Big East Key Offseason Questions: Part I

Posted by Justin Kundrat on April 12th, 2016

The NCAA Tournament is now behind us and the days of transfers, NBA Draft declarations and coaching moves are upon us. April signals yet another ending, as we tear down everything we knew and build anew. The offseason has a way of inspiring hope that a new season will bring about improvement, that maybe this time things will be different. Consider where the Big East’s very own Villanova was just one year ago this spring. That unknown is why the offseason is such an intriguing time. Below is a list of key questions that each Big East team will attempt to solve over the coming six months.

ButlerWho will replace the scoring void left behind by Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones?

Kellen Dunham, Butler's third all-time leading scorer, won't be easily replaced. (Photo: Getty)

Kellen Dunham, Butler’s third all-time leading scorer, won’t easily be replaced. (Photo: Getty)

Butler has appeared in several “way too early” Top 25 rankings with little explanation as to why. The team will lose four of its seven rotation players, with Dunham and Jones having accounted for 38 percent of its scoring output this season. Rising junior hybrid forward Kelan Martin (15.7 PPG) will assume the duty of primary scorer, having already demonstrated an ability to do so numerous times. The question marks come next. Forward Andrew Chrabascz seemingly regressed as the season proceeded, although his potential as a stretch forward within Butler’s offense is intriguing. The remaining offensive responsibility will fall on George Washington transfer Kethan Savage and senior Tyler Lewis, with the hope that incoming freshman Joey Brunk can also contribute.

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Marquette’s Troubles Begin With Its Pace

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 29th, 2016

Marquette may have already matched last season’s win total, but conference success has been hard to come by. A once-dominant, perennial contender in the Big East has fallen by the wayside following the departure of Buzz Williams. And while expectations have been tempered for first-time head coach Steve Wojciechowski, the frustration is already evident. On its face, the Golden Eagles’ frontcourt pairing of Indiana transfer Luke Fischer – an experienced junior with a plethora of post moves – and highly touted freshman Henry Ellenson forms the core of the best offensive frontcourt in the conference. Unsurprisingly, the team is sporting both its best two-point field goal percentage offense and defense of the last 15 years. Marquette has thrived when working through the post, a reality made even more evident when the Golden Eagles shot 54.8 percent inside the arc against Villanova, a team that usually holds opponents to 41.9 percent two-point shooting (16th nationally).

Yet for a team that plays so well in the paint (Fischer and Ellenson shoot a combined 70% at the rim), the team’s offense has been undermined by an odd plan of attack. Entry passes or pick-and-roll plays that have commonly resulted in easy Golden Eagles points are scarcely used; instead, Wojciechowski’s team is playing at an unsustainably quick pace, averaging just 15.7 seconds per possession on offense. The team’s average offensive possession length has decreased from 18.6 seconds (198th nationally) to 15.7 (34th nationally) over the course of one season. This figure is undoubtedly distorted by a high turnover rate and low rebounding rate, but those two issues also plagued last year’s team, and to a similar extent. Perhaps as a result of the relative inexperience of its backcourt players, the quickened pace has Marquette turning the ball over on 20.5 percent of all its possessions, which puts them 296th nationally in the category.

Marquette's Henry Ellenson Plays a Perimeter-Oriented Game (USA Today Images)

Marquette’s Henry Ellenson Plays a Perimeter-Oriented Game (USA Today Images)

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Marquette Slowly Rebuilding But Hope is on the Horizon

Posted by Chris Stone on January 5th, 2016

Under former coaches Tom Crean and Buzz Williams, Marquette made the NCAA Tournament in eight straight seasons from 2006-13. Despite all of that success, a tumultuous period in program history began just one season removed from a 2013 trip to the Elite Eight. It begin with a sour relationship between Williams and former athletic director Larry Williams (no relation). The latter Williams resigned in December 2013 amid a cloud of uncertainty. The former Williams, for his part, surprisingly left the program for Virginia Tech at the end of the 2013-14 season. In retrospect, the decision was calculated. Williams decided that Marquette, a school with no football program and mired in the thick of a shaky Big East realignment, was not well-poised for future success. The Golden Eagles’ 17-15 record that season certainly wasn’t reassuring.

