Big East M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on March 6th, 2014

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  1. Xavier survived a scare on Monday night when Center Matt Stainbrook went down wailing in pain as his knee buckled. Stainbrook will be out tonight against Villanova, but Chris Mack’s team does not have to play again until next Thursday in the Big East Tournament, giving Stainbrook some time to recover. The team is unsure if he will be ready by then, but Stainbrook is optimistic saying, “I’m feeling a ton better, even small strides from yesterday to today. I’m pedaling the bike saying, ‘There’s no pain today.'” Xavier will probably have trouble without their top interior player and will definitely need him in the NCAA Tournament if they want to advance past their first game. The Musketeers seem to be a lock at this point, giving them some breathing room, and Stainbrook’s injury will allow freshman Jalen Reynolds to slide into his starting spot after playing very well in the past two weeks.
  2. Creighton and Isaiah Zierden were not as lucky as the freshman is out indefinitely. The school sent out a statement saying, “X-rays done today showed no fractures or bone chips in Isaiah’s right knee, but he did suffer a medial collateral ligament injury at the time of his patellar dislocation during Saturday’s game at Xavier. He will undergo an MRI on Monday in Washington, D.C. that will determine if any other possible injuries were suffered and help determine whether or not surgery is needed. He is out indefinitely.” Zierden had started to see more consistent minutes recently and was contributing outside shooting as well as giving a ton of effort defensively. There is still a chance he can come back which would strengthen Greg McDermott’s bench with little rest between tournament games.
  3. Coming into the season, everyone who had seen Doug McDermott play knew he was a rare talent. Even though he had tremendous success up to that point, there were still questions about whether he could continue to put up big numbers in a power conference. Doug has far exceeded what most envisioned him doing this season. He passed the legendary Danny Manning to move into ninth all time for points scored in his career and he has the Bluejays positioned for a run in the NCAA Tournament. McDermott is still humble and taking everything as it comes, telling the Associated Press, “When college is over, I’ll definitely realize how special it was. I’m just living in the moment right now. If I were the national player of the year, that would be really cool, something that has never been in my wildest dreams. Everything is a bonus from here on out.” It is great to see a star not making everything about himself and enjoying his time in college.
  4. McDermott is considered the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award, but Jim Donaldson argues that someone else should win Big East Player of the Year. Donaldson says that Providence senior Bryce Cotton is the most valuable player in the league and possibly the nation. Cotton played incredibly on Tuesday night in a double overtime win against Marquette on his senior night, putting up a line of 25/9/7 in 50 minutes. Fans in Omaha strongly disagree, arguing that McDermott is the easy choice, and most would agree. Donaldson may have an argument because of how many minutes Cotton plays compared to McDermott. After playing 50 on Tuesday, his average rose to 40.2 minutes per game, a truly remarkable stat. He has missed three minutes in 17 conference games including four double overtime games. McDermott “only” averages 33 minutes, but it is pretty easy to see he will win every award he is eligible, including Big East POY.
  5. Markel Starks has had quite the career at Georgetown and he capped it off emphatically on Tuesday night. In his final home game, he led the Hoyas to a much-needed upset of Creighton. Starks and company had to fend off a comeback from the Bluejays after leading by as much as 16, taking each punch and throwing enough back to hold on. Starks finished with 17 points and a career-high 11 assists, making a tough step back jumper to help put Creighton away. The win helped propel the Hoyas NCAA Tournament chances after having little chance. A trip to Philadelphia to play Villanova will give them a big chance to solidify their resume before heading to New York for the Big East Tournament.
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Big East M5: 02.07.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 7th, 2014

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  1. In this weeks Fast Five from Seth Davis, he discusses two Big East teams tournament chances. After being asked which bubble team has the best chance of making a deep NCAA tourney run, he gives five teams, including Providence. He points out that their upcoming schedule has a few resume boosting games and dynamic scorer Bryce Cotton is an opponents worst nightmare. Davis is also asked whether Xavier has worked itself onto the bubble or out of the tourney. He thinks that they are currently safely in, being one of two teams to beat Cincinnati  and owning wins over several of the Big East’s bubble teams. The road ahead is difficult though with five road games. They luckily play Providence, Villanova, and Creighton at home. Here is an in-depth look at where all the Big East teams stand on the bubble.
  2. Matt Norlander of CBS Sports wrote an excellent piece about Doug McDermott and his quest to 3,000 points. McDermott is on pace to surpass the barrier during the Big East Tournament and if he continues his current average of 25 points per game he will finish fifth on the all-time scoring list. Norlander does a great capturing all the amazing stats and feats that McDermott has accomplished thus far. For a player that barely earned spot on the team as a freshman it is remarkable that he will become the first player in 30 years to be a first team All-American three years in a row. McDermott does it all while shooting at a high percentage and being a team player. Norlander also dives into Doug’s relationship with high school teammate Harrison Barnes, who went on to play at North Carolina, and his father Greg, who took the Creighton job during Doug’s senior year of high school. McDermott is not a boisterous player, letting his game do the talking, and NBA teams are starting to catch on.
