Morning Five: 12.03.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 3rd, 2013

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  1. Drexel appeared to be on the verge of putting together an excellent season as they started 4-2 with their only losses being close games against Arizona (four-point margin) and UCLA (five-point margin), but their hopes for being a March sleeper took a huge hit yesterday when they announced that Damion Lee, their leading scorer last season at 17.1 points per game, was out for the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Lee sustained the injury in the second half of the team’s loss to Arizona, a game in which the Dragons held a 19-point lead at one time. This is the second straight season that Drexel has lost a significant player to a season-ending injury as last year they lost Chris Fouch to a season-ending knee injury as well (Fouch is playing as a sixth-year senior now).
  2. It appears that Drexel was not the only team to lose a significant player to a knee injury over Thanksgiving break as Houston announced that sophomore guard Danuel House would be out indefinitely after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Unlike Lee, House is expected to return this season although the school did not set a timetable for his return. The injury is still a big blow as House was averaging 15.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game this season albeit while shooting an atrocious 37.9% from the field. Fortunately for the Cougars, they do have a relatively light stretch before their schedule gets noticeably tougher starting on New Year’s Eve when they face Connecticut.
  3. Despite their tough loss at Connecticut last night Florida appears to have the pieces to make be a legitimate Final Four threat if they can get everybody healthy and on the court at the same time. It is beginning to look more and more like that will not be the case. While they are still waiting to hear back about some major eligibility and injury issues, it appears that they will redshirt Rutgers transfer Eli Carter who is still recovering from a broken leg. Although the injury occurred in February, Carter, who was averaging 14.9 points per game at Rutgers before the injury, has played sparingly for the Gators this season as he has only played 53 minutes this season. The loss might be considered a big blow for the Gators who are now looking for a point guard after Scottie Wilbekin went down with a knee injury late in the loss last night, but the decision to redshirt Carter should not come as a surprise to those who have followed his recovery.
  4. We finally have a break in the North Carolina academic fraud scandal and someone has been charged with a felony for his actions. No, it is not an administrator. Instead, it is Julius Nyang’Oro, the former chairman of the much-maligned Department of African and Afro-American Studies at North Carolina. Yesterday, a grand jury indicted Nyang’Oro on a single felony count of obtaining property under false pretenses for accepting $12,000 for a course that had no classes. According to the university, the were able to recoup the money in his final paycheck. If convicted, Nyang’Oro faces up to 30 months in prison [Ed. Note: The AP story says 10 months.] so perhaps the most interesting aspect of the case will be if he tries to work out a deal with the prosecution to testify against the school and/or administrators being complicit in the fraud as a means to avoid jail time.
  5. Usually when Gary Parrish publishes a Poll Attack it typically features a writer we have either never heard of or are simply unfamiliar with. This week is a little different as he uses the space to inform us that an individual we are very familiar with, former Maryland coach Gary Williams, has an AP vote. We had heard about Williams’ new job working with Comcast Sports Network, but we had no idea that he had received a vote basically at the same time he started his new job. Unfortunately, Williams appears to have missed the results of Xavier’s games and Memphis’ victory over Oklahoma State, but like Parrish we will give Williams a break since he is new to this.
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Morning Five: 10.01.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. After initially indicating that they would seek a family hardship waiver for Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez, Miami announced that they no longer intended to seek such a waiver for the upcoming season. The school did not specify why exactly they decided to withdraw their application for a waiver–they cited Rodriguez’s nagging injuries–because although Rodriguez’s hardship seems questionable at best–moving to Miami to be closer to his native Puerto Rico–with the way that the NCAA has been granting hardship waivers we would not have been shocked to see the NCAA approve it. What the decision means for the Hurricanes is that they will most likely be in the bottom half of the ACC this season, but will have Rodriguez available for two seasons to play with Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan, who will also sit out this season and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining when he comes back for the 2014-15 season.
  2. In contrast to Miami, Florida followed through on their request for a hardship waiver for Rutgers transfer Eli Carter, who left the school in the wake of the Mike Rice scandal, and yesterday the NCAA granted Carter a hardship waiver enabling him to play for the Gators this coming season. Although we have been critical of how easily the NCAA has been granting hardship waivers, Carter’s seemed certain given the public reaction following the release of videotapes showing Rice physically and verbally abusing his players in practice. As for Carter’s role on the Gator team, there is no question that he can score (averaging 14.9 points per game last season), but it remains to be seen how well he can play within the Gators system as he was a high-volume, low-percentage shooter (38.4% FG and 32% 3-point) at Rutgers. If Billy Donovan can find a way to rein him in and utilize his scoring ability in a more efficient manner, he could be a significant addition to the Gators lineup, but that could be a big “if”.
