Big East M5: 10.25.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 25th, 2013

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  1. Change is in the air at Creighton, and not just in terms of the league in which the Bluejays will compete this year.  The school recently held an open house to unveil a new court, featuring a revised logo.  Replacing the ‘Jays’ that once adorned the hardwood is a new Billy Bluejay head design over a bold capital ‘C’.  This unveiling is a part of a full branding initiative by Creighton, which will include a new Billy Bluejay mascot design, in an effort to solidify the school’s visibility in the college basketball world.  Associate athletic director Mark Burgers referred to the branding of two new hoops rivals as a reason for the change in conjunction with a move to the Big East: “If you look across the Big East schools and the benchmarking, Villanova has the ‘V’ and Xavier has the ‘X’ and you go down all the schools; we incorporated the ‘C’ because we thought that was important.”
  2. Earlier this week, we found out that Marquette’s Jameel McKay was planning to transfer, an announcement that came as a surprise to many in the Golden Eagles community. According to Marquette basketball blog Paint Touches, McKay’s decision is largely due to his position and role on the team: “(It was) just disagreements on things, is as simple as I can put it. Playing out of position was a part of it. I wasn’t comfortable (in the role they had him in).”  McKay has been contacted by a number of strong high major programs, and will look to make a decision soon, but he plans to finish out the semester at Marquette.
  3. Butler is looking for a bump in recruiting now that it has joined the Big East, and may be on the verge of landing a few prized players.  Four-star guard K.J. Walton was on campus this week.  The high school junior is still looking for an offer, but according to Zak Keefer at IndyStar.com, he is high on the Bulldogs, and has a strong relationship with new head coach Brandon Miller, who he has known since he was 13.  Butler also hosted Covington, Kentucky guard James Bolden at practice this week, as well local product Kyle Guy, who is already on Indiana’s radar.
  4. Josh Smith is one of the most ballyhooed additions to the Big East this year, and as of Thursday, he has been cleared to play for the start of the upcoming season for Georgetown.  Smith, who transfers to the Hoyas after leaving UCLA six games into the 2012-13 season, has received fairly unprecedented treatment in his transfer appeal from the NCAA according to ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan, who was incredibly surprised by the NCAA’s decision.  Despite not fitting into the general outlines for a hardship waiver, and not moving schools to be closer to home, the NCAA will allow Smith to play without sitting out for a full season, where it has neglected to do so for countless other players over the years. [Ed. Note: There has been some speculation that the NCAA granted the waiver due to the way Smith was treated by the UCLA staff while dealing with his ongoing weight issue.] Brennan believes this decision is another in a long line of strange moves by a rattled NCAA that has been heavily scrutinized on numerous levels: “I think college players should be able to transfer with far fewer restrictions and wait times than currently exist — but that doesn’t make the ruling consistent with any past precedent. What about every kid in the past five years with a legitimate appeal who was denied on technicality? Is the NCAA really that rattled?”
  5. Buzz Williams sat down with CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein to discuss the Marquette program and his outlook on the upcoming season, and as usual, he was incredibly insightful and honest about his team.  He believes that Derrick Wilson is ready to step into the leadership role left vacant by Junior Cadougan‘s graduation: “…to be honest, I think that the roster has played out perfectly for Derrick Wilson’s career. I do think that he’s ready for the next step, and I think he’s as prepared as you can be having never been in that role to be ready for that role.”  Williams is very high on his freshmen, who he calls the best recruiting class he’s had since becoming the head coach at Marquette, especially guard Deonte Burton, whom Rothstein refers to as a  “Buzz Williams type of player.” He also states that he believes Jamil Wilson‘s talent measures up against that of former Golden Eagles stars Jae Crowder and Lazar Hayward, and has similar ability to Jimmy Butler: “Those other guys were every-day, hard core guys and I think that’s what Jamil has to get to and I think he’s working really hard to be that guy. He’s always been talented. He’s extremely intelligent. He’s got some Jimmy Butler qualities. Jimmy could do multiple things, guard multiple guys. So can Jamil.”  While Williams is humble as always, and downplays the preseason hype that his team has garnered a bit, the interview should make Marquette fans feel good about their squad heading into the season.
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Season in Review: Marquette Golden Eagles

Posted by Will Tucker on May 21st, 2013

The Golden Eagles earned a share of their first Big East regular season championship with their second consecutive 14-4 conference record. As the No. 3 seed in the Big East Tournament, Buzz Williams’ squad was dispatched in their first game by a lower-seeded Notre Dame team. But it rebounded in the Big Dance, visiting the Sweet Sixteen for the third straight year before suffering an Elite Eight loss to Syracuse in Washington, D.C.

