Seton Hall’s Fishy Recruiting Tactics

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 20th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

There will be some measure of disbelief the first time you see it. Don’t hesitate to look, just know that when you start scratching your head, trying to think of an explanation, your eyes do not deceive you: the above link takes you directly to a list of Seton Hall’s 2014 recruiting class, which now counts three top-100 commitments, including Thursday’s huge addition: Lincoln High School (NY) shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead, a consensus five-star prospect ranked well within the top 40 of any recruiting database, ended his high profile recruitment Thursday when he committed to the Pirates. Whitehead, an explosive 6-foot-3 shooting guard with possible one-and-done designs, received offers from Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, UCLA, Syracuse, and other big-name high-major programs. Before Thursday’s decision, Whitehead was believed to have narrowed his lengthy list to two schools: St. Johns (who Whitehead visited Wednesday, and thus the school many expected Whitehead to choose) and Seton Hall. As word of the five-star guard’s announcement circulated, it was easy for one’s mind to wander: what led Whitehead to choose Seton Hall, a long-dormant program under Kevin Willard, over the Steve Lavin-led Red Storm? Was there something behind Whitehead’s decision not made apparent at his announcement? That seemed to be the implication from a New York Post report divulging the imminent hiring of Dwayne “Tiny” Morton, Whitehead’s middle school teacher and high school coach (and founder of Juice All-Stars, Whitehead’s AAU team), to Seton Hall’s staff. The sequence of events did not really leave much room for interpretation: Whitehead appeared to be a “package” deal.

If Seton Hall can't compete with top programs for high-level recruits, bundling players assistants is a legal, yet questionable, workaround (Photo credit: Under Armour/Mary Kline)

If Seton Hall can’t compete with top programs for high-level recruits, bundling players assistants is a legal, yet questionable, workaround (Photo credit: Under Armour/Kelly Kline)

I’ll answer the question that surely popped into your brain sometime over the last five seconds: No, there is nothing illegal about Seton Hall’s reported decision to hire Morton. The NCAA instituted a rule last season prohibiting the hiring of third-parties connected to recruits to any position other than one of the three assistant spots allotted to each team. Morton is expected to become one of the Pirates’ three assistants, making his new position perfectly valid – in the eyes of the NCAA. How the rest of the college hoop world (fans, rival coaches, and players) feel about this is another story entirely. Before you make a conclusive judgment, there is a pattern of repeated behavior worth discussing that might influence your opinion. Whitehead may be the latest package deal in Seton Hall’s 2014 class, but he’s not the only one. It was just over a month ago that 2014 four-star forward Angel Delgado’s commitment to Seton Hall was followed weeks later by the Pirates’ hiring of Oliver Antigua, who knew Delgado through his assistant’s role on the national program of Delgado’s native Dominican Republic. Or go back five months earlier, when 2013 point guard Jaren Sina – who reneged on his verbal commitment to Northwestern after the Wildcats replaced former coach Bill Carmody with Chris Collins – opted to join Seton Hall right around the time Fred Hill, a former Northwestern assistant instrumental to the New Jersey-based Sina’s initial commitment to the Wildcats, was added to the Pirates’ staff. That makes Morton’s potential addition Seton Hall’s third prospect-tethered hire under Willard over the past six months.

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Season In Review: Seton Hall Pirates

Posted by mlemaire on April 26th, 2013

Having lost their two best players in point guard Jordan Theodore and burly forward Herb Pope, the Pirates were not expected to make a lot of noise in the Big East this season and it became quickly apparent that Kevin Willard‘s team was not only less talented but also severely undermanned against the rest of the conference. The team finished the season 15-18 and a dismal 3-15 in conference play with two of those wins coming against the teams that finished behind them in the conference standings (South Florida and DePaul). None of this was surprising to those who followed the team and knew that the Pirates would struggle mightily to replace the production of Pope and Theodore, but if they had been slightly more competitive, it would have at least given Willard something to point to as far as improvement goes. Let’s dive a bit deeper into why Seton Hall wasn’t able to right the ship this season.

Fuquan Edwin Emerged As A Big-Time Big East Player, But He Was The Only One.

Fuquan Edwin Emerged As A Big-Time Big East Player, But He Was The Only One.

The Good

When your best win as a team was either a four-point win over Wake Forest or a one-point win over Villanova, it can be hard to find positives in what quickly became a lost season. But there were some individual positives, such as the play of junior guard Fuquan Edwin, who was always one of the best defenders in the conference but actually emerged as a versatile and dangerous offensive threat for the Pirates this season. Sophomore guard Aaron Cosby became a dangerous outside shooter and important offensive cog, and before his season ended prematurely thanks to shoulder surgery, sophomore forward Brandon Mobley was putting together a solid season and should be an important piece to next year’s team. Despite falling drastically in both offensive and defensive efficiency this season, the Pirates were still relatively judicious shot-takers and they were also an above-average defensive team, at least when they played inspired basketball.

