Morning Five: 05.23.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 23rd, 2013

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  1. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Draft lottery for the second time in three years on Tuesday night, which means that the team that selected rising superstar Kyrie Irving #1 overall in 2011 will get a chance to pair another potential star next to him. Will it be Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, or some other prospect who hasn’t yet risen up the draft boards? Whoever it is, and this is a solid mock with explanations from NBADraft.net, keep one thing very much in mind. If you redrafted the 2010 NBA Draft right now — just three years later — the top overall pick would probably be an overlooked athlete from Fresno State who never so much as sniffed a winning season in two years in the Central Valley, Paul George. So no matter what anyone says between now and June 27 (including ourselves), take it with a healthy dose of NaCl. 
  2. While on the subject of George and his Indiana Pacers, his head coach Paul Vogel took quite a bit of heat last night for removing center Roy Hibbert from the game in the closing seconds, allowing the freight train known as LeBron James to power his way into the lane for an easy layup to win the game (beating George badly to his left, incidentally). Still, Vogel appears to be a rising star himself with the way he has developed this Pacers group, but we’re betting that you didn’t know that his dream job was actually to become a college basketball coach. He got his first start by basically begging then-Kentucky coach Rick Pitino for a spot on his staff as a student manager in the mid-1990s, eventually becoming UK’s video coordinator and alighting to the NBA ranks when Pitino left Lexington for the Boston Celtics. It’s a rags-to-riches underdog sort of story, and one well worth familiarizing yourself with. If Vogel continues to play his cards right in the NBA, he may find that elusive major college head coaching job available to a guy like him after all.
  3. It was open secret for most of the week, but SI.com confirmed on Wednesday that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will in fact return as the captain of the Team USA men’s basketball ship for the next three years (which includes the 2014 World Championships and the 2016 Summer Olympics). We’ll have more on this decision later today in a separate post, but while on the topic of international basketball, USA Basketball invited 24 rising freshmen and sophomores to try out for its U-19 team that will compete later this summer in the World Championships in Prague. The most recognizable candidates who will battle for one of 12 roster spots next month are Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon, Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes, and Oregon’s Damyean Dotson. Notably missing from the two dozen players are any of Kentucky’s impressive haul from the Class of 2013, several of whom already have had international basketball experience. But John Calipari says that the group as a whole is itching to get to Lexington and would rather spend their summer months working out to prepare for what everyone believes could be a phenomenal year.
  4. Last week we mentioned that a Brown University player named Joseph Sharkey had been assaulted on the street and put in the hospital with critical head injuries as a result. As of yesterday he remained in a Providence hospital, but the better news is that local authorities have arrested a suspect for the brutal crime, a reserve Marine who served in Afghanistan named Tory Lussier. We’re in no way going to loft unfounded accusations at this “hero” without a full accounting of the details of the night in question, but it’s worth noting that Lussier was already under suspicion for assault of an elderly person from an incident in a Connecticut parking lot last fall. Whether this is the guy who committed such a senseless crime or it was someone else, we really hope that justice is served in one way or another.
  5. There were a couple of notable comings and goings yesterday. In some bad news, Florida’s Will Yuguete had his right knee scoped on Wednesday and is expected to miss the next four months of action. The French wing had suffered numerous injuries during his career in Gainesville, so the hope here is that this particular course of treatment and rehabilitation will allow him to have a strong, injury-free senior season in 2013-14. Up the coast a bit in Storrs, Connecticut announced on Wednesday that center Enosch Wolf‘s suspension for an on-campus domestic dispute has ended. He is cleared to return to the team if he likes, but here’s the catch — he no longer has a scholarship. With the school’s announcement this week of the transfer of GW’s Lasan Kromah, there simply isn’t an available spot left. Funny how things like this work themselves out. Wolf expects to make his decision in the coming weeks.
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Season In Review: Connecticut Huskies

Posted by mlemaire on May 1st, 2013

Despite the fact that there was no postseason at the end of the tunnel thanks to the academic sins of those who came before them, UConn put together quite a remarkable season that should have Huskies’ fans excited about the future of their program. The year started with question marks on everything from who would play in the frontcourt to whether interim coach Kevin Ollie would become Jim Calhoun’s permanent successor. It ended with Ollie as the team’s head coach for the future and the squad winning a mildly surprising 20 games, including a 10-8 mark in Big East play, en route to somewhat of a feel-good story for coach and program. Let’s go deeper inside UConn’s season:

Preseason Expectations

The Huskies were one of the easier teams in the conference to predict but our scribes at the microsite proved at least slightly more accurate than the coaches as we pegged the Huskies to finish 8th, which is where they finished (the coaches pegged them 9th). The expectations were easy once it became clear that the team was going to play hard all season for Ollie. Many figured that their issues in the frontcourt and no prospect of the postseason would put the Huskies near the bottom of the conference. But they also understood that in Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, and DeAndre Daniels, there was enough talent in place for UConn to compete with most every team if things went well — which is pretty much exactly what they did.

