Voices of the Big East: Volume VI

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 31st, 2012

Voices of the Big East is an ongoing feature intended to capture the essence of the conference through the words of those involved and those impacted. This will come in the form of quotes, tweets, videos and anything else we feel like sticking in here. It’s perfect for you multitasking short attention-spanners. If you find something you think is a candidate for this feature send it to us and we might even give you credit!

Pirate’s Life for Pope

“You know how some people say they love their school? Well, Seton Hall saved my life.”

-Seton Hall senior Herb Pope, who has survived two brushes with death, the second of which occurred in Seton Hall’s athletic facilities where medical staff immediately performed CPR and utilized defibrillators to keep him alive.

Bumpin’ Brey

“Game situations.  We’re just better because we’re sharper and we’ve done it a a lot”

“We got the look.  We got the look, man. We’re so mentally tough.” 

-Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey after the Fighting Irish’s victory over Connecticut on Saturday.  OK, it’s really the video we wanted to show you but no embed code to be found, so CLICK HERE for a link to the video. There’s no truth to the rumor Brian Kelly is looking to Brey for some O-Line help after he (sort of) pancaked that white board. 

Definitely No Points Being Scored

This comment by Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim presumably was directed at his team but it sure did not come off as appreciative of the Carrier Dome faithful.

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Set Your TiVo: 01.31.12

Posted by bmulvihill on January 31st, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Conference battles are heating up across the country as we head into the last month of regular season play. A lot will happen from not till the beginning of March, so it’s more important than ever to get a glimpse of as many teams as you can before tourney time. Let’s take a look at tonight’s action.

Tom Izzo and Michigan State need to prove themselves on the road.

#8 Michigan State at Illinois – 7:00PM EST on ESPN HD (****)

  • As of Sunday, there are only three teams that rank in the top ten in KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings – Kentucky, Syracuse, and Michigan State. In Big Ten play, Michigan State is lighting it up on the offensive end, ranking number one in both two-point and three-point shooting percentage. The Spartans face a true road test tonight against Illinois and it is on the road where Tom Izzo’s club still needs to prove itself. Michigan State is 2-2 on the road in conference and 4-4 on the season away from the Breslin Center. Michigan State has only allowed 5 teams to shoot over 50% eFG all season and each time it was on the road. They are 1-4 when a team goes over 50% eFG. Izzo and company has to play strong defense against 7’1” Illini center Meyers Leonard, who is hitting 60% of this two-point attempts. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne are Michigan State’s tallest regulars at 6’9” and 6’10″, respectively. That’s a tough match-up for them individually, so look for the possible double team to prevent Leonard from taking over the game. If the Spartans get beat, it will be because the Illini two-pointed them to death.
  • Illinois started the season off at a promising 10-0. They have since gone 5-6 and dropped their last three games and are in danger of dropping completely out of contention in the Big Ten. While Illinois has maintained its mediocre shooting in Big Ten play, their downfall has been an increase in turnovers and poor offensive rebounding. More turnovers and less second chance points equals empty possessions. For a team that has shot under 50% eFG in over half of its games, that’s a losing equation. However, the Illini has two saving graces on their side, they are playing at home where they are 11-1 (3-1) and they have the tallest guy on the court who happens to be very skilled. Illinois needs to feed the big man to have a chance in this one.
  • The game hinges on Leonard’s ability to establish himself on the interior and Michigan State’s defensive strategy to deny him the ball. The winner of that chess match is likely to win the game. Also, keep a close eye on turnovers. Michigan State leads the Big Ten in steals, while Illinois gets the ball stolen more than anyone else in the league. Empty possessions for Bruce Weber’s squad will spell doom.

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What Has Happened To Seton Hall?

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 30th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC. He covered Louisville’s 60-51 win at Seton Hall on Saturday and filed this report.

