Previewing #8 Colorado vs. #9 Pittsburgh

Posted by Matt Patton & Andrew Murawa on March 20th, 2014

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Pittsburgh will take on Colorado in Orlando at 1:40 PM ET Thursday afternoon on TBS. RTC correspondents Matt Patton and Andrew Murawa sat down and conducted a quick Q&A about the game featuring ACC vs. Pac-12 squads.

Without Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado seems vulnerable especially on offense. (credit: David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

Without Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado seems vulnerable, especially on offense. (David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

Matt: Obviously Colorado took a step backwards when it lost Spencer Dinwiddie in January. How have the Buffaloes replaced his offensive production, and is their seed inflated because of what they did with Dinwiddie earlier in the season?

Andrew: The biggest adjustment that Colorado has made to adjust following the Dinwiddie injury was to slide junior Askia Booker – previously known as an inveterate gunner – over to the point guard slot. Since that time, the number of shots per game out of Booker hasn’t changed much (only twice in the 17 games since the Dinwiddie injury has Booker hoisted fewer than 10 field goal attempts), but the quality of those shots has improved and it has been balanced by an obvious interest in getting his teammates involved. Other guys like Xavier Talton and Jaron Hopkins have seen their minutes and production increase as well, but both have been fairly inconsistent. All of this leads to the fact that while it has been admirable how the Buffaloes have held it together after the loss of their floor general, this team isn’t much of a threat to surprise in the NCAA Tournament, and the #8 seed is a generous appraisal of the team that will take the floor on Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »

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North Carolina Streaking With Six Wins in a Row

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 16th, 2014

North Carolina continued its climb up the ACC standings, bursting into fourth place with a 75-71 win over Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill. James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige led the way as the Tar Heels held a lead for the entire second half and withstood a furious Panthers’ rally in the closing minutes. For North Carolina, which started ACC play with three straight losses, this wasn’t just its sixth consecutive victory, but it’s probably the best win of the Heels’ recent streak. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, continues to tumble in the opposite direction, losing four of their last six games after starting conference play 6-1.

North Carolina's Marcus Paige Was On Fire - Making 5 Threes Versus Pittsburgh. (Photo: Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

North Carolina’s Marcus Paige Was On Fire, Making 5 Threes Versus Pittsburgh.
(Photo: Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

Pittsburgh got off to a good start in the first half, leading 18-11 after nine minutes of play. The Tar Heels began to chip away at the lead, finally catching and passing the Panthers late to take a 35-31 lead into the locker room. North Carolina didn’t shoot well in the first stanza (40.6%) but the Heels collected nine offensive rebounds and attacked the basket well enough to put Pittsburgh in foul trouble. In fact, three Pittsburgh starters including star Lamar Patterson, played fewer than 10 first half minutes due to early foul difficulties, and Jamie Dixon was forced as a result to switch to zone defense for long stretches. North Carolina’s underrated defense forced 10 first half turnovers and held Pittsburgh to only 0.89 points per possession.

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ACC M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 5th, 2014