Preseason Expectations

Despite coming off the program’s best season as a Big East member in 2011-12, most anticipated a rebuilding year as Buzz Williams sought to replace leading scorers Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. The Golden Eagles were tagged seventh at Big East Media Day (behind Pitt, Notre Dame and Cincinnati), while we here at the Big East microsite ranked them fifth (still behind the Irish and Bearcats) in what was perhaps our most glaring collective miscalculation.

(AP)

Vander Blue has spread his wings and flown away, but Marquette’s backcourt remains in good hands (AP)

The Good

The Golden Eagles surpassed everyone’s expectations, which in large part was attributable to the coaching abilities of Williams. Even with elite talent –– a luxury that Williams has never had –– nobody takes a program to three straight Sweet Sixteens without having a pretty good notion of what they’re doing. Vander Blue (14.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG) finally bloomed into the explosive scorer everyone expected him to be when he joined the program two years ago, becoming the team’s leading scorer while shooting 45% from the floor. Much in the way that Kadeem Batts developed in 2012-13, so too did Davante Gardner (11.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG) fashion himself into a trustworthy asset on both ends of the floor, becoming one of the best free throw-shooting big men in the league.

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Big East M5: 02.26.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 26th, 2013

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  1. Criticizing Marquette for its inconsistent play — especially as they sit just a game out of the top spot in the conference following last night’s big comeback win over Syracuse in Milwaukee — seems like nitpicking but that doesn’t mean the team’s schizophrenic play shouldn’t be a concern for Golden Eagles’ fans either. Buzz Williams’ team was supposed to take a step back this season after losing players like Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, but Williams has once again proven he is one of the best coaches in the country as his team has easily exceeded expectations and is competing for a league title without a true star. For all of the success that Marquette has had, including its impressive bounceback win over the Orange last night, they still seem to have the occasional lapse and have been shaky on the road. Williams and his club don’t have the luxury of winning games when they don’t play well because a lot of their success this season has been a result of hard work and grit. I don’t think anyone wants to play them in the NCAA Tournament, but if they can’t find better consistency and play with continued effort, I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see Marquette bounced early from the Dance either.
  2. On one hand, it doesn’t seem fair to go after Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard for his team’s abysmal performance this season considering he lost two of his best forwards to injury, but at the same time, there is definitely something to be said for the fact that the Pirates’ roster is nearly devoid of true Big East-caliber players. Convincing the best players in the greater NYC area to eschew national powerhouses for a chance to return the Pirates to glory is hardly easy, but the Hall hasn’t even had a four-star player commit to Willard until Aquille Carr did this year and almost no one expects Carr to qualify. Also, where are all the kids from New Jersey? Three of the five New Jersey natives on the roster are transfers, and one other, Fuquan Edwin, wasn’t even Willard’s recruit. Maybe the best talent in the Garden State won’t want to play in South Orange, but certainly there are more gettable players from New Jersey who could make a greater impact than the four graduates of the Canarias Basketball Academy are making for the team currently.
  3. Of course that whole paragraph was written before Villanova made me look stupid by basically standing around while Seton Hall jacked up and made a bunch of three-pointers on their way to pulling off the upset last night at home. It doesn’t change the fact that the Pirates are terrible, but I don’t know what it means that VU head coach Jay Wright basically acknowledged he expects his team to struggle defending the three-ball followed by his team proving him prophetic. Seton Hall made 13 triples, including the game-winner from Edwin after Wildcats’ forward James Bell foolishly tried to split a double-team, and the Wildcats handed back all of the good will they earned by beating Marquette over the weekend. It’s hard to know what to make of the Wildcats’ resume at that — they have a trio of excellent conference wins, but they also have a number of truly terrible losses. If they can win one of their two remaining games against Pittsburgh and Georgetown and then perform admirably in the Big East Tournament, they can probably sneak in, but games like Monday night certainly don’t help.
  4. Speaking of teams who are making it difficult for themselves, the Cincinnati Bearcats have been turning in a series of stinkers that culminated in whatever that was called Sunday against Notre Dame. As The Dagger astutely points out, plenty of UC’s struggles can be blamed on the injury to point guard Cashmere Wright, who was basically acting as half of their offense while they were winning and has been far less explosive and dangerous since coming back. Now they are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament despite a resume full of solid wins both within and outside of the conference. They have just three conference games left, and considering winning in Louisville next Monday seems nearly impossible at this point, they need to beat Connecticut and South Florida to feel truly comfortable. But frankly, the team isn’t going to win if they can’t find some offense, and that firepower isn’t coming if Wright doesn’t magically get healthy soon.
  5. After its big Saturday road win over Syracuse, there are some willing to argue that Georgetown is good enough to be a No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and that the Hoyas have the resume to back it up. But if I am John Thompson III, I am doing everything in my power to make sure my team comes to play Wednesday against UConn. The Huskies have nothing to lose in this game and they will be in front of a raucous Gampel Pavilion crowd ready to greet Georgetown for maybe the last time. The Hoyas should feel really good about where they sit, though. No one thought they were going to be this good this season, especially after they lost Greg Whittington, but now they are clearly one of the best eight teams in the country.  Still, if they start feeling too good about themselves, the Huskies are going to punch them in the mouth on Wednesday night.
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Big East M5: 02.07.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 7th, 2013

