Big East Morning Five: 12.13.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 13th, 2011

  1. Cincinnati held a press conference to discuss the suspensions it issued to four players following the ugly brawl that occurred in the waning seconds of an almost equally hideous 76-53 loss to cross-city rival Xavier on Saturday. The precedings included remarks from head coach Mick Cronin, who noted the suspended players will have to earn their way back if they want to play once their suspensions end. Each of the four suspended players (Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, and Octavius Ellis received six games while Ge’Lawn Guyn will sit out one) were present to give their public apologies. Gates, who had one of the most active and high profile roles in the fracas throwing several punches, one of which bloodied Xavier’s Kenny Frease, appeared genuinely apologetic and regretful, ultimately breaking down in tears while taking questions. Particularly when noting references to his being a “thug” and a “gangster”. “I want to apologize really to the whole city of Cincinnati for my actions,” Gates said, “The actions that I displayed are not what I’m about. This is not what the University of Cincinnati is about. It’s not what my family’s about.” Gates, a senior, also said he feared his actions may have led to the end of his collegiate career.  Should all players earn their way back after six games, they would be available to play on January 4 at home versus Notre Dame, after missing just one Big East contest on New Year’s Day at #15 Pittsburgh.  The Bearcats’ first short-handed test takes place Wednesday at Wright State (4-6).
  2. A few people involved in Saturday’s Cincinnati – Xavier fight-marred game learned on Monday that they escaped further diciplinary action. That would be the game’s referees. Reggie Greenwood, the Atlantic 10 conference’s coordinator of officials confirmed that the game’s officiating crew–Mike Roberts, Tony Crisp, and Jeff Anderson–would not face punishment in connection to Saturday’s events. The trio was subject to criticism for their handling of the game, including strong commentary from Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin. “They were sent into an ambush,” Cronin said. “They had no idea they were walking into it.” Cronin indicated in a press conference on Monday that typically with heated rivalry games between Big East and Atlantic 10 teams (Cincinnati-Xavier, Providence-Rhode Island, Villanova-St. Joseph’s) at least one member of the officiating crew has experience with such games, but that was not the case on Saturday. He also said that there was conversation with the referees throughout the game about handing out technical fouls to minimize some of the outbursts and trash talking that had started prior to tip-off. Cronin indicated a referee told him to do so would include some of his players receiving techicals and that he urged the official to give technicals to anyone on his team that deserved one in order to prevent things from escalating.
  3. This week’s Big East awards are out and West Virginia’s Darryl “Truck” Bryant has earned Player of the Week honors. Bryant scored a career-high 27 points, including five threes, in a win over Miami on Saturday. He averaged 25.5 points and four rebounds in a 2-0 week for the Mountaineers. For the second consecutive time Providence forward LaDontae Henton took home Rookie of the Week accolades. Henton averaged 17.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in three Friar victories, including a career-high 21 points versus Boston College and a double-double (13 points and 12 rebounds) to go with five blocked shots against Bryant University. Leading the Honor Roll recipients this week is Seton Hall’s Herb Pope who is playing as well as anyone in the conference right now, averaged a double-double for the week (25.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG) in two Pirate wins. Rounding out the Honor Roll were DePaul’s Cleveland Melvin (21.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG) who had a career-high 30 poins to go with eight boards in a win over Chicago State, Louisville center Gorgui Dieng (16.0 PPG, 12.0 RPG) also scored a career-high this past week, netting 18 in a win over IUPUI, Marquette forward Jae Crowder (16.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG) who buried a game winning three-pointer in the Golden Eagles’ 79-77 victory over Washington, and Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley who stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 22.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in two badly needed Fighting Irish wins.
  4. The latest rankings are out and your Syracuse Orange (10-0) are the nation’s #1 team on the heels of Kentucky’s thrilling loss to Indiana on Saturday. This has to be especially sweet for Jim Boeheim and company given all of the non-basketball related news that has swirled around the program with the sexual misconduct against former assistant coach Bernie Fine story. Louisville (9-0) moved up one spot yet again this week to crack the top four.  Connecticut (8-1) knocked Harvard out of the polls with their victory over the Crimson last Thursday but it was not enough to improve their own raking, as they remain at #9. Marquette (9-0) and Pittsburgh (9-1) also stood pat at #11 and #15 respectively while Georgetown (8-1) jumped up two spots to #16 by virtue of taking down Howard on Saturday.  
  5. As for the latest in the Bernie Fine case, Onondaga District Attorney William Fitzpatrick participated in an online chat facilitated by a Syracuse newspaper, The Post-Standard.  Our personal favorite exchange in this chat had nothing to do with the case. A participant named “John” asked “Why are you doing this today? Isn’t enough, enough already?” To which Fitzpatrick cordially responded, “Don’t read it.” In terms of relevant content, Fitzpatrick revealed that he has not had any contact with the Fine family saying, “No, I have not attempted to interview the Fines out of respect for the federal investigation.” Fitzpatrick also clarified neither ESPN nor The Post-Standard would face charges for failing to turn over the now infamous recording of a 2002 phone call between one of the accusers, Bobby Davis, and Fine’s wife, Laurie. However, he reiterated a previous point that he would have liked to have seen Bobby Davis turn the tape over to authorities instead of any media outlet. Fitzpatrick went on to note that the length of the federal investigation should not be used to handicap the case as to whether or not they have collected or will collect enough evidence to arrest Fine.
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Checking In On… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. You can also find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Crosstown Knockout: Suspensions were handed down on Sunday for the embarrassing incident at the conclusion of Saturday’s Cincinnati/Xavier game, a 76-53 Musketeers victory. Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis each received six game bans while Ge’Lawn Guyn will sit out for one game. On the other side, Xavier suspended Dezmine Wells and Landen Amos (a walk-on) for four games while Mark Lyons will sit for a pair and Tu Holloway for one. As for Gates and company, six games doesn’t seem nearly enough, especially when only one of those is a Big East game (a probable loss at Pittsburgh to begin with). Mick Cronin’s comments certainly were interesting. The UC coach waxed poetic in the postgame press conference but didn’t follow those words up with strong actions. On the other hand, Cronin told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz that the suspensions were handed down by those above him in the Cincinnati administration. Even so, it would seem hard to believe the administration wanted to go easier on the players than the head coach. If Cincinnati wanted to be serious, it would have suspended Gates and the others for a large chunk of the Big East season and the rest of non-conference play, or simply kicked them off the team. Instead, this incident is yet another example of placing sports and winning games before justice and learning a life lesson. If this happened off the basketball court, Gates would likely have been charged with battery. Instead, Gates only has to sit six games against the steady diet of non-conference cupcakes Cronin has feasted on over the last two years. From the fight itself to the way the aftermath has been handled, this has been one huge embarrassment for both Cincinnati and Xavier.