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Summer School in the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 16th, 2010


Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Around The Big East:

  • NCAA Sanctions: From a basketball perspective, the biggest story in the Big East this summer was up at UConn. The Huskies received a notice of allegations from the NCAA in May, informing them of eight major violations in the recruitment of Nate Miles. UConn will find out its final punishment from the NCAA in October, but the violations have already cost them two assistants — Beau Archibald and Brad Sellers, the son of former Husky star Rod Sellers. Jim Calhoun avoided the heavy artillery — getting grazed with a citation for “failure to monitor” the program, which is ironically what the best coaches need to do to succeed.
  • Coaches: The NCAA infractions weren’t the only reason Calhoun was in the news. Ailing health as he nears 70, impending NCAA sanctions, a team that is going to need some rebuilding, and the fact his contract was up made many believe Calhoun would hang ‘em up this summer. Wrong. He signed a five-year deal instead.  Calhoun had far from the worst summer for coaches in the Big East. Rick Pitino let the world — and every single opposing student section — know about his 15-second tryst on a restaurant table with one Karen Sypher. Bob Huggins fell, a result of being in Vegas the medicine he took on an empty stomach making him light-headed, and broke seven ribs. Fred Hill was run out of Rutgers, in part because he lost it on the Pittsburgh baseball team’s coaching staff. Through all of that, perhaps the worst summer was had by Bobby Gonzalez, who lost his job at Seton Hall, had the entire episode come out in the New York Timessued his former employer, was unable to receive credentials at the NBA Draft, and then find himself arrested for attempting to steal a $1,400 man-purse satchel. The three new coaches to the conference: Oliver Purnell left Clemson for DePaul; Mike Rice left Robert Morris to fill in for Hill at Rutgers; and Kevin Willard left Iona and took Gonzo’s spot at Seton Hall.
  • LOIs: Three Big East teams made headlines for issues with recruits signing LOIs. DePaul initially refused to release Walter Pitchford, Jr., from his LOI. He signed with Jerry Wainwright, who was at DePaul before Purnell was tabbed. After appealing both the school and the NCAA, DePaul finally released Pitchford. The same thing is currently happening to Joseph Young at Providence, who as of this writing has not yet been granted a release by the Friars. At MarquetteDJ Newbill was dropped from his LOI when Buzz Williams had the opportunity to bring in former top 100 recruit Jamil Wilson, a transfer from Oregon. All in all, Big East members did not shine bright this summer.
  • Back to Providence: Man oh man, did they have a rough summer. Two freshmen kicked out of school for beating up a student. Their star, Greedy Peterson, thrown off the team. Another player arrested.  Did Keno Davis have this much trouble in mind when he took the job two years ago?
  • Seton Hall Didn’t Fare Much Better: Aside from their coach being kicked to the curb, the Pirates had their best big man spend nearly a month in the hospital because he collapsed after finishing a workouts and saw Robert “Sticks” Mitchell get arrested for (get this) robbing eight people at gunpoint just two days after being kicked off the team.

Villanova stumbled towards the finish line last season. This year, Jay Wright’s troops are Rob Dauster’s favorites to take the Big East in 2010-11.

Power Rankings:

  1. Villanova: While the Wildcats lose All-American Scottie Reynolds, Jay Wright‘s club (as always) will be more than fine in the backcourt. Corey Fisher, fresh off an alleged 105-point performance in a Bronx summer league, and Maalik Wayns will be as dynamic as any backcourt in the country and should be able to thrive in Scottie’s absence. Corey Stokes is still going to be a lights out shooter. Dominic Cheek and James Bell will be dangerous on the wings. Up front, the five-man rotation of Antonio Pena, Mouph Yarou, Isaiah Armwood, Maurice Sutton, and JayVaughn Pinkston gives Villanova a very deep, very talented roster for the upcoming season. The Wildcats should compete for the Big East title and, depending on how well some players develop (Armwood, Cheek, Wayns, Yarou) and how good a couple of freshmen are (Bell, Pinkston), Nova could very well make a run at the Final Four.
  2. Pittsburgh: The Panthers were the surprise of the Big East last season, and with the majority of their roster coming back this season, its tough to envision Pitt falling off. Pitt has almost reached the level of a Wisconsin — no matter who is on their roster, this is a team that is disciplined and well-coached to the point that they are always going to be competitive. As always, expect a gritty, defensive-minded team from the Panthers. An already-solid back court of Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Travon Woodall will be bolstered by the addition of freshmen Isaiah Epps, JJ Moore and Cameron Wright, as well as Lamar Patterson finally getting healthy. Gilbert Brown, who missed the first half of last season due to academic issues, will be back at the small forward spot. Brown had an inconsistent season in 2010, but showed flashes of some serious potential. Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson will bolster the front line, but the real x-factor on this team is going to be sophomore Dante Taylor. Taylor was one of the most highly-touted recruits last year, but it took him awhile to adjust to the Big East. If Taylor can live up to his promise, Pitt is a potential Final Four team. If not, this is still a club that will be competing for a league title.
  3. Syracuse: It is easy to look at the Orange and think that, with the players they lost (Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku), they will be down next season. Well, they might not win a Big East title, but they certainly will be in the mix atop the conference standings. Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine will anchor the backcourt, with freshman Dion Waiters providing an offensive spark as an off-guard. Kris Joseph should blossom into a dangerous weapon as a slasher on the wing, and if he can add some strength and a jumper this summer, could very well be in the running as a first-team all-Big East selection. Rick Jackson will be paired with Fab Melo, who Jim Boeheim has been raving about (he raved about Johnson last summer, and look how that turned out), in the frontcourt. With guys like CJ Fair, Mookie Jones, James Southerland and DaShonte Riley providing minutes off the bench, there is no doubt Syracuse will be a good team. How good — borderline top-25 or a potential Big East champ — remains to be seen. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 05.03.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 2nd, 2010