Heading into a two-game home stand against a pair of middle of the pack Big East teams, Seton Hall players, coaches and fans thought two consecutive road losses to South Florida and Villanova were nothing more than a bump in the road. After all, the team started the season 15-2 and 4-1 in the Big East and looked well on its way to the program’s first NCAA berth in six seasons. After dropping both games this week to Notre Dame and Louisville at the Prudential Center, the 15-2 start seems like light years ago and the prospect of a spot in the 68-team NCAA Tournament may be only a dream at this point. Seton Hall shot a mind-blowing 26% against Notre Dame and 28% against Louisville in its own building, scoring only 93 points combined in the two games. Head coach Kevin Willard was candid after the Louisville loss saying, “We really suck offensively right now.” That much is obvious but why is this happening? Let’s attempt to determine what is going on with the Pirates.

Seton Hall Needs to Right Its Ship Soon...

Seton Hall is now on a four game losing streak and faces three upcoming road games: at Marquette, Connecticut and Rutgers. If the Hall doesn’t get at least one of those, it will return home on February 12 to face Pittsburgh with a 4-8 Big East record, a stunning collapse for a team that had been playing so well for an extended period of time. How does Seton Hall reverse this trend and get back on the winning track? There are many things that must change but it starts with Willard’s two senior leaders, Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope.

Theodore has done an admirable job running the point this year for the Pirates. While his shooting percentages are down from last year, his assists have jumped from 4.4 per game a year ago to 7.0 this season without a major increase in turnovers. Looking at the assists alone, you notice a drop off right away over Seton Hall’s four-game slump. In the Hall’s first five Big East games (4-1), Theodore averaged 8.2 APG and 18.2 PPG on 45.6% shooting. Those are numbers that would put any player in the conversation of the best point guards in the conference and maybe the nation, a discussion Theodore was in the thick of just two weeks ago. In his team’s extended slide, Theodore has averaged only 4.3 APG and 14.5 PPG on a putrid 27.9% shooting. The senior point guard’s turnovers have shot up to 3.5 TOPG as well, above his season average. Point guard is the most important position in college basketball and Seton Hall’s success begins and ends with Jordan Theodore.

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Checking In On… The Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • A Bad Saturday for Big East Referees:  It started in Philadelphia in the noon game between Villanova and Marquette. The referees made themselves the story of that game, calling three technical fouls and 45 total foul in a 40-minute game. That game lasted well over two hours as the officials used their whistles to take all the rhythm out of what was a very good game. James Breeding doesn’t have the best reputation across the conference for the quality of his calls, but apparently he has a short fuse as well. Breeding called all three techs and embarrassed himself on national television in the process. I realize the Big East and NCAA want better sportsmanship, but nothing Jay Wright, Buzz Williams, or Maalik Wayns did warranted a technical foul. It’s never good when officials make themselves the story of the game, but that’s exactly what James Breeding did. The bad officiating continued in the Syracuse-West Virginia game as the crew of Karl Hess, Gene Steratore and, Brian O’Connell blew a goaltending call that was obvious to the 28,740 Syracuse fans in attendance at the Carrier Dome, the ESPNU commentators, and anyone who was watching the game. While the proper call would have only resulted in a tie game and actually given Syracuse a chance to win it in regulation, it denied West Virginia a chance to force overtime. Too often, we see officials swallow their whistles in the final minute to “not affect the outcome of the game.” Once again, a crew of officials decided to do just that and that decision negatively affected the outcome. While there’s no guarantee West Virginia would have won if the game went to the extra session, the Mountaineers were denied that chance by incompetent officiating. My beef is as follows:  I’m all for player safety, but this season it has been ridiculous how many times officials have gone to the television monitor to review elbows that may or may not have been thrown during the course of a game. If they can review every elbow that was ever thrown (not needed in my opinion) as well as end-of-half scoring plays, why can’t they review a call like that? Nobody likes slow games, but the officials should be permitted to review every call they aren’t 100% sure about. All in all, Saturday was a disgrace to the officiating profession.
  • Mike Brey, Coach of the Year?: At this point, it would be hard to argue against him. The Notre Dame head coach led his team to two road wins at Seton Hall and Connecticut last week, holding the home teams to a combined 90 points. Brey’s team executed the burn offense to perfection, protected the basketball and got timely rebounds. Notre Dame, considered an afterthought after Tim Abromaitis went down with a season-ending ACL tear, is now in the thick of the NCAA Tournament conversation. Brey seems to get the most out of his teams when expectations are low, and that reputation is holding true as we head into the crucial month of February. The Irish still have work to do in order to overcome a lackluster non-conference performance but Brey has his team well on its way towards a top half conference finish.
  • Pittsburgh Wins a Pair: After starting league play 0-7, Pittsburgh has won two straight. With Tray Woodall healthy and back in the lineup, the Panthers are a team nobody wants to face down the stretch. Jamie Dixon’s NCAA dreams are almost surely extinguished, but the Panthers have an opportunity to finish the season strong and end with a respectable record. Pittsburgh’s offensive efficiency improved in a big way with Woodall’s return, but its defense was outstanding in Saturday’s win over Georgetown. The Panthers posted an 86.5 defensive efficiency rating, by far their best against a quality opponent. Their season-best was 81.0 against St. Francis (PA) on December 20, their last win before beating Providence last week. With a softer schedule in February, Pittsburgh has the potential to make some noise over the season’s final nine games.