Steve Wojchiechowski is in the midst of a rebuild at Marquette. (Mark Hoffman/The Journal Sentinel)

Steve Wojchiechowski is in the midst of a rebuild at Marquette. (Mark Hoffman/The Journal Sentinel)

Steve Wojciechowski, the associate head coach at Duke at the time, saw Marquette differently than Williams. He saw a school where, similar to his alma mater in Durham, the men’s basketball program is an integral part of the university. He also recognized that the program has a proud and passionate fan base that will not accept mediocrity. In his first season, Marquette finished 13-19 and once again missed the NCAA Tournament, but a top-10 recruiting class that included highly-touted freshman Henry Ellenson brought a rejuvenated sense of hope. Those expectations were tempered very quickly at the start of the season. In the span of a single November week, the Golden Eagles lost their home opener to Belmont, needed overtime to get past IUPUI, and was walloped by Iowa. They bounced back with neutral court victories over LSU and Arizona State in Brooklyn en route to a 10-2 record that also included a surprising victory over Wisconsin in Madison. The beginning of Big East play, however, brought forth some new adversity. After a disappointing home loss by 20 points to Seton Hall, Marquette hit 0-2 in league play after an 80-70 loss to Georgetown on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Trick or Treat: Burning Questions for Five Big East Teams, Part I

Posted by Mike Hopkins on October 29th, 2015

With Halloween nearing, we thought it would be fun to answer a preseason burning question for each Big East team using a simple “Trick” or “Treat.” Part I of this season preview answers one key question for each of the teams picked in the bottom half of the preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll. We’ll tackle the remainder tomorrow.

St. John’s: Can Chris Mullin actually coach?

(Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)

Treat: Chris Mullin has not coached a single second of basketball at any level. That’s an indisputable fact unless there is some CYO coaching experience back in the day that we don’t know about. Mullin does, however, know the game of basketball and it will be that knowledge of the game blended with his longtime NBA experience (both as a player and executive) that will aid him on the Red Storm’s sideline. The former National Player of the Year (Wooden, UPI, USBWA – 1985) has also surrounded himself with an excellent staff that mixes college coaching with NBA player development experience. Despite having to basically bring in an entirely new roster this season, expect St. John’s to surprise some people with its effort and Mullin’s in-game coaching.

Seton Hall: Can Isaiah Whitehead lead the Pirates?

Trick: While Isaiah Whitehead is clearly the best player on Seton Hall, that doesn’t automatically mean he is the team’s leader. Last season was marred by locker room issues and a horrible 11 losses in the team’s final 14 games. Jared Sina left the program during the season and Sterling Gibbs — the player who presumably would be an ideal leader as an upperclassmen — decided to use his graduate transfer exemption and finish his collegiate career at UConn. Kevin Willard is putting all of his eggs in the Whitehead basket as he turns over the point guard duties to the Brooklyn sophomore. Whitehead spearheaded the recent decision to get the team off of social media this season — probably a good sign — but he’ll have to prove that he can lead the Pirates when things go sideways on the floor. Is he capable of that role?

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What to Watch For: Key Big East Preseason Storylines

Posted by Justin Kundrat on October 26th, 2015

College basketball is just around the corner. Finally. It seems like ages ago since we last discussed Big East basketball. Maybe that’s because the league had no deep NCAA Tournament runs outside of a Sweet Sixteen appearance from Xavier; or perhaps the droll of mid-summer baseball wasn’t enough to hold us over. Not to worry though, the hibernation period is over. For those who have distanced themselves from offseason news about the Big East for the last six months, here’s your handy primer. There are several key storylines worth monitoring as we approach the start of the regular season.

The Return of the… Freshmen?

(Ralph Thompson/maxpreps)

Jalen Brunson is the one to watch this season. (Ralph Thompson/maxpreps)

Three key players headline the list of Big East recruits this season, and all come at opportune times for their respective teams. The first is Jalen Brunson, recipient of the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year award and a star on the USA FIBA U-19 team over the summer. Brunson is a budding star and arguably the best point guard in his class, setting high expectations that he can provide an immediate scoring punch and carve out a starting role in Villanova’s loaded backcourt. Henry Ellenson, a 6’10″ forward who chose Marquette over the likes of Kentucky and Michigan State, will assume an immediate starting role in the Golden Eagles’ frontcourt alongside returning junior Luke Fischer. Ellenson is a big-bodied forward whose style more closely resembles a Brad Miller/Dirk Nowitzki type than a traditional back-to-the-basket player. And while Brunson might be the bigger household name following his summer breakout, Ellenson should have the larger impact on a resurgent Marquette team that desperately needs his size. Last is Georgetown recruit Jesse Govan, a 6’10″, 260-pound center who truly plays like one. His presence around the rim is game-changing on the defensive end, and as a result, the freshman should see immediate playing time following the departures of Joshua Smith and Mikael Hopkins. Read the rest of this entry »

