Rushed Reactions: Providence 65, #14 Creighton 58

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2014

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Brian Otskey attended the Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden.

It Was a Dream Come True For Providence and Ed Cooley (AP)

It Was a Dream Come True For Providence and Ed Cooley (AP)

Three key takeaways.

  1. Dancing Friars. After living on the bubble for much of the season, the Friars left no doubt in clinching the Big East’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Providence won its first Big East Tournament crown since 1994 and will be in the Big Dance for the first time since 2004. It has been a long time coming for an old Big East program with a strong fan base that has been dying for a winner to rally behind. With this team, they have a great bunch of guys to root for. Providence’s late season surge after a mid-season slump has been impressive, with its only losses coming in double-overtime to league regular season champion Villanova and at Creighton on senior night for Doug McDermott and company.
  2. Is the book now out on Creighton? Providence made every Creighton basket a chore with a 2-3 zone that in many ways resembled what Jim Boeheim and Syracuse use. Ed Cooley mixed in some full court pressure at times and that made Creighton use a lot of the shot clock on many possessions. Cooley said he went zone “because I’m crazy,” but it was definitely a smart decision. Providence rotated perfectly in sync and frustrated Creighton all game long with it. Creighton outshot the Friars but Providence was able to get to the free throw line 26 times where the nation’s No. 2 free throw shooting team converted on 23. Offensively, Cooley and Providence made a concerted effort to work the post, specifically when Ethan Wragge was forced to defend Kadeem Batts. When combined with Cotton’s ability to penetrate, Providence was able to generate a number of quality looks around the rim.
  3. Ed Cooley coached a tremendous game. His team was motivated all tournament long and you could tell the confidence of his players was brimming. It felt as if the Providence players played even harder once they realized it was not just a pro-Creighton crowd. Cooley’s defense was physical and his team hit the glass hard, outrebounding the Bluejays by three on the offensive glass. The game plan was clearly to get out on the shooters and get the ball inside when on offense. With a great floor general in Bryce Cotton executing the plan, it worked fantastically for the Friars. Providence also utilized its frontcourt depth, posting up Ethan Wragge all night long, who didn’t stand much of a chance against the bigger and more physical Friars. After the game, Cooley said that was exactly what they planned to do on that end of the floor.

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Rushed Reactions: #14 Creighton 86, Xavier 78

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2014

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

McDermott Continued to Add to His Legend With

McDermott Continued to Add to His Legend With 32 More Points

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. You cannot stop Creighton’s offense, you can only hope to contain it. Creighton’s offense is by far the most efficient in the nation. When you can spread the floor with four or five three-point shooters, you can get an open shot nearly every time. That’s what Creighton does to nearly every team, making it nearly impossible to defend. Xavier could not contain the three-point barrage and, despite a late run, could never get to a point where it truly threatened the Bluejays. Big runs necessitate stops and it is more difficult to get them against Creighton than against any other team in America. To beat Creighton, a team must expose it defensively and dominate the rebounding. You have to generate extra possessions and also hope they just miss shots they usually make. Creighton’s defense is not elite by any means, but if you limit possessions, you can beat them. Xavier did not do that tonight.
  2. Xavier showed tremendous resolve. Almost everyone in the building thought this game was headed into blowout territory but the Musketeers trimmed the lead to as little as five points with 1:27 left to play. If the eye test does exist, Xavier passed it in this week’s Big East Tournament. Chris Mack’s team methodically took out Marquette last night and fought a hard battle against Creighton tonight. This is a team that can win a game in the NCAA Tournament and maybe two with the right match-ups. Read the rest of this entry »
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St. John’s Showing Real Signs of Improvement

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 10th, 2014

It was not even a month ago, 24 days to be exact, that St. John’s was sitting at the very bottom of the Big East at 0-5 in league play along with Butler. At 9-8 overall and winless in the conference, panic was starting to set in amongst the fan base and some media folks who thought this year’s St. John’s team could contend for a high conference finish and make the NCAA Tournament. Fast forward to approximately 9:15 pm EST on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden and St. John’s had flipped the script after upsetting Creighton and moving to 15-9 overall and 5-6 in conference play after its sixth win in seven games.