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  1. Providence got 26 solid minutes from junior forward Lee Goldsborough and 25 points from Kadeem Batts as they pulled the probable upset of the week, beating Cincinnati 54-50 to wreck the Bearcats’ momentum. Goldsborough is seeing increased minutes because Sidiki Johnson left the team and the little-used junior made the most of them by making all three of his baskets, grabbing four offensive rebounds, coming through with a number of excellent defensive plays as well. We just talked yesterday about the importance of Cooley finding players who actually want to be at Providence and hearing Goldsborough describe the way he was feeling as “over the moon” it sounds like the Friars have at least a few players who believe in the program and want to help it succeed.
  2. From the opposite perspective, this was a bad loss for a Cincinnati team that seemed to be finding its footing in the conference. The Bearcats’ offense was stagnant and listless all evening and coach Mick Cronin ripped into his team a little bit calling the loss “ugly” while also accepting blame for not getting the team ready to play. The Bearcats would have loved to head into their three-game home stand with a lot of momentum, but instead they let a vastly undermanned and disorganized Providence team jump out to an early lead and hold onto it in the second half. The team’s over-reliance on Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright for its offense is troubling and could be an issue when they play better teams. But for now they just need to make sure they don’t let this bad loss snowball and turn into a losing a streak that could knock them out of the conference race.
  3. St. John’s held off a furious second half rally from Connecticut last night to secure a much-needed seventh conference win. With nothing to play for, the loss stings the Huskies less and the win helps the Johnnies remain in striking distance of the teams at the top of the conference. Moreover, the Red Storm did it all without their starting point guard, Jamal Branch, and responded well when they were punched in the mouth at the start of the second half proving that this season’s team may have what it takes to keep from folding and make the NCAA Tournament. Branch’s replacement, Marc-Antoine Bourgalt, may not have the same playmaking ability, but he did provide a surprising scoring bunch (11 points) and helped lead an all-around impressive defensive effort. Now the Johnnies will begin preparing for road games at Syracuse and Louisville this week with a little bit of a buffer in the standings.
  4. After watching studs Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom leave for the NBA, everyone seemed to think that Marquette had an excellent team, they just weren’t sure who would step out from the pack and become to the go-to-guy. As conference play has got under way, junior guard Vander Blue has assuaged some of these concerns nicely. He had just 13 points in last night’s blowout win over South Florida but he has been a driving force offensively for the Golden Eagles. The once highly-touted guard has taken a few years to blossom, but his steady offensive presence and ability to defend multiple positions is one of the main reasons the Golden Eagles are surprising folks and sit close to the top of the Big East standings. It is indeed rather uncanny the way Buzz Williams develops one of these elite players every year .
  5. The last game of the night featured Louisville overcoming yet another sluggish first half to cruise to a 20-point win over Rutgers. The Cardinals were lethargic in the first half and then, as they have seemingly done all year, they turned up the defensive intensity in the second half and quickly sank the Scarlet Knights’ potential upset bid. The Cardinals will be able to get away with this type of Jekyl and Hyde style of play against lesser teams like Rutgers, but that inconsistency is exactly the type of thing that could derail Louisville’s national title hopes. They showed in the second half that when they are focused, they are a runaway steamroller. But they aren’t always focused and running smoothly, so figuring out how to become more consistent should be top priority for Rick Pitino the rest of the way.
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Big East M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 30th, 2012

