Big East Checkpoint: Buy, Sell, Hold

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 14th, 2011

Midway through December and it has already been an eventful college basketball season.  Teams have logged a fair sampling of games as they head into final exams and finish up the non-conference portion of their schedules, so we thought it would be a good time to assess the state of the Big East by comparing each team to… itself.  Below is the Preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll by projected order of finish.  We are going a little Jim Cramer on you (BooYah Skee-Daddy!), placing a Buy, Sell or Hold rating based on the team’s play to date versus preseason expectations.

1 (tie). Connecticut (8-1): I am no stock market expert but when I see a team as loaded as UConn sitting at No. 9 in the most recent poll, buying stock in the Huskies is a no-brainer. Jim Calhoun has feuded with center Alex Oriakhi and questioned his team’s drive early in the season, but this team is too deep and too talented to be ranked that low in national polls. And when you consider how much freshmen Ryan Boatright and Andre Drummond will improve over the next few months, I am already starting to look for a new luxury sedan to buy with the money from my winning. Rating: BUY

Boatright Has Given the Huskies a Lift (John Wolke, Hartford Courant)

1 (tie). Syracuse (10-0): There is no way we can buy right now and that is good news for Syracuse fans, because the ‘Cuse is on top and can rise no higher at the moment. If this were a quick trade we’d sell and look to buy back after their first loss because it is hard to envision the #1 ranked team in the country staying there all year, but we are in this for the long haul and so are the Orange. Rating: HOLD

3. Louisville (9-0): It’s impossible not to be impressed with the job Rick Pitino has done at Louisville this season given the team’s rash of injuries and lack of top-flight scorers, but I am still selling the Cardinals. For starters, their early season schedule has been very soft and their only difficult opponent was Vanderbilt, whom they needed overtime to outlast. There is no doubt that their defense and depth makes them a top-10 team, but it’s hard to put them ahead of teams like UConn and North Carolina because  they just don’t have the scoring punch or the go-to player in crunch-time.  If you are determined to hold Louisville stock, you probably won’t lose much, but now is the time to sell high. Rating: SELL

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Checking In On… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Crosstown Knockout: Suspensions were handed down on Sunday for the embarrassing incident at the conclusion of Saturday’s Cincinnati/Xavier game, a 76-53 Musketeers victory. Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis each received six game bans while Ge’Lawn Guyn will sit out for one game. On the other side, Xavier suspended Dezmine Wells and Landen Amos (a walk-on) for four games while Mark Lyons will sit for a pair and Tu Holloway for one. As for Gates and company, six games doesn’t seem nearly enough, especially when only one of those is a Big East game (a probable loss at Pittsburgh to begin with). Mick Cronin’s comments certainly were interesting. The UC coach waxed poetic in the postgame press conference but didn’t follow those words up with strong actions. On the other hand, Cronin told’s Andy Katz that the suspensions were handed down by those above him in the Cincinnati administration. Even so, it would seem hard to believe the administration wanted to go easier on the players than the head coach. If Cincinnati wanted to be serious, it would have suspended Gates and the others for a large chunk of the Big East season and the rest of non-conference play, or simply kicked them off the team. Instead, this incident is yet another example of placing sports and winning games before justice and learning a life lesson. If this happened off the basketball court, Gates would likely have been charged with battery. Instead, Gates only has to sit six games against the steady diet of non-conference cupcakes Cronin has feasted on over the last two years. From the fight itself to the way the aftermath has been handled, this has been one huge embarrassment for both Cincinnati and Xavier.

