Morning Five: 03.20.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 20th, 2014

morning5

  1. In a twist on his usual Power Rankings, Luke Winn decided to rank the eight most likely bracketbusters. Winn’s criteria were that a team had to be an 11 seed or higher with only two could be from power conferences and two had to be seeded between 13 and 16. His top two picks are Tennessee and Iowa, which should not be too surprising although Iowa was already eliminated last night after losing to Tennessee in the play-in game last night. We are not sure how much the first round opponent factored into it. The top six teams in these rankings are all teams that we considered as legitimate threats of advancing when we made up our bracket earlier this week.
  2. As great as the TV highlights of magical March moments are we sometimes forget how great the writing about it can be. One example of that is SI’s longform piece on the 1989 Georgetown-Princeton game. For those who do not remember the game or were not aware of its significance it was one of the most memorable games in NCAA Tournament history. The recent piece does contain a bit of hyperbole, but does an excellent job recounting many of the more important details. If you are looking for a great account out of that game from the scene, check out Alexander Wolff’s column on it from the March 27, 1989 issue of Sports Illustrated.
  3. Jeff Eisenberg has a great article on Bill Frieder, who announced just before the 1989 NCAA Tournament that he would be leaving Michigan for Arizona State after the season. Rather than wait for the season to end, Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler fired Frieder immediately and replaced him with Steve Fischer, who went on to lead the Wolverines to the national title. Can you imagine the circus there would be today if something similar happened?
  4. There has been a lot of talk about fans rushing the court recently, but we had not heard of anybody infiltrating the court. That is until we heard about a Virginia fan, who worked his way into the Cavalier bench and became part of their celebration the ACC Tournament title game (more detailed version here). On the surface this is certainly an amusing story, but we are guessing that the officials at Virginia and the ACC find it much less so. We would guess that security will be tighter at future ACC Tournaments.
  5. Everybody is focused on the NCAA Tournament, but Oregon picked up a significant piece for next season when JaQuan Lyle announced that he was committing to play at Oregon next season. With Lyle committed, Myles Turner is the only significant recruit who has yet to commit (Turner is #2 in ESPN’s rankings and the only other uncommitted player in the top 100 is ranked 99th overall). As Jeff Borzello notes, Lyle’s recruitment has been complicated (involving him backing out of a commitment to Louisville) and there are still some academic questions that need to be answered, but Lyle should fit in well at Oregon.
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NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big East Teams

Posted by George Hershey on March 16th, 2014

Four Big East teams were selected to participate in the NCAA Tournament, a solid showing for the new league. At one point it looked like up to six teams could be dancing, but even more recently it was a realistic possibility that only two teams would earn bids. Below are a few quick thoughts on the four Big East selections.

Jay Wright and the Wildcats should be excited about their chances

Jay Wright and the Wildcats should be excited about their chances

  • Villanova has to be very happy about its region: The Wildcats will play in Buffalo the first weekend, and if they make it to the second week, will remain nearby at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats will miss ssome of the most dangerous top-three seeds, such as Duke and Syracuse, and will probably face Iowa State, a beatable Big 12 team with some flaws, in the Sweet Sixteen. The top seed in the region is Virginia, a great team deserving of the honor, but Villanova was only one spot behind them on the official seed list, so Jay Wright’s team should be feeling confident that it can beat anybody in the region.
  • Creighton’s #3 seed was surprising: Most, including Doug McDermott, thought that the Bluejays would be a #4 seed in this Tournament, but they ended up on the #3 line, similar to Marquette’s placement a year ago. The Bluejays do not have the easiest path, with a potential second game against Baylor in San Antonio and a trip to Anaheim for the second week if they advance that far. Creighton is similar to Wisconsin in many ways and should match up well if they are to play the Badgers. If they end up playing Arizona for a spot in the Final Four, Ethan Wragge could exploit the Wildcats’ frontcourt by drawing them outside their comfort zones.

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RTC Bracketology: March 13 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) on March 13th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert. As we approach March Madness, he’ll also provide occasional blind resumes. Evans has been ranked by the Bracket Matrix as the nation’s 11th-best bracketologist out of hundreds of entries.

