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 »
Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East Morning Five: 01.03.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 3rd, 2012

  1. Cincinnati had an encouraging week, earning victories over Oklahoma and on the road at Pittsburgh. One of the key elements of the Bearcats’ success has been sophomore sharpshooter Sean Kilpatrick, who was recognized for his efforts as the Big East Player of the Week. Kilpatrick averaged 18 points and eight rebounds on the week. To the surprise of no one Rutgers’ Eli Carter is the Big East Rookie of the Week. Carter made big shot after big shot en route to a career-high 31 points in the Scarlet Knights’ upset victory over then #10 Florida. He followed that performance up with 23 points and five steals in a two point loss at South Florida. Big East Honor Roll recipients for this week are: West Virginia’s Darryl “Truck” Bryant who netted a career-high 34 points in a win over Villanova. The 34 points ties Bryant with Providence’s Bryce Cotton for the single game scoring high among Big East players; Notre Dame sophomore guard Alex Dragicevich who scored a game-high 22 points in the Irish’s upset victory over Pittsburgh; St. John’s freshman Moe Harkless was trumped by Carter for Rookie of the Week honors, but he made a case, dropping 32 points on Providence to go with 13 rebounds in his first Big East game. The 32 points represented a record for Big East debuts; Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb continues to lead the Huskies in scoring after averaging 19 points per game in his team’s two wins; Syracuse’s Fab Melo capped of a break out week with a spot on the Honor Roll. The sophomore big man set a school record with 10 blocks in a win over Seton Hall. Melo nearly turned his block party into a triple-double in that game, adding 12 points (career-high) and seven rebounds.
  2. Big East play started this past week which meant some inevitable poll shifting given increase in overall competition. Syracuse (15-0) however showed no signs of relinquishing its hold on the top spot as they rolled to wins over Seton Hall and DePaul. Louisville (12-2) lost both of its highly anticipated match-ups with #9 Georgetown and #2 Kentucky and slipped seven spots to #11 as a result.  After the win over Louisville, Georgetown (12-1) firmed up its top ten status when the Hoyas grinded out a victory over Providence on Saturday.  Marquette (12-2) fell six spots to #20 after they were handled by Vanderbilt. Connecticut (12-1) has won seven in a row and was rewarded with a #8 ranking, up one from last week.  The Huskies have an interesting week coming up as they hit the road to take on Seton Hall tonight and Rutgers on Saturday. Pittsburgh (11-4), losers of three straight dropped out of the polls after being ranked #22 last week.  The Panthers were not completely shut out of the voting however, receiving eight votes. Cincinnati (11-3), one of the contributors to Pittsburgh’s slide, is riding a six-game winning streak of its own and fittingly received six votes while Seton Hall (12-2) grabbed two.
  3. Following their loss to Cincinnati on Sunday, Pittsburgh fell to 0-2 in Big East play for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. They are permanently without their starting center, Khem Birch, who is transferring. They have lost three in a row. Panic time? While things appear to be a bit chaotic for the Panthers at the moment, getting point guard Travon Woodall back healthy would go a long way toward getting the Panthers back on track. Woodall has missed seven of the last eight games while trying to recover from a torn abdominal muscle and strained groin. His only action came in the form of 18 ineffective minutes against Notre Dame (0 points on 0-5 shooting, 0 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 turnovers). Woodall was off to a great start prior to the injury, averaging 14.1 points and, most importantly, 8.3 assists per game.  His absence has meant more responsibility for freshman John Johnson, who showed well in the Cincinnati loss with five assists but was tagged with a key offensive foul in clutch time. Perhaps more telling is the play of preseason Big East Player of the Year Ashton Gibbs. Gibbs has been forced to play the point which has taken away from his productivity, particularly in the shooting department. With all credit and thanks to for these stats: Before Woodall’s injury Gibbs was hitting 42.9% of his three-pointers. The rest of the team was even better at an incredible 48.8%. Since Woodall’s injury Gibbs is down to 28.3% and his teammates have plummeted to 24.4%.
  4. Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch will start 2012 by racking up some frequent flyer miles. Birch will embark upon a week full of visits in his quest to find a new basketball home. According to multiple reports, he will be on Florida’s campus today followed by a trip to New Mexico State tomorrow and UNLV on Friday. New Mexico State’s inclusion on this list may surprise some but perhaps it should not. One big reason for Birch’s consideration of the Aggies is his 7’4” friend, Sim Bhullar. Bhullar is a fellow Canadian who was headed to Xavier before decommitting due academic reasons. He subsequently enrolled at New Mexico State and plans to play next season. Further the Aggies have five Canadians on their current squad. ESPN’s Dave Telep reported Birch also plans to visit Gonzaga and Oregon State. Washington and Xavier have also been reported as having interest. Because Birch will have to sit out two semesters upon transfer, it is likely he will decide in the next two weeks so he can enroll for the spring semester and start the clock ticking.
  5. Not that they needed it, but Seton Hall may have an extra bit of motivation heading into their home match-up with #8 Connecticut, courtesy of UConn freshman Andre Drummond. When Drummond was asked about Seton Hall senior center Herb Pope he said, “I don’t even know who [Pope] is. I’m not trying to be disrespectful. They said the name to me in practice and I was like `Wait, who’s Herb Pope?'” In Drummond’s defense, he is a freshman and this is his first time facing the Pope and the Pirates. However, while Seton Hall may not have the exposure or pedigree of Connecticut, Pope certainly requires no introduction. He is a Big East Player of the Year candidate. Pope is averaging 18.6 points and 10.9 rebounds per game and is the Big East’s active career double-double leader with 27. Further, on the day before a game one would think Drummond would have been exposed to enough scouting and game prep to know the name of the person he would be matched up against. It will be an interesting introduction tonight at the Prudential Center.
Share this story