  1. There have been several more comings and goings in the coaching ranks over the last few days.  Two Ivy League schools filled head coaching positions, with Cornell replacing Steve Donahue with Virginia Tech assistant Bill Courtney, and Columbia replacing Joe Jones with St. Mary’s assistant Kyle Smith.  In other vacant head coaching positions, Rutgers is expected to name a coach to replace the embattled Fred Hill sometime this week, and ESPN commentator Fran Fraschilla and Robert Morris’ Mike Rice are alleged to be the co-leaders.  In contract extension news, Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan is now signed through 2015 in Madison and the long-awaited extension for UConn’s Jim Calhoun is supposedly near-completion despite rampant rumors of NCAA violations on the horizon.
  2. New Hofstra head coach Tim Welsh is off to a troubling start in his new job when he was found sleeping at the wheel of his Lexus early Friday morning with a blood alcohol level of 0.18.  He pleaded not guilty to the charge of DWI and expressed deep regrets for his transgression but the school has suspended him indefinitely without pay while things get sorted out.
  3. Some key player news: Ole Miss starting forward Murphy Holloway, a sophomore who averaged 10/7 last year for the Rebs, is leaving Oxford for somewhere closer to his six-month old daughter in his hometown of Columbia, SC.  Ole Miss is unlikely to allow him to transfer immediately to South Carolina, so Clemson appears to be the best bet for his future services.  Cal starting forward Omondi Amoke was dismissed from the team for an undisclosed rule violation.  He had been previously suspended for the Bears’ NCAA Tournament games against Louisville and Duke, and his departure means that Mike Montgomery will have to replace his entire starting lineup next season.  At BYU, up-and-coming guard Michael Loyd, Jr., is also leaving, and it appears that his flamboyant style (he has sported a mohawk and a tongue piercing) may have had something do to with it.  Assuming superstar Jimmer Fredette returns, BYU should still be fine in the backcourt with several returnees.
  4. The 2010 Jimmy V Classic has been announced with a solid doubleheader of games on tap: Memphis vs. Kansas followed by Michigan State vs. Syracuse.  This event could involve three of the top ten teams in America.
  5. The matchups for the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Classic were announced late last week, and many of the games are simply return games from last year’s event.   We really don’t understand why these two leagues can’t get their act together on this thing.  Here are a couple of suggestions.  #1) make it a real event that covers two or three consecutive nights the way the ACC/Big 10 Challenge works.  #2) put all of the games on television, preferably on the same network (FSN?). #3) get some better matchups.  Sheesh.  For your perusal:

Saturday, November 27
USC at Nebraska

Thursday, December 2
Missouri at Oregon
UCLA at Kansas
Arizona State at Baylor

Friday, December 3
Kansas State at Washington State

Saturday, December 4
Oregon State at Colorado
California at Iowa State

Sunday, December 5
Texas at USC
Oklahoma at Arizona

Tuesday, December 21
Stanford at Oklahoma State

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Morning Five: 04.20.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 20th, 2010

  1. Whew, things aren’t slowing down much in comings and goings.  Colorado filled its open head coaching position with Tad Boyle, the Northern Colorado coach who took a transitional D1 program to 25 wins and second place in the Big Sky this season.  Appalachian State is reported to be filling its open position vacated by Buzz Peterson with another former UNC player, Jason Capel.  The 30-year old Capel has only one season of experience as an assistant under his belt, but he clearly has the name recognition in the state of North Carolina that should help with recruiting.  Washington’s Lorenzo Romar parlayed his run to the Sweet Sixteen into a ten-year contract extension (through 2020), which shows again how important March has become.  On the NBA Draft side, Richmond’s Kevin Anderson will test the waters to see what he needs to improve upon for next season, and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette will do likewise.  Neither player will sign with an agent, leaving open the possibility of a return to school next season.  Fredette is currently projected as a late first/early second round pick, while Anderson is likely undrafted at this point (which means he should return).
  2. The Fred Hill saga at Rutgers has finally ended, with the embattled head coach agreeing to a settlement with the school worth $850,000 to resign his position.  This was an embarrassing week for the State University of New Jersey, but the school can now get back to the more important issue of finding a coach to save this moribund basketball program.  Eddie Jordan, Fran Fraschilla and Jim O’Brien are reportedly on the short list.
  3. Meet Zach Lipson, the next Kentucky equipment manager, and one of the neatest stories you’ll read about keeping your head up and having faith in your abilities.
  4. This is an incredible column.  First, we’d been wondering why we hadn’t seen Bill Walton on any NBA/NCAA broadcasts for a while, and this explains why.  But second, it now puts the notorious UCLA loss to Notre Dame in 1974 to end the 88-game winning streak in a completely new light.  The Big Redhead played with broken bones in his back — take that Evan Turner!
  5. From yougotdunkedon.com, This is a fun mix of some of the best dunks of the 2009-10 season.  Which is your fav?  For our money, it’s Travis Leslie… wow!