  1. The SEC/Big East Challenge got off to a competitive start last night with the conferences splitting four matchups and each conference scoring a decisive and impressive victory. St. John’s and Notre Dame each scored easy victories for the Big East while Marquette was blown out by Florida and Seton Hall lost a competitive tilt with LSU. The game of the evening was Notre Dame’s thorough dismantling of No. 8 Kentucky, 64-50. It was billed as a battle between youth and experience, athleticism and discipline, and after the Wildcats got off to a quick start, it quickly became apparent which traits would prevail. The young Wildcats struggled to find a rhythm in their first true road test and really look nothing like last season’s juggernaut, at least in the early part of the season. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish rebounded from a slow start and finished the game shooting 48 percent from the field and 53 percent from behind the arc. The low point for the Fighting Irish may have been when their fans RTC’d as the final buzzer sounded. The Fighting Irish are an experienced and talented team, so beating a bunch of freshmen still figuring out how to play together doesn’t count as a true upset, especially when they won so handily. Even guard Jerian Grant lamented the post-game celebrations telling reporters that the team expected to win the game. The fans should have expected that too.
  2. On the flip side, after Notre Dame handled Kentucky easily, Marquette had a chance to really put the Big East in the driver’s seat as they squared off against No. 7 Florida, and unfortunately, they ended up falling flat on their face. Coach Buzz Williams, ever the candid quote, called the 82-49 drubbing the worst loss of his career and said his team was “really bad in every way.” Williams knows his team better than anyone else, but some credit should go to the Gators, who look like one of the best teams in the country in the early part of the season. Yes, the Golden Eagles, with the exception of junior guard Vander Blue (20 points and four rebounds), were dreadful on both ends of the floor. But Billy Donovan’s club has experienced talent and depth up-and-down the roster, and Marquette is still trying to adjust to life without stars Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. It is clear Marquette is not as good as it was last year, and I think if the two teams played again in February the Gators would still win, but I would also bet that if that were to happen, we would see a different MU team than the uninspired club we saw last night.
  3. The other statement win for the conference came when the Red Storm stomped coach Frank Martin and South Carolina, 89-65 in New York. The Gamecocks’ lackluster defense allowed D’Angelo Harrison (26 points on 8-of-13 shooting) and his teammates to shoot nearly 57 percent from the floor for the game as the Johnnies controlled the game from the opening tip and overwhelmed the undermanned South Carolina squad. Steve Lavin‘s club is making noise like it could be a really good team as the season progresses, especially if Jakarr Sampson continues to blossom into a star and talented forward Orlando Sanchez gains his eligibility. The team’s two losses (to Murray State and Baylor) are respectable ones, especially for a team full of underclassmen just starting to play together, and the talent and upside of the roster is tremendous. They are deep and athletic across the board, even more so if Sanchez comes back, and they will only get better as the season goes on. Maybe the Lavin rebuilding project is further along than some think.
  4. The national contender that no one is talking about amidst this conference realignment hullabaloo is Georgetown. It makes sense since the Hoyas fields an FCS football program, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that while the Big East is crumbling, one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball remains. Coach John Thompson III didn’t seem too worried when he was asked about the changes, saying that change was inevitable in this day and age and that he didn’t want to get too caught up especially with Tennessee coming to town tonight. He also deflected questions about whether Georgetown would consider breaking off from the conference with other basketball-first programs like Marquette and Villanova to form their own conference built around basketball supremacy. It’s perfectly fine for Thompson III to focus on basketball since he will have very little influence on the direction the school takes, but school administrators and decision-makers should be very concerned about what the next step for their program is. They have a compelling product on the basketball court and multiple excellent athletic programs — albeit ones that don’t make as much money — and riding out the storm in a show of loyalty to the Big East sounds nice and all, but it could leave Georgetown in an unenviable situation should other programs like Connecticut and Cincinnati defect as they so desperately want to.
  5. DePaul appears to be on its way to another NCAA Tournament-less season, something that has become all too common in the last two decades for the Blue Demons, and to make matters worse, they still play in an outdated Allstate Arena that apparently is a real hassle for students and city-dwelling fans to get to. This piece is an excellent look at not only DePaul’s options when it comes to switching arenas when the lease with the Allstate Arena runs out after 2015, but also whether that will make any difference in the program’s long road back to respectability. One option being championed by the likes of Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is a rent-free stay at the United Center, which seems nice until you start imagining what the United Center would look like for an early season thriller between DePaul and Austin Peay. The other, more tantalizing option is a new arena closer to campus that has the backing of none other than city mayor Rahm Emmanuel. The idea is the definition of preliminary and as the article pointed out, the new arena doesn’t solve the on-court woes, but it opens the door for improvement in student and fan turnout at the very least.
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“We Ain’t Come Here To Play School”: Todd Mayo Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 6th, 2012