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  1. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Here’s a good look at three of the most efficient guards in the ACC: London Perrantes, James Robinson, and Tyler Ennis. Ennis and Robinson may best Ty Lawson’s assist-to-turnover ratio (although neither can touch his other offensive numbers), and it’s even more impressive when you remember that all three are freshmen and Ennis is the only one likely to leave school sooner rather than later. Their teams also currently reside in the top three in the conference standings (though Duke is hot on their trail).
  2. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Jamel Artis is going to be really good in a couple of years for Pittsburgh. Injuries are never good, but they always open the door for different players to see more time. Artis has been soaking up some of Durand Johnson’s leftover minutes, and he made the most of his newfound playing time in the team’s loss to Virginia. Like many other young players in the league (think: a young Ian Miller at Florida State), Artis is mostly held back by his defense. Once that comes around, he could become one of Pittsburgh’s top options in a hurry.
  3. Washington Post: Let’s just say that after a disappointing performance against North Carolina — especially in the first half — I think Mark Turgeon may have gotten a little too optimistic that all of his yelling was paying off. Now, playing in Chapel Hill is no easy feat, and it’s easy to make the Bzdelikian argument that it would have been a totally different game if North Carolina hadn’t started with an 11-0 lead. But Maryland gave up that lead. And it gave up another run to close the first half. Those flat stretches offensively are what Turgeon needs to find a way to avoid. Maybe yelling will be the answer. Maybe a healthy Seth Allen will. But there’s still a lot of work to do.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs does a good job dismantling a context-less stat from a Virginia broadcast that the Cavaliers are 32-2 when holding opponents under 50 points with Tony Bennett at the helm. The ACC as a whole this season is 30-3. The one bit of context that makes the statistic more meaningful is that Virginia usually plays with an abnormally slow tempo (meaning an opponent scoring 50 against the Cavaliers likely played better than an opponent failing to reach 50 against the Tar Heels).
  5. SBNation: Great story from SBNation on Kendall Marshall‘s NBA resurrection. Marshall looked like he might be destined for Europe just a couple of months ago, but now he’s starting at point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. What remains to be seen is how he can improve his defense (which will be the determining factor on a team not coached by Mike D’Antoni). But all facets of his game weren’t clicking in Phoenix, and James Herbert points to a change of attitude from the former North Carolina guard.
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Five Key Questions as Pittsburgh Heads to the Carrier Dome with Something to Prove

Posted by Matt Patton & Lathan Wells on January 18th, 2014

In anticipation of the new marquee ACC match-up this afternoon at 4:00 PM EST, microsite columnists Matt Patton and Lathan Wells ask each other the tough questions. Somehow, we only mention CJ Fair once.

Can anyone disrupt Syracuse's diaper dandy? (credit: Mark Konezny / USA TODAY Sports)

Can anyone disrupt Syracuse’s diaper dandy? (credit: Mark Konezny / USA TODAY Sports)

LathanTyler Ennis has proven to be a freshman beyond his years at the point, with a demeanor that belies his class. Can anyone disrupt him defensively and thus help stymie what Syracuse wants to do on offense?

Matt: Calling Ennis a surprise is disingenuous because everyone expected him to be really good. People just didn’t him to be this good this quickly. He’s made the offense more efficient by replacing Michael Carter-Williams, the current NBA Rookie of the Year front-runner. But Pittsburgh will likely try to make the freshman uncomfortable by sealing off the lane with face-guarding on the perimeter.

Pittsburgh has some of the best ball movement in the country (seventh nationally in assists per field goal made). How will Syracuse’s zone combat it?

Lathan: In short, the zone makes ball movement the key to staying in the game. Syracuse’s length across its lineup forces teams to keep throwing the ball around the perimeter and causing teams to hurry late in the shot clock to get a good shot. Establishing a solid high-low option is probably the key to having some sort of success on offense.

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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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Tyler Ennis, the Underappreciated Phenom

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 2nd, 2014

What’s that, you say — a heady, patient, point guard on an undefeated team, sporting a 4.67:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, isn’t getting enough attention? Someone who happens to be a freshman valiantly filling the shoes of a lottery pick who has already notched an NBA triple-double? By now, you have probably figured out that we’re referring to none other than Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis, an extremely talented and poised freshman playing arguably the most demanding position in all of basketball. The precocious rookie is averaging 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game for a second-ranked Orange team that looks as dangerous as ever and ready for another deep run in March. He contributes 32 minutes per game on a team that lacks any real alternative at the position, but as Ennis has shown thus far, Jim Boeheim doesn’t need much of a substitute as the Canadian rarely gets in foul trouble or gets fatigued playing at the top of the vaunted 2-3 zone.