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Comings & Goings: UK’s ‘Fab Five’ Gone; Gaudio Out at Wake

Posted by rtmsf on April 8th, 2010

HUGE DAY.

John Calipari has a major rebuilding task ahead of him in the 2010-11 season, as his five best players are leaving the program for the bluer waters of the NBA Draft.  In a move that shocked absolutely no one, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton all declared today, leaving UK with just a handful of returning scholarship players heading into next season.  According to KSR, however, P-Pat has yet to file his papers although he would undoubtedly become a top fifteen pick when he does so.  If all five of these guys stay in this year’s draft, it’s likely that each of them would be selected in the top twenty, a first in the history of the event.  This begs the question, of course, whether we should be impressed by so many draft-worthy players on a single team; or by the curious fact that five top twenty picks couldn’t even make it to the Final Four despite an embarrassment of talent at its disposal.

Ohio State’s National POY Evan Turner also declared that he will enter the draft today, and as the presumed #2 overall pick he is making a good decision.  The multi-talented point forward has a chance to become an outstanding perimeter player at the next level, and we’re very happy that his year turned out the way it did after a horrific fall in December threatened to derail his season and (potentially) career.  Some other names that threw their hats into the ring today were: Kansas’ Xavier Henry, who is expected to fall into the #8-#20 range, Xavier’s Jordan Crawford (late 1st/early 2d round), Cincinnati’s Lance Stephenson (late 1st/early 2d round), Marshall’s Hassan Whiteside (late lottery pick), Oklahoma’s Willie Warren (early 2d round), Dayton’s Chris Wright (mid 2d round), Texas’ Avery Bradley (late 1st round), and Florida’s Alex Tyus (undrafted).  Stephenson is the most interesting case study in why we should never listen to players during the season with respect to this stuff, as he clearly stated earlier this season that his return to Cincinnati for a sophomore campaign was ‘definite.’   He’s already signed with an agent, so that sophomore season will have to occur elsewhere.  Can we just say this again for the record?  Please, please David Stern — negotiate a two-year rule for players after their HS class graduates or none at all.

Moving to coaching news, the surprise of the day was the abrupt dismissal of Wake Forest’s Dino Gaudio by the school on Wednesday.  Gaudio was 61-31 in three seasons at the school, but what sealed his fate were his 1-5 postseason record that included two epic collapses down the stretch of the last two years.  It’s unlikely Wake AD Ron Wellman would make this move without a serious candidate in mind, so we should expect to see this position filled in a matter of days.  In more pleasant news, Cornell’s Steve Donahue accepted the job at Boston College, which makes a lot of sense given his northeastern pedigree, and the Rutgers job may be opening up as soon as Thursday if Fred Hill is canned as a result of his bizarre insubordination in the form of attending a baseball game (JR Inman must be ecstatic!).

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JR Inman’s Interesting Hello From Japan…

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2010

In the wake of Jerry Wainwright’s firing at DePaul, the Big East hot seat formally shifts to Rutgers University and the Scarlet Knights’ head man, Fred Hill.  Hill is in his fourth year at the school, and he is noted for his fiery personality and the occasional ability to get a hotshot recruit to stay close to home (see: Mike Rosario from Jersey City).  He isn’t particularly known for winning, however, as his RU teams have gone 41-66 (.383) overall and a horrid 8-47 (.145) in the very difficult Big East Conference over that period.  With recent news that injured forward Gregory Echinique will transfer to another school next year, and rumors that Rosario may not be far behind, former Hill player JR Inman (2005-09), now playing in Japan, took it upon himself to pile on Hill’s misfortune.  In a big, big way. 

Inman (seated, left) and Hill During More Pleasant Times

Initially we had concerns as to the authenticity of this information allegedly posted to Inman’s Facebook page today, but NJ.com believes it to be authentic, and it’s too alternatingly bizarre and hilarious for us not to excerpt it even if Inman didn’t actually pen it.  If you want to read the whole thing, as of now you have two options.  You can go here (which requires free registration), or you can read it on the Seton Hall message boards.  The message is sometimes grammatically painful, other times amusing, and a few times downright mean, but one thing can be inferred without logical modeling — Inman, who feels that the reason he’s playing in Japan rather than for the Knicks, is no fan of Fred Hill. 

On Hill in general:

What you guys don’t know is just how much of a scum bag this guy really is and guess who’s about to air his punk ass out. Me.3 years ago Fred Hill stole the Head Coaching Job from the Coach who recruited me to Rutgers Gary Waters. Since then the program has been in complete turmoil. Among many excuses Hill has been using to justify his lack of success, the biggest one was “Jr Inman”

The best line we’ve heard in some time, about anything, anywhere:

I feel bad for my fellow teammates that are still thier cause it is about to get really ugly.I don’t want to put all of Fred’s buisness out thier. I’m sure youll read about it in the Newspapers within the next couple of weeks but I just want the public to know one thing. “It took 3 years for Fred Hill to cook his steak of turmoil but the check for the dinner is coming due” 

And how he feels that Hill ruined his career:

I wish Fred would call my cellphone talkin [redacted]. If I was 30 years older, 10 inches shorter and a [redacted], I would go to the rac right now and punch Fred Right in his face. [...] Initially I wanted to take Fred to court and sue for defamation of charecter. My senior year in college I took an employment in law class and we learned about that. During class I would sit there mesmorized realizing that everything we learned in class I have experienced first hand thanks to your boy Freddy. My close friends know how much I dreaded coming from practice because of Fred Hill. He literally turned me into a psycopathic disfunctional human being for my entire senior season.