To Many, Saturday's Brawl Between Xavier And Cincinnati Signifies A New Low For College Basketball (USAT)

  • West Virginia and Marquette Involved in Thrillers: The Mountaineers ventured to Wichita, Kansas, and took on Kansas State in what was essentially a road game despite it being played away from the Little Apple. Bob Huggins was able to defeat his student, Frank Martin, but it took two overtime periods to do so. It was a thrilling game full of big shots and lots of toughness. It was very important for West Virginia to add a quality road win to its resume and while the Wildcats may not be as good as last season, this win could make a big difference if the Mountaineers find themselves on the bubble come March.  Marquette took on Washington at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night and found itself in a dogfight with the Huskies as UW took the early lead. Marquette fought back to take a three-point halftime lead when the game really ramped up. The high level of play led to numerous lead changes in an up-and-down affair that eventually came to an end when Jae Crowder knocked down a three from the corner to win it for the Golden Eagles, one of only nine undefeated teams remaining in college basketball as of this writing.
  • Big East Continues to Disappoint:  It’s still very early but it’s also hard not to notice that the conference may be looking at eight NCAA Tournament teams in a best case scenario. The Big East lost six games this past week, three by the dregs of the conference but three others by teams considered to be NCAA contenders. It was an awful week for Villanova as it blew two chances for quality wins away from home, losing in New York to Missouri and across town in Philadelphia to Temple. The Wildcats have lost four of their past five games and have zero wins of note on their resume to date. If Villanova doesn’t win at St. Joe’s this coming week, it may have to go 10-8 in conference play just to even be considered for the Tournament. Meanwhile, Cincinnati sits at 5-3 after the Xavier loss with key players in trouble due to the brawl. The Bearcats’ best win is a road victory over 4-5 Georgia, a bottom-tier SEC team. With no quality wins and two ugly losses already on their resume, the Bearcats probably have to beat Oklahoma on December 29 and go 10-8 in league play to have any chance.
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RTC Top 25: Week Four

Posted by KDoyle on December 6th, 2011

With a total of eight games that pitted Top 25 teams against one another, there was certainly not a shortage of great basketball to watch last week. We learned that Ohio State is a legitimate title contender with their thrashing of Duke and that Vanderbilt’s preseason hype was just that—hype!

The QnD after the jump…

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Big East Morning Five: 12.06.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 6th, 2011