Shabazz Napier Was A Big Reason UConn Stayed Competitive This Season

Shabazz Napier Was A Big Reason UConn Stayed Competitive This Season

The Good

First things first, this season could have just as easily gone off the rails if the Huskies couldn’t stay motivated, so head coach Kevin Ollie deserves major kudos for the job he did with his new team and apparently the school agreed because midway through the season UConn removed the interim tag from his position. Not only did Ollie keep the team motivated (they only lost two games by more than 10 points and one was to that Louisville buzzsaw), but he helped the squad become an above-average team on both ends that was truly only hampered by its inability to rebound and defend the post. He has also already proven his recruiting chops and should continue to be a more-than-capable replacement for Calhoun. Napier (17.1 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.4 RPG, 44.1 FG%) became a more judicious shot-taker, an excellent free throw shooter and one of the best floor generals in the conference, setting the stage for what should be a tremendous senior season. Boatright (15.1 PPG, 4.4 APG, 42.9 FG%) also saw an uptick in his numbers, although that had something to do with his more prominent role in the offense and an increase in shots attempted. If he can cut down on turnovers and improve his three-point shooting a bit, there will be little doubt which team has the best backcourt in the conference next season. But the man who showed the most improvement was sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels. A non-factor in limited minutes as a freshman (3.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 34.1 FG%), the Huskies were counting on the uber-talented sophomore to make a leap and he didn’t disappoint, averaging 12.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG while shooting better than 46 percent from the field and turning into one of the better shot-blockers in the conference. Without Daniels, the Huskies would have been lucky to win 15 games this season.

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Big East M5: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 12th, 2013

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  1. Syracuse and UConn seem to be moving in very different directions as basketball programs on a number of levels. Syracuse is looking for another top-10 finish to the season and a high seed in the Big Dance. UConn, on the other hand, is ineligible for all postseason play. Syracuse is moving on to the ACC, leaving behind the shell of the once-great Big East. UConn was left at the altar, wondering what its next move will be. And this week, like ships passing in the night, Syracuse gained back dynamic sixth-man James Southerland, while UConn will likely be without big man Enosch Wolf after an arrest this week. Wolf was charged with third-degree burglary, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct after refusing to leave a campus apartment and getting in a physical altercation with a female resident at 6:00 AM. According to Kevin Ollie, Wolf has been suspended indefinitely.
  2. When he suffered a sprained ankle in the first half of what would become an epic five-overtime game against Louisville, Pat Connaughton probably didn’t realize how crucial his presence would be. The sophomore returned to the game later and ended up playing 56 minutes and contributing 16 points and 14 rebounds in the hard-fought Irish win. Connaughton probably didn’t feel great about it on Sunday, but luckily for him Notre Dame is off until Wednesday night when the Irish will take on DePaul. Ice up, Pat.
  3. Jim Boeheim is old, you guys, and I guess it works for him. The Hall of Famer has noted on many occasions that he doesn’t own a computer, and apparently he just recently got into this whole “cell phone” business, mostly because of his young kids. However, in a shocking revelation brought on by the constant Syracuse rumor-mongering surrounding the James Southerland situation, we have now learned that Boeheim knows what a blog is! And surprise, surprise — he resents them as much as we all imagined he would!
  4. Pittsburgh had a slow start to the Big East slate this year, and a lot of that derived from a lack of production from vaunted freshman center Steven Adams.  However, in recent weeks Adams has really come along with his offensive production, allowing Pitt to go back to a more traditional inside-out Panthers attack. The post presence of Adams and power forward Talib Zanna allows Jamie Dixon’s offense to harken back to the days where Levance Fields was able to feed DeJuan Blair under the hoop. The recent emergence of Adams and Zanna’s solid production opens things up for guards like Tray Woodall, who had to shoulder much of the scoring load earlier in the year.
  5. Rutgers has probably played better than many expected this season, but its 3-8 conference record doesn’t really reflect it. The Scarlet Knights have been in many close games but have so far failed to contain the opposition’s best player down the stretch. This problem came to pass once again in Saturday’s 69-63 loss to Georgetown. Scoring has been an adventure for the Hoyas all season, but they have been able to get by on the shoulders of star forward Otto Porter, who led the way by scoring 19 points (including 10 of Georgetown’s final 12) and grabbing 14 boards. Good defensive teams can remove a singular threat like Porter, or at least slow him down in crunch time, but Rutgers isn’t quite there yet.
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Morning Five: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 12th, 2013