Note: The hope is to turn this into a recurring feature that chronicles the academic troubles of Big East players that seemingly pop up every season. Of course if everyone in the conference hits the books and stays academically eligible, then this will be the only piece in this feature and I will feel foolish. Carry on.

The quote above came from Cardale Jones, the third-string quarterback for Ohio State who made waves on social media in early October when he tweeted out this opinion, letting the world know exactly how little he cared for academics. While Jones may have made for an easy target, he clearly is not the only elite athlete with disdain for schoolwork — just ask Marquette’s Todd Mayo, who will be academically ineligible until at least the end of the fall semester and won’t be allowed to practice or play with his team in the interim. Buzz Williams and the Golden Eagles were hoping the dynamic Mayo would make some strides offensively, become more consistent, and play a major role in Marquette’s attempt to reload following the departures of stars Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. Unfortunately for Williams and the rest of his team, Mayo didn’t come to Marquette to “play school.”

Todd Mayo Has Been A Continuous Source Of Frustration For Buzz Williams

If this were Mayo’s first off-the-court incident, the Marquette faithful and his coaches might be more willing to cut him some slack. But Mayo, the younger brother of Dallas Mavericks’ guard O.J. Mayo, has been with the program for less than two seasons and has already earned his fair share of negative headlines. Mayo was suspended last season for a game against West Virginia and suspended again during the summer for violating team rules. His teammates complained that he was aloof and didn’t want to be a part of the team, so Williams sent him home during the second summer session in hopes of helping Mayo mature and become more responsible. Apparently that strategy only worked for a while and now the Golden Eagles will be without one of their best scorers for the first part of the season.

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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #5 Marquette

Posted by Will Tucker on November 6th, 2012

Last year was Marquette’s most successful season since Dwayne Wade graced Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles finished second in the Big East for the first time ever, had a player named Big East Player of the Year for the first time since joining the league (Jae Crowder), and went to their second consecutive Sweet Sixteen. How will they rebound in 2012-13 after losing nearly half of their scoring and 12 rebounds per game in graduated seniors Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom? This question was magnified when we learned yesterday that Todd Mayo is academically ineligible and parked indefinitely on the bench. Mayo’s absence may have dropped Marquette in our predicted standings when our writers deliberated in October, but there’s no turning back now, and it’s hard to discount Buzz Williams’ coaching ability when he has any measure of talent to work with.