  1. This week’s Big East accolades are out and Georgetown forward Hollis Thompson has earned Player of the Week Honors after averaging 17.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in a 3-0 week for the Hoyas.  Thompson’s week was highlighted by his game-winning three to give his team a win over then #12 Alabama in the Big East/SEC Challenge.  Providence freshman forward LaDontae Henton took home Rookie of the Week honors, scoring 17.5 points and grabbing 8.5 rebounds per game in two Friar victories.  Henton backed the honor up on Monday with a career high 19 points versus Brown.  Other Honor Roll recipients include Henton’s teammate, sophomore guard Gerard Coleman, Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom, Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs, West Virginia’s Kevin Jones and Seton Hall’s Herb Pope.
  2. The latest installment of Top 25 rankings are out and the Big East welcomed a new guest to the party as Georgetown (7-1), fresh off a 3-0 week including the above mentioned road victory over Alabama (the Hoyas’ second victory over a ranked foe this year (Memphis)), debuts at #18.  On the strength of a good effort in the Big East/SEC Challenge, all of the conference’s previously ranked squads not only remained so, but four of five moved up.  Connecticut (7-1), despite not losing, slid a spot to #9 and looks forward to an intriguing matchup with #24 Harvard on Thursday.  Syracuse (8-0) hopped up a spot to #3 after taking down #12 Florida and faces a test tonight against 5-1 Marshall.   Louisville (7-0) continued its steady climb, again moving up one position to #5 after beating Vanderbilt and knocking the Commodores out of the rankings. Marquette (7-0) shot up five notches to #11, beating Wisconsin and sending them back seven spots to #14.  Lastly, Pittsburgh elevated two steps to #15 with wins over Duquesne and Tennessee.  No other Big East team received votes in this week’s Associated Press poll.
  3. Providence freshman point guard Kiwi Gardner has been ruled academically ineligible to play this season due to an issue with a core course taken at Westwind Prep (AZ), where Gardner studied last year.  Gardner had been ruled ineligible prior to the start of the season but Providence appealed the matter with the NCAA and had been optimistic about a positive outcome.  The news was announced by Providence head coach Ed Cooley in his postgame press conference following the Friars’ 80-49 victory over Brown on Monday night, adding, “my heart goes out to him.”  Gardner was recruited by Cooley and his staff last year while at Fairfield, as well as by former Providence head coach Keno Davis. Shortly after the news broke, Gardner indicated via Twitter that he would remain at Providence despite not being able to suit up this season.  The Friars have been playing with just eight scholarship players, as sophomore forward Kadeem Batts has also been serving a suspension for a violation of team rules.  As noted here yesterday, it was reported over the weekend that Batts will return for Providence’s December 20 game versus New Hampshire.
  4. Villanova will be without 6’11” junior Maurice Sutton for a month with a dislocated thumb.  Sutton, who injured the thumb in practice,  did not play in Saturday’s win over Penn but appeared in all six of Villanova’s previous games, averaging 9.2 minutes, 1.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per contest for the 5-2 Wildcats.  Head coach Jay Wright commented on the injury, “our staff and team is disappointed for Mo. He’s been making a contribution to our team on a daily basis and we’ll miss his presence, especially defensively. But the positive in this is that Mo can still maintain his conditioning while the thumb heals and we look forward to getting him back out there, possibly in time to start the Big East season.”  Sutton can only observe as his team takes on #10 Missouri tonight as part of the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
  5. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated came out with his annual column highlighting sophomores to watch, and there was a significant Big East presence.  The premise of Davis’ analysis is to highlight sophomore breakout candidates. Davis provides sound analysis in that the freshman year often involves a maturation process where prep stars are learning to adjust to many differences both on and off the court.  Not to mention the fact that many rookies simply do not play much as freshmen while they wait their turn, and inevitably see an increase in production based on a more significant role in year two.  The headliner of the list was Syracuse’s 7’0” center Fab Melo.  Melo was the target of significant orange-tinted venom a year ago, which Davis argues was unjustified, as the much-hyped big guy struggled both on the floor in limited duty (2.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 9.9 MPG) and with his weight.  Melo came in this year much lighter and seemingly more focused, and this has paid dividends for the as-yet-unbeaten Orange.  His playing time has increased (22 MPG) as has his productivity (6.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.4 BPG). Other Big East’ers on the list include:

Marquette guard Vander Blue, who struggled with his shot last year but has put up solid numbers there so far this year (51.2% FG, 37.5% 3FG) for the surging Golden Eagles.

Villanova guard James Bell, who clearly is one of those guys who had to wait his turn.  His playing time has tripled to 27 minutes per game, and although a bit inconsistent at times, he has responded with 9.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game overall.

Connecticut forward Tyler Olander has earned minutes in the face of some pretty stiff competition.  As Davis notes, Olander came back stronger this year and perhaps has benefited some from the inconsistency and grousing of Alex Oriakhi.

Finally, Georgetown guard Markel Starks, who took a year to develop behind the now departed Chris Wright and is averaging 8.7 points in 25.1 minutes per game.

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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

Dominating the SEC:  In the newly expanded Big East/SEC Challenge, the Big East came away with a decisive 8-4 victory over the SEC. Only two Big East teams (DePaul and Rutgers) lost on their home floor while four conference members snagged important road wins across the south. The most impressive was Georgetown, a 57-55 winner over Alabama at Coleman Coliseum, a victory that should put the Hoyas in the national rankings this week. Providence earned a nice win at South Carolina while Pittsburgh and Cincinnati took care of business against Tennessee and Georgia. While this event doesn’t have the buzz of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for instance, I thought this was a success for both leagues. It’s good to get some quality games early in the season instead of fattening up on cupcakes. It’s a shame four Big East schools (Marquette, Villanova, Notre Dame and South Florida) had to sit out but that’s just the way it goes since the SEC only has 12 teams.