morning5

  1. One of the many contentious points around Maryland’s programs in recent years has been its perceived slight of Lefty Driesell. Many of Driesell’s supporters have pointed out how much more Gary Williams has been recognized by the school despite their fairly similar credentials (obviously, Williams’ national championship puts him on a slightly different level to some). In truth, a large part of this may be due to the circumstances surrounding Driesell’s departure (following the death of Len Bias). Maryland appears to be doing something to rectify this as they will honor Driesell at a game against Clemson on February 23 and then on April 16 will unveil a bronze relief that will hang at the Comcast Center. Given all of the vitriol that has flown through the Maryland athletic department in recent years we hope this will go a long way to repair some of those relationships.
  2. Grantland’s feature on Larry Brown is almost a week old, but we just stumbled upon it yesterday and it’s well worth a read to get a better sense of one of the most complex great coaches the game has ever seen. When Brown landed at Southern Methodist our first question was probably the same as many other’s had for him: Why? We aren’t sure if we fully comprehend why it was Southern Methodist out of all of his potential destinations, but Brown may provide some insight with the last quote in the article: “I just want to be relevant.”
  3. We normally link to Luke Winn’s weekly power rankings, but yesterday Winn showed a little versatility with his analysis of VCU‘s vaunted Havoc defense. By now most of you have probably heard of it, but few have actually seen it in effect. With the way that the Rams are playing there is a decent chance at least one team from a power conference will experience it for the first time and if they aren’t prepared for it you will be hearing a lot more about Havoc in March.
  4. After finally breaking into the top 25 of a few unenlightened polls, Memphis was dealt a setback when it was announced that Antonio Barton would be out for 4-6 weeks after breaking his right foot. Fortunately for Barton and the Tigers it is a hairline fracture, which will not require surgery. Barton, who is averaging 6.2 points in 19 minutes per game with all of his numbers going down with each season he has been at Memphis, broke the foot in Saturday’s win at Southern Mississippi. With the Tigers finally starting to play well late in the season under Josh Pastner losing Barton would be a fairly significant blow, but given his timeline for returning there is a realistic possibility that he could play in the Conference USA Tournament and definitely the NCAA Tournament (assuming the Tigers don’t fall apart first).
  5. Connecticut doesn’t have any NCAA Tournament aspirations this season thanks to their poor APR scores, but they were quietly putting together a very respectable season in year one of the post-Calhoun era and had been managing to stay out of the headlines for negative media attention. That is until Enosch Wolf was arrested on campus ar0und 6 AM yesterday in what has been described as a domestic dispute. As a result he has been suspended indefinitely and will not return to the team “until the legal and university process is finalized” according to Kevin Ollie. Wolf, who is averaging 3.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in greatly increased playing time, is one of the few big men the Huskies have and their only legitimate center. Given the circumstances involved (“grabbed the victim’s hair, pushed her head and knocked off her glasses”) we don’t expect to see him back on the court any time soon.
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Big East M5: 01.02.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 2nd, 2013

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  1. One could say that Kevin Ollie’s first Big East season got going in the wrong directionAfter late game heroics for both UConn and Marquette by Ryan Boatright and Junior Cadougan, respectively, the two teams lined up on the wrong sides of the center circle to begin overtime. Enosch Wolf won the tip, and Shabazz Napier had an open look on what should have been his own basket swatted away by Jamil Wilson on what normally would have been a goaltend.  After reviewing the play, the referees did not count the goaltend for UConn as the Huskies shot at the wrong basket.  However, referee Karl Hess later admitted that after letting the players play in the wrong direction, they should have given UConn the two points. UConn would go on to lose to the Golden Eagles by six, 82-76.
  2. Louisville hasn’t had trouble putting points on the board, as the Cardinals are averaging 78.2 points per game so far this season. However, Rick Pitino is still not happy with his team’s defense. Louisville’s 17-point lead over Kentucky was nearly erased as the Cardinals played tentatively on defense due to foul trouble. That doesn’t gel with the high-pressure full court scheme that Pitino likes to use. Another concern is the team’s interior defense — despite the imposing presence of Gorgui Dieng (out for most of December with an injury), the Cardinals are still only 14th among Big East teams in blocked shots, a number that Pitino would surely like to move up.
  3. Jim Boeheim has been the head coach at Syracuse since the nascent days of the Big East conference, so naturally he has many strong feelings and opinions about the league that he credits for his national championship and Hall of Fame induction. In a two-hour interview with USA Today, Boeheim discusses the past and future of the conference, including the near-”warfare” like atmosphere of the coaches meetings in the 1980s, the Big East media contract negotiations which broke down before Syracuse and Pittsburgh made the announcement that they would be moving to the ACC, and, of course, his future plans to coach the Orange. Boeheim keeps his plans close to the vest and marches to the beat of his own drum, but when he does decide to hang the whistle up, he is confident that the program will survive and thrive under Mike Hopkins - “I don’t have any plans on retiring, right now. Could that change? Yeah, I think that could change. But I don’t have any plans on retiring. I know Mike will be the coach and Syracuse will be in great hands… I told every recruit the last five years that I think I am going to coach but don’t know it. Mike will be the coach. And the (recruits) all came. Most recruits don’t care anymore because they only think they will be here one year.”
  4. Seton Hall was sitting solidly on the bubble last March before a shocking 86-58 loss at league dregs DePaul derailed the Pirates’ dancing aspirations. Seton Hall opens its Big East season with the same road trip tonight, looking to improve on an 11-2 record with a win over an improved Blue Demons squad. While some Big East teams may lack some motivation when playing DePaul, Brandon Mobley and Seton Hall have all that they need: “If playing at DePaul is not motivation, then I don’t know what is… Not only did we lose, we got embarrassed and that cost us the NCAA Tournament. We’re going up there with a grudge on our shoulder.”
  5. In news that is not directly related to basketball but may effect the futures of UConn, Cincinnati, and USF, the three schools who appear to be getting left behind by conference expansion and realignment, Boise State will no longer be joining the Big East in football. There is a good chance that San Diego State, which was also set to join for football only, may follow suit, leaving the remaining three Big East members and their future rivals in an increasingly vulnerable conference. In addition, the Mountain West has reworked its television contract which will give increased revenue to teams who make national television appearances. There have even been rumors that the MW could end up raiding the Big East for a school like Cincinnati. The conference carousel goes round and round…
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Big East M5: 12.07.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 7th, 2012