Thursday is typically the busiest day of championship week because we get to find out which “bid thieves” are going to possibly throw a wrench into the hopes of the nation’s nervous bubble teams. Not a lot has changed so far this week, but here’s what has.

  • Georgetown is done after losing to DePaul on Thursday night. The Hoyas inexplicably blew a chance to play Creighton and what was likely a way to win their way into the Tournament. Now, Georgetown is NIT-bound.
  • Stanford saved its season by coming from behind to defeat Washington State in the last game of the day Wednesday night. The Cardinal are likely going to get in and will have a chance to cement their standing today against Arizona State.
  • BYU‘s situation has changed a lot in the last few days. First, the Cougars lost to Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament; then, news broke that Kyle Collinsworth is out for the season with an ACL injury. Yes, this will impact the Cougars’ chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament and, yes, it is a unique situation. Unlike Kansas, which will get a chance to show it is still a Tournament-worthy team without big man Joel Embiid, the Cougars won’t have that opportunity. Because of the timing of the injury, the committee won’t be able to see how good BYU is without Collinsworth and instead will have to completely ignore it when they make their selection this weekend. Or at least that is what (from my understanding) they are supposed to do. We are all human, so I wonder if the committee will be able to ignore Collinsworth’s injury in their analysis. Considering he averages 14.0 PPG and 8.1 RPG this season, that’s a substantial piece of their offensive attack. I’m guessing the Cougars are going to be out.
  • The CIT field is starting to come together. A total of 16 teams have now accepted bids (see below the bracket for more details).
  • There are no changes to the bracket below, at least not yet. Today there will be some movement.

The NCAA Tournament Picture (full bracket below after the jump)

  • NCAA Tournament Locks (35): Arizona, Florida, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Kansas, Duke, Villanova, Virginia, Creighton, Michigan, San Diego State, Iowa State, Michigan State, Louisville, North Carolina, Saint Louis, Cincinnati, UCLA, Texas, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Kansas State, VCU, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Iowa, Ohio State, George Washington, Memphis, Arizona State, New Mexico, Oregon, Baylor, SMU, Oklahoma State
  • Clinched NCAA Tournament Auto-Bids (13): Harvard (Ivy), Eastern Kentucky (OVC), Wichita State (MVC), Mercer (ASUN), Coastal Carolina (Big South), Manhattan (MAAC), Wofford (SOCON), Milwaukee (Horizon), Mount St. Mary’s (NEC), North Dakota State (Summit), Gonzaga (WCC), Delaware (CAA), American (Patriot)

Bracket Math

How many spots are still available for bubble teams hoping to win their way into the NCAA Tournament? Let’s break it down with a little bit of simple math.

I have 35 locks above, but when you consider nine conferences figure to have at least three bids or more (American, ACC, A-10, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC) it’s fair to assume that in MOST — if not all — of those leagues, the automatic bid will also come from an already “locked in” team. Therefore, we subtract nine from 35, which leaves us with 26 “true locks”. Add in the 32 automatic bids awarded to teams that win their conference tournament (which is where the nine conference champs we discounted a second ago will end up) and you’ve got a total of 58 locks. 

Since 68 teams make the NCAA Tournament, that leaves us with 10 spots remaining for bubble teams. Now, let’s take a look at the bubble:

Projected Bubble Spots Left: 10

  • Bubble In (10): Colorado, Stanford, Nebraska, Saint Joseph’s, Dayton, Xavier, California, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Tennessee
  • Bubble Out: BYU, Arkansas,  Providence, Green Bay, Florida State, St. John’s, Belmont, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia

Potential Bid Thieves Left: 44

  • American (3): Houston, Rutgers, UCF
  • ACC (5): Clemson, N. C. State, Florida State, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech
  • A-10 (7): Dayton, St. Joseph’s, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island, Duquesne,  Fordham
  • Big East (6): St. John’s, Xavier, Marquette, Seton Hall, DePaul, Providence
  • Big 12 (1): West Virginia
  • Big Ten (5): Minnesota, Illinois, Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue
  • Mountain West (6): UNLV, Nevada, Boise State, Wyoming, Fresno State, Utah State
  • Pac 12 (1): Utah
  • SEC (10): Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi State

The Projected NCAA Tournament Field (March 13, 2014 at 10:16 AM CT)

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Otskey’s Observations: Wednesday at the Big East Tournament

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 13th, 2014

Brian Otskey will be reporting from the Big East Tournament all week.