The Emergence of Georgetown and Marquette: As mentioned above, Georgetown knocked off Alabama, part of a 3-0 week bookended by two cupcakes. At 7-1 with a close loss to Kansas, the Hoyas look much better than originally advertised. Despite Georgetown’s admirable success, the most significant Big East win this past week came courtesy of Marquette. The Golden Eagles knocked off in-state rival and top ten Wisconsin in Madison on Saturday. The Badgers almost never lose at the Kohl Center so any team that comes out of there with a win deserves major props and earns my respect. I had my doubts about Buzz Williams’ team (ranked fifth here last week) but the win at Wisconsin is as impressive as it gets. Not to mention it was without starting point guard Junior Cadougan, suspended for the game by Williams for an unspecified violation of team rules, plus Jae Crowder was saddled with foul trouble most of the game. I’m officially on board the MU bandwagon.

Buzz Williams And Marquette Picked Up A Huge Win At Wisconsin

Jim Boeheim Apologizes: Syracuse’s important 72-68 victory over a quality Florida team took a back seat in the press room Friday night as Orange head coach Jim Boeheim apologized to those who accused former associate head coach Bernie Fine of sexual molestation. Saying he “misspoke very badly,” Boeheim appeared somber yet nervous as he stood in front of the large media contingent. He clearly looked like a man under a lot of pressure and he admitted as much, saying how difficult of a time this has been for him, his family, and his staff. On the surface it appears the Orange players are not distracted by all that is going on but it would be naïve to think they aren’t paying attention in some fashion. With the investigation ongoing and agencies such as the FBI and US Secret Service involved, it is highly likely that more information will come to light. The Orange players have to do their best to block out the distractions as they march deeper into a season full of high expectations. Two weeks into this, there still isn’t anyone out there who can confidently say what will happen over the next few months with regards to this investigation.

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (8-0) — Off the court issues aside, Syracuse sure is taking care of business on the court. The Orange destroyed former assistant Rob Murphy’s Eastern Michigan squad before getting by Florida on Friday at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse didn’t shoot particularly well against the Gators but managed to get to the line 21 times while out-rebounding Florida. Florida’s 20 turnovers also helped the cause. On the broadcast, Jay Bilas said Brandon Triche could become Syracuse’s best player. I can’t disagree. Triche is a solid three-point shooter who is terrific in transition and defensively on the outer flank of Jim Boeheim’s zone defense. The junior’s statistics are up pretty much across the board in five fewer minutes of game action. This week: 12/6 vs. Marshall, 12/10 vs. George Washington.
  2. Louisville (7-0) – The Cardinals had to rally to defeat Vanderbilt on Friday evening with Peyton Siva sealing the win in the final seconds. A lot of people think Louisville is overrated but I’m not one of them. While the Cardinals certainly are banged up, Rick Pitino always gets the most out of his players. If Wayne Blackshear is able to make it back onto the court, watch out. This team could do a lot of damage with its defense come Big East play and has just enough capable offensive players to be satisfactory on that end once they put it all together. It also helps when you have such an advantage like this team does at the KFC YUM! Center. This week: 12/7 vs. IUPUI, 12/10 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC Morning Five: 12.05.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 5th, 2011

