ACC Teams Struggling to Adapt to Styles of New Programs

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on January 16th, 2014

Much was made of the three former Big East teams entering the league this season and having to adapt to the ACC’s style of play. This notion was supported by the simple fact of sheer numbers; the returning ACC teams would number 12 teams while the Big East was sending over only three units. What did not get enough preseason attention was how the ACC as a whole would adapt to the very different styles of play of the three incoming teams, all quite successful programs in their own rights. Notre Dame under head coach Mike Brey is known for its selfless team basketball, execution, cutting and the extra pass, while developing a litany of elite low post big men like Luke Harangody, Jack Cooley, and now Garrick Sherman. While the Irish lost its best player in Jerian Grant for the year, their style of play was on display and ultimately decided the outcome in a statement win against Duke.

Pitt's James Robinson is a large reason they are 16-1 (Photo: pittsburghpanthers.com)

Pitt’s James Robinson is a large reason the Panthers are 16-1 (Photo: pittsburghpanthers.com)

Syracuse’s famous 2-3 zone has helped in establishing itself as one of the best teams in the nation and has put the Orange among a group of three unbeaten teams remaining. Their defense has flummoxed ACC opponents to the tune of allowing only 50.0 PPG to ACC foes through their first four games. They clearly have taken charge and dominated the tempo in their outings, most recently holding UNC a full 30 points below its season average of 75.6 PPG. While it remains early in the ACC race, so far it seems obvious that both Syracuse and Pittsburgh have been forcing their own tempo and style of play on their opponents and not vice versa. Jamie Dixon’s Panthers are known for their toughness and gritty play, both of which were evident in their recent 12-point road victory over N.C. State. Famed ESPN analyst Dick Vitale confirmed this theory and perception when he noted: “There are certain programs that get certain labels that help them big-time psychologically… the mindset is where you’re at a negative before you ever start playing, and I think Pittsburgh has that, that label of being tough.”

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ACC Mega-Preview: Duke Tops Power Rankings

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 8th, 2013

Over the last two weeks, we have previewed each team individually to go with several more articles to get you ready for ACC basketball starting later today. Links to the previews can be found in each of the preseason power rankings listed below. Also look for our preseason conference awards later which will publish later today.

ACC Basketball Twitter Must-Follows (Chris): 

  • Part I (general ACC tweeters)
  • Part II (Maryland, Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh,  and Georgia Tech)
  • Part III (Virginia, Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Florida State, North Carolina, and NC State)

Early Season Tournaments (Brad):

  • Part I (Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Clemson)
  • Part II (Florida State, North Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse)
  • Part III (Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and Miami)

Seven Nonconference Games to Watch (Brad)