Ennis splits an Indiana double team (Rich Barnes/Getty)

Ennis splits an Indiana double team. (Rich Barnes/Getty)

Ennis has proved himself a potent long-range shooter, launching three-pointers at a 40 percent clip, and is no slouch defensively either, averaging 2.7 steals per contest  (10th in the nation). Speaking of national statistical rankings, Ennis also comes in second nationally behind ACC counterpart and Pittsburgh point guard James Robinson in assist-to-turnover ratio, a strong indicator of how effectively he runs the team. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg said it best: “He’s just a savvy point guard who changes pace masterfully, uses ball screens to his advantage, and has a knack for knowing when the Orange need a bucket.” Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Team Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 22nd, 2013

Of the three new members in the ACC for the 2013-14 season, the Pitt Panthers are probably generating the least amount of excitement. Of course that’s understandable considering the deserved elite reputation of Syracuse, and the national brand name of Notre Dame. But make no mistake, Coach Jamie Dixon brings one of the top programs in the country to the ACC this year. In fact, during his 10 year tenure as head coach, Pitt has averaged 26 wins per season.

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Pitt’s First Season in the ACC Will Be an Interesting One

2012-13 was a bounceback season for the Panthers after missing the NCAA Tournament the year before (for the first time under Dixon). It was an interesting year in which Pitt finished 24-9 overall and 12-6 in the Big East. The computers loved the Panthers, as they finished #11 in both Ken Pomeroy’s and Jeff Sagarin’s popular ratings systems. But the NCAA Tournament selection committee saw things differently, giving Pitt a #8 seed, no doubt because of a non-conference schedule that rated #269 in the RPI. Even though losing in the first round to Wichita State looked better when the Shockers made the Final Four, that 73-55 beating ended the Panthers’ season on a downer. Soon after the season’s end, Pitt’s roster suffered an unusual bout of heavy attrition. In addition to losing seniors Tray Woodall and Dante Taylor, talented seven-footer Steven Adams left after one season for the NBA, and two others, juniors J.J. Moore and Trey Zeigler, decided to transfer out of the program. Dixon and his staff deserve credit for restocking the roster with some late additions and transfers of their own. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Number of Last Year’s ACC Freshmen Are Poised for Breakout Seasons

Posted by Chris Kehoe on October 16th, 2013

A common theme in college basketball is the jump in productivity from a player’s freshman to sophomore seasons. In a player’s second year with a program they are more apt to be familiar with the defensive schemes and offensive playbook of the coaching staff. They have also hopefully better adjusted to the speed and physicality of the college game and added some weight to their frame with a full offseason of serious strength and conditioning. In a premier basketball conference like the ACC, sometimes blue chip recruits struggle to acclimate to the game in their first year and may even spend a good amount of time on the bench. Their sophomore years represent a time for these players to make their names on the national stage and achieve a breakout campaign that will live up to their prodigious high school reputations. In the ACC, some freshmen have already ‘broken out’ and made a name for themselves with their play, like Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan (2012-13′s ACC ROY) and Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon. Here are 10 ACC sophomores ready to make the leap this coming season (listing in no particular order).

1). Justin Anderson, Virginia

Anderson Returns to a Virginia Team With High Hopes

Anderson Returns to a Virginia Team With High Hopes

This sophomore forward averaged 7.6 points  and 1.2 blocks per game in his freshman campaign. He started 17 of Virginia’s 35 games last season, and at 6’6″, 230 pounds, he has the frame necessary to take some of the burden off of the Cavaliers’ senior stars, Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. He ended the season strong, leading the Cavaliers in scoring during their NIT run, and can only hope to build off of that positive momentum.

2012-13 stat line: 7.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.2 BPG in 24.0 minutes per game

2). Mike Tobey, Virginia

The 7’0″ behemoth has good hands and is continuing to develop the post moves necessary to make himself a force to be reckoned with in the middle. His elite-level footwork has him poised to make the jump in his second season in the ACC. Making the U.S. U-19 World Championship team has only increased his confidence in his ability to play with the best, and strengthened the bond between coach and player, considering Virginia’s Tony Bennett was the U-19 head coach.