  1. Kentucky and North Carolina played in one of the best regular season college games in quite some time. For a game with an extreme amount of hype coming in, this one lived up to all of the hype and more. It seemed from my Twitter timeline, that most fans, analysts and writers wished for five more minutes of these two heavyweights going at it. We may get forty more minutes in March or April. Here’s the roundup of everyone’s reactions to this instant classic: Jeff Goodman wrote that this one sure felt like March. CBS Sports graded each player based on their NBA prospects. Seth Davis wrote that he hopes UNC and Kentucky meet again. The Lexington Herald Leader talked about Anthony Davis’ signature moment. More on Davis’ incredible block from The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy. More from DeCourcy on how proud Calipari is of his freshmen. Rob Dauster of Beyond the Arc wrote that the game lived up to its hype. Jason King of ESPN wrote about how special this game really was. The guys at a Sea of Blue look at the good and the bad for the Cats. And finally, our national overlords at Rush the Court say that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a star among stars.
  2. In its 62-60 loss to Louisville on Friday night, Vanderbilt made only eight two-point field goals in the entire game. Half of its points came from threes, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, outscoring Louisville 30-15 from beyond the arc. John Jenkins is one of the most exciting players in the country to watch coming off screens for a three point shot, especially when he is hot. However, the Commodores have become too reliant on the outside shot, even considering that their biggest inside threat, Festus Ezeli, continues to be sidelined by an injury.  The fewest three-point shots that Vandy has hoisted up so far this season is 17, in a loss to Cleveland State. Despite throwing up more than 20 three-point shots in six of their eight games, the Commodores have only shot over 40 percent once, an 11-25 (44%) effort against Monmouth.
  3. Speaking of three-point shots sinking a team, Alabama lost a thriller on Thursday night to Georgetown on a last second three by Hollis Thompson. With the 57-55 victory, Georgetown snapped a 24-game home winning streak for the Tide in Coleman Coliseum. Potentially more detrimental, the Hoyas might have laid the blueprint to beating Alabama with an aggressive sagging 2-3 zone. It was Alabama’s inability to convert from three that caused its offense to stall. The Tide shot 3-16 from beyond the arc beginning with missing their first 11 three-% on 23 attempts on the season.
  4. Mike Rosario, the Florida’s fourth leading scorer this season, played a season-low six minutes in a loss to Syracuse on Friday night. Rosario came in averaging over 10 points per game, but coach Billy Donovan made the decision to sit him on the bench throughout the entire second half. “The last couple days, I think emotionally, he just hasn’t been there,” said Donovan. “I tried to use him a little bit and he just did not seem himself. It was more my decision not to play him. I actually felt like we needed defense because I knew we were going to have a hard time scoring with Patric (Young) off the floor.” Guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker stepped up in his place with a combined 9-19 from three-point land. Boynton finished with 22 points, while Walker added 17 points and five assists. Rosario disappeared in Florida’s last top five match-up in Columbus against Ohio State. Rosario played 19 minutes, but only added five points. Rosario’s play in marquee games should be something to keep an eye on for the Gators.
  5. If I had to choose a team that could ill afford an injury to a frontcourt player at this point, I would probably choose Vanderbilt. With starting center Festus Ezeli still out, the Commodores received more bad news as they have lost 6’11” center Josh Henderson with a stress fracture in his left foot. He will be sidelined for eight to 12 weeks. Henderson was averaging three points and three rebounds in limited minutes, however, was beginning to gain confidence with a 10-point, five-rebound performance against Monmouth. Henderson played a season-high 18 minutes against Xavier. Henderson’s injury should not be much of an issue once Ezeli returns to action in a couple of weeks, but will further hamper the Commodores until that time.
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Big East Morning Five: 12.05.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 5th, 2011