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (75): Unanimous selection for the top spot, Coach K hopes this year’s more athletic group of players can thrive at a faster pace of play. Duke is a national contender this season.
Syracuse Orange 2. Syracuse (67): Their loaded front court and a legendary coach will help make seamless transition to the ACC, bringing their length and vaunted 2-3 zone along with them. Frosh point guard Tyler Ennis is the difference between a very good team and a great one.
North Carolina Tar Heels T3. North Carolina (64): The development of the young frontcourt will be key for a team with plenty of upside, but a daunting non-conference schedule and the suspensions of PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald loom early.
Virginia Cavaliers T3. Virginia (64): ACC stars Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are back in Charlottesville. If the point guard position has more offensive output than last season, this team has all the pieces to be an ACC contender.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 5. Notre Dame (52)Mike Brey has to find a way to replace Jack Cooley‘s production in the post, but the Fighting Irish bring back one of the best backcourts in the ACC. The Fighting Irish look like a border-line top-25 team heading into the season.
Maryland Terrapins 6. Maryland (48): Losing Seth Allen for a spell and Alex Len to the lottery will hurt, but Dez Wells‘ brilliance and Maryland’s overall athleticism should propel them to new heights under Mark Turgeon assuming they can cut out some of their turnovers.
Boston College 7. Boston College (43): A veteran core and a bona fide star could take Boston College to the next level, provided Steve Donahue does something about the team’s dreadful defense. If Dennis Clifford is healthy, this team has a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Pittsburgh Panthers 8. Pittsburgh (41): The Panthers have three solid returning starters to build around, but will need their new big men to make an immediate impact after Steven Adams’ surprising decision to bolt for the NBA Draft. Also how will the new officiating rules affect Jamie Dixon‘s style?
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 9. Georgia Tech (31): The tandem of sophomores Robert Carter, Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt will prove even more effective as the Yellow Jackets look to make strides, but their young core is a few years away from making noise. Tennessee transfer Trae Golden should be an upgrade over Mfon Udofia at point guard.
NC State Wolfpack 10. NC State (29): TJ Warren could be one of the most talented players in the conference, but there is an enormous amount of departed experience to replace in Raleigh. Mark Gottfried‘s talented group of freshmen will be expected to contribute early and often.
Florida State Seminoles 11. Florida State (27): The Seminoles need last year’s newcomers to all make a big leap this year even to stay in the upper middle of the ACC. The key is getting back to elite team defense, though Okaro White is one of the better returning offensive wings in the ACC.
Miami Hurricanes 12. Miami (23): The best thing returning for the Hurricanes is head coach Jim Larranaga, an expert at putting pieces together to form a solid team. Unfortunately, the pieces leave a lot to be desired. Belgian star Manu Lacomte may surprise ACC fans, though.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 13. Wake Forest (19): For the first time since coming to Winston-Salem Jeff Bzdelik has experience, but do the Demon Deacons have the talent to finish above .500 and save his job? Conference expansion didn’t help.
Clemson Tigers 14. Clemson (11): A bad team is going to get worse as the program takes what is probably charitably going to be called “a rebuilding year.” Tune in for KJ McDaniels, whose shot-blocking makes him a good pick for ACC defensive player of the year.
Virginia Tech Hokies 15. Virginia Tech (6): Erick Green is gone, and there isn’t anyone stepping up to replace him on a team destined to rest in the ACC cellar this year. Things could be ugly for James Johnson‘s second season in Blacksburg.

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ACC M5: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on October 16th, 2013

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  1. The Mikan Drill: It’s no secret Jeff Bzdelik needs a decent season badly. Last year’s recruiting class brought in much needed depth and talent, but three- and four-star players usually take a year or two before they become effective at the college level. Unfortunately, Bzdelik probably can’t wait two years for Codi Miller-McIntyre to flourish running his offense. Josh Riddell does a good job highlighting Miller-McIntyre’s strengths and weaknesses running the team last year. The bottom line is that he has to make better decisions.
  2. Washington Post: Speaking of point guards who need to make better decisions, Seth Allen was one of the more exciting players to watch last season. He has a gift for quick penetration, but his lightning first step often went faster than his risk assessment, which led to many turnovers and bad shots. This year Mark Turgeon will expect Allen to step into a leadership role in a very different, wing-oriented offense. Going small should open up the lane, but Allen’s decision-making may very well decide Maryland’s efficiency.
  3. ESPN: Jim Boeheim sat down with Seth Greenberg and Andy Katz and talked about everything from media days (which he was salty about) to joining the ACC (which he’s now excited about) to specific player development. Boeheim also briefly hits on the hot-button topic of pay-for-play late in his interview. For those who prefer reading to podcasts, Jeremy Ryan of Nunes Magician transcribed some of Boeheim’s interview.
  4. One Foot Down: Sticking with ACC expansion teams, One Foot Down takes a comprehensive look at Notre Dame’s frontcourt. The Fighting Irish have to replace one of the most productive interior workhorses of last year’s all-Big East workhorse in Jack Cooley. That said, Mike Brey’s team has a good deal of experience inside, which could be something to exploit against perimeter-heavy teams like Duke or Maryland.
  5. The Daily Tar Heel: While the scandal still stays an arm’s length away from the basketball program, indictments continue to trickle out of District Attorney Jim Woodall’s office. Three people have been indicted so far: the agent, a former North Carolina tutor, and now Georgia realtor Patrick Jones is on the hook for paying $725 to someone associated with an athlete. Don’t expect this issue to be resolved quickly, but also don’t expect it to end in the death penalty for North Carolina sports at the end, either.

EXTRA: Time for a shameless plug. Walter Carey talked with Maryland alumnus Len Elmore, Duke alumnus Mike Gminski and Fayetteville Observer columnist Bret Strelow. It’s the first part of Rush the Court‘s preseason interview series, and is full of interesting tidbits previewing conference play with three of the more knowledgeable experts in the business.