While the makeup of the Big East has changed, much was the same on day one of the 2014 edition of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The crowd at the Garden was certainly not sold out but it exceeded expectations for what seemed, on paper at least, like a lackluster doubleheader featuring Seton Hall, Butler, Georgetown and DePaul. In fact, attendance was similar, if not better, than the Tuesday and Wednesday rounds in Big East tournaments past. The opening rounds have never drawn well so a decent crowd on hand Wednesday night has to be a positive sign going forward for the re-configured conference. The real test will come during Thursday’s quarterfinals with four games involving the league’s better teams.

Butler's Stay at the Big East Tourney Was Short and Sweet (C. Michael)

Butler’s Stay at the Big East Tourney Was Short and Sweet (C. Michael)

In game one, Seton Hall survived Butler in a match-up of two hard-luck teams. The Pirates had lost seven games either by one point or in overtime this year but finally put a one point game in the win column, holding by the count of 51-50. Butler had lost five games by either two points or in overtime entering tonight. Seton Hall looked to be in command as it built a 13-point lead with under ten minutes to play but the Bulldogs whittled the deficit to one with only 47 seconds to play but neither team scored again, resulting in the final margin. Seton Hall did a great job taking Kellen Dunham out of the game, especially when you consider Dunham went off for 29 points when these teams met in Indianapolis just four days ago. Dunham and Alex Barlow combined to shoot 3-of-21 from the floor but senior Khyle Marshall picked up the slack, pouring in a highly efficient 22 points. The Pirates came out strong on the defensive end and it carried them to victory. The Hall isn’t a bad team when it plays hard, but getting this team to bring it every night has seemed to be head coach Kevin Willard’s major problem in his four years with the program. With nothing to lose, Seton Hall may be a tougher than expected challenge for top-seeded Villanova tomorrow afternoon, although the Wildcats should end up prevailing.

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Markel Starks Leaves Senior Night Fighting, As Always

Posted by Alex Moscoso on March 5th, 2014

On Tuesday night in Washington DC, Markel Starks sat in the press conference room inside the Verizon Center for the final time. In one of the final questions from reporters, Starks was asked if he had mixed feelings about his final home game, specifically coping with the fact that Georgetown has had a disappointing season under his stewardship as the senior leader. His (and John Thompson III’s) response: “there’s still time”. After Georgetown’s surprising 75-63 upset of Creighton, where Starks himself had 17 points and 11 assists, they indeed bought themselves more time. More time to reconcile this season as they now have a puncher’s chance at an NCAA Tournament bid; which would be the appropriate send off for the fiesty senior point guard.

Markel Starks is a major reason the Hoyas have not fallen apart.

Markel Starks is a major reason the Hoyas have not fallen apart.

While Starks, and JTIII, tried to put a positive spin things, the essence of the reporter’s question was true; this is probably not how Starks played out his senior season in his mind. Outside events occurred, that were well out of his control, and took a toll on the Hoyas’ season. First, Greg Whittington, probably the most talented player on the roster, tore his ACL last summer and was dismissed from the team at the end of November. In January, the Hoyas lost their lone scoring option down low, Joshua Smith, for the remainder of the season due to academic issues. Finally, as if they weren’t thin enough already, they also lost the services of Jabril Trawick for a couple of weeks from a broken jaw. So their season suffered, and it was up to the backcourt, Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, to make lemonade and carry the team on their backs.