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Steve Wojciechowski Quietly Rebuilding Marquette With Young Talent

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 7th, 2015

The path to a head coaching position at a high major university is not a beaten one; many of today’s coaches ascended different ladders to get to their current positions. Some coaches got there by taking little-known schools to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament; others took an open position at the same school when their boss moved on; while still others first served as high-profile assistants to established coaches in more prestigious programs. Marquette’s first-year head coach, Steve Wojciechowski, falls into the latter category with a pedigree few others can boast. After a successful four-year playing career at Duke, he spent 15 years apprenticing for one of the best to ever coach the sport, Mike Krzyzewski. But despite the unimpeachable regard everyone holds for his former coach and mentor, success at the highest levels has not been guaranteed for Krzyzewski’s acolytes. Now that Wojciechowski is the leader of one of the most tradition-rich programs in the country, he’s hoping to start a tradition of his own in Milwaukee. On Tuesday night in Washington, DC, he came very close to getting the first truly big win of his young career when Marquette battled the Hoyas to a tight six-point loss.

Steve Wojciechowski's first job as a head coach is to rebuild a proud Marquette program.

Steve Wojciechowski’s first job as a head coach is to rebuild a proud Marquette program (Gary Porter).

When the 38-year old accepted the Marquette job last spring, the program was not in the same shape as it had been when it made eight straight NCAA Tournaments from 2006-13. After a disappointing 17-15 season, former head coach Buzz Williams downgraded to Virginia Tech because of the uncertainty of the athletic director’s position (currently being filled by interim AD, Bill Cords), and a general concern about the new Big East’s visibility in moving from ESPN to Fox Sports 1 as its primary television carrier. Another factor in his departure may have been the stark realization that his current roster simply was not all that competitive. After Shaka Smart and Cuonzo Martin passed on the Marquette job, this opened the door for Wojciechowski to become a first-time head coach at a respected basketball program with an opportunity to rebuild it in his own image.

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Morning Five: 10.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 10th, 2014


  1. He has not coached a game yet, but the Steve Wojciechowski era is already off to a great start. Prior to yesterday, he already had three four-star recruits for his 2015 recruiting class and then he topped it off with the commitment of Henry Ellenson to Marquette. We will point out that Wojciechowski had a huge edge in this recruitment–Henry’s brother Wally transferred to Marquette earlier this summer and that they are from Wisconsin–but he still managed to beat out Michigan State and Kentucky for Henry, a top 10 recruit in the class of 2015. There are already some who are criticizing the commitment saying that this is a package deal since Wally, who averaged just 2 points per game at Minnesota, received a scholarship, but package deals are hardly unique in college sports although they typically involve someone getting an assistant coaching job or something along those lines and while Wally is certainly not a star he did play for a legitimate high major program last year.
  2. After having to back out of his transfer to UCLA when he was not accepted into the school, Jon Octeus has found a new home with his decision to transfer to Purdue. Octeus, who averaged 13.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game at Colorado State, had originally attempted to transfer to UCLA as a graduate student, but was denied admission to the school, which was a huge blow to the Bruins and might have been the first time we had heard of a graduate student basketball transfer being denied admission. Although the school’s press release does not officially say that he has been admitted (just says that he is pursuing a “Master’s degree in the school of technology”) we are assuming he would not make the same mistake twice. Operating under the assumption that he got admitted this time, Octeus, who would be eligible to play immediately with a graduate transfer waiver, should provide the Boilermakers with a steady influence to balance out what should be their strength inside with A.J. Hammons, 10.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game last year, returning.
  3. With the way that things appeared to be going for suspended Texas guard Martez Walker the announcement that he had withdrawn from the school should not be that surprising. Walker, who was arrested a month ago for what was described as a domestic violence incident and was arrested again a week later for violating an order not to be in an on-campus residence hall, had been suspended indefinitely and at the time of his first arrest we noted that he probably would not be back any time soon given all of the media attention around athletes and domestic violence in the wake of the Ray Rice video. In the end, Walker, a reserve who averaged 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game and was not expected to see a significantly increased role, opted to leave the school. We have no idea where he will end up next, but we hope he can get his life together.
  4. The commitment of Doral Moore to Wake Forest might not make headlines like Ellenson’s commitment to Marquette, but it was still big for Danny Manning. Moore, a four-star center, committed to Wake Forest after a visit to Winston-Salem this past weekend. He had also been considering Illinois and Kentucky before deciding on Wake Forest. As Jeff Borzello notes Moore has the potential to develop into a much better prospect than he is currently rated and unlike Ellenson and more highly touted prospect he is much more likely to stick around for a few years.
  5. We mentioned the transfer of Jon Octeus earlier and although he is not on Jeff Eisenberg’s list of impact transfers (presumably due to the timing of his announcement) he is just one example of how important these transfers can be. Eisenberg’s list covers many names that you should be familiar with including a few you may have forgotten about (especially if they had to sit out that dreaded one year instead of getting the now ubiquitous exemption). If you  haven’t kept up with transfer movements or just need a little refresher this might be a good place to start before you get caught off guard at the start of the season.
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Sweet Seven Scoops: Dorsey Leaves Arizona, NBPA Top 100 Kicks Off, Another Package Deal?…