  3. We normally do not pay much attention to minor preseason injuries, but the report of a “stress reaction” in Jahii Carson‘s right tibia caught our eye. As the article mentions the injury is reportedly a low-grade one, but given the quickness that Carson relies on it would be a major issue going forward if it continues to linger. According to both Carson and Arizona State, Carson could play on it if necessary, but that does not mean that he would be able to play through it for the entire season. It seems like an issue that most likely will resolve, but it is worth keeping an eye on.
  4. Larry Krystkowiak might have a way to go before he turns around a floundering Utah program, but at least he is making a difference in his community. According to reports, the 6’9″ second-year Utah coach apprehended a local bike thief, who did not appear to put up much resistance. After catching him, Krystkowiak called campus police, who subsequently discovered five stolen cell phones on the thief. After his weekend adventure, Krystkowiak tweeted about the incident comparing himself to Barney Fife although we assume that Krystkowiak is significantly more imposing than Don Knotts ever was.
  5. Following their surprise run to the CAA Conference Tournament title and First Four victory, James Madison was looking at a rebuilding year as they only had one returning starter: Andre Nation. Unfortunately for the Dukes they will be without Nation for the first 15 games of this season after he was suspended for a violation of an unspecified athletic department policy. The sophomore guard, who averaged 9.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last season, showed signs of his potential in the team’s First Four victory against LIU-Brooklyn as he went for 14 points, seven rebounds, five blocked shots, and four assists. Now the team will have to adjust to playing with five new starters to begin the season as Nation is not scheduled to return until a January 7 game against the College of Charleston.
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Morning Five: 05.01.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. One of the problems with the NCAA is its stark lack of investigative power. Sometimes what is obvious to everyone cannot be properly investigated and proven because the organization is a private entity, and as such, does not possess subpoena power. In short, they can’t make people do much of anything that would help punish wrongdoers. They pretty much have to depend on folks stepping forward of their own volition or some kind of whistleblower situation where they are provided clear evidence of illicit activity. Enter Duke and Lance Thomas. Even though it is abundantly clear that Thomas received a loan for jewelry where it was unclear how he could pay for it while still enrolled at Duke, the NCAA was unable to get anybody — Thomas, the jeweler, his dog — to talk about the situation. No proof equals no violation, and if you follow it out to its logical conclusion, that means no negative consequences for Duke — especially for the 2010 national championship team (of which Thomas was a starter). Is it fair that such a clear NCAA violation is unprovable? At what point is it acceptable to apply a standard of strict liability where the preponderance of the evidence is greater than what can be proven? These are the kinds of questions that the NCAA really needs to clarify if it ever wants to be taken seriously by the media and public at large when it comes to these situations. Until then, people will continue to assume an agenda-driven basis for how it metes out punishment, and that’s never a good thing.
  2. The NBA Draft deadline was Sunday night and we here at RTC found time to release our post-deadline Top 25 yesterday. We weren’t the only ones. SI.com‘s Luke Winn came up with his post-deadline Power Rankings, and go figure, but our top four is exactly the same as his. Of course, the big difference is that you’ll learn more about TJ McConnell, Shabazz Napier, and Luke Hancock than you ever knew was possible. As we start to hit the long, dry desert of college basketball news from now until October, make sure you read this one as one of your jumping-off points into the summer.
  3. While on the subject of next season, ESPN.com‘s Fran Fraschilla gives us his take on what some of the more prominent returnees can improve their overall effectiveness next season. From probable preseaseon NPOY Doug McDermott to All-America candidates Jahii Carson, Glenn Robinson III, and Gary Harris, the ex-coach evaluates what these players need to do to maximize their collegiate careers. If you said that Carson needs to figure out his left hand, Robinson should understand screens better, and Harris needs to work on ball control, then you’re well on your way to working for the WWL someday.
  4. The last time a prominent player headed south from Rutgers to Florida, it worked out pretty well for the Gators. Mike Rosario headed to Gainesville two summers ago, and in the interim, he learned the difference between scoring and shooting, found that the game works a little better when he passes the ball on occasion, and became a much more effective and efficient all-around player in fewer minutes per game. Can lightning strike twice from New Jersey to Gainesville? Rutgers’ Eli Carter announced on Tuesday that he too was transferring to Florida, and the current Scarlet Knights gunner (14.9 PPG on 31.0% usage) is hoping to find the same uptick in his game after the transfer. Carter will face a similar backlog in backcourt talent but Billy Donovan has shown that he’s more than willing to give players like him a chance to succeed.
  5. And then there’s this from Lexingtonia. Ships passing, man; ships passing. Next year is going to be some kind of awesome.
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Morning Five: 04.29.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 29th, 2013