  1. Some of the speculation circling the Big East‘s media contract negotiations sound fairly dire, but conference officials and commissioner Mike Aresco remain optimistic. While the league expected to sign off on a deal around $100 million in value, the major hits that the conference has taken in both school departures and in the restructuring of the football postseason system has left the Big East very solidly in the sixth spot, behind the other five power conferences. CBS Sports.com reported that the conference’s deal may only come out to $60-$80 million, well short of original expectations. The Big East is now trying to add value by negotiating with multiple potential media partners, and discussing structures that would pit bigger name schools against each other more often in basketball: “The media companies really like that idea, and so do our basketball schools… It’s the kind of thing that will strengthen our conference.”
  2. In order to teach his team the value of defense, Rick Pitino dusted off some DVDs from all the way back in the mid-2000s and showed his team the play of past Cards such as Andre McGee, Earl Clark, and Terrence Williams. Pitino seems to be stressing the zone this year, which has been a trend throughout the Big East. Obviously, Syracuse has been playing nearly-exclusive zone since the mid-90s, but Louisville has started playing more of the defense over the years, and even Georgetown has added the 2-3 to its repertoire this year (to great success). Jim Boeheim has used his zone to give his team easy offensive opportunities for years, as well as to bait opposing teams into strings of bad possessions, and other programs are catching on. Of course, Pitino isn’t the only coach adding some new weapons to the arsenal that other teams have featured. Boeheim put Syracuse in a Pitino-esque full court zone-press for virtually all of the team’s game against Eastern Michigan. Just as one might assume these old coaches can’t be taught new tricks, they steal one from their rival’s bag.
  3. One of Connecticut‘s  major struggles this year has been generating any kind of presence down low. Enter:  Enosch Wolf. The 7’1″ German center had a breakout performance in the Huskies’ loss to NC State at Madison Square Garden earlier this week, scoring 12 points and pulling down nine rebounds. While Tyler Olander and DeAndre Daniels continue to struggle, if the Huskies can get serious production out of Wolf, it takes a lot of pressure off of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, a duo who currently account for 47% of UConn’s total offense.
  4. After only averaging 10.3 minutes per game in 2011-12, Michael Carter-Williams has emerged as a star for Syracuse, averaging 11.5 points and leading the nation with 9.5 assists per game this season. The rangy sophomore has flirted with a triple-double on a few occasions this year, coming one assist shy at Arkansas and three rebounds away against Eastern Michigan. “MCW” has four double-digit assist games, and also averages 3.7 steals per contest. When he was recruited, few knew much about the then-three star Carter-Williams, but he quickly shot up the recruiting boards to eventually become a McDonald’s All-American, and at 6’6″, Syracuse fans salivated at the thought of him playing at the top of the zone. That potential seems to be coming to fruition, and if Carter-Williams can consistently knock down his jumper this season, he may develop into another high draft pick for Syracuse very soon.
  5. Coming off of a poor showing in an 82-49 loss to Florida, Marquette takes on in-state rival Wisconsin on Saturday. Wisconsin, which under Bo Ryan is known for the swing offense, has transitioned into more of a Princeton-offense style team this season, a switch which concerns the Marquette staff. The team was used to seeing the Badgers on a regular basis but will be fairly unfamiliar with how Wisconsin plays this season. They may be without Josh Gasser, but Buzz Williams still thinks that Wisconsin is an extremely dangerous team: “I think offensively, as they’ve figured out how to play without Josh and as they’ve become more accustomed to their new offensive system, I think they’re getting better.” Despite the change in system, Wisconsin still beats teams in the same ways: efficient, well-rounded shooting from three-point range, and aggressive man-to-man defense that prevents other teams from doing the same. A win in this rivalry game would really help take the bad taste from the Florida loss out of Golden Eagles fans’ mouths.
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Morning Five: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2012