  1. Pittsburgh learned it will have to do without junior point guard Travon Woodall for four to five weeks due to a groin strain and abdominal tear suffered in a victory over Duquesne last Wednesday. Woodall played 33 minutes in the contest and finished with nine points and seven assists.  A player in the midst of a breakout year, Woodall, who has received Big East Honor Roll recognition in each of the last two weeks, is Pittsburgh’s second leading scorer (14.1 PPG) and the nation’s third leading assist provider at 8.3 per contest. The Panthers were without Woodall for their 61-56 road victory over Tennessee in the Big East-SEC Challenge. Freshman Jason Johnson, who is expected to see increased time at the point in Woodall’s absence, had a big three-point play down the stretch to help secure the victory. Johnson played 18 minutes, scoring eight points and dishing out three assists.
  2. Another Big East team was missing their floor general this weekend as #16 Marquette took to the floor on the road against #9 Wisconsin without point guard Junior Cadougan (7.7 PPG, 6.3 APG).  However, unlike Travon Woodall, Cadougan’s absence will be brief as he was issued a one-game suspension due an unspecified violation of team rules.  While Golden Eagle head coach Buzz Williams would not provide full details on the nature of the violation, he revealed that it was not a legal issue and said, ”He made a mistake yesterday, and my decision was to suspend him from this game. That’s the end of it. He made a mistake that was not intelligent in nature. It did not hurt anyone, but it was not how his mom raised him.” Despite losing Cadougan, Marquette came away with a big 61-54 win over the Badgers to remain unbeaten at 7-0.  Freshman guard Todd Mayo saw an increase in minutes as a result and tied his career high with 14 points to go with five rebounds.
  3. Speaking of suspensions, Providence fans were welcomed with an encouraging bit of news on Saturday when reported 6’9” redshirt sophomore forward Kadeem Batts, who has not played at all this year due to a suspension by head coach Ed Cooley for unspecified violation of team rules, will be reinstated in time to suit up for the December 20 home contest versus New Hampshire. There has been no public confirmation on this from the Providence athletic department but if true it would conclude Batts’ suspension at 11 games.  No specifics are known regarding the basis for the suspension, but rumors have circulated that it was a class attendance issue.  If it is true that Batts will return for the New Hampshire game, the timing is consistent with an academically related issue as the fall semester will have ended by that time. Batts started all 32 games a year ago averaging 7.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
  4. Time for your daily dose of Syracuse and Bernie Fine.  After Syracuse’s 72-68 home victory over Florida on Friday, head coach Jim Boeheim issued a mea culpa for his strong public comments in defense of former assistant coach Bernie Fine who was fired amid allegations of sexual misconduct. When the story broke Boeheim came out firmly in defense of Fine, as well as to go on the offensive against the accusers, indicating that there was a financial motive to the accusation on the heels of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  His comments on Friday reset his stance on both Fine and his accusers: “What I said last week was out of loyalty. I reacted without thinking. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I’m trying to learn from my mistake, and this has been a hard time. That’s all I can say. There’s an investigation going on which I fully support, because we all need to know as much as we can (about) what happened. . . I shouldn’t have questioned what the accusers expressed or their motives. I am really sorry that I did that and I regret any harm that I caused.”
  5. Powered by a 4-0 Saturday sweep, this year’s Big East-SEC Challenge title was claimed by the Big East, 8-4.  Most of the games went true to form in terms of results with the only so-called ‘upset’ coming when Hollis Thompson buried a three-pointer with 1.8 seconds to propel Georgetown to a 57-55 victory over #12 Alabama on Thursday.  The Hoyas, who were led by Jason Clark’s 22 points in the Alabama triumph, also rolled over NJIT 84-44 on Saturday to raise their record to 7-1 and could secure a spot in the Top 25 when the rakings come out later today.

Here is a complete score rundown of the games:

  • Big East Wins (8): Georgetown 57, Alabama 55; Providence 76, South Carolina 67; Syracuse 72, Florida 68; Cincinnati 57, Georgia 51; Louisville 62, Vanderbilt 60; Seton Hall 81, Auburn 59; Connecticut 75, Arkansas 62; Pittsburgh 61, Tennessee 56
  • Big East Losses (4): Kentucky 81, St. John’s 59; Mississippi 70, DePaul 68; Louisiana State 55, Rutgers 50; Mississippi State 75, West Virginia 62
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Big East Morning Five: 12.02.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 2nd, 2011