2012-13 stat line: 6.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.6 BPG in 13.9 minutes per game

3). T.J. Warren, N.C. State

The 6’8″ marksman flirted with a jump to the NBA after his freshman campaign, but instead watched teammates C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown make the leap. The incredibly efficient forward had 14 starts for the Wolfpack and shot an impressive 62.2% from the floor, 51.9% from three-point range. The 2012 McDonald’s All-American and Brewster Academy graduate will have plenty of scoring opportunities this year without Brown, Leslie, and Richard Howell to contend with. It also can’t hurt having N.C State’s two-headed point guard tandem of Tyler Lewis and Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber feeding him the ball.

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Season In Review: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by mlemaire on May 15th, 2013

If you are one of those glass half-full type of people, then you could easily point out that a season which saw Pittsburgh finish 24-9 and 12-6 in the Big East is a giant step forward from the year before when the Panthers went just 22-17 and 5-13 in the conference. But chances are that if you are a Pittsburgh basketball fan, you aren’t one of those glass half-full type of people and that is because all of Pitt’s regular season success has never translated into anything more than a single trip to the Elite Eight and a few Sweet Sixteen appearances. The Panthers were good enough to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, which likely saved coach Jamie Dixon from a wave of criticism this offseason, but it wasn’t exactly a triumphant return to the Big Dance. Advanced metrics loved the Panthers because of the team’s exceptional efficiency on both ends of the floor, but that didn’t stop them from shooting 35.1 percent from the field in a first-round clunker against Wichita State and departing from the NCAA Tournament in unceremonious fashion.

Preseason Expectations

Most pundits were cautiously bullish on the Panthers’ chances of rebounding from the 2011-12 debacle. Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson were both gone, but the team returned basically every other contributing player and also added Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler (15.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 46.1% FG as a sophomore with the Chippewas) and ballyhooed freshman center Steven Adams, a seven-footer from New Zealand who was universally considered an NBA talent. No one expected the Panthers to shock the world this season, but both the coaches and our writers had Pitt pegged as one of the top five teams in the conference, and during the regular season at least, they made us look smart.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

The Good

Despite the disappointing finish, there are plenty of team-wide positives Dixon can point to this offseason. For starters, the Panthers’ trademark defense returned with a flourish. After finishing outside the top 150 in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2011-12, the Panthers leaped all the way back into the top 20 in that category by creating turnovers and contesting shooters on every possession. The offense was even more efficient, finishing just outside the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency thanks in large part to the team’s terrific offensive rebounding, taking care of the basketball, and insistence on scoring inside of 20 feet. Also, he very much looked the part of a freshman point guard at times this season, but James Robinson (6.1 PPG and 3.5 APG in just 26.6 MPG) is going to develop into an excellent floor general for Dixon as quickly as next season. Neither Woodall nor Lamar Patterson took their games to the next level, but they were still the only two consistent offensive threats on the roster. Even Adams (7.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 57.7 FG%) proved himself to be an excellent prospect, although he didn’t exactly set the conference ablaze like so many had predicted.

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Big East M5: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 7th, 2013