  1. Ignorance is no longer a defense. That’s the message that the NCAA is sending to its head basketball and football coaches around the country with its latest proposed legislation that requires much more accountability with respect to rules violations. The new regulations will go in place immediately, contingent upon its expected passage by the NCAA Board of Directors next Tuesday. In a nutshell, the key clause reads as such: “A head coach is presumed responsible for major/Level I and Level II violations (e.g., academic fraud, recruiting inducements) occurring within his or her program unless the coach can show that he or she promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his or her staff.” Suspensions up to and including a full season are punitive options under these new guidelines. By this standard, Jim Calhoun could have (theoretically) been suspended for the improprieties that occurred on his watch in the Nate Miles fiasco a few years ago; or, John Calipari could have (theoretically) been suspended for Marcus Camby’s association with agents. It’s a rather powerful tool that places much more of the burden on the program CEOs to keep their houses in order, and although we haven’t seen the detail yet, it sounds like a step in the right direction.
  2. Recruiting is a bit of a blood sport, but if there’s one hard and fast truth that stands the test of time, it is this. Hot schools and coaches come and go like the tides, but no matter who is blowing up the recruiting trail at a given time, there are about 300 other coaches complaining about that coach’s tactics and/or unfair advantages. At yesterday’s SEC Media Day, Florida head coach Billy Donovan openly questioned whether ESPN’s All-Access show featuring rival Kentucky was acting as a “recruiting tool” and added that he didn’t think such an arrangement is “right.” By way of superb irony, it wasn’t all that long ago that coaches used to getting all the recruits were themselves wondering whether Billy the Kid’s recruiting tactics pushed beyond the norm. And you don’t have to scan the Internet very long to determine that other coaching perks that come with success — such as the ubiquitous Coach K/Amex commercials in March or his relationships with LeBron, Kobe and Durant on Team USA — are an unfair advantage. Sometimes we just wish the coaches would focus on improving their own teams and avoid the sewing circle nonsense, fun as it can be.
  3. Tubby Smith has made his decision on Trevor Mbakwe and it will certainly be met with considerable skepticism regardless of how it plays out this season. At Big Ten Media Day on Thursday in Chicago, the Minnesota head coach told reporters that he felt that the legal system, by placing two additional years of probation on Mbakwe, was a sufficient punishment given that the sixth-year senior had met all of his other responsibilities up to that point (community service and AA meetings). We’ll spare you our personal outrage here other than to suggest that schools always fall over themselves to preach to us that they endeavor to hold their student-athletes to higher standards than the rest of the world at-large; yet, even a one-game slap on the wrist to show Mbakwe that there are consequences beyond what the law requires would have been better than this.
  4. We’re all for creative tie-ins on preseason pieces, and yesterday’s article from SI.com‘s Andy Staples is a great one for anyone who likes to eat. Probably written as much for the media as for the fans (there’t not a lot of road-tripping in college hoops), Staples uses his vast base of travel knowledge to offer up some of the best diners, dives and greasy spoons to grab great food while you’re in town to watch some of the nation’s top college basketball teams. In just reading through some of these places, we’re about to finally put together that long-time-coming November-to-March road trip that we’ve always talked about doing… sigh.
  5. The early practice injuries are unfortunately coming fast and furious now, and several top teams are being affected. UCLA wing Shabazz Muhammad suffered a strained shoulder injury in practice Wednesday and will be forced to sit out the next 2-4 weeks as a result. This could be something of a blessing in disguise if the NCAA ultimately decides to suspend Muhammad for the first several games of his Bruin career anyway. Over at Tennessee, preseason all-SEC forward Jeronne Maymon has reportedly suffered a “setback” in his recovery from separate offseason knee scopes and will not be expected to be ready for the Vols’ season opener on November 9. At Indiana, reserve forward Derek Elston has torn his meniscus and is likely to miss the next 6-8 weeks of action, meaning that the Hoosiers’ frontcourt depth will need to rely on freshmen for a while to support Cody Zeller on the inside. Next, Connecticut forward Enosch Wolf has experienced a third concussion in the last year and will be held out of practice for an indefinite period of time as a result. This is particulary disappointing news for the German native as the Huskies are heading overseas in two weeks to play the first college basketball game in Deutschland and he may have to miss it. Ugh. Let’s cross our fingers that there are fewer of these updates as we get closer to the start of the season.
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Big East Summer Capsules: Connecticut Huskies

Posted by mlemaire on August 2nd, 2012

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

1. It’s official; there will be no postseason play for the Huskies in 2013.

There was only one truly major story that came out of Connecticut this summer but it was a doozy. The Huskies got into hot water with the NCAA because the program’s APR score wasn’t high enough to meet NCAA standards from 2008-11. The NCAA as a result dropped a postseason ban on the program because of its lackluster APR score and the university and the program have been fighting to appeal that ban ever since.  By the middle of July, they had run out of appeals and it became official that the UConn basketball program would not be participating in any postseason tournaments next season. The logic behind the ban makes sense, but it still seems unfortunate to punish the players directly, many of whom weren’t even on the team during the years in question. It also is truly unfortunate to punish the fans of the program. I am sure Storrs will still be rocking when big names roll through town,  but it is going to be tough to stay invested and motivated in your team’s success when you know no matter how well they do, there won’t be any pot of gold at the end of this proverbial rainbow.