2011-12 Record: 27-8, 14-4

2011-12 Postseason: 2-1, Lost to Florida in the Sweet Sixteen

Buzz Williams Has Averaged Nearly 25 Wins Per Season at MU (Photo Credit: AP)

Schedule

Marquette faces one of the toughest non-conference slates of any Big East team this year. The Golden Eagles open the season on November 9 against #4 Ohio State in the Carrier Classic in Charleston, South Carolina. They’ll get an opportunity cut their teeth in home games against Colgate and Southland Conference pushover Southeastern Louisiana before then heading to Maui on November 19 to face Butler. Potential meetings with #11 North Carolina, Texas, Illinois and Mississippi State loom should they take down the Bulldogs. The warm weather continues through the end of November, when Buzz Williams’ team travels to Gainesville to seek redemption against the Florida team that knocked it out in the Sweet Sixteen. A week later, Marquette hosts #23 Wisconsin at home to conclude the most unforgiving leg of the non-conference slate. Marquette’s Big East schedule is pretty daunting as well, with home-and-homes against Pitt and Georgetown and road contests against Louisville and Cincinnati. The Golden Eagles are granted some reprieve in avoiding Syracuse and Notre Dame on the road.

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Big East Summer Capsules: Marquette Golden Eagles

Posted by mlemaire on August 6th, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Marquette.

1. Will the Golden Eagles get Todd Mayo back and when?

Marquette Needs Todd Mayo To Provide Scoring, Too Bad He Is Suspended Indefinitely. Photo: Getty Images

As a freshman last season, Todd Mayo showed moments of brilliance for Marquette. Sure, he was a streaky shooter who took some questionable shots and turned the ball over a lot for a guy who doesn’t work with the ball in his hands all that often, but he was also a freshman, and a very talented one. Coming into next season, many have pegged Mayo as the team’s breakout offensive star thanks to the increased touches he is likely to see with Darius Johnson-Odom gone and the assumption he would improve his game over the course of the summer. Those plans have been put on hold for now though as in late June news leaked that coach Buzz Williams had suspended Mayo indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Since then, absolutely no information has been released about what the violation was or how long Mayo will be suspended, but some have speculated the sophomore will miss a large chunk of time if he even returns at all. Williams wouldn’t have suspended Mayo indefinitely unless it was warranted, but this is a disappointing turn for both Mayo and the program. The 6-foot-3 guard had the look of a breakout player poised to become one of the more versatile offensive weapons in the country and his team definitely needed that scoring punch. Now everyone will just have to wait until the powers that be decide Mayo has served his punishment or that he is not worth the trouble, and who knows how long that wait will take.

2. How will they replace Jae Crowder?

With Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan,Trent Lockett, and potentially Mayo all returning to campus with another season of experience under their belts, the backcourt should be one of the team’s strengths, even with the news that junior college transfer T.J. Taylor is leaving the program for personal reasons. The real question will be how the Golden Eagles plan to replace their do-everything forward and reigning conference player of the year, Jae Crowder. Crowder was second on the team in scoring, first on the team in rebounding and steals, and was an irreplaceable defender because of his athleticism and versatility. The onus now falls on forwards Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson. Both players were leaned upon heavily last season, and each showed flashes of their potential, especially Gardner who finished third on the team in scoring (9.7 PPG) despite starting just 19 games. Unless  Williams got hit on the head and changed his philosophy, the Golden Eagles will still be a stingy defensive team without Crowder, where Gardner and Wilson will really need to step up is on the offensive end of the floor and on the glass. The team has perimeter weapons, but in order to keep the defense honest, they will need one of their bruising forwards to become a consistent offensive threat. The presumptive favorite to fill that role best is Gardner, but he will need to stay healthy to make that happen.

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2011-12 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on March 29th, 2012

If there’s one thing to take away from this year’s Rush the Court All-America team, it’s that none of us are as smart as we think.

Back in November, our voters were on the same page as the majority of national writers, pegging Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Jordan Taylor, Terrence Jones and Tu Holloway for our preseason All-America first team. Only Sullinger followed that up with a spot on the postseason squad. As for our Ashton Gibbs-John Jenkins-Jeremy Lamb-Perry Jones-Tyler Zeller second team, only Zeller lived up to the billing. Nostradamus is not walking through that door.

Rather than discussing players who failed to match those high hopes, let’s delve into the players who exceeded or met expectations. After tallying the votes and discarding any hanging chads, here are our postseason 2011-12 RTC All-Americans:

Note: voters took conference and NCAA Tournament results into consideration.