  3. Grant Gibbs, McDermott’s teammate, has been fighting an injury the last month, but has been writing a blog for USA Today. Gibbs gives an update on his knee, saying he’s still in the rehab process and they are taking it day-to-day. Gibbs points out two things that have helped the Bluejays in the Big East so far; most teams are not used to their style of play and it is difficult to prepare for them the first time, and not being every teams game of the year like they were in the Missouri Valley Conference. Gibbs also has an idea for a new name for the league, MECCA- Midwest to East Coast Conference of America. He says it would make sense because teams hail from the Midwest to the East Coast and the conference tournament is at Madison Square Garden, considered the mecca of basketball. Gibbs’ writing is informative and funny, but the Creighton faithful hope that they get their sixth-year senior back soon.
  4. St. John’s is beginning a run towards a spot in the NCAA Tournament and Matt Giles at NYC Buckets asks whether their defense is fueling their second half surge. The Red Storm struggled mightily at the beginning of conference play, but have suddenly turned it around and have won five of their last six. Their defense was known to be great at blocking shots with Chris Obekpa, but now they are turning teams over nearly a quarter of possessions. Giles points to Steve Lavin’s abandoning of the match-up zone.  The team has loads of athleticism, but the zone allowed teams to find holes. Now teams are struggling to win one-on-one matchups, ending up forcing tough shots or running into Obekpa. Another key point is that they are allowing far too many offensive rebounds, letting Marquette and Providence collect 21 and 20 offensive rebounds each. If they can limit second possessions, this St. John’s defense is going to be tough to score on the rest of the year.
  5. Xavier’s Jalen Reynolds was suspended for breaking team rules last week. He is back to practicing with the team, but there is no update as to when he will return to games. Reynolds might not be a major contributor, but his loss hurts the Musketeers front court depth. Reynolds was averaging 10 minutes per game and gave Chris Mack energy off the bench and allowed starters to get a breather. Xavier has lost both games since his suspension and have not looked the same recently. Obviously Reynolds needs to follow team rules and be a good teammate, but Xavier could use the freshman back for the final stretch of conference play.
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Morning Five: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 29th, 2014

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  1. The announcement that a group of Northwestern football players are asking to be represented by a labor union probably will not elicit the amount of attention it deserves from the general public because… well, they are Northwestern football players, but it could be one of the biggest sports stories of this year. With the backing of the National College Players Association the football players filed a petition to be recognized as employees with the National Labor Relations Board and filed union cards for an undisclosed number of players. Before we get ahead of ourselves we should point out that this is just the first step of the process (“getting a seat at the table” as they say), but it is an important one. As you can imagine the NCAA is not a fan of the idea and has issued a statement essentially saying that athletes do not meet the definition of employees and thus should not be awarded rights typically given to unions. The scope and details of the case go well beyond what we have the space to cover here so we would recommend you check out the excellent Outside the Lines piece we linked to earlier.
  2. We all knew it was coming, but Dante Exum came out and announced it yesterday: he will be entering this year’s NBA Draft. The Australian point guard, who is projected by most to be a top-5 pick in this year’s Draft, had reportedly been considering playing college basketball and even had come up with a list of finalists. Basically it was a list of top programs with no real shot (even UNC where his father played) since Exum is guaranteed NBA millions. Multiple players including Andrew Bogut, a fellow Australian and #1 pick who actually went to college, came out publicly and urged Exum not to go to college. Now college basketball fans can bring back their dreams of landing a star recruit to American high school players.
  3. According to Tim Miles it was not a single incident, but rather a series of them that led him to dismiss Deverell Biggs from the team. Biggs, who redshirted last season after coming to Lincoln as a first-team junior college All-American, was the team’s third-leading scorer at 9.9 points per game despite being a reserve playing just 20.5 minutes per game. We do not know the full extent of the series of incidents that led to Biggs’ dismissal, but he was cited in April 2012 for suspicion of DUI and in December 2012 for leaving the scene of an accident then was suspended in July for a violation of team rules. We do not know what happened to make Miles finally decide to get rid of Biggs, but we imagine that there will be somebody else out there to take a chance on Biggs.