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Big East M5: 03.04.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on March 4th, 2014

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  1. Xavier got a huge win on Saturday against Creighton, leading some pundits to say they were safely into the NCAA Tournament. Things were looking good until last night when they visited the Prudential Center to play Seton Hall. Within 10 minutes, Matt Stainbrook went down in a heap screaming and was  unable to return the rest of the game. Chris Mack did not know what the prognosis is for Stainbrook, telling the media, “I won’t know for sure until he sees our doctor. We’re hopeful that it’s maybe just an MCL strain.” That would be a crucial blow to the Musketeers as they were rising and were in the 7/8 seed range if they finished the year well. They struggled the rest of the night and fell to the Pirates. They host Villanova on Thursday to close the year before heading to New York. They will likely need to win at least one more game this year to be safe, but if Stainbrook misses the rest of the year, the team is going to struggle to adapt so quickly.
  2. Steve Lavin’s squad has been short-handed lately. Orlando Sanchez missed a game to be with his wife for the birth of their child two weeks ago and Chris Obekpa missed time at the end of February with an ankle injury. On Sunday the team was without freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan as he mourned the loss of his aunt. This is a crucial time for St. John’s as they sit as the third team out according to Joe Lunardi’s bracketology. They survived a scare from DePaul on Sunday and close the regular season against Marquette, on the Golden Eagles senior day. This team has had an epic turn around, but still has work to be done if they want to be dancing.
  3. Georgetown will break ground on construction for a new athletic facility this summer. The facility will be named after famed coach John Thompson Jr. and is scheduled to be completed in 2016, costing $60 million. Georgetown Athletic Director said in a statement, “We’re very excited to be able to have the opportunity to recognize the career of John Thompson Jr. in this way. Coach Thompson’s legacy as a leader, a teacher and a coach are unparalleled in college athletics. Having his name on this building is a fitting honor.” Hopefully this helps the coaching staff lure some big recruits and give the players more resources to develop.
  4. Two sixth-year seniors were in some great articles recently. Chris Otule, Marquette’s singing big man, talked to Eric Prisbell of USA Today about his long career, full of injuries and hardships. It has been well-publicized that Otule was born with glaucoma and has had to live with a prosthetic eye. He has played in three straight sweet sixteens with vision in only one eye, a feat most of us cannot even imagine. After coming to Marquette, he broke his right foot and the next year broke his left foot, missing both seasons. Two years ago as the Golden Eagles got out to a 10-0 start, Otule’s leg buckled at Madison Square Garden, leading to a torn ACL and another missed season. What separates him is his personality, leading to being awarded Marquette’s first lifetime achievement award, before he even left. Grant Gibbs is also in his sixth season and spoke with Sean Brennan. He transferred from Gonzaga after suffering a shoulder and knee injury in his first two years. Then he struggled with his knee as he waited to play for the Bluejays. He eventually got healthy and the rest is history as he has led the team alongside Doug McDermott. Both players struggled, but displayed great perseverance to continue their careers.
  5. Seton Hall senior Fuquan Edwin almost did not get to play in his final home game last night against Xavier after hurting his thumb last week. After sitting out the team’s last game, he was fortunately able to suit up and help lead the team to a nice upset. Brendan Prunty of The Star Ledger sat down with Edwin and talked to him about his journey to Seton Hall and his legacy. Edwin has some great quotes including speaking about his childhood, growing up in a rough neighborhood and deciding to go to Paterson Catholic to stay out of trouble and  staying with current Cincinnati player Shaquille Thomas. When talking about his legacy Edwin said, “I think my legacy is going hard out there, 100 percent. I think what I’ll be remembered for is playing hard. I didn’t think about that when I came here, but I came here and wanted to do something special.” Edwin hopes to make it onto an NBA roster after he finishes a great career in South Orange.
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Breaking Down the Big East Bubble Teams

Posted by Todd Keryc on February 25th, 2014

Last week we examined the two-horse race between Creighton and Villanova to determine the Big East regular season champion. Today we take a look at the teams on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament, those who currently sit on what is commonly referred to as the bubble. As crazy as it seems, the two co-leaders are the only Big East teams currently assured of making the NCAA Tournament. At the other end of the spectrum, teams such as Butler, DePaul and Seton Hall can only get in by winning the conference tournament. That leaves five teams — half of the league — sitting in various positions ranging from “in but not out of the woods” to “we have to run the table.” Let’s take a look at the status of each.

XAVIER

Chris Mack is Safe For Now But Shouldn't 'Get too Comfortable (Getty)

Chris Mack is Safe For Now But Shouldn’t ‘Get too Comfortable (Getty)

Current Status: In But Be Careful. The Musketeers are the likeliest third Big East team in the field. They have 18 wins and sit tied for third in the conference standings. They have a strong early-season win over Cincinnati but that is their only RPI top 50 victory. On the flip side, they only have one loss against a team outside of the RPI top 150 and only two total against teams below the top 100. Xavier also has wins against fellow bubble-mates Tennessee, St. John’s, Providence, Georgetown and Marquette. Of course, they’ve also lost to all of those teams except St. John’s.