2. A lot of pressure falls on the young shoulders of Omar Calhoun.

There Will Be No Postseason For Jim Calhoun And His Huskies Next Season

As if the postseason ban wasn’t enough of a stomach punch, the program also watched as its two most talented players – Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond – left for the NBA; one of its captains – Alex Oriakhi – transfer because he was unhappy; and another key contributor – Roscoe Smith – transfer out so he could play small forward. Needing to replace a lot of scoring and talent, the coaching staff brought in exactly three players. There is 6-foot-10 Philip Nolan who should provide defensive support in the post but is really raw offensively. There is Leon Tolksdorf, another German recruit who at the very least should provide much needed depth to a frontcourt sorely in need of it. And then there is 6-foot-3 combo guard and New York City native Omar Calhoun. Calhoun is strong enough psychically and multi-talented enough offensively to step into a contributing role immediately. After all, he hasn’t even been on campus for more than a few months and already has held his own against arguably the program’s best player ever in a game of one-on-one. But the Big East won’t be a one-on-one scrimmage, and Calhoun will need to learn quickly, because the Huskies need a lot of help across the board especially given the scoring exodus that took place during the offseason. Calhoun has all the tools to fill some of that scoring gap right away, so he should be ready to make the most of this opportunity.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference.

A Look Back

  • So the Big East came back down to earth this past week. It was bound to happen. The conference wasn’t going to boast seven undefeated teams all season long. While Syracuse, Louisville, and Notre Dame won marquee matchups, Georgetown, Pitt, Marquette, Providence, and Notre Dame (again) got knocked off this past week, and Villanova and West Virginia struggled against inferior opponents.
  • Player of the Week: Marshon Brooks, Providence: I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of people around the country that haven’t heard the name Marshon Brooks before because, you know, he plays for Providence. But it’s about time you start noticing this young man. In the past two weeks, there may not be a player in the country in more of a groove that Brooks. Since a 3-12 performance in a win over Wyoming on November 24, Brooks has been on fire, averaging 28.9 PPG and 8.2 RPG, collecting 11 steals and ten blocks, and shooting 55%/83%/46% over a six-game stretch. In the last week alone, Brooks averaged 31.3 PPG and 8.3 RPG as the Friars went 2-1, their lone loss a two-point decision on the road against Boston College.
  • Team of the Week: Syracuse Orange – The Orange’s win over Michigan State last Tuesday has been written about and discussed at length already, but it deserves mention once again. Granted, the Spartans are playing some poor basketball right now, but Syracuse still dominated them in the paint and completely flummoxed them with their zone. The Orange are just as good defensively as they were last season and may have an even better front line than last year’s team, headlined by the emergence of Rick Jackson as a double-double machine. They are still waiting on Kris Joseph to become a consistent scoring threat, and Scoop Jardine still has a tendency to make bad decisions, but the biggest issue standing between Syracuse and greatness appears to be their lack of perimeter shooting. Regardless, no team in the Big East is playing better basketball that the Orange right now.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

1. Syracuse (10-0) (5)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Michigan State 72-58, 12/11 vs. Colgate 100-43
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Iona, 12/20 vs. Morgan State

See above.

2. Pitt (10-1) (1)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Delaware State 70-42, 12/11 vs. Tennessee 76-83
Next Week: 12/18 vs. UM Eastern Shore

The Panthers took a pretty solid whooping at the hands of Tennessee last Saturday. Ashton Gibbs was completely taken out of the game by Melvin Goins, Pitt had no answer to Scotty Hopson defensively, and the Panthers were ineffective in finishing their second chance opportunities. To make matters worse, the game was in Pittsburgh. The tendency is to overreact to a beatdown like this, but I caution fans against doing that. I was able to watch the entirety of that game, and trust me, it had much more to do with how well Tennessee played than what Pitt was unable to do.

3. Georgetown (9-1) (2)
Last Week: 12/9 @ Temple 65-68, 12/12 vs. Appalachian State 89-60
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola MD

Like Pitt’s loss to Tennessee, I caution Hoya fans against getting too worried about Georgetown’s first loss of the season. For starters, it came on the road against a Temple team that is top-25 material, played as well as they have all season on the defensive end, and got a career performance out of Ramone Moore, who went for 30. Georgetown still has a terrific backcourt and still has one of the most impressive non-conference resumes in the country. With the schedule they are playing, they were bound to be tripped up. If anything, that game proved that even Georgetown is susceptible to being taken out of their game by Temple’s defense.