Dante Taylor And The Panthers Are Still A Proud Bunch. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (22-1, 9-1) – After suffering its first defeat at Notre Dame, the Orange responded well in a win at Cincinnati two days later. Kris Joseph led the victors with 17 points on eight of 11 shooting. Still without Fab Melo, the Orange big men did an admirable job in his place. Rakeem Christmas had nine rebounds as Syracuse survived an early onslaught of Bearcat three-pointers. Syracuse then beat West Virginia on Saturday in a closer-than-expected game as the Mountaineers were able to score against the zone, mostly because of rebounding. Syracuse was out-rebounded 36-20, but committed only six turnovers as it survived the blown goaltending call in the final seconds. Brandon Triche had 18 points in the win. Rebounding has been a concern all season, but it’s obvious that Syracuse is not nearly as dominant with Melo out of the lineup. Free throw shooting came and went (33% at Cincinnati, 76.5% against West Virginia) but mental toughness is one of its biggest strengths. As we head into the teeth of the season, Syracuse is more prepared to absorb and respond to every team’s best shot. This week: 2/4 @ St. John’s.
  2. Marquette (18-4, 7-2) – I’m not overly impressed every time I watch this team, but it makes the winning plays when needed most. The Golden Eagles won a pair of games last week to push their winning streak to six games. Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder, and Davante Gardner combined for 47 points in a home win over South Florida on Tuesday, equaling the total points scored by the Bulls. Marquette ventured to Villanova on Saturday and was involved in one of the more bizarre games I have seen all season across college basketball. The game lasted two and a half hours and didn’t even go to overtime. 45 fouls (three technical) were called and 57 free throws were attempted in a game that wasn’t the finest moment for the officiating crew of James Breeding, Tim Clougherty, and Pat Driscoll. Breeding in particular had a short fuse, whistling Buzz Williams for a technical when the coach simply slipped and fell down. Memo to Breeding: Get over yourself, he wasn’t showing you up. Johnson-Odom had 26 points, Crowder added 20 points and 11 boards for Marquette and Jamil Wilson added 12 points off the bench. Marquette rallied from an 18-point deficit and forced 20 Villanova turnovers to key the comeback. This is a good basketball team, but one that has a ceiling. I’m not sure the Golden Eagles have the scoring depth to make a big run in March. This week: 1/31 vs. Seton Hall, 2/4 @ Notre Dame. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Morning Five: 01.30.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 30th, 2012

