RTC Top 25: Week One

Posted by Walker Carey on November 24th, 2014

Week one is in the books and what a week it was. One of the great things about college basketball is that many of the elite teams play other elite teams early in the season, and that is what happened at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis last Tuesday. First, #2 Duke led the entire way in scoring a comfortable 11-point victory over #19 Michigan State, and in the nightcap, #1 Kentucky showed everyone why it will be the story of the year in college basketball, as the Wildcats thoroughly dismantled #11 Kansas. Duke’s win over Michigan State paired with its weekend victories over Temple and Stanford have the Blue Devils all the way up to the second slot in this week’s RTC25. #1 Kentucky remains in the top spot, but its style points in demolishing a talented Kansas squad earned the Wildcats every one of our pollsters’ number one votes. Outside of Kentucky, the team of the week had to be #7 Gonzaga, who rose from #11 after it impressively handled previously-#22 SMU and dominated its way to a 52-point thrashing of Saint Joseph’s.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump…

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 9.21.01 AM

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Freshmen Consistency Will Key Success For Georgetown

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 19th, 2014

It was obvious when John Thompson III inked his consensus top 15 recruiting class that he would be relying on those five recruits to make an immediate impact on his program. While there is no transcendent player who headlines the class, the group is talented enough to the point where JTIII can play each of them significantly — 36 percent of all available minutes through two games, to be exact — and put as many as three freshmen on the floor at the same time. On Saturday, his assuredness paid off as freshmen carried Georgetown to an easy victory against St. Francis (NY) by scoring 42 of the Hoyas’s 83 total points. But on Tuesday night in the team’s 78-62 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Hoyas’ head coach was forced to deal with some of the inconsistency that comes with youth. Against the Islanders, his heralded corps of rookies only chipped in 16 of the 78 total points. This issue of consistency will need to be addressed if Georgetown hopes to crack the Top 25 and get the national attention that they’re used to.

JTIII will need L.J. Peak to be aggressive every night to win the Big East (Jonathan Newton/Washington Post).

JTIII will need L.J. Peak to be aggressive in every outing to win the Big East (Jonathan Newton/Washington Post).

The group that was so impressive over the weekend was far less so on Tuesday night, taking a number of bad shots and committing half of the team’s 16 turnovers. L.J. Peak, a wing from Gaffney, South Carolina, and the only starter from his class, led all scorers with 23 points on 8-for-8 shooting in Georgetown’s season opener, but he struggled to contribute 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting on Tuesday. Three others — Isaac Copeland, a power forward from Wolfeboro, New Hampshire; Paul White, another power forward from Chicago, Illinois; and Tre Campbell, the only Washington DC native — all played significant minutes in both games. But their performances in each were in stark contrast with one another – as a collective, the trio went from 19 points over the weekend to a mere six on Tuesday. The decline was felt systematically, as the Hoyas went into the half tied with the Southland Conference team. Read the rest of this entry »

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Georgetown Needs Joshua Smith to Fill Its Rebounding Vacuum

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 15th, 2014

On Saturday afternoon, Georgetown’s Joshua Smith suited up for his first official game since January 4, the date when he was suspended for failing to meet academic obligations and only the latest bump in a turbulent road throughout his collegiate career. In last season’s 13 games for the Hoyas, he was a helpful presence, leading the team in Win Shares per 40 minutes (.191) despite playing fewer than 20 minutes in nine of those games. Smith’s presence inside balanced the team’s offense by providing efficient post scoring to complement outside shooting from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks. But after his suspension, Georgetown struggled, losing six of its next seven games en route to an 18-15 overall record and missing the NCAA Tournament. Now, Smith is back, Starks is gone, and the Hoyas have added a slate of talented freshmen who will play significant roles this year. The challenge for Smith, in his final year of eligibility, will be again defining his role and asserting himself in the new rotation. In Saturday’s game against St. Francis (NY), an 83-62 victory, it became obvious what the Hoyas need from Smith the most: rebounding.

Josh Smith Iis back and the Hoyas need him on the boards. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Josh Smith is back, and the Hoyas will need him to rebound more effectively. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Smith posted a familiar stat line of 19 minutes, 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, two rebounds (both were offensive rebounds of his own misses), and a block. Limited minutes, high offensive efficiency, and leaving something to be desired on the rebounding front are what we’ve become accustomed to with this player. But head coach John Thompson III is not conceding to this assumption. He expects more from his senior center, and he made that clear when he was asked about Smith’s performance in the postgame press conference: “I thought it was unacceptable. He’s got to play better. Josh Smith can’t play and have two offensive rebounds, two rebounds total.” His lack of rebounding presence was certainly felt, as the Terriers grabbed 22 offensive boards on the day, a major contributing factor as to why they were able to take 10 more shots than the Hoyas. As Thompson acknowledged, giving up that many offensive rebounds will become a greater issue when the Hoyas start playing Big East and other high-major teams that can better take advantage of those second chances.

