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 GoLocalProv.com 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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Big East/SEC Challenge Face-Off: Thursday Night Games

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 1st, 2011

To preview the match-ups in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the RTC Big East & SEC Microsites are facing off in conversational analysis. Brian Joyce and Michael Lemaire take on Ole Miss vs. DePaul and Alabama vs. Georgetown. 

Mississippi at DePaul – 9:00 p.m. (ET) ESPNU

Mike: At first glance, this looks like one of the least compelling match-ups. A tale of two teams we still really don’t know much about, DePaul doesn’t play defense (#190 in adjusted defense), but their only blemish is a one-point loss to 6-1 Minnesota. Mississippi is #29 in adjusted defense, but they haven’t played a difficult schedule and their loss was a 30-point bludgeoning at the hands of Marquette. The Blue Demons have two talented sophomores in Brandon Young (12.6 PPG, 3.7 APG) and Cleveland Melvin (14.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG), but their bench is very young. All things equal I would be inclined to pick Mississippi, but they are coming off a tiring 64-61 overtime win against Miami and they are due for a letdown. Prediction: DePaul 70 — Mississippi 68

Brian: I agree that this doesn’t appear to be especially compelling, but this game could get interesting. The difference in the Minnesota-DePaul game was the 23 offensive rebounds by the Golden Gophers. That and Trevor Mbakwe’s 16 points and 12 rebounds. In short, the Blue Demons struggled on the interior, and that is exactly where Ole Miss will attack. 6’7” forward Murphy Holloway (10.8 PPG, 10.2 RPG) and 6’9” forward Terrance Henry (12.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG) will be tough for Depaul to stop on the low block. I think this game will be a close one, but the Rebels have too much inside for Depaul to handle. Prediction: Mississippi 64 – DePaul 60

Will Thompson and his Hoyas be ready for Alabama's defense?

Georgetown and Alabama should be one of the more interesting games of the entire Big East/SEC challenge.

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Checking In On… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 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

  • A Rough Week for the Big East: Conference teams lost 13 times this past week to the likes of UCF, Illinois State, Northeastern, and Richmond among others. Only three undefeated teams (Syracuse, Louisville, and Marquette) remain and of the 13 teams with at least one loss, only three (DePaul, Seton Hall and Georgetown) have not yet recorded a bad loss. As we enter December, the middle of the conference doesn’t appear to be as strong as in years past. The Big East has a handful of great teams and a host of teams that appear to be very average at this point. It’s a long season, but the chances of seeing nine or ten NCAA bids from this league are certainly not promising.
  • Syracuse and Marquette Take Home Titles: The Orange defeated Virginia Tech and Stanford at their second home, Madison Square Garden, to win the NIT Season Tip-Off while Marquette took home the Paradise Jam championship, albeit against a so-so field. Both teams struggled in their respective championship games, but managed to pull it out down the stretch, the sign of a good team. Each team’s schedule ramps up this week against a pair of top ten teams as Syracuse hosts Florida on Friday and Marquette visits in-state rival Wisconsin on Saturday.
  • Tim Abromaitis Tears ACL: There was awful news out of South Bend late last week when it was announced that Notre Dame fifth year senior forward Tim Abromaitis tore the ACL in his right knee during practice on Friday. The loss of Abromaitis is a huge blow to a Notre Dame team already with two neutral court losses on its resume and a pair of road games coming up this week. The Fighting Irish rotation is pretty much only seven deep now with only three or four reliable scorers. Point guard Eric Atkins has played very well, but Scott Martin and Pat Connaughton will have to step up in a big way for Notre Dame to have any chance of making the NCAA Tournament.

With A Big Game Against Florida Looming Friday, How Will Jim Boeheim Keep His Team Focused Amid The Bernie Fine Scandal?