  1. It’s been a harrowing couple of weeks for Connecticut freshman Ryan Boatright as he awaited the NCAA’s ruling on his eligibility, but they cleared him to play and he returned to the court in this weekend’s loss to Notre Dame. While he is trying to move on, his lawyer and mother are not happy with the NCAA’s decision to release the details of what Boatright and his mother considered a private investigation. Boatright’s mother is pondering legal action but it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense at this point. The issue has already been drawn out for long enough, and a legal battle will keep it in the news even longer, something I doubt the Boatright family relishes.
  2. As always, plenty of exciting basketball was played this weekend, but no game received more attention than Syracuse‘s controversial win over West Virginia. The Orange got the benefit of a blown goaltending call and held on to win by two points. Coach Bob Huggins wasn’t thrilled with the result and rightfully so. The Mountaineers played well enough to win a difficult road game and it is never good when the officials are directly involved in determining the outcome, as clearly happened there.
  3. It is encouraging that Seton Hall forward Herb Pope is shouldering the blame for the Pirates’ fourth straight loss, but that won’t be enough to stop the team’s free fall in the Big East standings. Taking the blame is great, but improving his play would be better. Pope is the team’s best player and against Louisville on Saturday he was just 4-13 from the field. The Pirates aren’t good enough to consistently win when their best offensive option is struggling, so Pope will need to pick up his game quickly if Seton Hall still wants to make the Tournament.
  4. Villanova should be kicking itself Saturday after blowing an 18-point lead in a loss to Marquette. It was the Wildcats’ second-straight second-half collapse and the mistake that cost them Saturday was a silly error by the team’s veteran leader, Maalik Wayns. Wayns picked up a technical foul for arguing a blown call and Marquette took advantage of the change in momentum and never looked back. Wayns was probably right to be upset, but that doesn’t excuse his inability to curb his frustration. Maybe I am extrapolating a small incident too much, but those types of stupid mistakes are indicative of why ‘Nova has struggled so badly this season. The team has plenty of talent, just not a lot of discipline or mental toughness.
  5. Don’t look now but the Pittsburgh Panthers look poised to make a run. Considered an afterthought after seven straight conference losses over the last four weeks, the Panthers handily beat No. 10 Georgetown on Saturday and looked like a different team from the one that looked soft and disorganized earlier this season. It shouldn’t be too big a surprise that the team has some fight because they still have talent and Jamie Dixon is an excellent coach. That said, it might be too little too late and it would be a bigger story if they could win impressively away from the Peterson Center.
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State Of the Big East Address

Posted by mlemaire on January 27th, 2012

It has been nearly three full days since President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address to the country, and it has also been nearly three full days since our brethren covering the SEC did their State of the SEC post. Since we are both slightly behind and also not creative enough to come up with our own ideas, we decided to take a belated look at the Big East in a similar (read: exactly the same) post.

Kris Joseph & Syracuse Are The Class Of The Conference Right Now (Getty Images/A. Lyons)

We would love to report that the state of the conference is strong, but as a whole, it has not been a good season for the Big East. The 2007-08 season was the last time the conference had only one team finish in the Top 10 but it is in danger of having that happen again. Syracuse will undoubtedly finish in the Top 10 and is a worthy national title contender, but after that, things get murkier. Last season the conference had five teams finish the regular season ranked inside the Top 15. As of now, the conference only has four teams in the Top 25. The reason for the slip is that consistent winners like Villanova and Pittsburgh have been really bad, and teams like Connecticut and Louisville lost a lot of key talent. But let’s take a closer look as well.

Despite the swirling off-the-court issues, the Carrier Dome has been rocking all season and for good reason. The Orange are an excellent blend of experience, talent and depth. Star forward Kris Joseph is going to end up on the All-Big East team and sophomore combo guard Dion Waiters could find himself on the short list for that team as well. Their lone blemish is an ugly road loss to Notre Dame and that looks more like an aberration that signs of a regression.