4. Connecticut (8-0) (3)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. FDU 78-54
Next Week: 12/20 vs. Coppin State

The Huskies have slowly dropped in the Power Rankings, as they were second two weeks ago. This may look even more ridiculous considering that UConn has risen to #4 in both of the polls. My defense? Well, it’s the same thing that has been written every time someone has written anything about UConn this season — do they have enough outside of Kemba WalkerRoscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb have been better the last two games, while Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi have come back to earth a little bit. The addition of 7’1 German import Enosch Wolf may help shore up UConn’s woes on the defensive glass, but I’m still not sold on this team.

5. Villanova (8-1) (4)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Penn 65-53, 12/12 @ La Salle 84-81
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Delaware

It’s a good thing that Corey Stokes decided to show up this week, as he was the Wildcats’ best player in both games this week, scoring 34 of Nova’s 65 against Penn before dropping 16 against La Salle. Corey Fisher seems like he is struggling with the pressure of replacing Scottie Reynolds. The skills are still there, as he’s still finding assists and getting to the foul line. His shots just aren’t dropping. He’s too good for that not to change.

7. Notre Dame 9-1 (6)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Kentucky 58-72, 12/11 vs. Gonzaga 83-79
Next Week: 12/19 vs. Stony Brook

Notre Dame’s past week has me confused. Ben Hansbrough carried the Irish to a 38-27 lead late in the first half against Kentucky, but he had just two of his 21 points the rest of the way and the Irish looked completely lost on the offensive end of the floor, going for 13 minutes of game time without a field goal. They did, however, look solid on the defensive end until Terrence Jones took over in the final five minutes. Against Gonzaga, the Irish led by double digits for much of the second half, but allowed the Zags to score 14 points in the final minute and cut a ten-point lead to just two.

7. Louisville (8-1) (7)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. San Francisco 61-35, 12/11 vs. UNLV 77-69, 12/14 vs. Drexel 46-52
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Gardner-Webb

While finals generally signal a slowdown in college basketball, there was plenty going on in Louisville. All in the span of a week, the Cardinals received a verbal commitment from Rodney Purvis, the nation’s #1 point guard in the class of 2012, scored a big win over UNLV, and lost to Drexel amongst reports that Rick Pitino will coach the Puerto Rican  national team. As for the Cardinals as they stand right now, nothing has changed about my opinion of Louisville since they beat Butler to open the season. When this team gets it going — when they are knocking down threes and forcing turnovers defensively — they can play with just about anyone in the country. When they don’t hit shots, as shown against Drexel, they will struggle. The biggest issue for Louisville right now? Their three-point shooters just aren’t all that good. As a team, they shoot 32.1% from deep (219th in the country) but 42.8% of their field goals are three balls (17th most in the country). Their top three in terms of attempts – Mike Marra (27.3%), Preston Knowles (34.7%), Peyton Siva (25%) — don’t shoot it well. Their best three point shooter, Kyle Kuric (42.1%), only takes a little over two per game. Think about this stat — in beating San Francisco, Louisville took more threes (36) than USF had points (35). They missed the same number of threes (26) as points they won by (26). I don’t know what that means, but it is kind of insane. (Note: The shooting stats were taken from KenPom before the Cardinals’ December 14 game against Drexel.)

8. Cincinnati (9-0) (8)
Last Week: 12/11 vs. Utah Valley 92-72, 12/14 vs. Georgia Southern 99-54
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Oklahoma

Will the Bearcats play somebody already? They are 9-0 on the season, but they haven’t beaten anyone in the top 100 according to KenPom, and their only wins against teams rated better than 199th are against Dayton and Wright State. I’m reserving judgment on this team until they get a real test, and that may not be for another month.

9. Marquette 7-3 (9)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Texas A&M-CC 86-50, 12/11 vs. Wisconsin 64-69
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Centenary

Typical Marquette. Their three losses are by a combined 13 points. The same thing happened last season. The Golden Eagles played every good opponent tough, and once they figured out how to win and execute down the stretch, they started knocking off those tough opponents. I’m not worried about this team just yet.

10. West Virginia 7-2 (6)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Robert Morris 82-49, 12/12 @ Duquesne 64-61
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Cleveland State

Did something happen between Bob Huggins and Casey Mitchell? It appears so, because the Mountaineers’ leading scorer managed just 35 minutes combined the past two games. He played only one second in the second half against Duquesne.

11. Providence 10-2 (12)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Boston College 86-88, 12/11 vs. Alabama 82-70
Next Week: None

It’s too early to say that PC is a potential NCAA Tournament team, not with their lack of quality wins. But with Marshon Brooks playing the way he has and Vincent Council and Bilal Dixon looking like they can be impact players in the Big East, this team has to be considered a sleeper to make a run in league play. The Friars open conference play at Syracuse and then with home dates against St. John’s and Pitt. I’ll reserve judgment on them until after those three games.

12. Seton Hall 5-4 (13)
Last Week: 12/11 @ UMass 78-51
Next Week: 12/19 vs. NJIT

Have the Pirates finally figured out how to play without Jeremy Hazell? The last two games, they have won by a combined 52 points and scored an average of 91.0 PPG. This team is playing defense this season. If the offense comes around, they’ll be climbing these power rankings. Seton Hall has talent.