Morning Five: 01.03.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 3rd, 2012

  1. Khem Birch has started to set up visits before deciding on where he will transfer to after his departure from Pittsburgh. The McDonald’s All-American will visit Florida today, New Mexico State tomorrow, and UNLV on Friday. Adding a big man of Birch’s abilities would obviously be a big deal, but typically players who transfer in a way that Birch did transfer down from a program of a higher caliber. In Birch’s case it appears like that will end being the case unless he ends up at Florida who may be so desperate for a big man to pair with Patric Young that they are willing to take on Birch so they are not quite as guard-heavy.
  2. We have heard of teams forfeiting parts of their season due to a variety of circumstances, but few have done so in as spectacular a fashion as Southeastern Community College men’s basketball team. Late last week the school announced that it was forfeiting the last 12 games this season after 10 players were dismissed from the team for violating school and/or athletic department rules and another two players were ruled academically ineligible. That left the school with just two members of its original 14-member team eligible to play. Consequently, the team, which was 13-3, will forfeit their remaining games. Meanwhile, the affiliated athletic conference is still trying to figure out how to deal with the school’s decision and its impact on the other teams in the conference.
  3. We didn’t think that there would be much of a storyline going into tonight’s ConnecticutSeton Hall game other than George Blaney coaching in the last game of Jim Calhoun‘s three-game Big East suspension. Then the Huskies met with the media after their Monday morning practice and Andre Drummond revealed that he didn’t know who Herb Pope was before that practice. While this didn’t make a lot of waves in the mainstream media you can be sure that Pope was made aware of Drummond’s comment. While Blaney and the rest of the Connecticut coaching staff is very familiar with Pope’s work (18.6 points and 10.9 rebounds per game), the Pirates will probably be  using this as motivation. For his part, Drummond replied on Twitter stating that he meant no disrespect, but he had never watched Seton Hall play before.
  4. Ken Pomeroy followed up on Matt Norlander’s piece from last week discussing the decrease in scoring this season. Pomeroy goes a little deeper into the numbers breaking it down into offensive efficiency, pace, and effective field goal percentage while also offering up three potential solutions. All of Pomeroy’s suggestions seem reasonable and are not really radical departures that most college basketball fans would object to although we can see some people having a hard time getting used to an Olympic-style trapezoid lane. If you are looking for more detail on Pomeroy’s work on the subject of Division I scoring we encourage you to take  a look through some of the older articles he links to in yesterday’s piece.
  5. With the New Year upon us many people are taking a look at their portfolios and deciding whether or not they should reallocate their assets into different investments. For those of you with college basketball portfolios (both literally and figuratively) Seth Davis is here with some investment advice in his annual stock report. While Seth is no Jim Simons, we tend to agree with most of his buy/hold/sell ratings although we are a bit confused by his decision to “Buy” the top three teams in his rankings. If you have been slacking a little bit on your college basketball viewing this season and are trying to get back into it after being devoted to college football, you could a lot worse than reading Seth’s report.
Share this story

Voices of the Big East: Volume IV

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 31st, 2011

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!