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Big East Morning Five: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 26th, 2012

  1. Two accusers have recanted their stories, likely meaning that Bernie Fine won’t face charges but the defamation suit brought against Jim Boeheim rolls on. The question now is whether the suit will be heard in New York City or Onondaga (NY) County. Both arguments make sense, as Boeheim’s accusers are obviously arguing that they can’t get a fair trial because of the coach’s vast support in the Syracuse area. Boeheim’s lawyers want the trial moved because all of the alleged misconduct occurred in Onondaga County. I am no legal eagle, so let’s just wait and see wait happens on this one.
  2. Kevin Jones was excellent again last night, but the rest of his West Virginia teammates were not, and they let St. John’s pull off the easy upset in Madison Square Garden. I am going to call it right now — Jones will be the Big East Player of the Year and a lottery pick. He is that talented. But the rest of his teammates, especially Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli have been inconsistent, and that’s why the Mountaineers look great some nights and ugly other nights.
  3. Marquette coach Buzz Williams is now only 303 wins behind the legendary Al McGuire after dominating South Florida on Tuesday. Williams was not the flashy hire after Tom Crean left Milwaukee for Bloomington, but he has turned into an excellent recruiter and coach and as long as he remains at MU, the Golden Eagles will be a consistent NCAA Tournament team.
  4. How about a sarcastic round of applause for a Pittsburgh team that can’t be thrilled that they finally won their first conference game by nearly the start of February. But hey, a win is a win, even if it is against an overmatched Providence team at home. Ashton Gibbs (22 points) was streaky but carried the offensive load and it only took Tray Woodall (17 points, nine assists) one game to get back to being the play-maker he was before his injury.  They have No. 9 Georgetown next at home in the Pete. If ever there was a time to make a run…
  5. Are Seton Hall fans getting nervous yet? The Pirates shot just 26% from the field and star forward Herb Pope was 2-16 in an ugly 55-42 home loss to Notre Dame on Wednesday night. Sports Illustrated‘s Andy Glockner thought Seton Hall’s resume was still good enough to put them in the NCAA Tournament right now, but that resume may be a house of cards by the end of the season.
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Big East Morning Five: 01.19.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 19th, 2012