Steve Lavin's Group May be Turning the Corner (AP)

Steve Lavin’s Group May be Turning the Corner (AP)

The Red Storm locked down defensively in the second half, holding National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott (25 points, 10-18 FG) without one single shot attempt over the final eight minutes and 41 seconds of the game. “They did a good job of fronting him to make his catches tough,” said McDermott’s father and Creighton head coach Greg McDermott. St. John’s sophomore JaKarr Sampson did most of the heavy lifting for the Red Storm when it came to guarding McDermott, using his length, quickness and athleticism to frustrate the nation’s best player for most of the evening. “My mindset was to focus on defense,” Sampson told reporters after the game. Focus he did and it resulted in McDermott becoming frustrated and a non-factor down the stretch despite a hot start to the game for the Creighton senior. “Their length and their athleticism…it distracts you,” said Doug McDermott. “They did a great job of taking me away.”

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Making Them Pay for It: How Creighton Lit up Villanova on Its Home Court

Posted by Joseph Dzuback on January 21st, 2014

Less than 48 hours after suffering their worst loss in the 2013-14 season (an 81-68 pounding at the hands of Providence), Creighton made turnaround fair play by dropping a bomb on #4 Villanova (for this week anyway) with a 28-point victory. The Bluejays had been ranked #20 in the national polls last week, but the disaster at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Saturday gave the sportswriters pause. In a little less than two hours, the game that was supposed to settle the Big East race early instead became the rout that threw the race up for grabs.

Doug McDermott Gives The MVC Something It Hasn't Had In Many Years: A Bona Fide National POY Candidate.

Doug McDermott and his Creighton teammates pulled off a surprise against ‘Nova. (AP)

Late-arriving spectators who checked the Jumbotron at the under-15 timeout could be forgiven if they thought the 24-5 score favoring Creighton was a scoreboard malfunction. They also missed an astounding  shooting exhibition where the Bluejays hit seven of their first eight field goal attempts as 6’7” center in name only, Ethan Wragge, hit five consecutive three-pointers on his way to a 9-of-14 night from beyond the arc. Wragge never took a two-point attempt because he didn’t need to. Overall Creighton converted 21 of its 35 threes for a scorching 60 percent conversion rate. Translated using Dean Oliver’s eFG% formula, that results in a 90 percent two-point conversion rate. “They were outstanding,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright with perhaps the understatement of the year. Regarding NPOY candidate Doug McDermott, who contributed 23 points, five rebounds and three assists: “He is a joy to watch, you don’t like it when he is doing it to you, but he is a joy to watch.” Wright may as well have been referencing the entire Creighton team and their offense on this night.

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Big East M5: 01.20.14 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 20th, 2014

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  1. Georgetown was once considered a favorite in the Big East, but these days they are just trying to hang on to their NCAA Tournament hopes. The Hoyas have dropped  two straight — 80-67 to Xavier and 67-57 to Seton Hall — and are really struggling to score. Long offensive droughts have doomed the Hoyas in the last two games, and outside of starting guards D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks, there aren’t many options available. Josh Smith and Jabril Trawick have been out for the last few games each, and Mikael Hopkins has been held to two points in three of his last five games. With Marquette on the schedule tonight, the Washington D.C. scorekeeper may not see a lot of action.
  2. Speaking of struggling Big East programs, Butler‘s inaugural Big East campaign has not started the way that Bulldogs’ faithful would have hoped with the team losing its first five Big East games. On Saturday night, however, Butler stopped the bleeding in its fourth overtime contest in six games, pulling out its first Big East win over Marquette, 67-59. Golden Eagles head coach Buzz Williams credits Butler’s culture for the program’s recent success, and says that getting back to “The Butler Way” is a path towards renewed success:

    “Maybe the reason Butler went to back-to-back Final Fours is because of the culture and who was a part of that culture, how they embraced that culture… You can’t jump to a conclusion and say, ‘We’re on Fox Sports every day, we’re sold out every game and yadda-yadda-yadda,’ and get away from how you built it. When you get away from how you built it, that’s when teams typically take a dive. You’ve got to make sure you continue to recruit guys who believe in what coach [Brandon] Miller believes, what Barry Collier is about.”