Wow.  We haven’t seen a player throw his ex-coach under the bus like this since… ever?

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 5th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. More than the countless Big East tournament runs at the Garden, or the contention for conference regular season titles on a yearly basis, or reaching upper-echelon status in college basketball playing with no flashy All-American recruits, Jamie Dixon is proving his worth as a coach this year more than ever. Few teams lost as much talent, leadership, and production as senior point guard Levance Fields, dominating big man DeJuan Blair and outside threat Sam Young. The departure of these three mainstays plus two projected starters for 2009-10, Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown, beginning the year MIA prompted many preseason prognosticators (including myself) to deem Pittsburgh a non-contender in the rugged Big East. My mistake, Jamie. The Panthers just finished one of their most difficult Big East road stretches of the year with two statement victories at previously undefeated Syracuse and at fringe-ranked Cincinnati. Sophomore Ashton Gibbs is taking his experience from playing under Dixon at the U19 Games to good use, running the Pitt offense with superb efficiency, shooting the ball lights out from deep and breaking the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made in the process. Brown has his academics in order and used his athleticism to make a few back-breaking baskets against Cincy last night. Dixon provides stellar defense and outside shooting. It remains to be seen whether Pitt can stay at the top of the Big East with less talent than the other squads, but we do know that Dixon’s team will play smarter and tougher than any opponent. And that always gives them a fighting chance.

2. The most significant win this New Year’s week had to be Purdue running away from West Virginia to remain unblemished and surpass the Mountaineers as a projected #1 seed at this stage of the season. Purdue and coach Matt Painter have constructed their program unlike many of their other counterparts atop the rankings on a weekly basis. There’s no Xavier Henry, Avery Bradley, Devin Ebanks or John Wall walking through the doors of Mackey Arena to play for the Boilers for one or two years; instead, their 2009-10 highly ranked squad features a group of players that have been together for three straight seasons, such a rarity in the age of one-and-done players and the glorification of NBA riches. This specific group of players- Robbie Hummel, Chris Kramer, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant- have practiced and played together for three straight years now, stepping up the ladder slowly but surely in the college hoops landscape. They took the Big Ten by surprise in 2007-08 before falling in the second round to Xavier and climbed up another step by reaching the Sweet 16 a season ago. This year they hope to reach the top and cut down the nets in nearby Indianapolis with a group of kids that have been through the ups and downs of a college basketball season together more than once- a group of lightly-recruited but tough-minded individuals that will utilize defensive intensity and offensive efficiency to reach the ultimate goal Hummel, Johnson, Moore and others been striving for since arriving in West Lafayette.

3. Think about this for a second: Despite losing three four-year starters that all played 30+ MPG and notched 10+ PPG, Marquette coach Buzz Williams would probably tell you that his Golden Eagles should be staring at a 12-2 (2-0) record with wins over top-ten Villanova and West Virginia and another top-25 team in Florida State. Typical of young, inexperienced squads, Marquette has simply been unable to close games this season against stellar competition. If Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler don’t miss two front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities, Da’Sean Butler’s game-winning shot never happens and Marquette has the second most impressive road win in the country this season (just behind Pitt stunning Syracuse). Up two Saturday against Villanova, Johnson-Odom again stepped to the line up two points and 2:35 left on the clock. Both of those attempts bricked, and, couple that with a bunny missed by Butler at the buzzer, the Golden Eagles again fell just short. Rewind back to November in the Old Spice Classic where Marquette held a 30-18 lead at half against FSU and a 10-point cushion midway through the second half, but squandered the lead. I haven’t even included the NC State game where Marquette lead by 11 at the intermission. Closing out games has been a devastating problem for Buzz Williams’ squad this season, and these close losses could very well cost Marquette a spot in the field come March if they’re sitting on the bubble.

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RTC Live: Rutgers @ North Carolina

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2009

Hello everyone, we’re back from the holiday break and heading into New Years week with a pretty good match-up in Chapel Hill, NC, tonight between Rutgers and UNC.  This game will be simulcast on ESPN2 tonight, but we hope that you’ll join us for an interactive experience like no other while you’re watching the game on television.  The Heels come into tonight’s game sitting at 9-3, a record that makes UNC seem worse than they are considering that the three losses were to #2 Texas, #3 Kentucky and #5 Syracuse (two of which were road games).  Roy Williams is working through a number of new faces in his lineup but there’s clearly a bevy of talent at his disposal and we fully expect his team to be at or near the top of the ACC standings by March.  As for the visiting Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Fred Hill’s team comes in at 9-2 but even he will admit that their schedule has been less than impressive thus far (#346 according to KenPom).   Things aren’t looking up with the recent news that sophomore forward Gregory Echinique (13/8) will miss the remainder of the season with an eye problem, but the one player Hill has at his disposal who is capable of dropping thirty on any defense in America is Mike Rosario.  The 6’3 sophomore guard had a great summer overseas, and he comes into this game averaging 18/5 while shooting 38% from deep.  Given UNC’s lackluster three-point defense this season (34%), Rosario is definitely someone to watch tonight.  We hope you join us for another exciting edition of RTC Live, this time from one of the great venues in all of college sports, the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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Budding Star in New Zealand: Rutgers’ Mike Rosario