  1. Although I think it still early to call Cincinnati “quite clearly” the conference’s second-best team, back-to-back road wins over Georgetown and Connecticut have the Bearcats riding high. Of course they will have to live with the continued aftermath of their fight against Xavier all season, but they have only lost once since that game and look like a completely different team and seem to be at peace with the whole ordeal. The road trip isn’t over yet though, as they travel to West Virginia Saturday.
  2. The story has moved far beyond the Big East at this point but we just figured we would throw it out there that former St. John‘s point guard Nurideen Lindsey is switching schools again. We mentioned yesterday that he was heading to Arkansas but now he is apparently set enroll at Rider instead. Lindsey is a Philadelphia native, so Little Rock did seem awfully far away, and honestly, Rider might be a better fit. The Broncos are scuffling this season, but Tommy Dempsey has built a consistently competitive program in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and Lindsey could blossom into a star there.
  3. Oh wherefore art thou Herb Pope? The senior forward had been a legitimate player of the year candidate for the first part of the season, but he was a non-factor in his fourth straight game as the Pirates lost to Villanova last night, its second loss since being ranked. Earlier this season, after a tough game against Syracuse, Pope said that he was going to put his struggles behind him, but now he might just be wearing down. Seton Hall still has plenty to play for this season, but they will need their big man to pick it back up if they are going to make the NCAA Tournament.
  4. With apologies to my colleague Pat, I sometimes forget about lowly Providence. No one expected much from first-year coach Ed Cooley this season and since conference play began, they haven’t provided much either. With the exception of that “Where In The World Did That Come From” 31-point blowout of Louisville at home, the Friars haven’t really sniffed another conference win. We still have no idea why star guard Vincent Council was held out against Syracuse, but it’s safe to say they will have no chance against Marquette if Council isn’t playing.
  5. I admit, this one is going to be kind of a throwaway because it is getting late and I am tired. Yahoo! columnist Pat Forde wrote his always-enjoyable Forde Minutes piece and his pressing question for the Big East was…”Who is the conference’s second-best team?” Granted this was before tonight’s loss to Cincinnati, but Forde still picked UConn and I agree in the long run. The Bearcats just beat the Huskies, so they deserve the edge right now, but Jim Calhoun’s team will ostensibly get Ryan Boatright back eventually and Andre Drummond continues to get better. Yes, even better than Cincinnati.
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Checking In On… The Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 9th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Top Tier Chaos: As you see in the poll question, it’s awfully hard to rank the top half of this league right now. Syracuse is the clear #1 by a wide margin, but the second spot is up for grabs between six teams: Seton Hall and West Virginia are playing the best basketball but Connecticut, Georgetown, Marquette, and Louisville remain threats. Big East teams always beat each other up in conference, play but that usually happens in the middle of the league. This year, it is happening at the top. One thing is for sure: the race for second place will be an up-and-down affair over the next two months.
  • UConn Hates Jersey: Before Tuesday, Connecticut had won 21 combined games in a row against Seton Hall and Rutgers. After Saturday, the Huskies headed back up the New Jersey Turnpike with two losses to Jersey’s Big East teams. Kevin Willard has his team rolling at 14-2 and absolutely crushed the Huskies on Tuesday night in Newark while Mike Rice continued to show signs of improvement in a 67-60 win Saturday night in Piscataway. As Jeff Borzello put it on Twitter, the North Jersey road trip has become a whole lot tougher. If St. John’s can get back to where it was last year and Seton Hall and Rutgers continue to improve, New York City-area basketball could be on the verge of a renaissance.
  • Seton Hall Ranked?: We will see what happens on Monday, but Seton Hall is on the verge of a top 25 ranking for the first time since January 30, 2001. That year, the Pirates were headed in the opposite direction, out of the top 25 after a preseason top ten ranking. Tommy Amaker (now at Harvard) had signed a ballyhooed freshman class highlighted by the late Eddie Griffin, Andre Barrett, and Marcus Toney-El, but it all fell apart for the Pirates as they finished 16-15 and lost in the first round of the NIT to Alabama. Seton Hall came close to a ranking in 2004, but never made it into the poll. This time around, the Pirates are 14-2 (3-1) with wins over VCU and St. Joe’s on a neutral floor and Dayton on the road, in addition to West Virginia and Connecticut at home. The Hall is in position for a terrific seed in the NCAA Tournament if it keeps up this level of play and Kevin Willard, along with John Thompson III and Jim Boeheim, has to be among the top contenders for Big East Coach of the Year. The Pirates were picked 13th in the preseason Big East coaches poll. 