13. Rutgers 7-2 (15)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Marist 64-48, 12/11 vs. Auburn 63-54, 12/14 v. FDU 79-65
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Monmouth

The Scarlet Knights aren’t terrible this season, or at least is appears that way early on. They have a win over Miami FL and knocked off Auburn in a game that wasn’t nearly as close that the 63-54 final would indicate.

14. St. John’s 5-3 (11)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. St. Bonaventure 66-67, 12/11 @ Fordham 81-84
Next Week: 12/20 vs. Davidson

15. South Florida 5-5 (14)
Last Week: 12/12 @ Kent State 51-56
Next Week: 12/15 vs. Auburn, 12/18 vs. James Madison

16. DePaul 4-6 (16)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Indiana State 51-73, 12/11 vs. Ball State 77-79 OT, 12/14 vs. Milwaukee 61-47
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola IL

The bottom of the Big East was awful this past week. St. John’s completely destroyed any kind of hope for this season by losing at home to St. Bonaventure and dropping a game on the road against Fordham (who won two games last season) after holding a 21-point lead. South Florida followed up a loss to Florida Atlantic where they scored 42 points with a loss to Kent State where they scored 51 points. DePaul was drubbed by Indiana State by 22 points (and had just 18 points at the under 16 timeout of the second half) and lost to Ball State. Yuck.

A Look Ahead

Aside from Drexel’s major upset to give Louisville its first loss at home, there are no interesting games played by Big East teams this week. None. The only game that comes close is when West Virginia hosts undefeated Cleveland State, and that is in very large part due to the finish those two had last year. Good luck on your finals, and enjoy your Christmas break, fellas.

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Morning Five: 12.15.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on December 15th, 2010

  1. Quiz time: of conferences which are eligible for consideration in the CollegeInsider.com mid-major rankings, which league has racked up the most wins against teams from the big six? Time’s up — it’s the Atlantic Sun. We dig it when a small conference takes an opportunity to strut a little bit, especially when they provide good evidence as to why you should take heed. Yes, that’s the A-Sun’s Belmont tucked in neatly at 66th in the latest KenPoms, and that is indeed the A-Sun listed in the top half of all conferences at CollegeRPI.com (14th). Another good thing about the linked article is that it reminded us about the names of the two divisions in the Cancun Challenge: Riviera and Mayan (won by the A-Sun’s North Florida). Come on. At least it skunks Leaders and Legends.
  2. We can’t say for sure, but hopefully the folks at Siena take it as a compliment that we’ve come to expect so much from them every year, especially come tournament time. It’s in that spirit that we ask…what happened, here? We all knew it wouldn’t be easy replacing studs like Alex Franklin and Edwin Ubiles, not to mention departed coach Fran McCaffery. Sure, the Saints seem to have taken a serene, trance-like approach to playing defense at times this season, but nobody handicapped a 3-6 start. Mark Singelais of the Albany Times Union details how Siena has decided to put the first month of the season behind them, and proclaim Tuesday’s win over Florida Atlantic as the new beginning to their 2010-11 campaign.
  3. There’s now a Wolf among the Huskies. Connecticut has announced the mid-season addition of Enosch Wolf, a 7’1 center from Germany, to the squad. He’s enrolled and ready to go, eligible to practice on Sunday and play his first game on Monday. Coppin State – the Huskies’ foe on that night, whose tallest player playing at least 20 MPG stands at 6’8 — is not amused. Wilkommen in Connecticut!
  4. If Syracuse’s Rick Jackson looks different to you this season…good eye. Here’s a nice piece from Fanhouse about how Jackson’s lopping off of about 10% of his body mass during the off-season has led to increased expectations for Jackson from his coaching staff and teammates. You can sense the pride that fellow Orange(-man) Kris Joseph and guru Jim Boeheim feel toward Jackson in the way they talk about him in the article. More noteworthy is that you get the same sense of increased confidence from how Jackson talks about himself, his increased responsibility, and his improved skills. Averaging a robust 14.0 PPG and 12.5 RPG doesn’t hurt the ol’ confidence, either. But it’s all cyclical…
  5. We’re among those who really want New York to become a college hoops town again, and New York magazine’s Will Leitch — yes, that guy – has provided a tidy summary of how the NYC schools are doing so far. It’s shocking to see the depths to which Manhattan has plunged, and to note that, even though the Johnnies are limping right now, there’s still a Secretariat-like gap between St. John’s and the next-best NYC team (Long Island). So, even though the Steve Lavin rebuild of SJU is still in its infancy (or possibly still a fetus), all hopes of turning NYC back into the college basketball town that it should be still rest with them. We really want this to happen, no matter which school leads the way, but if it’s the Johnnies, that’s fine with us. Plus, that means we’ll probably all have more Erin Sharoni in our lives (SJU sideline reporter — it’s only a matter of time for her), and that’s just good for everyone.
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