Posted by rtmsf on July 6th, 2009

We’ve been keeping a lazy eye on Team USA’s performance at the Under-19 World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand, this week, and so far, so good.  It’s a nice opportunity to see how some of our better young collegians perform at the international level, in addition to allowing us to evaluate some names to keep an eye on next season.  Several of Team USA’s players – Howard Thompkins from Georgia, Ashton Gibbs from Pitt, Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack from Butler, Seth Curry from Duke, Tyshawn Taylor from Kansas – are known commodities for the average RTC reader, but they haven’t yet gotten the national recognition they’ll receive as they take greater roles on their teams next season (except Curry, of course, who will sit out his transfer year at Duke). 
Learn These Names and Faces for 2009-10

Learn These Names and Faces for 2009-10

As it stands, the Under-19 lads are 4-0 with blowout wins over Iran, France, Egypt and Greece thus far.  Georgia’s 6’9 Howard Thompkins has been a beast on the blocks, averaging 13/5 on 64% shooting in just under 15 mpg, including a 22-pt outburst against the Greeks.  Butler’s Hayward has also been impressive, contributing 10/5 with a well-rounded number of assists, steals and blocks while he’s been on the floor.  In the backcourt, Gibbs, Curry and Mack have logged the most minutes, each adding timely scoring and floor leadership to the team despite not shooting the ball all that well (Gibbs excluded).  The Americans have yet to be tested, and will likely have to wait until its Wednesday game against Lithuania to face some serious competition. 

mike rosario 2

Tuesday, however, presents an interesting storyline in that Team USA will face Puerto Rico and the hottest player in the tournament, Rutgers guard and rising sophomore Mike Rosario.  Rosario, a gifted scorer who averaged 16 ppg in college last season, exploded for 54 points in his most recent game against France, scoring 17 in the final quarter as he led his team to a come-from-behind victory, 90-89.  He’s leading the tournament with a 31.8 ppg scoring average, and is shooting a lights-0ut 51% from the field.  It will be interesting to see how Team USA defends him, and whether Rosario will be able to get the same looks he’s gotten throughout this tournament.  His success in New Zealand comes on the heels of a successful trip to France where Puerto Rico finished second in the World Juniors Tournament there and Rosario was named to the all-tournament team.  At Rutgers, Rosario tended to have a gunner’s mentality last season, often shooting his team out of Big East games as quickly as into them, but if his summer shooting percentages are any indication of improved shot selection, head coach Fred Hill has a budding star on his hands in Piscataway. 

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12.29.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on December 28th, 2008

This is the last installment of Fast Breaks for the calendar year, but it’s a loaded one with lots of news before the New Year’s ball drops.

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #1 – Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. 

Predicted Order of Finish (from the coach’s pre-season poll, released at Big East media day):

  1. Connecticut (9)
  2. Louisville (3)
  3. Pitt (3)
  4. Notre Dame (1)
  5. Villanova
  6. Marquette
  7. Georgetown
  8. Syracuse
  9. West Virginia
  10. Providence
  11. Cincinnati
  12. Rutgers
  13. Seton Hall
  14. St john’s
  15. DePaul
  16. South Florida

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WYN2K. You hear that? You know what that is? That’s the sound of RTC stealing my thunder.  I’m not much of a statistician myself, but just by looking at that pre-season poll I can tell you this – the Big East is loaded.  If you live outside of Big East country, then you are probably sick of hearing about how good the conference is, year in and year out. But facts are facts. Four teams are legitimate Final Four threats. Another six teams are, depending on who you ask, expected to be a part of the 65 team field. Three more teams have an outside shot at punching a ticket to the dance if they can catch a few breaks (transfers getting cleared, freshman getting eligible, etc.).  So in this day and age of college basketball, where “early entry,” “parity,” and “mid-major” have become household terms, how did one conference manage to stockpile so many good teams? Well, as you can see, the Big East is HUGE. There are sixteen teams spanning from Rhode Island to Wisconsin to Florida and everywhere in between. When you have that many teams in one conference, there are bound to be years where there are a lot of good teams, especially when so many of the schools have a rich basketball tradition.  This just happens to be one of those years where the Big East got lucky. Last season, 32 players were named to an All-Big East team (1st, 2nd, honorable mention, all-rookie), and only two of those players (WVU’s Joe Alexander and Syracuse’s Donte Greene) declared for the draft with eligibility remaining. Would Pittsburgh be as good as expected if Sam Young left? What about UConn without Hasheem Thabeet? Those two, and a number of other players, probably would be on NBA rosters right now if they left, but for whatever reason (a loaded draft class last year, smarts enough to know they weren’t ready, boosters offered them more than what they would get paid on a rookie’s salary) they decided to head back to campus.