To Many, Saturday's Brawl Between Xavier And Cincinnati Signifies A New Low For College Basketball (USAT)

  • West Virginia and Marquette Involved in Thrillers: The Mountaineers ventured to Wichita, Kansas, and took on Kansas State in what was essentially a road game despite it being played away from the Little Apple. Bob Huggins was able to defeat his student, Frank Martin, but it took two overtime periods to do so. It was a thrilling game full of big shots and lots of toughness. It was very important for West Virginia to add a quality road win to its resume and while the Wildcats may not be as good as last season, this win could make a big difference if the Mountaineers find themselves on the bubble come March.  Marquette took on Washington at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night and found itself in a dogfight with the Huskies as UW took the early lead. Marquette fought back to take a three-point halftime lead when the game really ramped up. The high level of play led to numerous lead changes in an up-and-down affair that eventually came to an end when Jae Crowder knocked down a three from the corner to win it for the Golden Eagles, one of only nine undefeated teams remaining in college basketball as of this writing.
  • Big East Continues to Disappoint:  It’s still very early but it’s also hard not to notice that the conference may be looking at eight NCAA Tournament teams in a best case scenario. The Big East lost six games this past week, three by the dregs of the conference but three others by teams considered to be NCAA contenders. It was an awful week for Villanova as it blew two chances for quality wins away from home, losing in New York to Missouri and across town in Philadelphia to Temple. The Wildcats have lost four of their past five games and have zero wins of note on their resume to date. If Villanova doesn’t win at St. Joe’s this coming week, it may have to go 10-8 in conference play just to even be considered for the Tournament. Meanwhile, Cincinnati sits at 5-3 after the Xavier loss with key players in trouble due to the brawl. The Bearcats’ best win is a road victory over 4-5 Georgia, a bottom-tier SEC team. With no quality wins and two ugly losses already on their resume, the Bearcats probably have to beat Oklahoma on December 29 and go 10-8 in league play to have any chance.
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Big East Morning Five: Cincinnati-Xavier Fallout Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 12th, 2011