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (6-0) – After feasting on four cupcakes to begin the season, the Orange were impressive late in victories over Virginia Tech and Stanford in the NIT Season Tip-Off. They struggled for the better part of both games, but the ability of this team to flip the switch and play like the top five team it is is something that will suit them well outside of conference play. However, Syracuse had better play well for 40 minutes once the Big East season arrives or else they’ll lose more games than you think. Jim Boeheim’s team ranks in the top ten nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency, one of only four teams at the moment. Syracuse has done a great job forcing turnovers leading to easy points in transition. Dion Waiters appears to have taken his game to the next level as a sophomore with transition play being a big part of that. How this team is affected by the Bernie Fine investigation, if at all, is something to watch over the next few weeks. This week: 11/29 vs. Eastern Michigan, 12/2 vs. #6 Florida.
  2. Louisville (6-0) – Rick Pitino was successful last year by molding a team of role players into a cohesive unit with no superstars through an incredible focus on defense. Louisville looks to be following that same formula again in 2011-12. The Cardinals rank third nationally in defensive efficiency and only one opponent has scored more than 54 points. Of course, offense is Louisville’s biggest challenge. Peyton Siva is back, but Pitino’s rotation has been scaled back due to injuries to Wayne Blackshear and Mike Marra. Blackshear may be back but Marra is lost for the season with a torn ACL. Louisville struggled against Ohio and has another tricky game with Long Beach State on Monday. Freshman Chane Behanan (9/9) is stepping up in the absence of Blackshear while Gorgui Dieng has been a shot-blocking machine in the paint at three rejections per game. This is a big week for the Cardinals as their competition gets stronger. This week: 11/28 vs. Long Beach State, 12/2 vs. #20 Vanderbilt. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • The Realignment Circus Continues: The latest blow to the Big East came just recently as West Virginia was accepted into the Big 12. That leaves the Big East with 13 basketball schools remaining and a handful of others (football schools) desperately trying to flee the sinking ship. Commissioner John Marinatto has said he is committed to holding Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia to the 27-month notice provision in the conference’s bylaws but one has to wonder if a financial settlement will be worked out in order to expedite the transition and move the conference into rebuilding mode. It’s going to be quite awkward if these three schools remain in the league until 2014. All of the current Big East members should eventually find a stable home in one form or another, but the days of Big East basketball as we know it will soon come to an end. Enjoy the 2011-12 season because it just might be the last year of this remarkable 16-team behemoth.
  • How Many Bids This Year?: After sending a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament last year, can the Big East reach that mark again? That seems unlikely but you never know how things will truly play out. I’d say there are ten contenders for NCAA bids and to make 11 you would need all of those teams plus one of the three New York City-area schools to have a wildly successful year and snatch a bid. The Big East is quite possibly the best conference in the land yet again but 11 NCAA teams is far-fetched. Eight or nine bids this season would seem to be much more realistic.
  • Can Connecticut Repeat?: The technical answer is yes but it will be extremely tough to do. There’s a reason only two teams have gone back-to-back in the last 20 years. College basketball is as deep as ever in terms of talent and quality teams, plus there’s someone missing from last year’s Connecticut team. Kemba Walker is now in the NBA and, despite Jim Calhoun’s impressive recruiting haul, there is a major leadership void to be filled. This team is stocked with talent but Walker was a one-of-a-kind leader who took complete control in Maui and parlayed that into a way of life for the rest of the season. Jeremy Lamb figures to take control but remember how young this group is. They’ll get better as the season progresses and may even win the Big East but when the chips are down in the NCAA Tournament, they won’t be able to call on Kemba and that’s why I feel they will not repeat.

Calhoun Won't Have His Mr. Everything Around This Season

  • Cautious Optimism at Georgetown, Villanova and West Virginia: These traditional powers lose a lot of talent and figure to be lodged in the middle of the conference. All three programs return key cogs but the departures of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, Casey Mitchell, John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla leave more questions than answers. These teams all need someone to step up and become a deep shooting threat while maintaining a low post presence. Guards win in college basketball but you also have to be able to rebound and score inside occasionally. Hollis Thompson, Mouphtaou Yarou and Deniz Kilicli must become better all-around post men if their respective teams hope to make the NCAA Tournament. At 6’7”, 205 lbs., Thompson isn’t one to bang with the big guys but he’s going to have to score in the paint at times. Each team has a nice recruiting class coming in, but it’s up to the returning players to make the ultimate difference.
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RTC Summer Updates: Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 11th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our Big East update comes from frequent RTC contributor Brian Otskey, co-author of Get to the Point.