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Season in Review: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Posted by Will Tucker on May 2nd, 2013

The Fighting Irish had an auspicious start to a season that was expected to represent a major step forward for Mike Brey’s program. But a slow start and sputtering finish to conference play, coupled with frustrations experienced against the Big East’s top teams, prevented the Irish from matching last year’s top three finish. Despite fielding one of the league’s most talented starting fives, a lack of depth hampered the Irish late in the season and contributed to yet another early exit from the NCAA Tournament.

Preseason Expectations

We ranked Notre Dame third heading into 2012-13, as did the coaches at Big East media day. Mike Brey’s roster returned its top five scorers from 2011-12 and was loaded with talented upperclassmen, namely preseason all-Big East center Jack Cooley, versatile super-senior Scott Martin and the backcourt scoring tandem of juniors Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.

Jack Cooley,Mike Brey

Mike Brey must adjust to a life without Cooley in 2013-14 (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

The Good

The Irish raced out to a blistering start, winning 12 in a row for the first time since 2006-07. By early January, they’d blown out #8 Kentucky at home, edged #21 Cincinnati on the road, won their first two Big East games and earned a #16 Coaches Poll ranking alongside their 14-1 record. Cooley (13.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG) lived up to his first team all-Big East billing as he shot 58% from the field and led the Big East in literally every rebounding category. Deep reserve big men Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman filled the void left by Scott Martin’s absence, and keyed huge victories over the likes of Louisville, Marquette and Villanova. The highlight of the season was, unquestionably, enduring five overtimes against the eventual National Champions after Jerian Grant scored 12 points in the last 45 seconds of regulation. Brey’s program claimed its sixth NCAA Tournament bid in seven years, and has averaged almost 13 Big East wins in each of the last three regular seasons –– a figure surpassed only by Syracuse.

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Big East M5: 04.02.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on April 2nd, 2013

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  1. Georgetown fans received some measure of consolation after a disappointing Second Round upset when the AP named Otto Porter a first-team All-American yesterday. Tying Trey Burke for the most first-team votes received, Porter became the first Hoya to claim the honor since Allen Iverson did so in 1996, and was the sixth first-team All-American in program history. (Patrick Ewing earned the distinction in three difference seasons, so Porter’s appearance is actually the eighthin Georgetown history.) Joining the Big East’s Player of the Year with AP team honors was Louisville’s Russ Smith (third team), while teammates Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva, Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley captured honorable mentions.
  2. Shortly before going into surgery to repair the compound leg fracture he’d suffered against Duke on Sunday, Louisville guard Kevin Ware borrowed a nurse’s cell phone to contact his mother, knowing “she’d be freaking out.” Six hundred miles away in suburban Atlanta, Lisa Junior was just as much in the dark regarding her son’s status as anyone watching the CBS broadcast: “He didn’t even say hello. He just said, ‘Mom, I need you to calm down.’ He knew I’d be a mess. Once I heard his voice, I was better.” Ware was walking with the aid of crutches yesterday after surgeons successfully stabilized his broken tibia with a metal rod and closed the ghastly wound where it had broken skin. He will reportedly travel to Atlanta with the Cardinals this week and sit on the bench for the Final Four match-up with Wichita State.
  3. USF has inked a home-and-home deal with Detroit, to begin in Tampa in 2013-14. Detroit’s visit to the Sun Dome will feature three returning rising senior starters, including star Ray McCallum Jr. (18.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.5 APG this season). But the return trip to Detroit in 2014-15 will be a homecoming for native sons head coach Stan Heath and incoming guard Byron Ziegler, while freshman JaVontae Hawkins will be playing an hour down the road from his hometown of Flint. It will also probably be a rebuilding year for the Titans, giving Heath a golden opportunity to recruit the area and sell the idea of a non-conference series close to home to Detroit prospects.
  4. Tulsa is slated to announce in a late-morning press conference that it will join the New Old Zombie Big East in all sports. The impending additions of Tulsa and ECU reflect an emphasis on football stature in Mike Aresco’s new lineup, but Rob Dauster points out that Golden Hurricane basketball isn’t a complete disaster, and says “[coach Danny] Manning has the team going in the right direction, despite a depleted roster from transfers.” After winning 17 games in 2011-12, Manning held serve at around .500 in his first year as head coach, going 17-16 before losing to Wright State in the CBI.
  5. Just to salt the wounds from last weekend’s loss, Carmelo Anthony subjected Marquette fans to further indignity yesterday when he shamed Golden Eagles alum and fellow Knick Steve Novak on Instagram yesterday. Novak was apparently on the losing end of a bet on the Elite Eight game between their alma maters, and well, he made good on his wager in this shot:
steve novak carmelo