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  1. There were so many early-entry decisions over the past three days that we will have break them into groups. The first group will be the guys who left. Perhaps the most notable is Shane Larkin, who is leaving Miami after a sophomore year in which he took his stock from not being on the NBA’s radar to being a potential first round pick. We are not quite sold on Larkin as a NBA point guard–his limitations were exposed in a few games this season–but we do not see his NBA Draft stock getting much higher especially with how little Miami will be returning next season so it made sense for him to leave. On a smaller scale, but probably more important in terms of the landscape of his conference Ray McCallum Jr. announced that he is leaving Detroit after his junior season. McCallum is in a similar Draft position or possibly a little worse than what Larkin is based on the mock drafts that we have seen, but given the information that his father (Detroit’s coach) has we would expect that he has some pretty good information on where he could expect to be selected. Finally, there is Andre Roberson, Tad Boyle’s first recruit in Boulder, who announced that he will forgo his senior season at Colorado to enter the NBA Draft. Roberson’s draft stock appears to be similar to the other two although Roberson’s position in mock drafts has varied more than the other two.
  2. While a trio of players announced their departure from the college game another trio announced that they will be staying. The most significant in terms of the national championship picture is Adreian Payne, who announced that he will return to Michigan State for his senior season. Out of all of the players considering entering the NBA Draft early opinion on Payne may have been the most divided. He probably could have come out and been a first-round pick, but if he returns and improves his game he should be a lottery pick next year. The next biggest announcement was the Isaiah Austin will be returning to Baylor for his sophomore season. Austin seemed to be a fairly safe bet to be a first-round pick so his decision is a bit surprising, but it has been reported that he was diagnosed with a torn labrum, which would affect his NBA Draft workouts, and he clearly has some areas to work on his game so it doesn’t seem unreasonable. We will leave the question of coming back to Scott Drew to work on those deficiencies for another column. Shabazz Napier may not garner the same headlines as the other two players that we mentioned, but his decision to return to Connecticut for his senior season may have an equally significant impact on his team’s success. We are glad that Napier decided to return to school because he was at best a late second round pick although the fact that he waited so long to announce might suggest that someone was putting thoughts in his head that he could have been a first-round pick. Fortunately he did not listen to those voices and will return to finish his college career in Storrs.
  3. Most of the attention has been focused on NBA Draft decisions, but there were a pair of notable transfers. On Friday, Ahmad Starks announced that he is transferring from Oregon State. Starks, who has one more season of eligibility left is reportedly looking at Bradley or Illinois to be close to his ailing grandmother. Starks would be a huge addition for either program and given the way the family hardship waivers have been getting cleared by the NCAA we have no doubt that he would be able to play next season. The other transfer announcement is more of an update as Rutgers transfer Eli Carter has narrowed his list down to Florida and Maryland. Normally we would assume that Carter would have to sit out a year, but after the NCAA’s ruling on the players at Rice and how they received a waiver due to the abuse they alleged at the school we would not be surprised to see Carter and other Rutgers transfers to try for a similar waiver given the video evidence against Mike Rice.
  4. We may have finally moved past conference realignment, but it appears that conferences are looking at creating their own version of Manifest Destiny as the ACC is looking at expanding its brand into Europe by playing games there. As the article notes the entire idea is in the preliminary stages so a lot of work needs to be done, but other schools have played games overseas with some success. Our big qustion is how this would work at the conference level. It works great when teams are playing glorified exhibition games or when there is well-defined revenue-sharing the way that professional leagues do, but what happens when a school loses a lucrative home-game that could be the difference between them becoming bowl-eligible or being on the right side of the bubble. Obviously pro sports teams deal with this issue too, but they have more well-defined revenue-sharing agreements and have a much stronger central leadership structure that allows them to issue edicts that will be followed.
  5. It is a move that probably will not attract much attention on the coaching carousel, but UNC-Asheville filled its head coaching vacancy as it introduced Nick McDevitt as its next head coach. McDevitt, who played for the school from 1997 to 2001, had been an assistant with the team before taking over the head coaching responsibilities when the former coach left to take a job on the staff at UNC-Wilmington. McDevitt has no experience as a head coach so we are withholding judgement on his ability to coach so hopefully his alma mater gives him a chance to prove himself.
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Season in Review: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Posted by Will Tucker on April 26th, 2013