Posted by Sean Moran on June 20th, 2014

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at

Note: used for all player rankings.

1. Tyler Dorsey and Arizona Part Ways

This past January, Sean Miller and Arizona made waves by signing the top ranked shooting guard on the West Coast in Tyler Dorsey. At the time, the 6’4” Southern California native was ranked as a five-star recruit and the No. 10 prospect in the class of 2015. With the commitment, it appeared as though the Wildcats were continuing their run on the top talent in California. Then in May, the Wildcats signed another 6’5” guard from California, in Justin Simon (No. 14 – 2015). During this time, Dorsey’s stock began to slip in the spring AAU season despite averaging 17.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game playing alongside some of the top talent on the West Coast. As a result, he then dropped down to a four-star recruit and No. 24 in the rankings. Rumors have been circulating about Dorsey’s commitment for the last month as Miller appeared interested in several other shooting guard prospects, including five-star guard Allonzo Trier (No. 15 – 2015), who was just offered a scholarship.

What’s next for both parties? Well, the Wildcats still have Simon on board and are going after a trio of five-stars in Trier, Isaiah Briscoe (No. 16 – 2015), and Antonio Blakeney (No. 20 – 2015). With Miller an assistant coach on the USA U-18 team, both Trier and Briscoe made the 12-man roster while Dorsey didn’t survive the first cut. As for Dorsey, he was heavily pursued prior to his Arizona commitment and will be tracked heavily by Pac-12 schools during the July recruiting period.

2. Loaded NBPA Top 100 Camp Kicks Off

The NBPA Top 100 camp kicked off earlier this week in Charlottesville, Virginia. Some of the top players in the country are brought in (mostly upperclassmen) for a four-day camp that features scrimmages and instruction on the court and a fair amount of life advice from former players and guest speakers off the court. Last year, center Cheick Diallo (No. 5 – 2015) won the MVP award, while players such as Myles Turner (Texas) and Isaiah Whitehead displayed (Seton Hall) their five-star skills. Diallo is back in action, as are some of the big names to know going forward, such as Ben Simmons (No. 2 – 2015), Thon Maker (No. 3 – 2016), and DeAndre Ayton (2017), among many others. With no consensus regarding the top-ranked players in the class of 2015 some of the match-ups that take place over the next few days could go a long way to determining where players stand going forward. One match-up to pay attention to is the point guard battle that will take place on Friday night between Junior Smith of North Carolina (#25 – 2016) and Seventh Woods (#8 – 2016) from South Carolina.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Duke and Florida Going All Out For Recruits On Saturday, Arizona Adding 7’1″ Dusan Ristic?

Posted by Sean Moran on March 7th, 2014

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at

Note: used for all player rankings.