So without further ado, here is your conference breakdown:

Cellar Dwellars.  DePaul, St. John’s, South Florida, Rutgers

  • There are some talented players on these teams. Sophomore Dar Tucker of DePaul is a poster waiting to happen. South Florida’s Dominique Jones scored 17.1 ppg as a freshman. St. John’s has senior Anthony Mason Jr. and sophomore Justin Burrell to carry the load. But with the depth of the Big East this year combined with the loss of some talented seniors, none of these three teams really look like they have a shot at doing much. Rutgers might have the best shot of the group to make some noise, as Fred Hill has landed back-to-back talented freshman classes. Don’t be surprised if you hear the names Gregory Echenique and Mike Rosario (RU’s first Mickey D’s all-american) quite often during the season.

We Should Have Bribed The NCAA.  Cincinnati (NIT), Seton Hall (NIT)

  • Both the Pirates and the Bearcats are awaiting the NCAA’s word on whether or not they will have some key players in their rotation. After struggling with the remnants of the Cincy program in the wake of Bob Huggins, Mick Cronin finally has the program heading in the right direction. He brings back Deonta Vaughn, who is one of the most explosive scorers in the country, and gets former Texas forward Mike Williams back from an Achilles injury. Adding two talented freshman in Yancy Gates and Cashmere Wright only helped matters. But Wright tore up his knee in the first week of practice, meaning that Vaughn is, once again, their only real backcourt threat and that they must rely heavily on their front line, which could be bolstered by the addition of 7’2” center John Riek. The Sudanese refugee, who was considered one of the best prospects in the country two years ago but has battled knee problems, is dealing with eligibility issues but could be in uniform by December. 
  • Seton Hall’s situation is a little different. The Pirates lose leading scorer Brian Laing (18.6 ppg) but return a solid nucleus of Eugene Harvey, Jeremy Hazell and John Garcia. Bobby Gonzalez had also hoped to add transfers Herb Pope (New Mexico St.) and Keon Lawrence (Missouri) without having to wait the mandatory one year for a transfer by having each kid apply for the NCAA’s hardship waiver. Pope’s been denied, Lawrence’s application will wait until after the first semester, and freshman Melvyn Oliver is still waiting to be cleared academically, meaning the Pirates currently have only eight scholarship players.

Pretenders or Contenders?  Providence (NIT), West Virginia (NCAA #7)

  • I know what you’re thinking. Providence? Really, Rob? They haven’t been good since the days of Ryan Gomes and Donnie MacGrath (and even then, good might have been pushing it). But the Friars have the horses to sneak up on some people this year. They were as balanced as any team in the Big East last year, with six guys (five returners) that averaged at least 8.7 ppg.  PG Sharaud Curry, arguably their best player, is back from a stress fracture in his foot and they have added Keno Davis, last year’s national COY at Drake, as the head coach. Davis should have some success in his first year with the Friars if they follow the same spread floor style that was so successful at Drake. One key reason for that is big man Geoff McDermott, who is adept at playing on the perimeter and is a stat stuffer (10 ppg, 8 rpg, 5 apg, 1 spg, and 1.5 bpg). Remember, this Providence team, who battled the injury bug all year, swept UConn and beat Temple and Arkansas last seaso. The talent’s there, but consistency and healthy players will be the key to their season.
  • The Mountaineers are a different story. They really came on towards the end of the season, thanks in (very) large part to the emergence of Joe Alexander, who was probably the best player in the conference (maybe the country) for the last month-plus of the season and is now a forward with the Bucks. Left are a bunch of very good role players that fit into Huggy Bear’s system and play hard. Guys like Joe Mazzula, Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler. There are two major questions for the Mountaineers – who is going to play in the post and who is going to fill to void of “go-to guy” with Alexander gone. Freshman Devin Ebanks may be able to fill Alexander’s shoes with time, but the rest of the Mountaineers front line will be small (especially for the Big East) and inexperienced.

Worst of the Rest.  Syracuse (NCAA #7), Georgetown (NCAA #7), Marquette (NCAA #6), Villanova (NCAA #5)

  • I’ll be completely honest with you. I’m a UConn fan. I hate Syracuse. Despise them. I even hate the color orange. I didn’t even rank them in my top 25. Call it being biased, call it homerism, call it what you like. But I’ve had an epiphany – this team is really talented. Jonny Flynn is one of the best point guards in the country. Eric Devendorf is a very talented combo guard. Andy Rautins can flat out stroke the three. Paul Harris is a linebacker playing basketball. Arinze Onuake is a beast on the block. And this year, they actually have a deep bench filled with role players and hustle guys. They’re not quite in the top four, but Boeheim has himself his most talented team since Melo.
  • Georgetown lost a lot of very important players to graduation (Roy Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace, Patrick Ewing Jr) and transfers (Jeremiah Rivers, Vernon Macklin). They are left with just four guys who were in their rotation last year – guards Chris Wright, Jessie Sapp, Austin Freeman and forward DaJuan Summers. They do add a great recruiting class, headlined by big men Greg Monroe and Henry Sims, but it will still be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Hoyas. Part of the reason is that John Thompson III may have to change up his style of play from the Princeton Offense. Hibbert, Wallace, and Ewing were perfectly suited to a slowed down game, where as Sapp and Wright are quick guards that can make plays in the open floor.
  • Marquette has a new coach, but they will be the same team. By now, you must know about their three great guards – Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews – who, when combined with Maurice Acker and David Cubillan, make up one of the deepest, most explosive backcourts in the country. But, much like Villanova and West Virginia, Marquette needs someone to step up inside. It’s great when you have a bunch of guards that can score and make plays, but will Dominic James 40” vert help him against the likes of Luke Harangody or DeJuan Blair? Dwight Burke is going to have to make some big strides as a senior, or else the Golden Eagles will have to rely on a freshman and two JuCo transfers inside.
  • Remember that Villanova team from a few years back? The one with Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Mike Nardi? Well this ‘Nova team is going to be similar to that squad. Led by scoring machine Scottie Reynolds, ‘Nova has one of the best backcourts in the conference. But the key to their success this year will be the front court. Dante Cunningham, an athletic, 6’9 PF, has proven himself as a capable frontcourt player in the Big East, but the rest of the Wildcats frontline will need to step up if Jay Wright’s club wants to crack the top four.