Rutgers went 15-16 (5-13 in conference play), earning the No. 11 seed in the Big East Tournament, where they blew out DePaul before losing to Notre Dame in the second round. Mike Rice declined an invitation to the CBI, marking the seventh consecutive year Rutgers did not appear in any postseason tournament. Subsequently, an ESPN exposé involving footage of Rice abusing players in team practices got him fired and got AD Tim Pernetti shoved out the door, disgracing his athletic department in the process. New Jersey’s governor even called Rice an “animal” and said he should have been fired in November; not exactly ideal publicity heading into the offseason.

Preseason Expectations

We had pegged Rutgers #15, dead last in our preseason Big East rankings, based on poor frontcourt depth, lack of senior leadership and uncertain expectations for transfer big man Wally Judge. Big East coaches ranked the Scarlet Knights #11 in the preseason.

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Eli Carter is not walking through that door for Eddie Jordan (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

The Good

When Eli Carter (14.9 PPG, 86.4 FT%) suffered a season-ending injury in February, his team actually developed a more cohesive offensive identity in his absence. Wally Judge (7.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG) in particular benefited from the opportunity to adopt a more assertive role; he showcased his abilities with a 20-and-10 performance (shooting 9-of-9 from the field) against DePaul in the Big East Tournament. And Mike Rice finally got fired -– does that count? Seriously, a clean slate is most obvious silver lining for Scarlet Knights fans after the former Robert Morris coach won 16 Big East games in three seasons. New head coach Eddie Jordan, who took Rutgers to its 1976 Final Four before embarking on an NBA coaching career, rekindles a nostalgic connection with the program’s heyday, and comes from a professional environment that doesn’t tolerate player mistreatment.

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Morning Five: 04.22.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 22nd, 2013

morning5

  1. One of the key topics discussed in NCAA reforms has been the use of one-year renewable scholarships that some say provide schools to get rid of student-athletes who are no longer fit in the program’s plans. Last year, the NCAA allowed schools to offer multiyear scholarships, but as The Chronicle of Higher Education points out very few schools have moved in that direction. The schools offer a variety of explanations mostly focusing on not wanting to give 17- or 18-year olds “more entitlement” (as if they coaches and administrators are not living similar lives with high salaries, plenty of benefits, and relatively little oversight). As the article points out schools can include a variety of stipulations–both academic and legal–that provide them a way out if the student-athlete fails to live up to his or her obligation. In our opinion, schools should use the option of multiyear scholarships to their advantage by using them as a tool to help lure recruits to their school over schools that do not offer multiyear scholarships.
  2. We cannot remember many players who went from (non-medical) redshirts for first-round picks in one season, but Kelly Olynyk appears to be on the verge of doing so after declaring that he would be entering the NBA Draft and forgoing his senior year. Olynyk, who had shown flashes of brilliance in international play appeared to be a flop at Gonzaga before sitting out a year and returning with a revamped game, averaged 17.8 points on a ridiculous 63% from the field and 7.3 rebounds per game on his way to becoming a consensus first team All-American. Given the depth of next year’s class and the fact that we don’t expect Olynyk to continue on his meteoric trajectory (a fact that NBA team would probably mark him down for) this seems like a reasonable decision. The West Coast Conference should still be Gonzaga’s to lose, but this should take them out of the discussion as national title contenders.
  3. Midnight Madness could be coming sooner than you had previously expected as NCAA approved a motion to allow schools to start practicing six weeks before their first game instead of the prior rule of practicing four weeks before their first game. The actual amendment is slightly more complicated than that as it allows schools to start practicing six weeks before the first game for a maximum of 30 days of practice (essentially allowing schools to practice five days a week on average for those six weeks). The only thing in the way of starting practices two weeks earlier is a May 2 meeting in which the Board of Directors can strike down the measure. We do not see much harm in the measure (it is the coaches job to make sure their players do not wear down as the season goes on) and it should make for a higher level of play early in the season and we think that everybody is for that.
  4. Chris Collins’ job of getting Northwestern into the NCAA Tournament might have to wait a few years, but he should at least field a competitive team next year as the team’s top player–Drew Crawford–announced on Friday that he would be returning for his senior year. Crawford, who averaged 13.5 points per game last season before undergoing surgery for a torn labrum, will not make the Wildcats a NCAA Tournament team it should keep them out of the Big Ten cellar. Perhaps the biggest effect of Crawford’s return to Evanston on a national level will be his decision not to go to Missouri or Marquette, which were the two schools most often cited as potential destinations for Crawford who will graduate in June and could have transferred without sitting out a year as a graduate student.
  5. Unfortunately for Eddie Jordan he was not afforded the same luxury as his top player–Eli Carter–has decided to transfer from the school and was granted a release on Friday. Carter is the fifth Scarlet Knight player to transfer from the school since the Mike Rice videotapes were released. When combined with players graduating this means that the team will be losing four of its top six players. We are not sure if there was anything that could have been done to prevent this (well outside of not letting Rice stay on as coach to terrorize his players), but the slow process that Rutgers is using to officially hire Jordan (he still has not officially been named the coach) is not helping matters.
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Big East M5: 04.01.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on April 1st, 2013