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  1. An ugly fight broke out at Tuesday night’s Notre Dame-St. John’s game between the Red Storm’s Sir’Dominic Pointer and Irish freshman Cam Biedscheid. After battling over a rebound, Pointer appears to take a swing at Biedscheid, who then retaliated. Despite the fact that Pointer seemed to be the aggressor in this situation, Pointer and Biedscheid will both miss their teams’ next games because both engaged in the fight.  Mike Brey tried to appeal Biedscheid’s suspension to the conference to no avail: “There’s no appeals process, which is disappointing… Once it’s deemed a fight, which it was, and he was throwing punches, it is what it is.”
  2. Mike Brey seems about ready to hop off the conference realignment carousel. With the news that the Catholic 7 will be breaking away from the Big East to become… the Big East… it is unclear whether Notre Dame next year will stick around with UConn, Cincinnati, and friends, or join the Catholic 7 for a season, or head to the ACC a season early. If the ACC will have the Irish, that solution seems to make the most sense, but then again, this is conference realignment. Sense was checked at the door years ago.
  3. James Robinson has flown a bit under the radar this season for Pitt nationally, but those in the program hold the freshman in very high esteem. Former Panthers great Brandin Knight sees great potential in the young point guard: “He’s just one of those guys that you get the feeling that there’s something special about him… He has the poise and he really understands the game. He’s very mature beyond his years.”  Robinson averages 6.1 points and 3.5 assists per game in 26.7 minutes of action for Pitt, and in the team’s last game against Villanova he scored 14 points in the overtime win.
  4. Villanova has had a number of statement wins this season, but coming into Wednesday night the Wildcats were still not a sure thing for the NCAA Tournament. Knocking off Georgetown last night should help secure Nova’s spot in the Big Dance. The game with the Hoyas was an ugly affair, with three Georgetown players fouling out and the Wildcats hitting 30 free throws while the Hoyas could only muster four there. The win keeps Villanova from entering postseason play on a multiple game slide, and sets them up well for next week’s Madison Square Garden processions.
  5. Another day, another weird story coming out of Syracuse. Moments after the Orange defeated DePaul Wednesday evening, the school’s official Twitter account published a message speculating that it could be Jim Boeheim’s last game as Orange head coach with a link to a blog post, which stated that according to “sources,” Syracuse was under investigation by the NCAA and Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross had asked Boeheim to step down. After the game, Syracuse released the statement that the story was completely false, as most who read it had assumed, but the larger story here is that there has been a long line of social media incidents stemming from the official Syracuse University accounts. Last year, one of the student interns who runs @SyracuseU tweeted about the upcoming DaJuan Coleman decision before the center had formally made his college choice between Syracuse, Kentucky, and Ohio State — a clear violation of NCAA rules. There have been numerous other instances of similar mistaken tweets. On an individual level, these tweets seem like minor mistakes, but when taken as a group, it shows that the school needs to take their social media presence more seriously.
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Big East M5: 02.18.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 18th, 2013

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  1. Providence defeated its second ranked opponent in as many weeks after pasting Notre Dame 71-54 in The Dunk on Saturday. The Friars’ four-game Big East winning streak is their first since 2004, and a tangible affirmation that Ed Cooley has his program trending toward relevancy after a long series of setbacks. There was a lot for Providence fans to celebrate in Saturday’s win: Vincent Council became the school’s all-time assist leader; Bryce Cotton broke out of his shooting slump; and the Friars shut down the league’s second most efficient offense. But it was junior center Kadeem Batts who Mike Brey singled out after the game as his choice for the Big East’s Most Improved Player. Coming into the season as a question mark whose production and minutes had decreased in 2011-12, Batts has become the centerpiece of his team’s turnaround, particularly in the aftermath of Sidiki Johnson’s leave of absence.
  2. Louisville reopened its recruiting pipeline to Seattle over the weekend, as 6’7 junior guard Shaqquan Aaron committed to the Cardinals over UCLA, Syracuse and Arizona, among others. Aaron concluded Louisville was “a perfect fit” after probing current players about the rigors of playing for Rick Pitino during his official visit. “I want to play for a coach that is going to be hard on me. I like how coach P is going to push me every time.” The California native attends the same high school as former Louisville point-forward Terrence Williams, and would carry the mantle of Emerald City transplants for Pitino after Peyton Siva graduates this year. The commitment also reestablishes a presence in Seattle after the Cards’ staff struck out in the highly visible recruitment of Tony Wroten in 2010.
  3. Georgetown may be one of four nine-win teams atop the Big East bottleneck, but it’s unquestionably the hottest one after winning its seventh consecutive game on the road in Cincinnati. After Otto Porter picked up his fourth foul with more than seven minutes remaining in a three-point game, the specter of a fifth consecutive loss to the Bearcats probably loomed over many a Hoya fan’s living room. That Georgetown remained committed to its defensive game plan and rebuilt its lead on the road, against a style of opponent they’ve traditionally struggled against, quells any doubt that John Thompson III’s team is a leading Big East contender.
  4. After collecting praise and accolades in the first months of his Pittsburgh career, freshman guard James Robinson has hit a dramatic scoring slump in the past seven contests. The 6’2″ former Big East Rookie of the Week has shot 16% from the field and failed to score more than one basket in any game during that stretch, despite averaging 21 minutes per game. Moreover, Robinson has failed to score from the field at all in three of those seven contests. He continues to contribute in other ways, like hitting all eight of his combined free throws in the past two games. Nonetheless, Cardiac Hill suggests it might be time to curtail his playing time for the time-being.
  5. On the Catholic Seven front, we learned last night that the nascent league will pursue a 12-team structure by recruiting either Richmond or Siena (?) to join assured invitees Butler, Dayton, Xavier and St. Louis. More importantly, we learned that nobody wants to lead the Catholic Seven: that task fell to Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, “in large part because of a lack of interest on the part of the presidents of St. John’s, Villanova, Seton Hall, DePaul, Marquette and Providence.” The quote illuminates the kind of visionary initiative you would expect from the league that elected to cast its lot with DePaul rather than UConn and Cincinnati. Then again, they’re on the verge of stumbling into a huge payday. VU Hoops still voices some anxiety over the symbolism of allowing fairly trifling logistical concerns to dictate that the league is courting the likes of Siena and Detroit Mercy rather than Creighton.
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The Freshman 10: The Best and Worst of Big East Newcomers