Anthony Davis edged out Thomas Robinson for player of the year

First Team All-America

Anthony Davis, Kentucky (RTC National Player of the Year)- A near-unanimous player of the year selection, Davis made more of an impact on the defensive end of the floor than any other contender for the award. His 4.6 blocks per game doesn’t adequately account for how many shots he altered, turnovers he caused and general fear he struck in the minds of opponents. Causing havoc on defense is one thing, but Davis also showed off a rapidly improving post-up and face-up repertoire, displaying incredible offensive versatility in an efficient manner. Davis picked his spots well on a loaded Kentucky team, shooting 67% from inside the arc, grabbing 10 rebounds per game and shooting 71% from the charity stripe. From overlooked recruit to McDonald’s All-American to Final Four to Player of the Year frontrunner and soon the number one overall pick, it’s been quite the magical ride for Davis.

Thomas Robinson, Kansas- After coming off the bench behind the Morris twins last season, Robinson was pegged as the popular pick to break out in a big way in 2011-12. Robinson delivered on those predictions and more, averaging 17.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and shooting 51% from inside the arc. Robinson, who was asked to carry the load for a Jayhawks squad ravaged by early entry and graduation, quickly emerged as the premier low-post scorer in America. Robinson is flush with gifted athleticism, an NBA veteran’s body and unstoppable post moves. For a player who overcame indescribable adversity a season ago, any neutral observer during this year’s Final Four could do a lot worse than root for Robinson.

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Big East Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 27th, 2012

  1. Syracuse’s super sixth man Dion Waiters is not going to wait around for his starting slot next season with the Orange as Waiters announced he will be entering the NBA Draft.  The athletic 6’4” guard will sign with an agent, eliminating any possibility of returning for his junior year.  Waiters did not start a game this season for Syracuse but was widely regarded as the team’s most talented player.  He posted averages of 12.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 24.1 minutes per game while being named the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year and making All-Big East Third Team.  There could be quite a bit of roster turnover this offseason as Waiters joins departing seniors Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, while fellow sophomore Fab Melo, who was suspended for the NCAA Tournament due to academic issues, may be soon to follow Waiters into the NBA draft.
  2. Another Big East guard, Providence’s Vincent Council, ended speculation that he might be leaving school to turn pro when he told Brendan McGair of the Woonsocket (RI) Call, who reported via Twitter,  “I wasn’t really thinking about leaving (Providence College) at all.”  It had been said Council was considering foregoing his senior year and that academics may have been a driver.  An All-Big East Third Team selection this past season, Council averaged 15.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and a conference best 7.5 assists per game. The 6’2” New Yorker figures to be one of the top returning Big East point guards in what should be an entertaining backcourt next year as the Friars welcome in top 25 recruits Ricardo Ledo and McDonald’s All-American Kris Dunn.
  3. There are so many storylines around the Louisville versus Kentucky Final Four matchup there could be a two-week Super Bowl-type hype period to analyze and dissect.  While everyone loves some good old-fashioned overkill, the good news is we only have until Saturday to anticipate how this historic match-up might play out.  Certainly the head coaches are at, or near, the forefront of it all and as Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel points out, Louisville’s Rick Pitino will enjoy playing the underdog role in an effort to perhaps tighten Kentucky coach John Calipari and his team up a bit.  While there is no question the pressure rests on Calipari and Kentucky, it is hard to fathom the magnitude of the moment getting by either team.  As much as Pitino might love his side to play loose, he and his team both know the margin for error will be thin on Saturday.
  4. Plane ticket from Kentucky to New Orleans? $500-$1800.  Hotel room in New Orleans? $400-$600 per night.  Ticket to see Louisville take on Kentucky in the Final Four? $377.  A chance to see one of the most anticipated match-ups in college basketball history?  Well…pricey!  If this weekend is any barometer of the economic state of our country things are progressing nicely.  Despite the price tag demand is high for all of the above and supply is getting low as basketball crazy residents of the Bluegrass state have been more than willing to pony up. Getting to New Orleans is one thing.  Plane seats are limited and anything involving a gas powered vehicle, whether car, SUV or bus comes with the pain of surging gas prices.  What to do when one gets there is another. As of yesterday there were only about 2,200 of New Orleans’ 22,000 hotel rooms available even with hotels setting four-night minimums. It is great to go to a big game but will also be interesting to see if television sales in Final Four markets increase this week as people decide to ditch the planes, trains, and automobiles and use that money to purchase a longer-lasting Toshiba.
  5. The Associated Press revealed its All-America teams yesterday and while the Big East cannot boast any first teamers, the conference was well represented overall.  Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder of Marquette (17.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG) and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones (19.9 PPG, 10.9 RPG) represented two of the six players who received second team honors while Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb (17.7 PPG, 4.9 RPB) took home an honorable mention distinction.  Members of the first team included: Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Draymond Green (Michigan State), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Thomas Robinson (Kansas), and Jared Sullinger (Ohio State).  Robinson was a unanimous selection.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.23.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 23rd, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