Looking Ahead: Crunch Time. There are two ways of looking at Xavier’s remaining schedule. One is that they have several chances to register big wins that could seal their bid. The other way is to say they have a very difficult schedule down the stretch. The Musketeers get both Creighton and Villanova at home, which gives them a huge chance to score a second marquee win and lift their RPI into the top 50. They also have St. John’s on the road in a bubble game and Seton Hall in a chance for revenge after the Pirates beat them in Ohio earlier this season.

Prediction: In. Xavier has the kind of home court advantage that could pull off one, if not both, of the big upset chances remaining on their schedule. Look for them to upset a Big East big boy and big-time it back to the Big Dance.

ST JOHN’S

Current Status: Square on the Bubble. The Johnnies have used a recent run to work their way very much into NCAA Tournament consideration. They have won nine of their last 11 games and the only losses are at Creighton by three and at Villanova by three. Next to the dynamic duo at the top of the Big East standings, the Red Storm have been the best team over the last month. However, their RPI sits in the 50s, they are only 1-5 against the RPI top 50, and they have losses to Penn State and DePaul sitting as black eyes on their resume. What they have going for them is a terrific win against Creighton and they have been red hot (pun intended) over the last month of action.

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Two Weeks Remaining: Assessing Big East Regular Season Title Contenders

Posted by Todd Keryc on February 21st, 2014

The latest NCAA Tournament bracket projections put somewhere in the neighborhood of four to six Big East teams in the Big Dance. Xavier is on the inside looking out for the moment, with help from a big non-conference win over Cincinnati. Providence, St. John’s and Georgetown are all hovering on the bubble, their respective fates certain to be determined over the season’s final few weeks. Creighton and Villanova are the only total locks, each heading for top four seeds and possible protected first-week locations barring a late collapse.

For both Doug McDermott and James Bell, much is still up for grabs for Creighton and Villanova.

For both Doug McDermott and James Bell, much is still up for grabs for Creighton and Villanova.

While many eyes are focused solely on the Big East bubble (which will ultimately make or break the realigned conference’s debut) the regular season champion remains very much in doubt. It’s all but certain that either Creighton or Villanova will claim it, but they are about to begin a two-week sprint to the finish. Sure, teams are remembered for what they do in the NCAA Tournament but a banner will be hung somewhere for winning the Big East regular season, so let’s assess which team has the advantage down the stretch. In the preseason poll, the pair were picked to finish third and fourth, respectively — yet they have dominated this maiden Big East season. Villanova is 11-2 in conference play, with both losses coming against Creighton. The Bluejays are 12-2, with only a pair of road losses, as well as the clear conference (and likely national) Player of the Year, Doug McDermott, and that pair of dominant performances against Villanova.

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Who Won the Week? Wahoos, BYU, Lumberjacks, But Not Hoosiers or Hoyas

Posted by rtmsf on February 21st, 2014

wonweek

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that outlines and discusses three winners and losers from the previous week of hoops. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. That’s tough to do when the closest game in the week is two states away. There’s four schools, in four different conferences, within 90 minutes of his house. Figure it out, schedule-makers.

WINNER: Virginia

The Cavaliers picked off a pair of pesky road games, winning at a bubble-bound Clemson and pesky rival Virginia Tech, and  – thanks to timely losses from Syracuse and Duke – have the inside track on their first outright ACC title since 1980-81, when Ralph Sampson was a sophomore. In Saturday’s 63-58 win against the Tigers, four Virginia players scored in double digits, led by senior guard Joe Harris’ 16. Tuesday’s 57-53 win over the Hokies was a little uglier, with sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon leading the team with 12 points, but he and Harris combined to shoot 5 for 21 from the field. The molasses-slow Hoos haven’t crested 70 possessions in a game this season, but their 10-game winning streak dates back to a 69-65 loss at Duke on Jan. 13, their only stumble in conference play. Their last four games are Notre Dame, Miami and Syracuse at home before a road trip to Maryland.