Carmelo’s Orange got the best of Steve’s Golden Eagles

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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Posted by Will Tucker on March 22nd, 2013

Notre Dame built a Tournament resume by beating top-10 ranked UK and collecting conference wins over Louisville, Marquette, Pitt, Villanova and Cincinnati. In the Big East Tournament, Mike Brey’s team bested Rutgers and Marquette, and then hung with Louisville for 25 minutes before ultimately succumbing in the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year. Despite being ranked for much of the season, the Irish were handed a seven seed due to a weak nonconference schedule and 2-5 record against the RPI top 25.

Perimeter defense is top priority for Notre Dame (credit Frank Franklin III)

Perimeter defense is top priority for Notre Dame against Iowa State (credit Frank Franklin III)

Region: West
Seed: No. 7
Record: 25-9 (11-7 Big East)
Matchup: v. Iowa State in Dayton

Key Player: First Team All-Big East big man Jack Cooley has been an offensive juggernaut for the Irish all year, shooting 57% and posting the best offensive rebounding rate in the Big East for the second consecutive season. Cooley isn’t known as a versatile defender though, and the agile shooters in Iowa State’s frontcourt will force him to guard spots on the floor outside his comfort zone. If he can defend the perimeter without posing a defensive liability, Mike Brey’s team will be able to dictate the methodical pace they prefer against the high octane Cyclones.

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March Madness Serves as an NBA Showcase for Big East Stars

Posted by mlemaire on March 20th, 2013

It’s hard not to feel like performances in the NCAA Tournament tend to artificially inflate players’ draft stock. It’s true that the increased weight of the games and pressure on players can help bring out the best in some prospects, but sometimes it seems like scribes and scouts tend to erroneously overdo it and conflate NCAA Tournament success with NBA success. That said, there will be plenty of NBA eyeballs on the NCAA Tournament this year, and there are a number of Big East prospects with NBA potential hoping to use the Big Dance to boost their stocks. Picking guys like Otto Porter and Michael Carter-Williams is too easy, as they have relatively assured NBA futures. We are more concerned here with the Big East players who truly have something to gain from their performances this March.

A big NCAA Tournament could have Gorgui Dieng shooting up NBA Draft boards.

A big NCAA Tournament could have Gorgui Dieng shooting up NBA Draft boards.

Gorgui Dieng (Louisville): Dieng is already a surefire pro prospect thanks to his NBA-ready defensive abilities, but those who think the junior is a defense-only big man haven’t been watching the Senegal native play this season. Dieng’s progression on offense was slowed somewhat this season by a hand injury, but he is an improved passer, a reasonable free throw shooter, and shows impressive touch from inside 15 feet. Dieng will potentially get an early chance to prove his ability against an old foe if the Cardinals advance to play Missouri and Alex Oriakhi, and there are potential match-ups looming with Mason Plumlee or Adreian Payne down the road. If Dieng helps lead Louisville to the Final Four and plays well in those marquee games, he could slip into the back end of the lottery.

Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati): Kilpatrick is another player who could leave early for the NBA Draft if he thinks he has nothing left to accomplish with the Bearcats, but he may be on the outside looking in as the NCAA Tournament gets under way. There is no doubting his scoring and shooting ability, but his size and length give scouts pause so he will need to work on his ball-handling if he wants to make it at the next level. Kilpatrick has the type of gutsy attitude and moxie that are perfect for the NCAA Tournament, and he has a chance to go toe-to-toe with another NBA prospect in the first round when the Bearcats play Creighton and Doug McDermott. If Kilpatrick can lead the Bearcats past the Bluejays and then play well when matched against another NBA hopeful guard in Duke’s Seth Curry, he may impress enough scouts to earn some looks in the second round for his scoring ability and mature game. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by AMurawa on March 18th, 2013

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), Midwest (11 AM), South (1 PM), West (3 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

West Region

Favorite: #2 Ohio State (26-7, 16-5 Big Ten). Not to take anything away from Gonzaga, a team and a program that should be very pleased with itself for the excellent season it has had, but the Buckeyes get the nod by an eyelash. While the Zags have been coasting through WCC play for the past couple months, Thad Matta’s club has dealt with the gauntlet of the Big Ten and emerged with an eight-game winning streak, boasting wins over teams like Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan State (twice). Aaron Craft, a veteran guard with plenty of great basketball in his past, is probably playing the best ball of his distinguished career. And guys like LaQuinton Ross, Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith are tossing in just enough offense to aid big-time scorer Deshaun Thomas. Throw in the nation’s sixth-best team in defensive efficiency and let’s make the battle-tested Buckeyes a slight favorite to repeat as a Final Four team.