Crème de la Crème.  Notre Dame (NCAA #5), Pittsburgh (NCAA #3), Louisville (NCAA #2), UConn (NCAA #1)

  • Notre Dame returns basically the entire team that finished tied for second in the Big East, including reigning Big East player of the year Luke Harangody. While I can’t help but comment on his resemblance to a pot-bellied pig, you can’t argue with his production last year (23 ppg and 11 rpg in conference). While he is built like one of Charlie Weis’ lineman, he is actually incredibly nimble and has great feet and balance, which is one of the reasons he is able to scorer against bigger, more athletic defenders. Surrounding him will be shooters Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney (who was a 1st team all-conference performer), as well as Tory Jackson, who is one of the more underrated PGs in the league. Notre Dame is going to be a fun team to watch if you like games with a lot of scoring and a lot of threes.
  • Pitt is going to be a typical Pitt team, with a lot of big, strong, tough kids that are going to play rugged, in your face defense. Sam Young, who developed a deadly jumper out to around the three point line, and DeJuan Blair, a 6’7 270-lb mammoth inside, provide one of the toughest frontcourts to match up with in the country. The biggest questions for Pitt surround their backcourt. When will Levance Fields return from foot surgery, and will he be healthy? Can anyone on this team replace the three point shooting of Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin?
  • Louisville, along with Pitt, is probably going to be the toughest defensive team in the conference. It starts with their backcourt, where they have five guys (Edgar Sosa, Andre McGee, Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles, Reginald Delk) that will really get after you on the perimeter. Earl Clark and Terrence Williams (who is coming off a torn meniscus and should be out another month or so) are both athletic, versatile players. T-Wills is more of a perimeter player and is the Cardinals best creator offensively, averaging more than 4.5 apg last year. Clark is more of a combo forward that will get his points off of fast breaks and cutting to the basket. Louisville loses their entire front line from last year, but they bring in a solid recruiting class, the star of which is Samardo Samuels, probably the best post recruit in America this year.
  • Last, but certainly not least, is UConn. The Huskies probably won’t be at full strength until December, as AJ Price is coming off of a torn ACL and freshman Ater Majok and junior Stanley Robinson (who was last seen on a poster) are both going to be made eligible (hopefully) after the first semester ends. Regardless, UConn is loaded with talent. 7’3” junior and shot blocking machine Hasheem Thabeet returns, as does Jeff Adrien, the Huskies leading scorer and rebounder. Price will be joined in the backcourt by talented but troubled junior Jerome Dyson and Mickey D’s all-american Kemba Walker. UConn’s biggest question mark right now – can they win a big game? They were 8-8 on the road or on a neutral court last year, and are 0-3 in the Big East and NCAA tournaments the last two years.

RPI Boosters.  The Big East RPI is going to be high enough, but here are some of the must-see non-conference match-ups (ignoring the possible match-ups in pre-season tournaments):

  • Wisconsin @ Marquette  (12.06.08)
  • Villanova vs. Texas and Davidson vs. West Virginia in NYC at Jimmy V  (12.09.08)
  • Cincinnati vs. Xavier  (12.13.08)
  • Memphis @ Georgetown  (12.13.08)
  • Marquette @ Tennessee  (12.16.08)
  • Gonzaga vs. UConn in Seattle  (12.20.08)
  • Syracuse @ Memphis  (12.20.08)
  • Kentucky @ Louisville  (01.04.09)
  • Georgetown @ Duke  (01.17.09)
  • Notre Dame @ UCLA  (02.07.09)

65 Team Era.  The Big East earned its chops as a basketball conference in the 80s, and that tradition persists to this very day despite the expansion of the league to it’s current sixteen-team iteration.  Last year the league earned eight bids to the NCAAs, and it’s difficult to envision a future scenario where the conference would ever get less than six bids again.  This obviously will skew their future numbers on a whole scale, but their stats to date are nothing to sneeze at (206-126, .620, 11 F4s, 4 titles).  With the power at the top of this year’s league, we could potentially see another 1985 F4 on the horizon (3/4 of the F4 were Big East teams – Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s). 

Final Thought.  The Big East is wide open this year. Every night is going to be a dog fight. One thing you can be sure of, however, is that any team from this league that makes it to the postseason is going to be battle-tested.

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