  3. Bryce Cotton continues to play all-conference caliber basketball for Providence, and his latest victim was Creighton. Cotton scored 23 points and doled out six assists to lead the Friars past the Bluejays on Saturday. Greg McDermott gave Cotton a lot of praise after the guard knocked off his team: “This is by far the lowest possession game we’ve played all year, and Cotton did a great job of controlling the tempo of that game. He’s got the ball in his hands all the time, and it’s difficult to get it out of his hands… He creates a lot of opportunities for his teammates, and he obviously made a lot of big plays tonight.”
  4. St. John’s winless Big East record has to be one of the shockers of the season, and the Red Storm had to be relieved to see Dartmouth pop up on the schedule to break up their conference slate. The Big Green held on in the first half of this colorful match-up, but the stifling Johnnies’ defense led them to a comfortable 69-55 win. Head coach Steve Lavin was relieved by the team’s effort: “The only way we’re going to solve the challenges we’re facing is looking within individually and collectively as a group and trying to support each other through a tough time. Eventually, you make your breaks by sticking to it.”
  5. In the midst of all of the struggling Big East programs, Villanova continues to shine. One of the only missing pieces for the Wildcats is a true post presence, but center Daniel Ochefu has strung together a few strong games in a row and may be poised to add that last element to Jay Wright’s already strong assembly of talents. Against DePaul, he scored 14 points while shooting 6-of-6 from the field, grabbed six rebounds, blocked three shots, and even dished out four assists. If Ochefu continues to get better, the Big East rich may just get richer.
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Creighton’s Three-Point Barrage Enters The Big East

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on January 2nd, 2014

A lot was “new” at Omaha’s Centurylink Center on Tuesday night: a new conference, new logo, and a new year. Not new, however, was the deluge of three-pointers Creighton hoisted up in beating Marquette in its inaugural Big East game. The Bluejays had taken 17 three-pointers by the eight-minute mark of the first half, and ended up shooting a total of 35 for the game. Greg McDermott’s team made a good percentage of them (13, or 37%), as they have done all season long (43%). The team came into the game with the third best team three-point percentage in the country, which is obscene when you consider the volume that they fire up — around 26 attempts per game (good for 46 percent of their total field goal attempts).

Ethan Wragge is shooting an incredible 50% from three this year. The Jays' Big East hopes depend on continued success from deep.

Ethan Wragge is shooting an incredible 50% from three this year. The Jays’ Big East hopes depend on continued success from deep.

Will Creighton’s reliance on a three-point offense be as sustainable in the Big East? The answer is that its hopes at capturing the conference title in its maiden season completely depend on it. Marquette has been solid in defending the three this season (holding opponents to 33.1%), yet the Bluejays were able to impose their game plan successfully on the defense-first Golden Eagles. Georgetown down the road (January 25 and March 4) will likely be a tough match-up since the Hoyas have held opponents to only 28.5% from three (28th nationally), but the only other Big East teams in the top 100 are Butler (69th, 30.8%), DePaul (93rd, 31.5%) and Xavier (96th, 31.6%). That Creighton isn’t entering a conference full of elite three-point defenses is certainly a positive for them.