  1. We know there is only so much of the Bernie Fine scandal that people are willing to stomach, but like it or not, the story isn’t going away for awhile. For those interested in the latest developments, Syracuse Chancellor, Nancy Cantor, wrote a short but detailed open letter to USA Today explaining the university’s decision to fire Fine and why it didn’t happen sooner. The crux of the letter is that the SU claims it didn’t know about the recorded conversation between accuser Bobby Davis and Fine’s wife, Laurie. Cantor basically explained that if Syracuse had been made aware of the tape’s existence earlier, Fine would have been fired at that time. She also calls out ESPN and the Syracuse Post-Standard, saying, “those who held onto the tape for nearly 10 years owe everyone an explanation”. Both ESPN and the Post-Standard have offered their rationale for not releasing the tape earlier, but for some people, that still isn’t enough to be fully exonerated. It is hard to paint Syracuse as a university in a negative light. Cantor is justifiably trying to do everything she can to make it clear how different this case is from the Penn State scandal, and it certainly seems like the news outlets are the people who are under the microscope now, an interesting turn of events given all that has happened in the past month.
  2. Even after all of the unnecessary attention he has placed on himself in recent days thanks to his use of social media, disgruntled Connecticut center Alex Oriakhi continues to get himself in trouble using Twitter. First, it was a since-deleted tweet where he called Jim Calhoun a “mumu,” which Oriakhi said is Nigerian for boss. Pretty much everyone else disagreed and said the word means idiot. Apparently, Oriakhi isn’t even the only member of his own family to struggle with the perils of social media, as both sister and father have gone after The UConn Blog after the outlet wrote a story about the twitter controversy. Personally, while I think that the Oriakhi family only made things worse by going after a blogger, I also think this is being made out to be a bigger deal than it really is. I agree that Oriakhi is a captain and veteran leader of the Huskies and as such, should be acting far more mature than he is. But I think to say that his father’s and sister’s comments make Alex and Connecticut look bad by extension is stretching things quite a bit. Most families do not enjoy negative coverage of their children. I don’t think there was anything unfairly negative in either of the stories, but I think the real story here is that Oriakhi and Jim Calhoun need to sit down and work this out. No matter what people believe, UConn needs a happy and focused Alex Oriakhi, and if he plans on continuing his basketball career at the next level, he is going to need to drop this whole malcontent act and start earning his playing time back. This is exactly the kind of non-troversy that ends up being a bigger distraction than it should be.
  3. In what might end up being the best game of the SEC/Big East Challenge, Georgetown coach John Thompson, III, said junior forward Hollis Thompson “did what Hollis does,” which apparently is hit long, contested, game-winning three-pointers. It wasn’t a particularly well-played game by either team, but the Hoyas upset No. 12 Alabama 57-55, proved they don’t need to have a star player to be a good team, and chalked up a resume-building win that will pay dividends when Selection Sunday rolls around. Georgetown got 22 points from guard Jason Clark and survived a dunkfest from Alabama’s Tony Mitchell and now have the look of a conference contender after so many predicted a big slide this year following the departures of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman. I would still say this team’s ceiling is probably a Sweet Sixteen appearance given their youth and lack of depth, but there are some talented young players on this Hoyas team, and Clark and Thompson are legitimate offensive threats and two of the better players in the conference. On a completely unrelated note, it baffles me that Georgetown freshman Otto Porter could play 35 minutes of basketball and only score two points, grab two rebounds, and dish one assist. Are we sure he really played 35 minutes? Did his teammates forget he was on the floor?
  4. You didn’t think the Big East was going to let West Virginia have all the legal fun did you? Just one day after WVU filed to have the Big East’s countersuit dismissed because Rhode Island courts shouldn’t rule on West Virginia business, the Big East fired back and filed to have the West Virginia lawsuit dismissed on the basis that the Mountaineers haven’t provided much evidence to prove that conference bylaws are invalid. West Virginia has already paid half of the $5 million exit fee to the conference and they would like to have the lawsuit fast-tracked so a decision can be made by June 30. However, circuit judge Russell Clawges didn’t give a lot of hope that timeline could be honored, and this looks like a legal dogfight that could drag out for a very long time. It makes sense for West Virginia to want to move on as quickly as possible. Both sides have said some not-so-nice things about each other and I seriously doubt at this point the Big East even wants the Mountaineers in the conference, football revenue and all. But their hands are tied by the precedent rolling over could set. Letting West Virginia leave early could impact Syracuse and Pittsburgh, both of whom have also decided to leave the conference, and then the Big East would have a real mess on its hands. Stay tuned, because there will be plenty more of this story as it unfolds.
  5. In dire need of some good news given the uncertainty surrounding their coach’s health and the fact they were just shellacked by Kentucky on the road, St. John’s scored a little victory — at least in theory — when recruit Amir Garrett tweeted he could be suiting up for the Red Storm in just three weeks. If three weeks is in fact an accurate estimate, that means Garrett could return before the conference opener and he would be a welcome addition. This is excellent news for Steve Lavin’s club as their bench is thin and Garrett is an athletic wing player who can guard multiple positions and run the floor. Just don’t expect his arrival to drastically change St. John’s fortunes. This is still a very young team as they showed against Kentucky and at 4-4, they don’t look like a team headed towards the Tournament, especially if Lavin’s health and availability remain in limbo. The good news is that Garrett doesn’t have the look of a one-and-done player, especially considering he also has a bright future in baseball, so getting him on the floor and acclimated to college basketball will only help the Johnnies next season, when the team should be more experienced and also better.
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ATB: Entertaining SEC/Big East Challenge Deadlocked After One Night