Malcolm Brogdon Has Helped the Cavs Turn the Corner (Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty)

Malcolm Brogdon Has Helped the Cavs Turn the Corner
(Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty)

(Related winners:  Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who coaches the best basketball you don’t ever want to watch. Related losers: Duke, which after losing to rival North Carolina cannot win the conference unless Syracuse and Virginia to both lose each game they play not against each other; Syracuse, no longer undefeated and now the only top-20 team with a loss to a team outside the top 150 of the RPI.)

LOSER: Indiana

It’s tough to tell which is falling apart faster: the Hoosiers’ season or Assembly Hall. Indiana got smoked by in-state rival Purdue 82-64 for its third straight loss and now sits at 14-11 and 4-8 in Big Ten play. Cold shooting did the Hoosiers in, with a 39 percent effective field goal rate against a team that usually gives up nearly 48 percent effective shooting. Oh, and Tuesday’s game against Iowa was postponed when a large piece of metal came unfastened from storied Assembly Hall’s roof, falling into the seats. Since then, more pieces of the ceiling have been found to be unsound, so who knows what’s going to happen in that regard. But as poorly as the Hoosiers are playing, maybe any distraction is welcome. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Super Saturday” Results Give Hope to St. John’s and Georgetown

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 2nd, 2014

Brian Otskey (@botskey) attended the “Super Saturday” doubleheader at Madison Square Garden yesterday and filed this report.

When this year’s college basketball schedule was released, many people circled February 1 on their calendars as it would feature a doubleheader at Madison Square Garden on the day before the Super Bowl involving three quality Big East teams and a national championship contender from the Big Ten. Fast forward to the actual game day and the storylines coming in to Saturday’s games were a lot different. Marquette, picked to finish first in the new look Big East, was looking to get its season back on track after losing nine games before February and posting just a .500 mark in Big East play. St. John’s, a trendy surprise preseason pick, had stumbled badly and came into yesterday’s game with a 2-6 league record. Georgetown, picked right behind Marquette in the preseason poll, entered the weekend with an 11-9 overall record and in the midst of a five-game losing streak. The only storyline that hadn’t changed from the preseason was Michigan State is still a national title contender, although the Spartans are currently playing without two injured starters in Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson.

Georgetown's Jabril Trawick and Mikael Hopkins got the best of Gary Harris and Michigan State on Saturday. (Credit: Anthony Gruppuso--USA Today)

Georgetown’s Jabril Trawick and Mikael Hopkins got the best of Gary Harris and Michigan State on Saturday. (Credit: Anthony Gruppuso–USA Today)

So much for that. Those storylines flipped once again after the games were played, as St. John’s blasted Marquette in a game that wasn’t remotely close, and Georgetown pulled a huge upset in knocking off the Spartans in the day’s second game. For Steve Lavin’s team, the win was further proof that the Red Storm are beginning to find their identity. The win was the fourth in five games with the only loss coming by three points at Creighton last Tuesday. St. John’s is playing better basketball and a lot of folks are starting to take notice. “Everything’s moving in the right direction,” said D’Angelo Harrison, who led the Johnnies with a game-high 27 points on 6-of-11 shooting from three-point land. “We’re buying into the process.” Lavin, while downplaying the win when a media member asked if it may represent a turning point, echoed Harrison’s comments. “The kids took another positive step forward. Since halftime of the Georgetown game, this team just keeps getting better,” said the fourth-year Red Storm head man. “I see it in practice, I see it in games. I haven’t had a group that fights back like this group.”

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Saturday Preview: Entering February, Stakes Are Raised

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 1st, 2014

Hello February! College hoops welcomes you into 2014’s second month with a mouth-watering slate of action. You may be sold at “Duke-Syracuse,” but there will be plenty of games that don’t set Carrier Dome attendance records worth watching. That’s not to say that your college basketball fan credentials will be confiscated if you aren’t settling in to your couch for some ACC on ESPN action at 6:30 PM ET today – because they will be – but here are some other storylines to watch on the first day of February.