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Big East M5: 01.02.14 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 2nd, 2014

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  1. There were definite ups and downs to be found during the marathon that was the first day of Big East play on Tuesday. While those within the conference will admit that the play on the court didn’t often set the basketball world on fire, there is still belief in the future of the league as a basketball power. Commissioner Val Ackerman cites past experience when discussing this topic: “When I was with WNBA, I remember saying it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The same should be said about the Big East. There’s a long history here, but with a new conference, what we do in the first year or two isn’t necessarily going to be indicative.” While Big East fans hope that the league makes a splash here in year one, the 10 programs aren’t going anywhere, and there is plenty of time for this new-look conference to get its legs under it.
  2. Creighton wasn’t great offensively in its first ever Big East game, but the Bluejays’ defense was able to stifle a struggling Marquette offense, leading to a 67-49 win on New Year’s Eve. Creighton only shot 40 percent from the floor, but they were able to known down 13 threes and kept up with a bigger Golden Eagles’ squad in the paint, where they were only outscored by four. While this win was huge for Creighton — its first-ever in a power basketball conference — the performance is perhaps more telling about Marquette, whose well-publicized offensive struggles seem to be getting worse, not better. The Eagles were the preseason favorite to win the league, but without improvement soon, Marquette will struggle to punch a ticket to the Dance come March.
  3. Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery are going to become very familiar voices for Big East fans (if they weren’t already), especially those who watched the entirety of Tuesday’s basketball marathon.  The team called noon’s Xavier-St. John’s game in Cincinnati and then hightailed it to Indianapolis for Butler-Villanova at 7:30. The IndyStar spent time with Fox Sports 1′s top team on the bus between games, allowing the two to reminisce about some of their favorite Big East and NCAA Tournament memories. Spoiler alert: Butler fans are going to appreciate this far more than… say… Syracuse, Kansas State, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Florida, or Wisconsin fans.
  4. In anticipation of Tuesday’s Creighton/Marquette clash, Andy from Anonymous Eagle and Jacob Padilla from The Creightonian got together for an enlightening Q&A discussion. Among the topics covered: Bluejay fans’ excitement for this season and the Big East conference; the importance of the McDermotts to the Creighton program; Marquette’s early season struggles; and the best places to get a beer and a bite to eat in Omaha. Even though it predates the game won by Creighton, both pieces are still fun reads. Check out Jacob’s answers here and Andy’s here.
  5. To round out a very ‘Creighton vs. Marquette’ heavy M5 this morning, we have footage from a raucous CenturyLink Arena crowd.  On one play, the sold out crowd belted out Neil Diamond’s stadium staple “Sweet Caroline” after the arena speakers had already cut off the song, and it seemed to throw off the Golden Eagles, who promptly turned over the ball. You can judge for yourself, but NBC Sports‘ Rob Dauster seems to think the crowd played a part in the play.
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Big East M5: 12.30.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 30th, 2013