Posted by mlemaire on December 6th, 2012

The season is only a month and some change old but it is never too early to check in on the progress of some of the conference’s most heralded and surprising freshmen. While young bloods like Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and Nik Stauskas of Michigan have made an instant splash on the college scene, the Big East’s crop of rookies have made a more muted impact.  There was no methodology when it came to selecting which freshmen to analyze, so we just chose 10 of the most interesting freshmen to follow. Of course, conference play hasn’t even begun yet, so evaluating their body of work is somewhat of a trivial venture. But don’t you worry, we will be back later in the year to check in on some of these players again.

DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse)

The Learning Curve For Prized Freshman DaJuan Coleman Has Been Steeper Than Some Expected

It is still far too early to make a judgment call on what type of player DaJuan Coleman can become this season. But those who expected the highly touted forward to come in and immediately start anchoring the paint for the Orange probably need to adjust their expectations. To his credit, he seems to be getting better each game. But in six games against subpar competition, Coleman hasn’t seen much playing time and has shown only promise and inconsistency when he does play.

Anyone with eyes can see the wide-bodied forward is going to be an excellent rebounder and considering he is averaging 5.3 rebounds per game in just 16.3 minutes of playing time, he is already on his way to validating that obvious observation. But he isn’t a shot-blocker which is fine so long as he is an efficient scorer in the post and an elite rebounder. He has an impressive skill set and nimble feet for a man his size, but the ball rarely makes it back out to the perimeter if it goes to Coleman in the post, and he will need to take better care of it and make smarter decisions if he wants to continue to receive looks in the paint. His downfall offensively may be his sketchy free-throw shooting (55 FT%) as he is the type of strong interior player destined to draw a lot of fouls, and if he can even make his free throws at a 66 percent clip, he will be a much more productive scorer.

Jakarr Sampson (St. John’s)

It should come as no surprise that Sampson has adjusted to college basketball quickly because the Akron native was supposed to be suiting up for the Red Storm last season before lackluster academics forced him to return to prep school. But now that he is on the roster, he has wasted little time making his mark on both ends of the floor and is the clear front-runner for conference rookie of the year honors. The lanky 6’8″ forward already had a well-deserved reputation as a sensational dunker, but his game is more nuanced than that. Sampson has thus far started all nine of the team’s games, averaging 30.8 minutes per game, and he ranks second on the team in scoring (13.8 PPG), first in rebounding (6.6 RPG), and second in blocks (1.6 BPG).

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