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  1. After 40 minutes of dominating Marquette this past Saturday, Syracuse punched a ticket to the program’s first Final Four since 2003, but Jim Boeheim warned his players that they’ve come too far to settle for anything less than a title. “[I]f you don’t win the Final Four you will be more unhappy than you would be if you lose—if you’d lost [in the Elite Eight].” The Syracuse coach admitted that a berth in Atlanta this weekend was so unanticipated that it forced him to cancel an already-scheduled family vacation, and he quipped, “If I know I’m going to lose I would rather lose now and get it over with and I can go to Disney World tomorrow morning.” “I’ve lost two final games and it’s not good, not a good feeling,” reasoned Boeheim, referring to 1987 and 1996 Finals losses to Indiana and Kentucky, respectively.
  2. The Louisville Cardinals earned themselves a trip to Atlanta alongside the Orange with an 85-63 victory over Duke last night, in a game sadly dominated by the disturbing spectacle of a compound leg fracture Kevin Ware suffered in the first half in front of his team’s bench. Ware’s teammates broke into a scene of hysterical distress at the grisly sight of his leg, which evoked memories of Joe Theismann’s career-ending injury. But the sophomore guard stoically repeated to them, “I’m OK. Just win the game,” while being secured on a stretcher, and Pat Forde credits Ware’s “courage and grace amid terrible pain” with helping his team refocus and play with an unmistakable purpose. That theme resonated in the locker room at halftime, and soon thereafter a 17-2 Cardinals run would quickly put the game out of reach.
  3. Ware’s injury itself stirred up interesting discussions about the finer ethical points of broadcasting horrific injuries, as well as the absence of a “safety-net” in the amateur realm of the NCAA for athletes who suffer such injuries. After two wide-angle replays in the immediate aftermath, CBS elected to refrain from any additional replays or close-up images of Ware’s leg giving way, focusing instead on the reactions of his coaches and players. Conversely, websites like BuzzFeed and Deadspin quickly tweeted links to videos of the injury. And on the NCAA front, Dan Diamond at Forbes wondered whether Ware had been exploited by a system that contravenes traditional assumptions of labor protection. UofL will fit the bill for Ware’s medical bills, but Diamond points out he “has no recompense to file for worker’s compensation” due to the “student-athlete” terminology.
  4. The Big East has now placed a team in the past five consecutive Final Fours, but Kevin McNamara at the Providence Journal contends that the ACC is the real winner of Syracuse and Louisville’s accomplishments. After watching its basketball brand slowly erode around Duke and North Carolina, “Adding Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh next season, plus Louisville in 2014, will revitalize a flagging conference and leave fans of the Big East with only memories.” McNamara notes that a potential all-Big East championship game would mark the third Final Four meeting between Boeheim and Pitino, who split such contests in 1987 and 1996.
  5. On the topic of disturbing injuries, Dave White at On The Banks asks if Eli Carter’s season-ending injury ultimately helped Rutgers and Carter himself. The Scarlet Knights developed a more diverse and consistent offensive character once Carter was no longer dominating possessions, White argues, which helped role players develop into more confident offensive weapons. Next year will present Mike Rice with a watershed challenge, as he seeks to reconcile Carter’s scoring talent with more equitable ball movement: “It can’t be all about Eli Carter. It has to be about Rutgers. It has to be a team game where everyone trusts each other.”
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Five Thoughts From the Big East Tournament: Wednesday Evening Editon