Readers’ Take

Summer Storylines

  • Connecticut Revels In National Championship Glory: Connecticut’s storybook year continued on into the offseason as the Huskies were invited to the White House for an event with President Obama on May 16. The team presented the president with a #1 UConn jersey and posed for photographs after being lauded for their remarkable accomplishment. Connecticut made one of the most improbable runs ever en route to the third national championship in school history, all coming since 1999, going 23-0 outside of Big East regular season play. Nobody could have predicted the way last season unfolded and the NCAA Tournament as a whole was a microcosm of that. Connecticut’s national title made up for a lackluster performance by many of the record 11 Big East teams participating in the tournament. Only one other Big East team (Marquette) managed to make it to the second weekend’s Sweet 16. Life without Kemba Walker has begun in Storrs and while the Huskies will be among the 2011-12 Big East favorites, it’ll be very interesting to see who steps up and how the team performs without its warrior. Jeremy Lamb appears to be ready to take over but the way Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi handle their larger roles will be the difference between a team contending for a Big East title and one that finishes fourth or fifth.

Kemba & Co. Celebrated in Style (H-C/B.Hansen)

  • The Ed Cooley Era Begins In Friartown: After Keno Davis stumbled to an 18-36 Big East record over three seasons in Providence, the Friars desperately needed someone to revive their moribund program. Providence has made only two NCAA Tournaments since its 1997 appearance and the last one was eight seasons ago in 2003-04. Enter Ed Cooley, a Providence-born 41-year-old with the fire in his belly needed to succeed in arguably the toughest job in the Big East Conference. Cooley will instill a system of discipline and fundamentals with a special attention to defense, three attributes of successful programs that were sorely lacking under Davis. Cooley’s Fairfield team ranked #22 in the nation in defensive efficiency last season and he improved the Stags’ record each and every year he was there. Providence, a small Catholic school with hardly any recruiting base along with limited facilities and resources, is an incredibly difficult job even before you have to go up against bigger schools like Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh along with tradition-rich programs such as Georgetown, Villanova and Marquette. Cooley must spend his first season laying the foundation for longer term success. He won’t turn this program around overnight but more discipline on and off the court and hard work on the recruiting trail can turn Providence into a solid Big East competitor. We can’t think of many people better suited than Cooley to get the job done at Providence. While it will be a long and difficult process, brighter days are ahead for the Providence program with Ed Cooley at the helm.
  • Signs Of Life In The New York Area: New coach Steve Lavin and St. John’s brought the buzz back to the Big Apple last winter as the Red Storm earned its first NCAA bid in nine seasons. “Lavinwood” has moved east, but St. John’s now enters a year full of mixed feelings. Cautious optimism as well as uncertainty rules the day with nine new faces, part of the nation’s second-ranked recruiting class, making their way to Queens in 2011-12. Malik Stith is the only returnee of note after Dwayne Polee, II, decided to transfer closer to home at San Diego State. St. John’s may be the most unpredictable team in the Big East entering this season. The potential exists for a terrific year if Lavin can mold all this raw talent into a cohesive unit capable of playing with any team in the conference. However, issues with young players, commonly involving playing time and egos, are also very possible and it takes only one incident to destroy the locker room and wreck the season. The Johnnies have enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament again, but Lavin will have to totally adjust his approach to make that happen. With hardly any experience on the roster, he can’t simply roll the ball out and hope for the best. This season will be the biggest test of Lavin’s coaching career on the court, but he faced an even more difficult challenge last year, coaching the entire season with prostate cancer while keeping it a secret until this spring. Turning St. John’s around with that constantly in the back of his mind is an a commendable achievement and we obviously wish Coach Lavin the best of luck fighting this awful disease.
  • Across the Hudson River in New Jersey, Mike Rice and Rutgers appear to be building a program to be reckoned with down the road. The Scarlet Knights have been a dormant program for 20 years, never once enjoying a winning season in any of its 16 years as a Big East member. That may be about to change, although it appears unlikely that Rutgers will crack the .500 mark in league play this season. The fiery Rice reeled in a top 25 recruiting class and now must build on a season of close calls and what-ifs. Rutgers was competitive last year, but could only manage five Big East victories. It’ll take time for the new players to adjust to the collegiate level but bigger and better things should be expected from Rutgers in the years to come. Rutgers, a large state school, has the capability of becoming a pretty good program. All it needs is a commitment from the administration, facility upgrades and great recruiting. Rice is taking care of the latter, now it’s time for the Rutgers brass to provide him with the resources needed to build a top flight program. Rutgers needs major facility upgrades (a RAC renovation has been talked about for over a year), but fundraising has been a major problem. With New Jersey Governor Chris Christie trying to get the state’s financial house in order, there is going to be a lot of resistance to an ambitious project such as this one at the state’s flagship university.