1. Big Saturday Night in Durham

In the last weekend of regular season hoops, Durham, North Carolina, will be the center of attention on Saturday night. Between a visit from archrival UNC, Senior Night festivities, and ESPN Gameday in attendance, there will be quite the buzz going on in Cameron Indoor Stadium. In order to take advantage of the big night, Duke has invited a plethora of big name recruits and top targets to campus. The biggest name on the list is five-star center Myles Turner. The 7’0” center is the top unsigned target in the 2014 class and the No. 2 prospect overall, and the Blue Devils are trying to add him to their already No. 1 ranked recruiting class. From the junior class, five-star power forward Chase Jeter (#18 – 2015) will make his official visit, as will five-star guard Luke Kennard (#14 – 2015). In addition, Coach K will have several players on campus for unofficial visits, including top sophomore Harry Giles, five-star wing Josh Langford (#15 – 2016), and four-star point guard Junior Smith (#26 – 2016). Several of the players noted above, including Jeter, Kennard, Giles, and Smith, are also considering North Carolina. With a win, the Blue Devils will look to continue their recruiting momentum with more five-star signatures. A loss, however, could certainly be devastating. Last year, UNC was in the exact same spot and brought Andrew Wiggins and five-star shooting guard Rashad Vaughn (#13 – 2014) to Chapel Hill. Duke jumped out to a 15-0 lead and the recruits quickly lost interest in the game they were brought in to see.

Myles Turner is visiting Duke on Saturday. Will the Blue Devils impress him enough to join No. 1 Jahlil Okafor?

2. Florida Celebrates SEC Championship

Florida has the SEC Championship locked up, but they will be looking to end the season with an 18-0 conference record. Going against rival Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, Billy Donovan is bringing in his 2014 commitments along with plenty of other recruits for 2015 and 2016. While not on the level of Duke’s haul, Florida will play host to 11 players in total. Four-star Devin Robinson (#24 – 2014), Chris Chiozza (#44 – 2014), and Brandone Francis (#37 – 2014) will all be suiting up for the Gators next year, and they will be joined by a pair of four-stars who are receiving strong interest from the Gators. Guard Antonio Blakeney is one of the Gator biggest targets in the class, ranked No. 39 in the country. He will be joined by 6’3” four-star guard Austin Grandstaff (#47 – 2015), who recently de-committed from Oklahoma State, and 6’8” Noah Dickerson (#49 – 2015). Alonzo Mourning’s son, Trey, will also be in attendance, as will four-star wing KeVaughn Allen (#84 – 2015) while on an official visit. The Gators will be celebrating their regular season accomplishments and will try to impress a few more players who will help them continue the tradition.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Heron Selects Pittsburgh, Antonio Blakeney’s Rise, and Raymond Felton’s Nephew

Posted by Sean Moran on January 3rd, 2014

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at

Note: used for all player rankings.

1. Pittsburgh Nabs Top 20 Sophomore

In a surprise announcement, four-star small forward Mustapha Heron recently announced his commitment to Pittsburgh. The 6’4” wing is rated as the No. 20 prospect in the class of 2016 and the No. 5 small forward. The powerful and athletic slasher had a strong showing this past fall at the USA Developmental Camp in Colorado Springs, and is currently at Sacred Heart (CT) High School after recently transferring from Wilbraham & Monson (MA). According to an interview with, Heron’s father played with Pittsburgh’s assistant coach Barry Rohressen overseas, which established a comfort level with the program they had just visited for an unofficial visit. While Heron is the highest-ranked player in the 2016 class to make a commitment, he is actually Jamie Dixon’s second recruit after three-star guard Maverick Rowan chose Pittsburgh last June.

2. Blakeney Looking To Move Up the Rankings

The top scorer at the City of Palms Tournament in Florida before the Christmas break was a junior four-star shooting guard named Antonio Blakeney. The 6’3” Florida guard averaged 29.3 points per game, including a 30-point game against Tyler Dorsey, the No. 2 ranked shooting guard in the 2015 class. Blakeney is currently rated as the No. 68 ranked player in the junior class and the No. 18 shooting guard overall, but he should see a bump in the near future. “I’m just trying to get some more recognition and move up higher in the rankings,” Blakeney said. Right now a host of schools have offered or shown interest in the guard, including Louisville, Florida, Florida State, UNC, Missouri, Notre Dame, Xavier, and a handful of other schools located in the southeast. After his junior season Blakeney plans to start taking visits while narrowing down his list, but for now he is just focused on improving his game.

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