Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 27th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • A Pair of Upsets: How many of you had Wagner winning at Pittsburgh? The Seahawks won their first game against a ranked team since P.J. Carlesimo was the head coach at the school in the late 1970’s, knocking off the Panthers 59-54. Even without point guard Tray Woodall, this is not a game Pittsburgh should have lost. While Ashton Gibbs certainly has to carry more of the load, his shooting has been sub-par this entire season. Against Wagner, the senior Big East Preseason POY shot 5-16 from the floor and 1-7 from deep, dropping his field goal percentage to 37.7% on the year. Usually one of the most efficient teams in the country, Pittsburgh was held to a stunning 89.2 efficiency rating against Wagner. Previously, Pitt’s season low had been 101.7 in a win over La Salle. Last Monday, LSU surprised Marquette in Baton Rouge, downing the previously undefeated Golden Eagles by a score of 67-59. While LSU isn’t an awful team, Marquette allowed the Tigers to shoot 53.5% for the game, something that has to concern Buzz Williams given how well Marquette has played defensively. If Marquette wants to contend for a conference title, it has to defend night in and night out.
  • Non-Conference Play Winds Down: There are 152 games remaining with Big East teams involved and 144 of those (94.7%) will be conference games. Four of the eight remaining non-conference games will take place over the coming week, so you can bet we here at RTC are more than ready to transition into conference play. As we head into the new calendar year, four Big East teams seem to be contenders while another four or five are in contention for NCAA bids. The bottom of the conference is broader and weaker than usual, with at least four and possibly six teams incapable of mounting a run at a bid. As to who wins the league (my poll question above), I am sticking with my preseason pick of Syracuse. The Orange go a legitimate ten deep and, while they do not have a superstar, they are strong defensively and play with great energy. Connecticut may be more talented and Louisville may play harder, but Syracuse is the best team in my estimation. I would love to hear the readers’ take (on this or anything else) in the poll above or in the comments section below.
  • Bob Huggins Wins His 700th Game: It took a crazy Gary Browne three-pointer to force overtime, but West Virginia was able to knock off Missouri State on Thursday night for Coach Huggins’ 700th career victory. He’s now in select company with the likes of Lefty Driesell, Lute Olson, Lou Henson, Henry Iba, Phog Allen and, Norm Stewart in the 700 club. Currently 58 years old and under contract with West Virginia through the 2018-19 season, Huggins has a chance to approach 900 wins if he stays healthy. After winning #700, he joins Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun as the only active Big East coaches to win at least 700 games. He is fourth on the active list of all-time wins, trailing his two Big East peers as well as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

The Hoyas Have Outperformed Preseason Projections Thanks To Two Wins Over Memphis And A Big Road Victory In Tuscaloosa. (Richard Lipski/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (13-0) – Among many other things, Syracuse has done a terrific job in turnover margin. The Orange lead the Big East by a wide margin in that department and rank in the top ten nationally in both offensive and defensive turnover percentage. Fueled by Dion Waiters off the bench, the Syracuse transition attack has been sensational. Big East play begins this week with a visit from upstart Seton Hall followed by a trip to DePaul. Surprisingly, Syracuse was out-rebounded by Tulane, including 15-9 on the offensive glass. This week: 12/28 vs. Seton Hall, 1/1 @ DePaul.
  2. Louisville (12-0) – It hasn’t been easy, but Louisville just keeps winning. The Cardinals trailed Charleston and Western Kentucky this week before putting those teams away late in the game. Against Charleston, Rick Pitino made a great adjustment late in the game by putting the more versatile Kyle Kuric at the free throw line to attack the Charleston zone instead of Gorgui Dieng.  Dieng still had a great week, going for 14/12 against the Cougars and 13/15 against the Hilltoppers. Louisville ranks fourth nationally in defensive efficiency, but its offense continues to be a work in progress. As I said in this spot last week, the longer the Cardinals can keep winning before getting their roster back to full strength, the better. This week offers a huge test against two teams that can really put the ball in the basket. This week: 12/28 vs. #15 Georgetown, 12/31 @ #2 Kentucky. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 02.24.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 24th, 2011