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  1. Big East teams have wrapped up non-conference play, and with the start of conference games on the horizon with five straight games scheduled throughout Tuesday, writers are beginning to file their mid-year reviews of the new-look league. IndyStar‘s Zak Keefer cites conference winning percentage, true road wins, and the current RPI numbers in defense of the Big East. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard also finds value in that last statistic: “[We have] six teams in the top 50. Rankings [the Big East has just one team, #8 Villanova, in the Top 25] don’t really matter. The RPI does matter.”
  2. Not everyone is as high on the work that the Big East has done so far this season. USA Today‘s Nicole Auerbach digs into some of the same numbers and her findings aren’t too kind for the conference, especially without Villanova‘s impressive resume: “Just one of those 85 wins has come against a team with an RPI in the top 25. Even worse, Big East teams were just 5-19 against the RPI’s top 50. Villanova has done most of that heavy lifting on its own. Its sparkling 11-1 record — including a missed opportunity Saturday with a loss to Syracuse — features wins against Kansas and Iowa, ranked No. 3 and No. 38 in the RPI, respectively.” In the past, Big East teams could recover from mediocre Novembers and Decembers with big league wins against highly-ranked Syracuse, Connecticut or Louisville squads. Now, those opportunities will be much more fleeting.
  3. Doug McDermott checks in at number two on RTC alumnus and Cleveland.com‘s David Cassilo’s weekly Player of the Year rankings. Cassilo praises McDermott’s elite shooting and all-around scoring ability, while noting his attention to detail: “Being a coach’s son (his father Greg is the coach of Creighton) means that McDermott pays special attention to the little things too. He’s averaging just 2.0 turnovers per game, 1.5 fouls per game and shoots 89.3 percent from the line.”  McDermott is the only Big East player on a list topped by Duke’s Jabari Parker. Former Big East players Shabazz Napier, Russ Smith, and C.J. Fair also appear in the top 12.
  4. Despite a setback in Syracuse over the weekend, Villanova enters conference play as the favorite to win the new league. The Wildcats were expected by many to return to the NCAA Tournament and finish among the top half of the conference this season, but just a few years removed from a 13-19 nightmare, few would have guessed that they would be the only Big East team in the Top 25 and have wins against Kansas and Iowa to their name. Wright credits a refocus in the philosophy of the program for the success that the team has recently experienced: “We got caught in a situation where we had guys that were coming in thinking about leaving early, so we were backing ourselves up in recruiting thinking they were going to leave. Then they didn’t leave. They were frustrated they were here and the guys behind them weren’t getting the playing time to develop. I think we learned a good lesson from that.” Now, Villanova enters league play stacked to the brim with talented guards, as well as strong frontcourt players like JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu, and their upcoming opponents can’t be too excited to see the Wildcats on the schedule.
  5. Big East commissioner Val Ackerman considers the Butler basketball program as a great model for what she believes the entire conference can achieve as a hoops-focused league in a college athletics landscape largely dominated by football revenues. She believes that schools can thrive in athletics without big time college football, and uses Butler’s recent Final Four runs as a strong example: “It was a bold move, don’t get me wrong, for all these schools to essentially say, ‘We’re not going to get into the football arms race’, but the commonality is what separates this league from others, and certainly from what the old Big East had become in terms of the division of interest between large and small, football and non-football.” Butler should reap the benefits of membership as well. As Zak Keefer notes, Butler’s conference schedule has been upgraded to include teams like Georgetown and Villanova as opposed to the Horizon League opponents it regularly faced, and increased exposure in places like New York City, where the conference will host its conference tournament, should help its recruiting take off.
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Big East M5: 12.19.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 19th, 2013