Perfection Will Be Tested

All Three Unbeatens Are In Action Saturday. With Visitors From Durham In Town, C.J. Fair And Syracuse Look To Be The Most Vulnerable Of The Trio.

All Three Unbeatens Are In Action Saturday. With Visitors From Durham In Town, C.J. Fair And Syracuse Look To Be The Most Vulnerable Of The Trio.

For the first time since 1976, there are three teams 20-0 or better in college basketball, and all three are in action on Saturday. Wichita State shouldn’t have any issues with Evansville (3-6 in the MVC) at The Roundhouse (3:00 PM ET, ESPNU), but both Arizona and Syracuse face serious threats to their dreams of perfection. The Wildcats visit Berkeley to take on a Cal team (10:30 PM ET, P12 Nets) which had been undefeated at home up until Wednesday, when Arizona State squeezed out an overtime win over the Bears. If Mike Montgomery’s team is to add the signature victory of all signature victories to its resume, they will need senior Richard Solomon to have a big game against that impressive Arizona frontcourt. All the way across the country, Duke would be well-served to find a way to match up with the impressive frontcourt of their undefeated opponent. The Blue Devils are not a great rebounding team, but in their game with Syracuse (6:30 PM ET, ESPN), keeping the Orange (ninth nationally in OR%) off the offensive glass will be imperative for Coach K’s squad. On the other end, look for Jabari Parker to get plenty of touches out of the high post. A record crowd is expected at the Carrier Dome for this one, which obviously sounds like good news for Syracuse. Maybe not, though. The last time there was an attendance record set at the dome (last February, versus Georgetown), a do-it-all 6’8” forward named Otto Porter torched the Orange for 33 points and eight rebounds in a lopsided victory for the visitors. Can Parker induce a little déjà vu on Saturday, and end Syracuse’s perfect season while he’s at it?

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Big East M5: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 29th, 2014

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  1. Providence coach Ed Cooley is living proof that it’s never too late to positively change your life. From nearly 350 pounds down to 230, Cooley has spent the last six months redefining his eating and exercising habits in order to get healthy. CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander detailed the incredible transformation of Cooley as he battled obesity and dealt with a house fire. He’s done all this while turning his Friars around. Providence is coming off one of its best stretches during the last decade and is closer to being a NCAA Tournament than anybody expected after some devastating early-season injuries.
  2. Are Georgetown‘s problems the fault of John Thompson III or circumstances out of his control? For FoxSports.com’s Reid Forgrave, it’s the latter. He thinks the Hoyas are just one part away from being a good team. That part could be Joshua Smith, who is now gone for the year, or Otto Porter. who went pro. It’s hard to buy that explanation because the talent at Georgetown has slowly declined since Thompson took over in the mid-2000s. He’s had a few stars come through, but for the most part the Hoyas’ depth has seemingly decreased each year. It’s come to a head in 2014 with the injuries and suspensions turning Georgetown into one of the worst teams in the Big East.
  3. Creighton’s Grant Gibbs occasionally blogs on For The Win to give college hoops fans a look inside the life of a student athlete. His latest entry gives insight over the way he bonds with his teammates, particularly Will “Big Swag” Artino. His tales about Snapchatting with “Big Swag” are a nice reminder that these college hoops players are just like many of us were in college.
  4. After Creighton thrashed Villanova for 21 three-pointers, questions about whether Villanova was going to collapse popped up. After all, Jay Wright’s clubs from 2010-2012 were a train-wreck defensively so their performance against the Blue Jays probably brought back nightmares from their awful 2012 season. Despite Villanova’s issues against Creighton, Eamonn Brennan says that loss was an anomaly thanks to two consecutive road victories.
  5. Is it time for Marquette to start thinking about next year? The Golden Eagles are 11-9 and one more loss would probably eliminate them from NCAA Tournament contention. Anonymous Eagle, SBNation’s Marquette blog, writes Buzz Williams needs to cut Jamil Wilson‘s and Jake Thomas‘ minutes. They’re both seniors and they’re both having a negative impact on the current team. Wilson is an offensive black hole–a high usage, low efficiency player–while Thomas doesn’t contribute anything except the occasional three. Anonymous Eagle wants to see more minutes going to freshmen John Dawson, Deonte Burton, and Jajuan Johnson.
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