  1. We haven’t talked much about the incident at Holy Family involving head coach John O’Connor that has spread across the Internet like wildfire over the past week. As you know, O’Connor was accused by Matt Kravchuk, one of his (now former) players, of assault related to an incident at a practice on January 25th. Kravchuk reported it to the athletic department that day, but when he felt it was not dealt with appropriately he went to the local authorities on February 11th. Since that time, video from the practice (available in the following link) shows an admittedly out-of-context incident that appears to show a coach attacking a player after a rebounding drill. O’Connor has been widely panned for his actions, but now he is responding with his account of the incident. We won’t add any more commentary, but will let you watch the video, read his explanation, and judge for yourself.
  2. Speaking of trouble with the law, Texas forward Alexis Wangmene was arrested early Sunday morning — 4:30 AM, to be exact — on suspicion of drinking under the influence. Wangmene has since been suspended from the team indefinitely. The junior forward/center has played sparingly for the Longhorns this season and averages just 2.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in 9.7 minutes per game this season. Neither the Texas SID nor Rick Barnes has released a formal (informative) statement on Wangmene yet.
  3. While most of the attention in Storrs over the past few days has focused on Jim Calhoun‘s deferred three game Big East suspension next year, not much attention has been paid to the fact that Calhoun will not be coaching (and perhaps more importantly not answering post-game press conference questions) Connecticut during tonight’s game against Marquette, as he will be attending funeral services for his sister-in-law. In his place will be his assistant coach George Blaney. Those of you who have followed UConn closely over the years are familiar with Blaney, as he has filled in admirably for Calhoun many times in recent years — including last year’s 14-point win over then #1-ranked Texas — as Calhoun dealt with a variety of health issues.
  4. There was some big news out of powerhouse/basketball factory Oak Hill Academy where two of the top players in the country — Ben McLemore and Sidiki Johnson — were thrown off the team for violating unspecified team rules. McLemore, who is currently deciding between Kansas and Missouri, transfered to Christian Life Center in Humble, Texas while Johnson, an Arizona commit, transfered to Wadleigh High School in Harlem, New York. It is unclear if their dismissal will affect their recruitment or eligibility (we are guessing it will not), but it is worth keeping an eye on particularly if any news breaks on why they were thrown off the team.
  5. We close out our links today with a little whining. Today’s edition is courtesy of USC head coach Kevin O’Neill who calls Arizona star Derrick Williams “the most protected dude I’ve seen since Michael Jordan.” It is somewhat amusing to note that O’Neill could be coaching Williams in rather simple scenarios: (1) if Lute Olson hadn’t turned on his word and taken the Arizona coaching job back from O’Neill or (2) if Williams had remained committed to USC where he had initially signed. While we disagree with O’Neill’s assessment of the level of protection Williams gets (O’Neill was also effusive in his praise of Williams and most likely trying to wage psychological war with the officials), it is worth noting that Williams leads the nation at an astounding 9.2 free throw attempts per game.
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Report: Calhoun Taking Medical Leave Of Absence

Posted by jstevrtc on January 19th, 2010

According to a report from, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun will be taking medical leave of absence from his coaching duties, acting on recommendation of his personal physician.  The medical reasons involved in this decision were not revealed (not that it’s any of our business), and it is for an indefinite amount of time.

Calhoun has taken similar steps in the past, specifically in January 2008 when he missed time due to issues related to stress, and then again later that year when he was treated for skin cancer.  In 2003, Calhoun was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and underwent surgery as a result, which also necessitated a medical leave of about a month.  According to the report above, Calhoun’s physician states that the current leave of absence is not related to any previous medical diagnosis — specifically, that there is no cancer- or cardiac-related reason for this decision.  That might sound comforting at first, but we hope nothing new has arisen.  As he has done before, associate coach George Blaney will assume the reins of government in Calhoun’s absence.

Obviously we’ll have more on this as events warrant.  Whatever the reasons are for this decision, we certainly hope coach Calhoun is OK and that he’ll be back soon.  We’re sure he will be, since it’s obvious he’s one tough customer.  It’s hard to imagine the game without him — a sentiment we’re sure his players are dealing with right now as they attempt to right their ship, with St. John’s coming to town tomorrow and Texas arriving on Saturday.

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