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Big East Conference Preview: Xavier, Georgetown & Villanova

Posted by Justin Kundrat on November 14th, 2014

The Big East microsite will preview each Big East team in tiers in preparation for the season’s tipoff. The bottom tier was released earlier this week; it can be found here. Yesterday: the middle tier of the conferenceToday: the top tier, including Xavier, Georgetown and Villanova.

#3: Xavier

Xavier's Matt Stainbrook is a Load on the Blocks

Xavier’s Matt Stainbrook is a Load on the Blocks

Xavier’s projected top three finish is less a testament to the team being talented and more a statement about the lack of quality, NCAA-caliber teams in the Big East this season. But that’s not to say the Musketeers will be a bad team. Senior Matt Stainbrook, arguably the conference’s most talented big man, will play a crucial role in serving as the team’s go-to scorer and anchor in the paint. While the 6’10” center has not been considered a primary option in his career, he has started in almost every game dating back to his first two years at Western Michigan. Coming off a season in which he averaged 10.6 points on 55.6 percent shooting (second in the Big East) and 7.4 rebounds (5th in the Big East) in just 24.4 minutes per game, head coach Chris Mack knows what he has in Stainbrook. With the departure of leading scorer Semaj Christon to the NBA, Stainbrook will be the team’s number one option. Also gone from last year’s NCAA Tournament team are two additional starters: junior forward Justin Martin (transfer) and senior forward Isaiah Philmore (graduation), who together combined for 29 percent of the team’s total points per game.

Yet the Musketeers still find themselves with a projected third place finish. Aside from Stainbrook, there are two reasons for this. First, point guard Dee Davis is back for his senior season. Davis has shown over his career that he can run an offense, averaging 4.7 assists per game last season (second in the Big East) with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5-to-1. Second, Xavier brings in guard Remy Abell, an Indiana transfer, and six new freshman in an incoming class that ranks as one of the best in the program’s history. Headlining this list is 6’5 forward Trevon Bluiett, who could very well be the conference’s second best freshman behind Isaiah Whitehead. Bluiett is a big time scorer at the wing, and he will most likely see immediate playing time in the starting lineup as the Musketeers’ depth at the wings is limited. Additionally, the development of rising sophomores Jalen Reynolds and Myles Davis, who round out the starting lineup, will be instrumental in determining Xavier’s postseason success. Both players have shown flashes coming off the bench, but will need to find consistency if Xavier is to push for another NCAA Tournament bid. Given the team’s relatively weak non-conference schedule this season, the Musketeers will have to capitalize on their games versus projected conference front-runners Georgetown and Villanova.

#2: Georgetown

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One on One: A Big East Preview with Jon Rothstein

Posted by Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) on November 3rd, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the Big East, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with a Big East expert in CBS Sports Network College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein (@jonrothstein)

Rush the Court: Villanova enters the season as the pretty clear favorite to win the league. The Wildcats return four starters from a team that went 29-5 last season. What are some reasonable expectations for Jay Wright’s squad this season?

Expectations are high for Jay Wright and Company. (Getty)

Expectations are High for Jay Wright’s Villanova Team (Getty)

Jon Rothstein: I think reasonable expectations are to win the Big East title, have a chance at winning the Big East Tournament title, and get another high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was terrific last year in close game situations. I think there is a real possibility that Villanova could be a better team this year than it was last year, but have a worse record because its non-conference schedule is that much more difficult. What makes Villanova so good this year is that it does not lose 50/50 balls. Every ball that is being contested seems to go Villanova’s way almost every time. A big reason for that is Josh Hart. Hart is a guy who can go on a tear for Villanova this year, as he will step into a more enhanced role with the departure of James Bell. I think right now if there is one person who epitomizes Villanova’s culture and brand, it is Josh Hart.

RTC: Georgetown had a below average season last year [just 18-15 overall and 8-10 in conference]. There are no two ways around that. Does John Thompson III’s team have enough firepower to ensure a more successful campaign this season?

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Morning Five: 10.27.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 27th, 2014