Aaron Craft and The Buckeyes Have Been Through The Big Ten Gauntlet, Making Them The Slight West Regional Favorite

Aaron Craft and The Buckeyes Have Been Through The Big Ten Gauntlet, Making Them The Slight West Regional Favorite

Should They Falter: #1 Gonzaga (31-2, 18-0 WCC). It would be easy to play the contrarian here and offer up plenty of backlash to the Bulldogs’ first-ever #1 seed and name New Mexico – a pretty darn good team in their own right – as the next best team in this region. But make no mistake, Gonzaga can ball. With Kelly Olynyk, a first-team All-American favorite, the Zags have the third-most efficient offense in the nation and Mark Few’s best offensive team in his time in Spokane. And while there are some concerns about the Zags’ ability to match up defensively with big and athletic guards, this is a team that is also Few’s most efficient defensive team ever – by far. While there are plenty of potential stumbling blocks (regardless of who they face in the Round of 32, that looks like a serious rumble, for instance), the Zags definitely have the ability to reach an Elite Eight. Or better. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: Louisville 69, Notre Dame 57

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

Brian Otskey (@botskey) filed this report from Louisville’s win over Notre Dame in the nightcap of the Big East semifinals on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

Three key takeaways:

Russ Smith and Company Handled the Lime Green Irish Friday Night

Russ Smith and Company Handled the Lime Green Irish Friday Night

  1. Louisville’s interior defense was phenomenal. The Cardinals held Notre Dame to 12-of-31 shooting inside the arc as its guards did a great job cutting off dribble penetration. Jack Cooley and Garrick Sherman were able to score some but Louisville forced the Fighting Irish into many tough, contested twos. Louisville was tops in conference play in two-point percentage against and it showed this evening. With Gorgui Dieng anchoring the back line and guards like Russ Smith and Peyton Siva cutting off penetration and creating havoc on the perimeter, it’s a lethal combination. There’s a reason Louisville’s adjusted defensive efficiency currently checks in at a superb 80.9. The Cards are ridiculously good on that end of the floor and will be a nightmare match-up for most teams who aren’t used to seeing a big time shot-blocker and relentless full court pressure.
  2. Russ Smith has quietly had himself a tournament to remember. After scoring 28 points in Thursday’s win over Villanova, Smith hung 20 on the Irish while also dropping six dimes. Smith has been an efficient shooter in New York, making 15 of his 26 field goal attempts through two days here. After the game, Rick Pitino said Smith doesn’t frustrate him all that much with his shot selection, giving his dynamic junior some latitude on the offensive end. It’s on defense where Pitino gets upset with “Russdiculous,” especially when he loses his man off the ball. Smith will have to play well tomorrow night against Syracuse because the Orange will pressure him and could force him into some bad decisions. You never know what you’re going to get out of Smith and that’s what makes him a must-see player.
  3. Although his week just ended, Pat Connaughton was fantastic. In three games at the Garden, Connaughton made 15 threes, one short of the record currently held by Syracuse’s James Southerland (this year) and Gerry McNamara (2006). After the game, head coach Mike Brey said he thought his team found something this week at MSG and that would help them going forward into the NCAA Tournament. He mentioned how it would be nice if they kept shooting the ball well, no doubt a reference to his gritty sophomore from Arlington, Massachusetts. Connaughton is a typical New England kid: smart, mature for his age, seasoned, and a great competitor. He does more than shoot, too. Connaughton averages almost five rebounds per game because he isn’t afraid of contact and uses his body well in creating position. He’ll be a huge asset next week in the tournament and over the next two years as the Irish transition to the ACC.