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. Big East Earns Two Road Wins in SEC/Big East Challenge.

The Length of Kentucky Frustated St. John's to the Tune of 18 Blocks (LHL/P. Alcala)

The first of the three-night SEC/Big East Challenge is in the books, and at least at this point, the Big East appears to have the upper hand. After Georgetown and Providence earned road wins at Alabama and South Carolina that neither was expected to achieve, the conferences are tied at 2-2 going into Friday night’s quadruple-header. Kentucky and Ole Miss saved face for the SEC with two wins of its own, but the Rebels barely survived at DePaul and UK was a heavy favorite over St. John’s. With three Big East schools hosting games on Friday night, and all three positioned as significant favorites, the league will be in a great spot to take a commanding lead in the 12-game challenge heading into Saturday’s final four games. Can the SEC simply send Kentucky’s long-armed corps of flyswatters to each Big East arena instead?

Your Watercooler Moment. Hollis If Ya Hear Me!

Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson came through with a big-time play on the road at Alabama tonight when many lesser teams and players would have crumbled under the pressure. After methodically imposing its defensive will on the Crimson Tide for 38 minutes to take a nine-point lead with a little over two minutes remaining, Alabama went on a 10-0 run behind its stars JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell to take a one-point advantage into Georgetown’s final possession. As the video above shows, Jason Clark, a Thursday All-American, dribble handed off to Thompson on the right side and he drained the long three for the win, ending Alabama’s 24-game home winning streak (fourth longest in the nation). The Hoyas are playing better than anyone could have anticipated and have now defeated two top-15 teams (Memphis as well) while giving another (Kansas) all it wanted. Credit is deserving to John Thompson, III, who has fashioned another really good team after losing his stellar backcourt of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman to graduation last season.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

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Night Line: Sims, Georgetown Becoming a Surprise Force in the Big East

Posted by EJacoby on December 2nd, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Amidst all the disappointing results coming out of the Big East Conference so far this year, the Georgetown Hoyas are the league’s most pleasant surprise, quickly developing into an impressive team on both ends of the floor. After playing well in its first six games, John Thompson, III’s team officially confirmed its status as a legitimate Top 25 team with a hard-fought win at Alabama on Thursday night. Thanks to the tremendous improvement of center Henry Sims, the Hoyas look like one of Thompson’s teams of old, running a crisp Princeton offense with a go-to big man in the high post, a la Greg Monroe or Roy Hibbert. A team that was picked to finish 10th in the Big East preseason poll, Georgetown suddenly looks like a legitimate contender in the league.

Georgetown Outlasted Alabama, Adding to Its Impressive Early Season Record (AP/R. Sutton)

Thursday’s road win at No. 11 Alabama should open plenty of eyes across the country, in case they weren’t focused on the Hoyas during their solid run last week in the Maui Invitational. With his team down by one, Hollis Thompson sank a game-winning three-point shot with two seconds to play for the win. In the process, Georgetown snapped the nation’s fourth-longest home winning streak, 24 wins in a row for the Tide in Tuscaloosa. The Hoyas are now 6-1 with two wins over top-15 opponents away from home, the other coming against Memphis in Maui. Their only loss was a slim defeat to Kansas in that same Maui tournament. Georgetown’s resume is shaping up nicely, and Hoya Paranoia is most definitely back in action.

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