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 13th, 2013

Brian Otskey attended the evening session of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night and filed this report. Follow him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Villanova likely clinched a bid by winning tonight. It’s not that a win against St. John’s gets the Wildcats in, it’s the fact that they didn’t lose and now have 20 wins, including victories against Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse, Georgetown and at Connecticut. Twenty wins isn’t what it used to be but Villanova, in my estimation, has done enough to get into the field of 68. The Wildcats didn’t play particularly well overall but they did what they do best: get to the free throw line and convert. Villanova went 19-of-23 from the charity stripe, making five more free throws than St. John’s even attempted. Jay Wright’s team was +10 at the line in a 13-point win, pretty much the difference in an otherwise evenly played game. Both teams committed 17 turnovers in a sloppy contest that was interesting at times but the outcome never really in doubt.

    Villanova Should Be Solidly Into the NCAAs Now

    Villanova Should Be Solidly Into the NCAAs Now

  2. St. John’s might not even make the NIT. Just six weeks ago, St. John’s was 14-7 overall and 6-3 in Big East play. The Johnnies were being talked about as a possible NCAA Tournament team as one of the surprise teams in the conference. The Red Storm has since fallen on hard times and tonight’s loss to Villanova was their fifth in a row and seventh in eight games. At just 16-15 overall, it begs the question if St. John’s will even receive an NIT invitation. An 8-10 Big East record is certainly good enough (even though five of the wins are against teams that played on Tuesday night of the league tournament) but if the NIT committee is anything like the NCAA committee, conference record supposedly does not matter. It would be a good experience for the (very) young Red Storm to continue playing this season with a chance to get to the NIT finals here at Madison Square Garden, one of their home arenas. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 03.13.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 13th, 2013

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  1. The Big East named Otto Porter and John Thompson III Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, respectively, on Tuesday. Porter was the unanimous choice for POY among coaches, and had been the only unanimous selection on the All-Big East First Team roster that was released Sunday. Barry Svrluga at the Washington Post recounts how unlikely that feat would have seemed in early January, when Porter shot 7-of-19 and had nine total rebounds in consecutive losses to open Big East play. After turning the ball over seven times against Louisville, Porter notched 34 assists to just nine turnovers in the Hoyas’ final 11 games –– a staggering 3.8 A/TO ratio. The 6’8″ sophomore is the eighth Big East POY winner from Georgetown, making the it the most successful program in that category.
  2. Prized recruit Aquille Carr announced yesterday that he would forgo a college career at Seton Hall to play professionally abroad next year, prompting the Star-Ledger’ Steve Politi to question whether Kevin Willard is repeating the mistakes of his predecessors. While recruiting success offered some hopeful silver lining during Seton Hall’s miserable 3-15 Big East regular season, that optimism evaporated in the span of less than a week. Willard’s only other commitment, Illinois shooting guard Jerron Wilbut, was arrested last Thursday for robbery and will likely never step foot on campus. Now with no recruits in the fold for 2013, Politi says Willard “can’t afford an entire goose egg for a recruiting class” if he wants to avoid the fates of former Pirates coaches Bobby Gonzalez and Louis Orr.
  3. CBS New York’s Jon Rothstein maintains that Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti made the right choice in retaining coach Mike Rice, and believes the Scarlet Knights are poised to turn the corner. It takes time to try to build a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1991, and Rothstein cites Jay Wright-era Villanova and Mick Cronin’s Cincinnati as examples of programs that needed four or five years to do so. Moreover, “There is a distinct jump in production when a group of sophomores become juniors,” he says, and Rutgers’ roster boasts seven rising seniors, including leading scorers Eli Carter and Myles Mack.
  4. Cincinnati’s staff hopes to have Justin Jackson back in the fold against Providence tonight, after the 6’8″ junior missed the past three games with an ankle injury. Jackson has averaged 3.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, but Mick Cronin insists, “We need him. He’s an energy guy.  This time of year is when you rely on your veteran players.” On the topic of Cashmere Wright, Cronin admitted that his mercurial point guard is still hobbled by a tricky knee, which is preventing him from exploiting defenders off the dribble. “He’s giving us everything he can give us,” Cronin reiterated.
  5. UConn blog A Dime Back has been conducting a tournament-style bracket of the most historic Huskies in a feature dubbed “The Ultimate UConn Challenge.” The survey’s architects have given it a thoughtful treatment, having “researched, compiled, ranked and seeded 64 of the greatest players in Husky history” over the course of this season. Descriptions of each player display a level of research uncommon to the format, and contain some history that will appeal to inquisitive college basketball fans regardless of team allegiance. Ray Allen, Kemba Walker, Donyell Marshall and Emeka Okafor are the top seeds, while Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are the only current players to make the field.
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Big East M5: 02.19.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 19th, 2013