Star of the Game: You could go with either Peyton Siva (14 points, six assists, one turnover) or Russ Smith (20 points, six assists) so the point here is that Louisville’s backcourt is playing at the level some thought it would be all season long. If you recall, Siva carried this team to a Big East title last year in this building and parlayed that into a Final Four appearance. Louisville needs Smith to score and Siva to create in order to succeed and it is getting just that through two games in this tournament.

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Big East M5: 03.15.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 15th, 2013

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  1. Louisville beat Villanova 74-55 in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals last night with an uncharacteristic offensive distribution, scoring almost as many threes (10) as two-point field goals (13). But the Cardinals continued to weather inconsistency on that end of the floor by featuring the most efficient defense in the country. Rick Pitino remarked after the game that the 58 deflections the Cardinals caused against the Wildcats were the most he’d ever recorded since he started tracking the statistic with his teams. Pitino’s team was rewarded with a surprise locker room cameo from college basketball scholar Bill Clinton, who has paid the Cardinals a couple visits in the past, as well.
  2. Russ Smith finished with 28 points and hit four of six attempts from beyond the arc last night, but admitted he was distracted and upset all day after learning of the death of his high school coach, Jack Curran. Curran, 82, was a legend in New York City high school basketball, who coached future NBA point guards Kenny Anderson and Kenny Smith during his 55-year tenure at Archbishop Molloy. Smith learned of his mentor’s death yesterday morning, when he performed his ritual visit of his alma mater while back in New York for a game, and said it was “hard to take it all in” on the spot. “He was everything to me, and to my mom, my family. He treated everyone with respect,” Smith continued; “Today was definitely Coach Curran day for me, and it will be the rest of my life.”
  3. Notre Dame will appear in its fourth consecutive Big East Tournament semifinals after defeating Marquette 73-65 last night. The Irish came out flat against the Golden Eagles but responded with resurgent play for the latter 30 minutes after Mike Brey asked his team in the huddle if they were scared. Jerian Grant and his teammates responded in a big way for the rest of the game, with Pat Connaughton hitting another six three-pointers to score a team-high 18 points. The comeback led Jack Cooley to make some bold postgame predictions: “I think we’re going to come out strong and handle [Louisville’s] pressure phenomenally. I think we can get to Saturday night and that would mean a lot for me.”
  4. Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins laments the demise of the Big East Tournament in a scathing essay on the misaligned priorities of college administrators. “This isn’t collegiate competition we’re watching any more,” Jenkins contends, “It’s thinly veiled money laundering, and it’s ruining the NCAA’s chief commodity, which is our affection.” She places blame on the university presidents, athletic directors and conference officials who she says have colluded to engineer more lucrative arrangements at the expense of the athlete and the fan. Jenkins recalls a press conference in which she posed a question to former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese about the ethics of vastly uneven revenue among power conference schools, to which he responded, “This isn’t communism.” In the columnist’s words “you live by the sword, you die by the sword.”
  5. Georgetown showed off its composure and balance in a 62-43 quarterfinal win over Cincinnati that was at times much closer than the score would indicate. “For the most part, this group doesn’t get rattled,” said John Thompson III, whose team weathered a three-point shooting barrage from the Bearcats that eroded a 15-point lead into a deficit early in the second half. Markel Starks said after the win that his team takes pride in its defensive adjustments, and that players’ enthusiasm for shutting down their assignments is not a new phenomenon: “It’s no formula. Everyone’s talking about our defense now, but we’ve been playing defense all year.” They’ll face a rematch from last weekend with Syracuse in the semifinals today, and will probably be making plenty of adjustments on defense as they try to beat the Orange for the third time this year.
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Big East M5: 03.14.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 14th, 2013