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  1. In joining the Big East, Creighton hoped that the better competition and brand-name league would help raise the program’s status, and vault successful Bluejays outfits to more advantageous seeding come March. While the Big East is undoubtedly an upgrade in many regards from Creighton’s old home, the Missouri Valley, the league hasn’t quite panned out as many had hoped thus far. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi only has four teams from the Big East currently in his field, including Marquette, the league’s preseason favorite, in a play-in game. While no Big East team is truly out of the running yet this year, fans would have probably hoped for more from the top of the conference, but today Villanova is really the only squad really making a name for itself on a national scale. 
  2. While Creighton has dropped a few games it would like to have back, the team seems to be building depth behind star Doug McDermottEthan Wragge and Will Artino have swapped positions in the starting five, with Wragge entering the lineup as the Bluejays’ second leading scorer at 12.5 points per game and Artino more effective as a reserve, totaling 27 points in his last three games (after 40 through his first seven). Avery Dingman and Devin Brooks have also stepped up as of late, each filling the scorebook in a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Coach Greg McDermott was effervescent in his praise of the two players, who have made great strides in recent weeks: “Avery Dingman has had three of the best days as a Bluejay as he’s ever had. His last two days of practice and today’s game, he’s shown more confidence and urgency to his play… Devin is getting better every single day. There’s no question from the start of practice until today, he’s our most improved player… I’m really proud of him, and that’s a credit to him.”
  3. Rysheed Jordan was the crown jewel in Steve Lavin’s freshman class at St. John’s, but until the last few games, he had yet to find himself in the college game. Sunday’s match-up with New York rival Syracuse and one of the nation’s top freshman point guards, Tyler Ennis, brought out the best in Jordan, who scored a season-high 13 points. Jordan followed this game up with another strong performance — 10 points and four assists — against San Francisco on Wednesday night. St. John’s is among the most talented teams in the Big East, and if Jordan can break out to go along with established players like JaKarr Sampson, D’Angelo Harrison, and Phil Greene IV, the Johnnies will be quite dangerous in time for postseason play.
  4. Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin has put together an incredibly diverse, eclectic staff with men of all ages and backgrounds, including 77-year old college basketball legend Gene Keady as a special advisor. Keady, who helped launch Lavin’s coaching career by putting him on his staff at Purdue, brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to the group, and players and coaches agree that his basketball acumen has paid off. Forward JaKarr Sampson describes the impact that Keady has on everyone in the program: “Whenever he talks, everybody listens, even Coach Lav. With Coach Lav, I feel like he’s still learning from him. It’d be foolish not to listen to what he’s got to say.”
  5. Providence has been playing this season under a cloud of injuries and suspensions, and it is still uncertain when freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock will be allowed to suit up for the Friars. Without the highly touted Austin, the scoring burden for the Friars has fallen to veteran Bryce Cotton, whose importance to his team grows with every game that his team spends without the freshmen. According to head coach Ed Cooley, he is taking this leadership responsibility in stride: “What everybody has to know is our team has really taken on the heartbeat of Bryce. I have seen him grow unbelievably in the last two, three weeks. Vocally, his spirit, his energy. We knew he’d play well today based on how he prepared. I’m really proud of the man he is becoming. He has grown so much.”
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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Arizona State in the Wooden Legacy

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: Don’t look now, but Arizona State may have, to date, the best resume in the Pac-12. They’ve taken care of business against the dregs of their schedule; they scored a solid road win over an underachieving UNLV team; and they grabbed a good win over Marquette earlier this week. With Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall making for a great one-two punch in the backcourt and with nearly everybody else on the roster performing better than average thus far, this is one fearsome offensive team.

Jahii Carson And Arizona State Should Have A Wildly Entertaining Thanksgiving Night (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

Jahii Carson And Arizona State Should Have A Wildly Entertaining Thanksgiving Night (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

First Round Preview: Fittingly, the Sun Devils kick off play in Fullerton on Thanksgiving Day against arguably the most fearsome offensive team in the nation, Doug McDermott’s Creighton squad. Now in his senior year and even with opponents going out of their way to game plan for him, McDermott just keeps marching along — knocking down threes, scoring in the paint, getting to the line and just generally making buckets — he’s scored more than 30 points in half of his games this season and is averaging 27.5 PPG on the season. But while McDermott is clearly the straw the stirs the Bluejays’ drink, there are plenty of other options to keep opponents honest. Fellow senior Ethan Wragge has drilled 14 of his 25 (56%) attempts from behind the arc. Junior point guard Austin Chatman has knocked down 58.3 percent of his threes and is third on the team in scoring with an 11.0 PPG average despite mostly looking to get teammates involved. And senior Grant Gibbs is once again the glue guy for this squad, averaging just four points a game but handing out almost six assists per night and providing the best individual defense on the team. However, we’ve seen this story from Creighton before: great O, poor D. For the Bluejays to really be considered a threat on the national stage, they’ve got to step it up defensively, and in this area the Sun Devils will give them quite a test. Ideally, as a college basketball fan, you’d want to see this game turn into a second half shootout, with McDermott and Carson trading blows on opposite ends of the floor. But from a coaching perspective, both Greg McDermott and Herb Sendek will be more interested in how their respective defenses compete against elite offensive competition. Either way, avoid the turkey hangover to tune in for the nightcap on Thursday evening.