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  1. Otto Porter was named Big East Player of the Week yesterday for the first time in his two seasons at Georgetown. In the Hoyas’ recent big wins over Marquette and Cincinnati, the sophomore forward scored 18.5 points on 43.5% shooting, in addition to averaging 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. Despite picking up his third foul four minutes into the second half at Cincinnati, Porter made several crucial plays down the stretch, like hitting both free throws to extend Georgetown’s lead to two possessions in the final 1:16. In fact, Porter was a perfect 14-of-14 last week, and hasn’t missed from the charity stripe in the past three games.
  2. As if the loss to DePaul on Saturday wasn’t distressing enough, Rutgers also lost its two-time leading scorer after tests revealed Eli Carter had fractured his fibula and is done for the year. The sophomore guard was averaging 14.9 points per game, represented 22.4% of his team’s total points this year, and is second only to Russ Smith in possession percentage among Big East players by using nearly 29% of offensive trips. Mike Rice warned that the void left by Carter extends beyond the offensive end: “Defensively he always guarded one of the best perimeter guys. He had such a toughness to him and when he was going, we were playing at our best.” The Scarlet Knights lost their first game without Carter last night at Villanova, and it’s hard to identify a likely win on their remaining schedule. Rutgers blog On The Banks put the devastating loss in perspective: “Season over. Another sad, bizarre season for Rutgers fans.”
  3. Of the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry that will ostensibly end this weekend, John Thompson III says, “I still anticipate us playing although it hasn’t been hammered out for next year or for the immediate (future).” It’s undeniably one of the more historic and passionate rivalries in the Big East, as evidenced by the 34,000 tickets Syracuse has sold to the upcoming game, and the fact that Jim Boeheim predicts “the most emotional game for me of any game I’ve ever coached in the regular season.” As much as the continuation of the St. John’s-Syracuse intrastate rivalry is exciting for basketball preservationists, Georgetown-Syracuse is the series that both athletic departments should most urgently seek to extend in perpetuity.
  4. USF’s eight-game losing streak is its longest since Stan Heath first took over in 2007-08. Tampa Tribune’s Martin Fennelly paints a grim portrait of the Bulls’ precipitous decline after last year’s top-four Big East finish and NCAA berth: “They’re 10-15, have lost 12 of their last 13 games and in the two games against Louisville this season, they scored 79 basketball points.” Regarding Rick Pitino’s comment after Louisville’s win in the Sun Dome that Heath is “one or two guys away,” Fennelly retorts, “I think the Washington Generals are one or two guys away from beating the Globetrotters, too.” Heath built enough capital by taking his moribund program to the NCAA Tournament last year to safely withstand a season like this, Fennelly points out, but it has been an utter disappointment for a team predicted to finish in the middle of the pack.
  5. After getting taken to overtime by DePaul at home and blown out by Providence in its last two games, Notre Dame appeared dead in the water when they shot 1-of-18 to open its game at Pittsburgh last night. But Mike Brey drew a technical that seemed to make an impression on both the officials and his team, and the result was a 51-42 victory in what was the second-lowest point total of Jamie Dixon’s tenure in the Steel City. In addition to blowing a 16-point first half lead, the Panthers logged a paltry 10 assists (seven below their average) and failed to score a single three-pointer. They also suffered their worst rebounding margin of the season, as the Irish outworked them by 15 boards on the glass. For a team whose identify is shaped around rebounding, the game was a huge red flag in the final stretch of the season, just when it seemed the Panthers were coalescing into a Big East contender.
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Big East M5: 01.25.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 25th, 2013