Happy New Year!

The voices of Rush the Court would like to wish you a happy and safe New Year.  Thank you for reading.  We hope you have enjoyed what you have seen so far.  Of course there is one ball drop we will always be watching. 

We Will Forego the Crystal for This

Khem-ical Reaction

Khem Birch left Pittsburgh two weeks ago after one semester at the school.  This his has led to a variety of commentary, including from himself.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your TiVo: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 30th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the official RTC Star System.

A quality Friday night Big East game leads us into a Saturday full of terrific matchups. There are a couple good games on Sunday, but if you’re going to watch any basketball around the New Year’s holiday, make sure you are in front of a television on Saturday.

West Virginia @ Seton Hall – 9:00 PM EST Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Kevin Jones Has His Mountaineers Surging

  • Since losing at Mississippi State four weeks ago, West Virginia has reeled off six wins in seven tries with the only loss coming in overtime to a top 10 Baylor squad. The Mountaineers have an imposing trio of Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli but the timely contributions of freshmen such as Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne, and Aaron Brown have pushed West Virginia over the top in a few of these close games. Bob Huggins runs the vast majority of his offensive sets through Bryant and Jones with Kilicli chipping in as well. West Virginia is not a good outside shooting team but it should be able to take advantage of Seton Hall’s interior defense, rated #258 in two-point percentage.
  • Seton Hall ran out to a hot 11-1 start but the reality check came at the hands of Fab Melo and top-ranked Syracuse on Wednesday night. Melo blocked 10 Pirate shots in the blowout win, a game that got out of hand shortly after the opening tip for Seton Hall. Kevin Willard’s team needs to rebound in a big way tonight, the second of three difficult games to open their Big East schedule. Going up against Jones, Herb Pope has to stay on the floor and play a strong game. After a strong start to his season, Pope has averaged only 8.7 PPG over his last three outings. If he doesn’t get well into double figures, Seton Hall will have a hard time winning. Jordan Theodore needs to be a pass-first point guard in this game rather than a guy who shoots 15+ times. Getting Pope, Fuquan Edwin and three point specialist Aaron Cosby involved will be important for the senior Pirate point guard.
  • It’s likely that Pope/Jones and Bryant/Theodore cancel each other out meaning the game will be decided by the supporting casts. Kilicli could be that guy for West Virginia while Seton Hall will look to Edwin and/or Cosby to make a winning impact. Edwin had an awful game against Syracuse but he should rebound nicely in front of the home folks and a less imposing front line. These teams have played five overtime games between them and another could be in the offing here. West Virginia is probably the better team but the Hall playing at home evens this contest up. Neither team shoots the ball well from the charity stripe but it’s something that just may decide this game.

#10 Louisville @ #3 Kentucky – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (*****)

Jones and Company Invite Louisville to Rupp Saturday Afternoon

  • Kentucky has blasted every inferior team it has played this season but the Wildcats have played closer games against Kansas, North Carolina and Indiana. Louisville is the fourth good team Kentucky will see so far, and given the passion in this rivalry, another relatively close game should be expected. The Wildcats are the better team but you can throw rankings and records out in rivalries as bitter as this one. Kentucky must use its superior offensive talent to its advantage, namely Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. Louisville is highly vulnerable to the deep shot making Lamb a key player. Jones is the best player on the floor and needs to use his versatility to rack up fouls on Louisville’s interior players or step out and knock down a deep ball. Six Kentucky players average double figures and Louisville just can’t match the Wildcats offensively.
  • Where Rick Pitino’s team can match Kentucky is on the defensive end. Louisville’s game plan has to be intense full court defense, making Marquis Teague work for every dribble and every pass. Teague averages 3.2 turnovers per game and Louisville is one of the better teams in the nation at forcing turnovers. Offensively, this is not a typical Pitino team. Louisville doesn’t shoot the three-ball well but Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith and Kyle Kuric can put the ball in the basket. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they don’t do it consistently enough to be an offensive force as a team. Peyton Siva has to be the catalyst in this game. The quick Louisville point guard has good vision but must cut down on turnovers. If Kentucky is getting runouts, it’s lights out for Louisville.
  • It’ll be hard for Louisville to score points on the road against the elite Kentucky defense but the Cardinals can force turnovers and get easy buckets. Both coaches don’t mind speeding up the game but that would favor John Calipari in this particular matchup. Pitino has to design a game plan that adeptly probes the Kentucky defense and gets quality shots. Siva is the key to execute that, plus the Cardinals must crash the boards and get second chance opportunities. That’s easier said than done against Jones and Anthony Davis. Davis has the potential to neutralize Dieng and anyone else who dares enter the paint for Louisville. The Cardinals will defend but they simply lack the offensive firepower needed to win this game at Rupp. We would be surprised if Kentucky loses at home for the first time under Calipari but this will be a fun game to watch regardless.
Share this story