Good Things Come In Threes For Seton Hall (Jim O'Conner/US Presswire)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (17-0, 4-0) – Marquette put a second-half scare into the Orange at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, but Syracuse made the winning plays down the stretch to hang on. Syracuse remains a juggernaut and an easy (by Big East standards) road schedule awaits. Syracuse already went to DePaul and Providence and has trips to Villanova, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, St. John’s, and Rutgers on the schedule. Quite frankly, that sequence is a joke for a team everyone knew would be at or near the top of the league. I realize this team has a target on its back every night, but the only true road tests for the Orange could be at Louisville and Connecticut in February. Syracuse shot 61% for the game at Providence on Wednesday, placing six players in double figures. No Syracuse player took over eight shots, a testament to this team’s depth and balance. Scoop Jardine had 11 assists and only one turnover in the victory. Against Marquette, Syracuse jumped out to a huge lead but let the Golden Eagles climb back in it. Dion Waiters was the spark off the bench yet again, totaling 12 points and seven assists. The Orange shot only 39% at home against MU, but escaped with the win. This week: 1/11 @ Villanova, 1/14 vs. Providence.
  2. Georgetown (13-2, 3-1) – Let the controversy begin. Truth be told, ten different people could very well come up with ten different ways to rank the top seven teams in the Big East. Despite losing at West Virginia and struggling for the balance of the game against Marquette, I’m moving the Hoyas up to the second spot. Why? It has more to do with the performances of Louisville, Connecticut and Marquette rather than Georgetown itself. After all, the Hoyas did beat a good team (Marquette) this week, something none of the aforementioned three teams can say. The Hoyas overcame a 17-point deficit against Marquette, led by Jason Clark‘s 26 points. That 26 could have been 30+ if Clark made his free throws (6-13 from the stripe). Hollis Thompson also added 16 points on 6-7 shooting as Georgetown shot a sizzling 63% against the Golden Eagle defense. Against West Virginia, Georgetown allowed the Mountaineers to shoot 50% but the Hoyas couldn’t convert from deep (2-14 3FG). Thompson led the way with 20 points, but it wasn’t enough on the road. Regardless of what the rankings may have said coming into the game, I’m not going to hammer the Hoyas for losing at West Virginia, an extremely difficult place to play. Believe it or not, I don’t think Georgetown is as good as its resume. That may sound confusing but I’m not sure Georgetown is as good as its record. However, the Hoyas may not lose again until early February if they play to their potential. A relatively soft stretch begins this week. This week: 1/9 vs. Cincinnati, 1/15 @ St. John’s. Read the rest of this entry »
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Four Thoughts: Seton Hall vs. Providence Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 9th, 2012

Game recaps are boring. If you want to read them, search your local newspaper or the Associated Press. Four Thoughts is our brand new, not-so creatively titled feature where, in lieu of a game recap, we give you four thoughts about key Big East action. Enjoy!

Theodore and Council live up to the hype they don’t get.

I am not sure where Seton Hall’s Jordan Theodore and Providence’s Vincent Council currently sit on the Q Rating list but Saturday’s match-up between the Pirates and the Friars was a microcosm not only of their individual skills, but also of how their abilities translate to the composition of their respective teams.  Presumably neither player is content with his below-the-radar stature, but rather than grousing they let their play do the talking. No histrionics. No chest thumping. Just solid, focused basketball.

Theodore is a chameleon. He can score or defer depending on the need. Tasked with getting a Pirate team that tends to flirt a bit too much with defeat over the top, Theodore is a winner who plays his best in the clutch. True to form, he assisted on two three-pointers in the first minute of the second half versus Providence to open up a three-point halftime lead to nine and scored 10 of his 14 points in that decisive second stanza.

Meanwhile Council, whose game is best suited to creating, has been forced to take on more of a scorer’s role with a young team that lacks experience, and proven Big East offensive prowess. Council played all 40 minutes against Seton Hall and kept his team in the game throughout with 23 points, and nine assists. The Friars will need Council to develop a killer instinct similar to that of Theodore if they want to get out of the Big East basement.

Theodore Steps It Up In The Clutch (Credit: Stew Milne, US Presswire)

Third wheel helps keep the Pirate’s ship afloat.

In the NBA everyone talks about needing a “big three” to be successful. While that phrase is not as prominent in the college game, it certainly means a lot to have a third scoring option, and 6’6” sophomore wing Fuquan Edwin is aptly filling that role for Seton Hall. Edwin was a highly regarded recruit who had a solid freshman campaign, starting 26 games, averaging 7.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest. The nation’s leader in steals this season with 51, he has already made a reputation as a dogged defender as well as solid rebounder (6.4 RPG). In addition to his excellence preventing points, Edwin is in the midst of a breakout year offensively, supporting senior leaders Herb Pope (17.9 PPG) and the afore mentioned Theodore (15.9 PPG) with his 14.1 points per game. Edwin has displayed consistency with his output, hitting double-figures in 13 of Seton Hall’s 16 games this year, highlighted by a career-best 24 points (5-8 3PT) in Saturday’s win over Providence in a game where both Pope and Theodore scored below their averages.