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Around The Blogosphere: May 11, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on May 11th, 2011

If you are interested in participating, send your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com as we will be updating these posts throughout the day.

News

  • Erik Murphy, Cody Larson Have Charges Reduced From Felonies To Misdemeanors: “That’s likely very good news for both young men’s futures, especially Murphy’s. Though there’s still some expense and punishment involved in dealing with misdemeanor charges — and, though this isn’t a court of law, I think most of us suspect there is a good chance Murphy and Larson are guilty — it is a far better scenario than a felony charge.” (Alligator Army)
  • Ralph Sampson III Stays: “After much debate and drama it is official that Ralph Sampson III will return for his senior season as a Minnesota Golden Gopher.” (The Daily Gopher)
  • Guerrero Officially Surrenders to Bruin Nation, Restores UCLA Students’ Sideline Seats at Pauley: After a lot of fighting the students were able to get their spot on the sidelines back. (Bruins Nation)

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Early Entry Winners & Losers

Posted by rtmsf on May 9th, 2011

Now that the NBA Draft early entry withdrawal has passed (Midnight ET on Sunday night), it’s time to take a look at who the winners and losers were from this year’s process.  Of the nearly 70 players who declared as early entrants for this year’s NBA Draft, we count a dozen or so who will return and make their teams significantly better next year.  The biggest impact will be felt at the following places…

The Winners

Jones Fills Out a Ridiculous UK Lineup in 2011-12

  • Kentucky.  How do we figure that a team that ends up losing its best scorer and best perimeter defender is a winner?  Because of who they didn’t lose.  Terrence Jones will team with Kentucky’s fabulous duo of incoming forwards — Michael Gilchrist and Anthony Davis — to produce the most dynamic and talented front line college basketball has seen in some time.  As good as Brandon Knight was in a Kentucky uniform, his loss to the draft also ensures that there’s no question as to who lead this team next year, as incoming superstar Marquis Teague will take over the reins from day one.  The loss of DeAndre Liggins was surprising and will hurt, but on balance, the player UK most needed to return did.
  • The Big East.  With the notable exception of NPOY candidate and Final Four MOP Kemba Walker and the somewhat shocking departures of Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott and Louisville’s Terrence Jennings, the Big East avoided losing three of its better returning players for the 2011-12 season.  Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson, Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones will all return to teams that could not afford to lose them; with so many talented seniors leaving the Big East, it was imperative for the league’s overall health that these talented upperclassmen come back.
  • Missouri.  A very early Christmas came for new Tigers head coach Frank Haith as two of his best returnees, Kim English and Laurence Bowers, made smart decisions to return to Columbia for their senior seasons.  With leading scorer Marcus Denmon already back in the fold, Haith is walking into a situation where his top six players will be back next year.  So long as he can enable his more methodical system with a group that loves to run and press, Mizzou fans should be excited for the possibility of something special in 2011-12.
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