Big East Morning Five: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 29th, 2011

  1. As discussed here yesterday, Rick Pitino made headlines when he stated he would not continue coaching once his contract expires after the 2016-17 season.  We linked to the ESPN story in that post and have done so again here because it is important to highlight Pitino’s quote.  He said, “My contract’s going to run out in 2017. I’m not coaching anymore after that.”  Yes, we have to break out the Lee Corso voice here…”NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND!”  Just a day later on ESPN’s air during Louisville’s game against Georgetown, announcers John Sciambi and Dick Vitale discussed the matter, saying they spoke to Pitino about it prior to the game.  According to Sciambi, Pitino said his comments were “misconstrued,” and that they were a “tongue-in-cheek type of thing.”  Further Sciambi said Pitino indicated he “never alluded to retirement” and “in no way was he implying that we was going to stop coaching.”  OK then.  While his backtracking is not a surprise, his explanation is a bit of a head scratcher.  Either Pitino was misquoted by just about every news outlet in the world the other day, or he as a great future in politics whenever he does decide to hang up the whistle.
  2. In a continued homage to Lee Corso, when # 4 Louisville dropped its first game of the season, a 71-68 home loss to #12 Georgetown, Cardinals’ freshman Chane Behanan was rendered incorrect.  Behanan predicted an undefeated Louisville season a week-and-a-half ago following an eight-point victory over Memphis.  Behanan said at the time, “We’re the number one team in the country in my eyes. We’re going undefeated. Point blank, period.”   Clearly no one, including us, took Behanan’s comments all that seriously, nor was anyone holding him to his bravado.  He must have been somewhat convincing though.  Two people actually bought in and gave Louisville first place votes in this week’s Associated Press Poll.  In a related story, RTC’s crack team of investigators is reviewing Behanan’s family tree for college basketball writers.  However what Behanan, his teammates, and the Louisville faithful may have been guilty of last night is complacence. Louisville has a huge game coming up on New Year’s Eve at #3 Kentucky, and dare we say they may have looked past Georgetown a bit?  There was even a comment during the ESPN broadcast that the KFC Yum! Center seemed somewhat low key. Whether Louisville let down their guard a bit or not, take nothing away from the Hoyas (12-1).  They are rolling.  Since their four-point loss to #17 Kansas on November 21, Georgetown has won nine in a row including three over teams that were ranked at the time.
  3. While West Virginia won its game on the court last night (83-69 over Villanova) they lost a decision in the court on Tuesday.  Providence (RI) County Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein said “NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND” to the university’s desire to have decisions regarding the timing of their official defection to the Big 12 rendered outside of Rhode Island.  ” (Hey, it may be lame, but it’s a theme.  At least I did not emerge and put on one of those old colonial judge wigs. See… you chuckled just then.) Rhode Island is the location of Big East headquarters, and a darn fine state in its own right. The court also denied West Virginia’s request that a suit filed against them by the Big East be rejected.  Big East bylaws stipulate that any school electing to leave the conference must wait 27 months before it can formally do so.  West Virginia filed suit against the conference challenging the rule, as it wants to enter the Big 12 in time for the 2012 football season.  The Big East then quickly filed the aforementioned countersuit saying that West Virginia’s suit is baseless and they must abide by the rules they previously agreed to.
  4. Fab Melo’s development and credibility took a nice leap forward last night as he notched his first career double-double, hitting career-highs in scoring with 12 points and blocks with 10 in a 75-49 rout of Seton Hall.  The 10 blocks also set a Syracuse record and he missed a triple-double by just three rebounds.  As noted here yesterday, a key indicator in the maturation of Melo would be his performance against the type of frontcourt competition the Big East brings night in and night out.  So far, so good.  Seton Hall came into the game at 11-1 with some nice wins over the likes of Virginia Commonwealth, St. Joseph’s, Auburn and Dayton.  Check.  Seton Hall has Herb Pope who is a beast and came into the game averaging 20.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per contest.  Pope finished last night’s game with four points, nine rebounds and six turnovers.  Check.  It has been well documented that Melo came into this season in much better shape, which is helping him to stay on the floor and concentrate on basketball over fitness.  With the fitness hurdle cleared, his confidence is growing which can only help.  “I wasn’t surprised,” Melo said after the game “I’ve put a lot of work in. I’m still working hard to get better and I’m sure you’ll see better things from me. You’re going to be more surprised.”
  5. When the schedule came out, Rutgers fans certainly had today’s date circled on their calendars as the Scarlet Knights will be hosting #10 Florida tonight.  While it is always great to welcome one of the country’s top programs into your arena for a non-conference game, the cherry on top in this one is the return of Mike Rosario. Rosario starred at Rutgers for two years, scoring over 1,000 points in a Scarlet Knight uniform before transferring to Florida.  He is a hometown kid who played for legendary coach Bob Hurley, Sr., at Jersey City’s equally legendary St. Anthony’s High School.  Despite Rosario’s individual success at Rutgers, as a fine Star-Ledger/ piece by Brendan Prunty points out, he did not see a near-term opportunity to win in Piscataway.  That, coupled with the departure of Fred Hill, the head coach who recruited him, prompted Rosario to explore his options and ultimately head south to Gainesville.  Rosario (9.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG this season) has missed the Gators’ last two games with a nagging back injury and his status for tonight’s game is questionable, but he says he is ‘100 percent right now’ and will play in the game.
Share this story