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Four Thoughts: Connecticut v. Seton Hall Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 4th, 2012

Game recaps are boring. If you want to read them, search your local newspaper or the Associated Press. Four Thoughts is our brand new, not-so creatively titled feature where, in lieu of a game recap, we give you four thoughts about key Big East action from the night before. Enjoy!

Hopefully this game taught Connecticut freshman Andre Drummond that, even if he legitimately has no idea who the opposing team’s best player is, it’s probably better to not say that into a reporter’s recording device. Seton Hall took advantage of the Huskies’ slow start last night to stake a 13-point lead at halftime, and cruised to a 75-63 victory at the Prudential Center in Newark. Here are some of the key takeaways from the upset.

1. Don’t look now, but Seton Hall is a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender.

Kevin Willard Has Seton Hall angling for a NCAA Tournament bid after last night's win over Connecticut (AP Photo/Skip Peterson)

Entering the season with a new coach and having lost three of their top four scorers, the Pirates were considered an afterthought in the Big East this season and were picked to finish 13th in the conference’s annual preseason poll. And after they were dismantled by Syracuse 75-49 in their conference opener, it seemed as if the predictions about Kevin Willard’s squad would prove true, but the Pirates had other ideas. Two nights after the Syracuse debacle, Seton Hall rolled over a solid West Virginia team 67-48 and then last night they beat the No. 8 team in the country handily. Senior forward Herb Pope has emerged as one of the conference’s best big man, senior guard Jordan Theodore has been sublime as the point guard, and sophomore forward Fuquan Edwin has been stuffing the stat sheet and is one of the more versatile forwards in the conference. It’s important not to get ahead of ourselves as it’s difficult to imagine a team with a seven-deep rotation surviving a rugged conference schedule, but after that win last night, it shouldn’t shock anyone if the Pirates finish in the top half of the conference.

2. Should we really still consider UConn’s frontcourt as one of the nation’s elite?

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Set Your TiVo: 01.03.12

Posted by bmulvihill on January 3rd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Big Ten and Big East battles highlight Tuesday night’s action. Let’s take a look at what you should keep an eye on:

#12 Michigan State at #18 Wisconsin – 7:00PM EST on ESPN2 HD (****)

  • Michigan State has rattled off 13 consecutive wins since losing its first two games against North Carolina and Duke. The Spartans are playing some of the strongest defense in the country. Tom Izzo’s teams are typically strong on the boards and this season is no exception. MSU ranks 17th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. Rebounding should prove to be a crucial element in the outcome of this game, as Wisconsin is one of the country’s top defensive rebounding teams. Since the Badgers play such spectacular field goal defense, the Spartans are going to have to crash the offensive glass to have a chance to win on the road. Also, pay close attention to how often Sparty gets to the line and how often they put the Badgers on the line. Those stats have been key to MSU’s wins and losses. Fortunately for Spartan fans, Wisconsin is 315th in the country in free throw rate.
  • The Badgers are coming off a bizarre home loss to Iowa where they shot 3-28 from three-point land. However, when you look back at Wisconsin’s two other losses against Marquette and North Carolina, they shot poorly from downtown in those games as well. The Badgers were 5-19 against Marquette and 8-28 against UNC. Neither of those teams were particularly good at defending the three. For a team that takes almost 40% of its shots from three and hits 38.4% of them, the deep ball is clearly a driver of the Badgers’ offensive efficiency. MSU has one of the better three-point defenses in the country, allowing only 29.9% of deep balls to go down. Keep a close eye on the three-point percentage of Wisconsin.
  • This should be a slow, half-court, defensive battle. The game will hinge on MSU’s ability to defend the three and still manage the defensive boards. The Badgers will need to establish their inside game in order to open up the perimeter. They have the defense to beat anyone in the country, however, if the three ball is not going down, their offense has a tough time winning games for them.

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