned identity as a physical, defense-oriented conference: “The thing that I found in my officiating career is that in the Big East, every possession is defended and challenged.”
  5. Providence fans are pretty bullish on head coach Ed Cooley, and rightfully so. Since stepping on campus a couple of years ago, Cooley has taken the Friars’ recruiting to another level, as GoLocalProv‘s Kevin Farrahar rightfully points out. Where the Friars landed just four RSCI top-100 players from 1998-2010, Cooley has brought eight to campus since taking the job in 2011.  The class of 2014 is shaping up especially nicely for Providence, as it already includes seven-footer Paschal Chukwu from Cooley’s old stomping grounds of Fairfield, Connecticut, as well as highly-rated forward Jalen Lindsay and Delaware product Ben Bentil. This increased recruiting prowess, as well as a more manageable schedule in the “new Big East,” may help rejuvenate the Providence program as it looks to make its first NCAA Tournament since 2004.
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