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  1. C.L. Brown at the Courier-Journal (KY) took a tour of Russ Smith Sr.’s barbershop in Harlem, and the short video is worth a watch. The elder Smith, known simply as “Big Russ,” has appointed his shop from wall to wall with memorabilia, photos and mementos spanning the Louisville junior’s career. He tells Brown that his favorite souvenir is a framed photograph of him with his son following Louisville’s Big East 2012 championship –– in his own high school playing days, Big Russ says, his teams always lost before they could reach a Madison Square Garden tournament. The father’s pride in that particular accomplishment; the way it resonated with a personal and cultural icon of his own youth, is a somber reminder of what made the Big East Tournament such a special institution.
  2. Speculation that Jamie Dixon is USC’s top choice to replace Kevin O’Neill ramped up on Tuesday when The Big Lead reported that Pittsburgh resident and Dixon acquaintance Jed Hughes is the consultant taking point at USC’s search firm. It seems like the kind of attenuated connection that has spawned many a premature proclamation of “done deal” during coaching searches (has Dixon bought a house in LA yet?), but it’s certainly plausible. Dixon is a California native, a Ben Howland protégé, and probably anxious that Pitt’s move to the ACC could jeopardize the recruiting pipelines Dixon has built in Big East country. As Cardiac Hill points out, the coach’s vague statement after the USC job opened up “generally amounts to a ‘no comment.’”
  3. Notre Dame outlasted a persistent challenge from Rutgers in last night’s Big East Tournament nightcap, carried by Pat Connaughton’s 21 points and six three-pointers. This ran counter to Notre Dame’s game plan, which Brian Hamilton points out had emphasized getting Jerian Grant, Eric Atkins and Jack Cooley going. But the 39 combined points from Connaughton and former reserve Tom Knight were all separated the Irish from a second-round loss, as Grant and Cooley went 4-of-16 from the field. With their first game jitters behind them and some reassurance that they can win without prolific scoring from their stars, Notre Dame can bring some newfound confidence to its third-round game with Marquette tomorrow night, as they strive to avenge an early March loss in Milwaukee.
  4. Seniors James Southerland and Brandon Triche found their offense yesterday, and lifted Syracuse in explosive spurts over Seton Hall, 75-63, to advance to face No. 4 seed Pittsburgh in today’s BET semifinals. After shooting 15-of-52 over his last five games, Triche scored 17 on an efficient 6-of-9 field goal attempts against the Pirates, while Southerland led the way with 20 points and six threes. Sophomore Michael Carter-Williams didn’t turn the ball over once and tied a Big East Tournament record with 14 assists. This comes just days after Boeheim said his seniors would have to play better if they had any chance at becoming a good NCAA Tournament team.
  5. USF blog Voodoo Five described the Bulls’ overtime loss to Seton Hall in the first round as “a horrid, unwatchable mess that would be hard to distinguish from the dozens of other horrid, unwatchable messes USF basketball presented us for most of the last eight seasons. Except that this time they wore Mello Yello uniforms.” Ouch. Yes, Tuesday night’s loss concluded a season of thorough regression. More importantly, the author questioned whether USF basketball has made any appreciable advances in their time in the Big East, or if the culture of the Big East had any positive impact on the neglected Tampa basketball program. It has struggled to capture the interest of its community even after last year’s Cinderella season and a beautiful Sun Dome renovation, which begs the question: “When are [students and locals] ever going to buy in again? When they’re playing Tulane and East Carolina and Memphis and Houston all over again?” It’s a bleak prospect right now.
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Celebrating Notre Dame Senior Jack Cooley

Posted by WCarey on March 6th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

When Notre Dame celebrated its Senior Night on Tuesday, the Irish honored four players. However, of those four seniors, only one was active due to a redshirt (forward Joey Brooks) and a pair of knee injuries (to forwards Mike Broghammer and Scott Martin). That one active senior was forward Jack Cooley. Cooley, a native of Glenview, Illinois, committed to Mike Brey and the Irish in February of his junior year after also considering offers from Illinois, Southern Illinois, and Wisconsin. When he arrived in South Bend, he had to wait his turn before becoming a major contributor for the Irish. During his freshman and sophomore seasons, he fought for minutes behind former Irish standouts Luke Harangody, Tim Abromaitis, Tyrone Nash, and Carleton Scott. While he only averaged 10.3 minutes per game during his sophomore season, that was the year when it became clear that Cooley had the skills to provide the Irish with a solid interior force. He also became widely known throughout college basketball that season for his uncanny physical resemblance to his former teammate, Harangody.

Jack Cooley

Jack Cooley represents what it means to be a true student-athlete. (Chicago Tribune)

It became Cooley’s time during his junior season after Harangody, Nash, and Scott had graduated and Abromaitis was lost early in the season to a serious knee injury. He responded admirably to his increased role, averaging 12.5 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game, and recording 13 double-doubles. As a team, Notre Dame had a successful 2011-12 season, finishing at 22-12 with an impressive 13-5 mark in the Big East. At the conclusion of the conference season, Cooley was the recipient of two conference accolades, as he was named the Big East Most Improved Player and was voted Second-Team All-Big East.

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