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Big East M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 8th, 2013

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  1. Managing pregame nerves is a key for any team, especially at the beginning of the season when freshmen are being introduced to the college level and other players are taking on new and more important roles. The nerves haven’t avoided Creighton, which opens up the season at home tonight against Alcorn State, but for the most part, it sounds like the Bluejays are handling things well… or, at least more cleanly than some of Greg McDermott’s former players: “I once had a guy that would throw up before every game,” the Creighton coach told The Omaha World-Herald‘s Steven Pivovar. This Bluejays team is experienced, with a ton of returning pieces in both the starting rotation and coming off the bench, so nervousness about the 2013-14 season should be at a minimum. They do exist, though, as guard Grant Gibbs acknowledges: “Pregame jitters are real, especially if you haven’t played in front of a lot of people. I think that’s the biggest adjustment, having a lot of people watching you. But it’s still basketball, and it’s something you have to deal with.”
  2.  MyCentralJersey.com’s Jerry Carino filed a lengthy preview of the Seton Hall season yesterday, complete with the presumptive strengths and weaknesses of the team as well as a schedule and full roster breakdown. Carino believes this to be the deepest Pirates squad in years, and expects Kevin Willard to run as many as 11 players on to the court on a nightly basis. He’s excited about the shooting and play-making ability of guard Sterling Gibbs, who will man the point for Seton Hall this year. The schedule, without powerhouses like UConn, Syracuse, and Louisville getting in the way, should open up a bit for a team like Seton Hall that was constantly fighting to stay afloat in the old Big East. It may be a good sign that Carino’s negative list is a bit less tangible; he lists “injury hangover” and a void in vocal leadership along with a lack of depth as guard, as the reasons that Seton Hall may struggle this year.
  3. Georgetown is over in South Korea in anticipation of tonight’s Armed Forces Classic match-up with Oregon, and the Hoyas spent their first day at Camp Humphreys touring the facilities and meeting with soldiers in between practices. The team also held a clinic for the children of soldiers on the base. Forward Nate Lubick is especially grateful for the chance to connect with those serving overseas for the United States: “This was just a great opportunity to get a close up look at what life is like for the men and women who protect our country. We’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to come here and play a game and to thank them for all they do.”
  4. St. John’s has been great at manufacturing top freshmen during the Steve Lavin era, and this year’s top newcomer may be the most important. Rysheed Jordan, a highly-touted point guard out of Philadelphia, has been given the keys to Lavin’s offense, a unit with a lot of talent at its disposal between fiery shooting guard D’Angelo Harrison and athletic sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson, last year’s top Big East freshman. However, it sounds like he may make a huge impact on the other end of the floor as well. According to Lavin: “He’s one of the more special talents. He’s so disruptive defensively. There’s no frills in his game. He’s all business in practices and games. He’s all about winning and already taking leadership.” Hopes are high for a St. John’s team that has been compiling talent under Lavin, but has yet to really break through with his guys. If Jordan, who is donning the number ’23′ on the back of his red jersey, lives up to the high standards he is setting for himself, the Johnnies may contend at the top of the Big East and play meaningful ball in March.
  5. Butler guard Jackson Aldridge is having a rough go of it as of late – his playing time seems to be waning as the team has brought in impressive young players at his position, and his best friend Andrew Smeathers recently announced that he would leave the program. Despite this adversity, Aldridge has said that he will not be going down the same path as Smeathers, and will stick things out with the Bulldogs: “Leaving is not for me. As this whole (situation) has been going on this week, people don’t understand, just how attached Andy was, and I am, and everyone else is, to this program and this place.” Aldridge’s minutes were cut last year as a sophomore to six per game after averaging almost 14 MPG as a freshmen, when he also contributed 3.7 points per game. A paltry 17 percent field goal percentage is probably a major reason for the drop-off. In the team’s first exhibition this year against Nova Southeastern, Aldridge had a nice performance, scoring eight points and dishing out two assists in just 10 minutes of action. He was not quite as impressive in the second exhibition against DePauw, scoring two points in 11 minutes, but more performances like his first exhibition could help him clinch a decent role in the Bulldogs’ rotation.
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Big East M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 4th, 2013