morning5

  1. Once North Carolina released the findings of the independent investigation into the widespread academic fraud at its institution the next obvious step was to hear from Roy Williams, who spoke about the issue at a press conference on Friday. Williams stated he “thought we were doing the right thing” at the time and noted his reported initial concerns about the high number of players from his 2005 title team that were so many African and Afro-American Studies majors. We aren’t sure whether we believe that Roy (or any other coach involved in this type of scandal) actually cared to know about what was going on or just preferred not to worry about the details of how the sausage was made in his program. The next step in this process is what the NCAA will do with the school. Dennis Dodd has already come out in favor of  the death penalty, but acknowledges that it won’t happen.  Given the widespread nature of the scandal we understand the sentiment, but find it unlikely that the NCAA would touch one of its sacred (cash) cows. Not to be outdone by their new ACC rivals, Syracuse already has its day(s) in (NCAA) court set for October 30 and 31. These allegations go back 10 years and involve both the men’s basketball and football programs with the biggest charges revolving around extra benefits and academic issues with the basketball team. We can’t wait for the weekly ACC conference calls.
  2. We knew that we would have to deal with teams losing players to the professional ranks at some point this season we just figured that it would be after the season actually started. Charlotte junior shooting guard Shawn Lester is leaving the program to pursue a professional basketball career. Carter, who was second on the team in scoring last year at 11.9 points per game, is reportedly looking for an agent with a plan on signing overseas. Even with the loss, the 49ers will still have four returning starters and ad Florida transfer Braxton Ogbueze as well as freshmen Keyshawn Woods and Torin Dorn Jr. Although Lester’s reasons for leaving are unclear (reportedly under the pretense of supporting his family financially), he is the fifth player to leave the program early since the end of the 2012-13 season.
  3. We are just a few weeks away from the start of college basketball season so we can only imagine the panic in Madison when it was reported that Sam Dekker sprained his left ankle at a Friday practice. Dekker, who averaged 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season and is a potential All-American, sprained his ankle during a 4-on-4 drill and is only expected to miss one to two weeks as he recovers. Fortunately Wisconsin has a relatively easy start to the season before they play Green Bay on November 19 at which point we would expect Dekker would be back at full strength based on the information that Wisconsin is providing.
  4. It won’t make up for the loss of Emmanuel Mudiay or (possibly) Markus Kennedy, but Southern Methodist got a boost when the NCAA ruled that Virginia Tech transfer Ben Emelogu had been granted a transfer waiver and would be eligible to play this season. Emelogu, who is from Dallas, averaged 10.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists as a freshman last season. Emelogu could also provide some stability to the team, which has been in flux the past few month as he actually was a team captain last season despite being only a freshman. If they can get Kennedy back, the Mustangs have the potential to be a dangerous team even if the person who was going to save them is on the other side of the planet.
  5. With all the crying about the rivalries lost with conference realignment a number of schools have figured out ways to keep those rivalries intact at least temporarily. The latest two school to do so are Connecticut and Georgetown, which will renew their rivalry for at least two years beginning with the 2015-16 season. The first game will be played on January 23, 2016 at the XL Center with the return date at the Verizon Center on January 21, 2017. While the rivalry might lack the history of others (remember Connecticut was nothing before Jim Calhoun got there), the Hoyas only lead the series 35-29 with the two schools each having a record seven Big East Tournament titles (something the Hoyas should be able to reclaim now that Connecticut is in the AAC). We are sure that we will be seeing plenty of clips of Allen Iverson and Ray Allen going at it in the lead up to these games.
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Morning Five: 06.13.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 13th, 2014

morning5

  1. One of the major criticisms of conference realignment was that it would effectively kill many of the major rivalries that help drive college basketball. One of the best to supposedly disappear was the Syracuse-Georgetown  rivalry. It turns out that did not last too long as the two schools reached an agreement to resume the rivalry in the 2015-16 season. The two sides agreed to a home-and-home deal with the first game at Georgetown and the two teams playing at Syracuse the following season. We hope this starts a trend where schools revive rivalries that ended with conference realignment.
  2. The Bruce Pearl experiment is already reaping benefits for Auburn even if Pearl is still technically under his show-cause penalty. Pearl already picked up Kareem Canty in the most confusing transfer this season and earlier this week he got a commitment from Niagara transfer Antoine Mason. Mason, the son of former NBA star Anthony Mason, averaged 25.6 points per game as a junior, which was second in the nation to only Doug McDermott. Mason might only have one year of eligibility left, but he is a huge pick-up for the Tigers as he will be able to play immediately thanks to a graduate student waiver.
  3. Michigan State lost some big pieces this offseason with the departures of Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, and Gary Harris, but they picked up a big transfer in Eron Harris. The West Virginia transfer averaged 17.2 points per game as a sophomore and will sit out this season, but has two more years of eligibility remaining. Harris reportedly chose Michigan State over Michigan and Purdue. Although the Spartans will take a step back next year with all of their departures we would not expect them to stay down for long with Tom Izzo and with Harris coming in a year they should have a major talent infusion.
  4. You might not have heard of Igor Ibaka before, but you can probably guess from his last name that he is the younger brother of Oklahoma City star Serge (ok, maybe the younger brother part might be kind of hard to figure out. Ibaka, who has played at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, has committed to play at Oklahoma State after averaging 13.7 points and 9.6 rebounds as a freshman at the junior college. He might seem like a very promising prospect given his pedigree, but we would caution you that he will be 22 in July, which is why he cannot play for a junior college team. According to reports, Ibaka plans on spending the next year finishing up his associates degree then transferring to Oklahoma State in time to play the 2015-16 season.
  5. Jim Larranaga probably will never coach a Miami team as good as the one that the 2012-13 team, but he is putting together a pretty solid group of recruits. His latest addition is Oklahoma State transfer Kamari Murphy who will be transferring to Miami with two years of eligibility remaining. Murphy averaged 6.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game last year as a sophomore. Murphy will be one of the rare breed of transfers these days in that he will sit out the upcoming season and be eligible to play in the 2015-16 season. We are not sure what how Larranaga has done it, but he appears to have some kind of Big 12 transfer pipeline as Murphy will be joining Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez and Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan on the Hurricane roster.
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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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