  4. We are not sure what “medical and personal reasons” have led Kennesaw State coach Lewis Preston to take off from his coaching duties since January 2, but the school announced that he will return to his coaching duties at the end of this season. Preston, who is 7-61 (not a typo) as a head coach at Kennesaw State, was replaced by Jimmy Lallathin, who did not do much better going 3-12 as the interim coach. As we said we have no idea what the specific reasons were for Preston’s absence were and it would be reckless to speculate on what those reasons could be so we will just wish Preston the best in his return.
  5. Normally the loss of a player who is averaging 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game would not even merit a mention here (ok, maybe if they did something really dumb), but Xavier’s frontcourt is so thin that the indefinite suspension of freshman forward Jalen Reynolds might have an impact on the team. Despite his limited playing time (partly the result of his propensity to foul) Reynolds is one of the top rebounders on the team and as a freshman one would expect him to improve as the year goes along. Based on the reports on nearly every site it appears that this is an academic issue so we doubt that we will see Reynolds back this season.
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Morning Five: 09.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 17th, 2012

  1. In the wake of last week’s announcement by Notre Dame that it was leaving the Big East to join the ACC in all sports except football, new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said on Friday that his league is not dead, and as a matter of fact, is still “the strongest basketball conference in the country.” We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume that when he made reference to conference strength he was talking about the upcoming season only — before he loses the likes of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame from his lineup of stalwart programs. At the end of the day, much will be written about the relative strength of the two leagues once all the realignment moves have propagated, but from our view a top eight of UNC, Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Maryland, Florida State and NC State looks equal to or better than Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, Memphis, Georgetown, Villanova and Temple. Of course, the bottom half of the Big East is where the ACC really increases its lead — UCF, SMU, Rutgers, DePaul and the rest have no business competing with programs like Virginia, Miami, Clemson and Wake Forest.
  2. Right on cue, Luke Winn last week analyzed a similar comment made by Aresco (“We’re still the strongest top-to-bottom basketball conference in the country.”) in his own inimitable way. Winn used KenPom efficiency data to compare leagues based on their current configuration and their new configurations, and with the caveat that past performance does not accurately predict future success, the Big East as a whole falls from the second-best basketball conference over the last 10 seasons to sixth. As he notes, “realignment has made the Big East the weakest top-to-bottom major conference, not the strongest.” He also shows a chart exhibiting that only four of the top 11 leagues have improved themselves on the hardwood through conference realignment — the WCC, ACC, Atlantic 10, and SEC. Each of these leagues has added at least one solid basketball school to its mix.
  3. Sam Cassell caused a commotion upon his entry to the ACC two decades ago with his brashness, outspoken demeanor, and his talent on the court. Late last week some of those same characteristics came to bear as the now-Washington Wizards assistant spoke to Jeff Goodman about the NCAA’s rejection of his son’s appeal to play as a freshman next season at Maryland. Comparing the organization to “neighborhood bullies” and accusing the governing body of wanting “kids to fail,” Cassell is clearly unhappy with the NCAA’s decision to invalidate courses his son took at Notre Dame Prep as a high school junior even though other players such as Pittsburgh’s Khem Birch and Marquette’s Todd Mayo took the exact same courses and were eligible to play last season. Cassell, Jr., has not made a decision on what his next step will be, but
  4. The other player hurt by the NCAA’s decision to invalidate those Notre Dame Prep courses may not have a famous father to speak on his behalf, but Myles Davis will sit out next year at Xavier — paying his own way — and he’ll have some additional company doing it. Jalen Reynolds, another member of Chris Mack’s incoming recruiting class, was deemed ineligible by the NCAA on Friday for a similar issue, and he too will have to sit out the entire 2012-13 season while paying his own tuition at XU. With these two losses and the recent expulsion of Dez Wells, Xavier is now down to only eight scholarship players — none of whom were significant contributors on last year’s Sweet Sixteen team. The Musketeers’ first season in a revamped Atlantic 10 boasting new instant impact programs Butler and VCU will certainly be interesting with such a young and inexperienced squad — Mack will need to find a way to work miracles on the banks of the Ohio River if he plans on keeping Xavier’s NCAA Tournament streak of seven straight seasons alive.
  5. College basketball is legitimately just around the corner, and what better way to get your juices flowing than to read an interview with Gus Johnson. Johnson, of course, is spending his time nowadays as the lead college football announcer on Fox while also doing some Big Ten Network work on the side. This Q&A with Johnson isn’t necessarily ground-breaking in its breadth, but there were two college basketball takeaways that came out of it. First, and perhaps unsurprisingly since Johnson is a Detroit guy and given his obvious enthusiasm during games, he said he has long admired Dick Vitale as a sportscaster. Next, out of all the great games he’s covered over the years, his favorite? The 1996 NCAA Tournament Princeton upset over the defending national champions, UCLA. Give us more Gus, anytime.
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