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  1. Headlined by national player of the year candidate Doug McDermott, Creighton is probably the most intriguing new member of the Big East, and with the season fast approaching, they want everyone to know that they are not afraid of the spotlight.  Fox Sports‘ Reid Hargrave went in depth on the Bluejays, and their fit within the new-look conference, coming away under the impression that Creighton should fit in just fine: “Just watch these kids play, spreading the floor and using non-stop ball screens and attacking from the perimeter with deadly shooting and always looking for the extra pass. This isn’t grind-it-out Big East basketball. This is the finesse game you’re more likely to see in Europe… But there’s nothing traditional about this new Big East, a conference still searching for its basketball identity.” Hargrave believes that the team’s offensive prowess takes credit away from what should  be a sound defensive unit, even when stacked up against a deeper lineup of conference rivals than what they are accustomed to. The story also includes this note — which should terrify the rest of the league — from head coach Greg McDermott on his superstar son: “But being with him every day, there’s no question he’s getting that shot off quicker.”
  2. A lot of the questions surrounding Creighton have to do with the schedules that they’ve faced in the past.  Doug McDermott thinks that recent history shows that the Bluejays are not afraid of playing high major competition, and the league that they’re coming from had quality teams similar to what they will face this winter. McDermott cites a stat that Creighton’s only losses in 11 recent games against power conference foes have been to the likes of Duke and North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Omaha.com‘s piece also brings up 2013 Final Four participant, Wichita State – a team from the Missouri Valley with high-major type talent that Creighton faced annually. The major adjustment in schedules for Creighton, Butler and Xavier will come in the consistent talent and athleticism that they will face on the floor, even from lesser Big East competition like DePaul and Seton Hall.
  3. The new Big East is quite attractive because of the basketball focus of the league. While most schools would love to have remained in a conference with the Syracuses, Louisvilles and UConns of the world, getting away from the myriad of issues surrounding college football is a good thing for the basketball-focused Big East programs, and  the league’s coaches, like Georgetown’s John Thompson III, seem to agree: “The identity is basketball is our religion. It’s a basketball conference.”  The three schools joining the “Catholic Seven” –  Butler, Creighton, and Xavier – definitely share the sentiment, as evidenced by the environments in which they play. Creighton is a regular among top-10 attendance lists, as the Bluejay faithful pack CenturyLink Center, while Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse is one of the toughest places to play in the country. The Big East may not send 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament anymore, or have a handful of top 10 teams at any given moment, but it is back to being all about the hoops.
  4. There is a lot that is new about DePaul basketball this year. The school is in a new league, the staff has added two new coaches, and the roster features eight new players this season. This isn’t a bad thing, as the Blue Demons have struggled to get the program jump-started and have gone without an NCAA Tournament bid since 2004. Oliver Purnell returns a few established players in Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young who he hopes can guide a young roster back towards the pack in the Big East. Despite being chosen at the bottom of the conference, with two established star players returning, the Blue Demons may surprise some teams yet.
  5. Villanova blog VU Hoops took a look at recruiting in the Big East and how the 10 teams compare with one another and other power conferences across the nation. Seven of the programs have at least one four-star recruit verballed already, with schools like Georgetown, Marquette  and Seton Hall — who has arguably landed the biggest name in guard Isaiah Whitehead — controlling the coveted rankings. The article goes on to compare the Big East to the rest of the recruiting landscape: “When it all shakes out, the new conference will most likely trail the SEC, ACC and Big Ten in terms of the number of commits ranked in the top 150 but not by much. Considering the Big East has fewer teams than each of those conferences, I think the numbers are very impressive and a good sign as the conference moves into the future.”
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