  1. It is never a dull weekend in the Big East. Only this season, the basketball has been taking a backseat. At this point, even if you don’t follow college basketball, you have some idea what went on between Cincinnati and Xavier Saturday. Yesterday, both teams announced the suspensions that were a result of one of the nastier brawls in recent college basketball history. As always, the blogosphere reacted nearly immediately, and most of it was negative. It might be redundant but the national site here at RTC had an excellent take on hollow talk in press conferences that many have accused Mick Cronin of in the wake of yesterday. Bearcats Blog actually did a frame-by-frame breakdown of the actual brawl and we used it to weigh in on the penalties. So we broke it down by each player’s punishment and called it an excuse for a Morning Five.
  2. As the person who did the most real damage Saturday, it’s stunning that Yancy Gates only got six games, including just one conference game. It was in the heat of the moment and both teams were mixing it up, but whether it’s a public sidewalk or a basketball court, you can’t be allowed to sucker-punch someone in the face. Everyone saw that punch in slow motion. It was brutal, it was malicious, it was flush in the face, and it came from a man who stands 6’9” and is a chiseled 250 pounds. I am surprised he will get to play again this season.
  3. I think Cheik Mbodj deserves a little bit more sympathy and only a little bit. There is nothing more cowardly then trying to stomp on a man while he is down and then fade into the background like Mbodj did. But if you watch closely, his kick is pretty cowardly as well. It didn’t look like much. If anything, Mbodj should feel embarrassed watching himself in that video, because he did nothing until Kenny Frease was already on the ground. It was pathetic, but it didn’t seem to do any damage. It probably deserved at least ten games and the sincere public apology that Cronin is promising.
  4. Octavius Ellis is the winner of ignominious “only Bearcat player involved that no one bothered to identify yesterday” award, but he might have played a bigger role than most realize. It was Ellis that ended the first half jawing with Xavier’s Mark Lyons and those two tangled again at the end of the game with Ellis instigating. Which brings us to the real crux of this paragraph, which is, how in the world did Ellis get involved with Lyons in the first place? Cronin said the Musketeers were talking trash to the Cincinnati bench, but either Ellis has a quick temper or Lyons was going after him directly. I could be wrong, but I have never seen anyone that angry over trash-talk. He probably deserved ten games as well given how many punches he threw and perhaps an explanation we definitely won’t get.
  5. The only punishment that seems reasonable… almost, was the one given to Ge’Lawn Guyn. He was definitely provoked by Tu Holloway into the staredown that started the fracas, but it seemed non-physical until Dez Wells decked him. If Guyn had done nothing else, he might have escaped without a suspension. But he was so incensed at being blindsided he lost control. If you watch closely he is in the back being held by a coach, then he breaks free and at 21 seconds, he attacks Brad Redford who is literally the last man off the Xavier bench. He seems to keep looking for a fight and even breaks free again to aid Ellis. He got pushed, but that doesn’t mean he gets to run around picking fights with anyone in the opposing uniform. Give him two games.
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It’s Not About Winning The Press Conference

Posted by nvr1983 on December 11th, 2011

Immediately after yesterday’s horrendous brawl during the Crosstown Shootout, there were calls from throughout the college basketball world for significant suspensions to be handed out to players from Cincinnati and Xavier. The two players who received the most criticism were Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj for their vicious attack on Xavier’s Kenny Frease. Gates was caught on camera punching Frease in the face and Mbodj was seen stomping on Frease while he lay defenseless on the floor. To be fair, Xavier is not without blame as they appeared to be the team that escalated the incident from a verbal one into a physical one and it was Musketeer All-American guard Tu Holloway who gave us a memorable “body bag” comment after the brawl.

Mick Cronin Did A Great Job In The Press Conference Yesterday

However, once the press conference started (first tweeted by our own Fake Gimel), a large portion of the public and media were appeased by the thoughtful (or well-rehearsed) comments of Mick Cronin and Chris Mack. Throwing in phrases like “no excuses,” “grow up,” “full responsibility,” “zero excuse,” and “represent an institution of higher learning,” Cronin won praise from many media members including CBS’s Gary Parrish – trust us, there were more, but we aren’t digging through Twitter to find those responses — for the way he handled the press conference (full video here). Perhaps it was a sincere belief that Cronin would in fact do “the right thing,” which many believed was at least to hand out a pair of 10-game suspensions and potential dismissal from the team for Gates and Mbodj. It turns out that the punishments fall well short of that, as those two players and Octavius Ellis were each suspended for six games and Ge’Lawn Guyn was suspended for one game. All four players will also have to serve some form of community service.

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Crosstown Shootout 2011: Overwhelmed By Passion

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 10th, 2011

Gerald Smith is an RTC correspondent. He filed this column from today’s Crosstown Shootout game between Cincinnati and Xavier.

Our Alma Mater, proud and strong. Fight to the finish, never give in.

We want athletics to be our battleground: My team versus your team, my color better than yours. Local foes — the enemy you know best — often extract the most passion. The one game of the year that secures bragging rights. It’s definitely more than just a game for the players, coaches and fans. Xavier’s 76-53 victory against Cincinnati in today’s Crosstown Shootout, like most deep-seated rivalries, brought out the best and the worst of everyone involved. Yet somehow we’re all supposed to act outraged when the passion becomes overwhelming.

Dezmine Wells got overwhelmed. He saw Ge’Lawn Guyn put his hands on Tu Holloway. Wells, in his first Crosstown Shootout, snapped and shoved Guyn. The frustrated Bearcats — and their especially-animated coach Mick Cronin — snapped. Xavier snapped back. The whole arena of fans snapped. For close to a minute of real time, shades of the Malice in the Palace were exhibited in a corner of the Cintas Center with pushes, punches, haymakers, stomps, shoves and general mayhem involved. Order was finally restored short of a complete chaos, and with 9.6 seconds left, the refs called the game over. The pressure had been building all game. The Xavier home crowd was especially livid; they knew what was said about Tu Holloway by Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick. Student’s chanted “Tu’s your daddy!” when Kilpatrick and others took free throws.

At the end of the first half, the teams met at half court with just a smidge of bumping. The refs took a look at the tape and decided to warn the coaches of the players who were mouthing. The mouthing didn’t stop: Musketeer Mark Lyons and Kilpatrick mouthed at each other off-and-on through the latter half. Posing and three-goggles were busted out.

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