The Transfer Effect: What the Statistics Say about Missouri and Iowa State’s Recruiting Methods

Posted by dnspewak on December 27th, 2011

No matter how established the program, every college basketball coach eventually takes a chance on a transfer. Jim Boeheim, for example, plucked Wesley Johnson from Iowa State and turned him into the Big East Player of the Year in 2009-10. Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski’s current rosters both include transfers with Brandon Wood (Valparaiso) and Seth Curry (Liberty), and in 1979, a former Indiana Hoosier named Larry Bird nearly won a title with Indiana State just a few years after quitting basketball (and Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers) altogether.

Hoiberg and Haith Are Recruiting Transfers Heavily to Their Programs

Normally, coaches take one or two transfers at a time to fill immediate holes, but that’s not everybody’s philosophy. Meet Missouri’s Frank Haith and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg, a pair of coaches who have abandoned traditional recruiting methods at their new schools in favor of Division I transfers. Haith, hired in April to replace Mike Anderson, is using three open scholarships in 2011-12 on players who will not appear in a single basketball game this season by signing Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Earnest Ross (Auburn) and Jabari Brown (Oregon). Hoiberg, on the other hand, has four transfers on his roster in his second year with the Cyclones: Chris Allen (Michigan State), Chris Babb (Penn State), Royce White (Minnesota), and Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois). The two coaches have energized their fan bases by signing big names from major schools, but Haith and Hoiberg’s recruiting tactics cannot be accurately judged at this point. Iowa State’s Fab Four will begin Big 12 play next month, and Missouri’s three transfers will not all be eligible until December 2012.

Instead of speculating as to whether the two teams will suffer from dreaded chemistry problems with so many transfers, why not crunch the numbers to see if The Transfer Effect really exists? Although finding aggregate data for Division I transfers is virtually impossible, recent anecdotal evidence shows that the recruiting strategy is an enormous risk for both coaches. Seven teams from both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons welcomed three or more transfers to their programs at the same time, and only two teams (San Diego State and UNLV) finished above .500 in league play. Seton Hall, the only power conference team in the group, missed the NCAA Tournament.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story