  • Kansas star forward Thomas Robinson’s personal tragedies have been well-documented. The junior, who just turned 21 last week, is the key player for the Jayhawks as they look to move into the Elite Eight.
  • Kansas senior guard Tyshawn Taylor has faced a lot of adversity in basketball and in life. The guard from New Jersey has developed into a leader for Bill Self’s squad and he will look to lead the Jayhawks into an Elite Eight on Friday night.
  • Going into this season, there were many differing opinions regarding NC State forward CJ Leslie. Leslie has developed into a key player and a team leader for the overachieving Wolfpack that have already pulled two upsets in the NCAA Tournament.
  • When NC State athletic director Kay Yow named Mark Gottfried head coach last April, many people were surprised by the decision. As it turns out, Yow had the right idea, as Gottfried has led the Wolfpack through some hard times this season and into the Sweet Sixteen.
  • North Carolina star forward Harrison Barnes has a history as a saxophone player. Putting the music aside, the Tar Heels’ leading scorer is a key component to the team moving on in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Ohio head coach John Groce has seen his name tied to the openings at Nebraska and Illinois, but the Bobcats’ head coach will not say if he has any interest until his team’s run in the NCAA Tournament has concluded.

West Region

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Rushed Reaction: #7 Florida 68, #3 Marquette 58

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Florida Out-Toughed Marquette. Except for a few moments where Marquette brought its patented Buzz Williams hustle and toughness to the fore, the ‘soft’ Gators mostly out-toughed the Golden Eagles on this night. They beat them on the boards by one, blocked six more shots, and didn’t back down at all when MU got in their face. We’ve been critical of Billy Donovan’s teams (other than the “oh-fours”) in the past because of too much perimeter play and a lack of fortitude, but this bunch never wavered when facing a team that makes its living of off that stuff.
  2. Marquette’s Stars Never Seemed Comfortable. It’s hard for us to give too much credit to Florida’s defense, but something was definitely bothering both Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom tonight. The two players combined for a 10-30 shooting night, and without their offensive capabilities, Marquette was never going to seriously threaten the Gators. Perhaps worse than that, though, with the two stars struggling, the rest of the starting lineup didn’t do much better. Jamil Wilson, Vander Blue, and Junior Cadougan went for 11 total points on 4-20 shots themselves. Ugh.
  3. Gators’ Lack of Size Hasn’t Hurt Them Yet. This wasn’t the matchup where the Gators’ lack of talented size caught up with them, but you have to figure that it will eventually. Sometimes with the right matchups, though, a team can get on a roll, and that’s exactly what the Gators have done. Billy Donovan talked about how the team didn’t appear to play very well down the stretch of the regular season, but he attributed much of that to the level of competitions they were playing in those games. We’re not sure what that says about this year’s NCAA Tournament field (at least the Gators’ path to the Elite Eight), but with how well Louisville is playing, they’ll have to earn it on Saturday afternoon.

Star of the Game. Bradley Beal, Florida. Beal looked like the future lottery pick that he will be tonight, as he carried the Gators through some key stretches with his drives to the goal and timely three-point shooting. He ended up with 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists and only missed two field goal attempts on the night. Superb outing for the freshman.

Quotable. “Beal is their swing vote… because he’s so multi-talented.” Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, on the Florida guard’s play tonight.

What’s Next? Florida will advance to play the surging #4 Louisville Cardinals with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Billy Donovan, with two national championships and three trips to the Final Four on his resume, will play his mentor, Rick Pitino, with a single national title and five trips on his resume. Wow.

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