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  1. In the words of the immortal Roseanne Roseannadanna, “it’s always something” with Syracuse basketball. This year’s something — or second something on the heels of Michael Carter-Williams Lord & Taylor mishap — is the current academic ineligibility of James Southerland. Details and rumors have been leaking out around the Internet, as they are wont to do in circumstances like this, and new information from Jim Boeheim seems to give credence to one of them“He’s a senior, he has worked hard to be in school, to stay in school – he has worked hard on and off the court. He had a great semester last fall academically. I am hoping that through the process you have to go through that he will be able to come back.” There has been speculation that Southerland’s issues may stem from a fraudulent term paper which is being investigated by the NCAA. While there is always the chance that the NCAA discovers that the NCAA wrote Southerland’s paper and that the NCAA will now impose sanctions on the NCAA, most Syracuse fans aren’t too optimistic about the situation.
  2. Louisville‘s been in this spot before. After running through a huge chunk of its schedule with one blemish against their record, the Cardinals have dropped two straight, the latter being a heart-breaker at the hands of Villanova in Philadelphia. The 2010-11 Cardinals lost to a much stronger Villanova team at the time, but the feelings are the same as they were a few seasons ago – something must change. That team found its leadership in Preston Knowles, who rallied the team following the loss to ‘Nova and led them to the NCAA Tournament. This squad does not have a Knowles to lean on, but it does have a number of experienced veterans who have plenty of wins under their belt. If any team is equipped to handle a down spell, it is probably Louisville. I don’t think this year’s squad will be falling to any #13 seeds in March either.
  3. Many have complained about the Big East scheduling this season and it is justified criticism, but UConn and Shabazz Napier are currently the benefactor of some serious time off. Napier had been playing with an injured shoulder and was not able to provide what UConn needs from its star, and as a result the Huskies dropped two games. After a week of rest, UConn takes on Rutgers at the XL Center Sunday, and Napier should be in much better shape than he has been over the last few weeks.
  4. Speaking of Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights are in a bit of a quandary when it comes to Eli Carter. He is one of the team’s only reliable scorers and the offense suffers without him on the floor, but Carter has gone absolutely ice cold and shot the Knights out of the game on multiple occasions this season. Scorers will go through droughts, and staying aggressive is one way to get through them, but having multiple one-field goal games is unacceptable. The Star-Ledger‘s Brendon Prunty believes that Carter should come off the bench as a spark plug for Rutgers if he cannot be the consistent scorer in the starting lineup that he was expected to be.
  5. Despite recent success, Cincinnati is a long way from selling out Fifth Third Arena on a regular basis, but an increase in student turnout has helped create a spike in attendance from last season. Cincy moved from an assigned seat to a general admission student model that many schools use, set up a loyalty rewards program, and has implemented some creative marketing to help drive student turnout. However, the biggest factor is the team’s success, according to athletic director Whit Babcock: “We’re not satisfied until every game is sold out, but I like the steps that we’ve taken. Mick and the team should get the bulk of the credit.”
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Big East Opening Weekend: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Posted by mlemaire on November 12th, 2012

College basketball tipped off Friday and as the weekend drew to a close, all but two Big East teams have played and only two of them lost. From Connecticut’s shocking win over Michigan State to South Florida’s disastrous debut against Central Florida, Big East fans who weren’t able to get to their televisions this weekend missed a lot of good action. Rather than recap each game individually or only focus on some of the games, we figured the best way to get the uninformed up to speed was with a broad look at some of the best and worst from conference programs this weekend.

The Good

UConn’s Surprising Victory in Germany Represented a Big East Highlight of the Weekend

  • Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie’s debut. The first year coach couldn’t have scripted a better start to his career than his team’s gritty 66-62 win over No. 14 Michigan State in Germany. Not only did the rookie head coach beat a legend in Tom Izzo, but his team played with passion and determination, especially considering they don’t have a postseason to look forward to. The good Shabazz Napier (25 points and zero turnovers) showed up for the Huskies and the defense held the Spartans to just 37.5 percent from the field for the game. Ollie isn’t going to earn a long-term contract after one game, but if he can get his team to play that hard all season, he may win over the decision-makers in Storrs.
  • Jack Cooley’s first game as Notre Dame’s offensive focal point. The team effort wasn’t great and if it wasn’t for the all-around performance of Cooley (19 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks) the Fighting Irish may have lost their season opener to Evansville. The obvious elephant in the room is that the Aces didn’t have anyone in their frontcourt remotely capable of dealing with Cooley’s size and strength, and that will definitely not be the case every week. But Cooley was ruthlessly efficient, active defensively and on the glass, and smart with the ball in the post. The Fighting Irish will need to be better on the perimeter if they want to meet expectations this season, but it is always nice to have an anchor in the post if they need it. Read the rest of this entry »
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