Big East M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 6th, 2013

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  1. Syracuse’s senior game tonight against DePaul features two members of the Orange making their definite final appearances at the Carrier Dome as players: Brandon Triche and James Southerland. However, few would bet that these are the only two scholarship players who will move on after this season. The best bet is that Michael Carter-Williams will join them despite his recent bouts of poor play. Some Syracuse fans argue that he could use more seasoning in college, and they’re not wrong, but many forget that despite being a true sophomore, MCW is already 21 years old now and will be 22 before next season. MCW would be the eighth Syracuse player in six seasons to leave school early, with four of those players — Donte Greene, Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson, and Dion Waiters — picked in the first round of the NBA Draft.  Waiters, who played with Carter-Williams last season, weighed in: “Michael’s a 6’6″ point guard. You can’t teach height. If he comes here, he’ll get nothing but better.” In his Syracuse.com piece on the subject, Bud Poliquin also mentions C.J. Fair and Rakeem Christmas as possible early departures, but those seem like stretches from this observer.
  2. In the classy moves by coaches department, Rick Pitino announced that junior Gorgui Dieng will be allowed to participate in Senior Day festivities in anticipation that the center will make the jump to the NBA after this season. “He has given us more than we have asked for. It is in his best interest to come out, and I think he is ready… He has been great for us. I have enjoyed coaching him so much. It is going to be a very difficult Senior Night. I have had some difficult ones, but this may be the most difficult.” There is definitely an argument to be made for keeping senior days for those who finish out their four years of eligibility, but I have no issue with exceptions being made for people like Dieng who were both great players and, by all accounts, students in addition to players during their time in college.
  3. This is the point of the season where teams look to ramp it up and start playing their best ball as they head into postseason play. Pitt’s Talib Zanna had been in an extended slump, averaging just 5.5 points per game for an extended period after averaging 13+ PPG for the first two months of the year. Recently, however, it seems like Zanna has started to find his rhythm again, and that doesn’t bode well for teams at the Garden next week. In Pitt’s last home game against Villanova, Zanna went off for 14 points and 19 rebounds in an overtime victory. Pitt closes the season at DePaul on Saturday before preparing for their final Big East Tournament.
  4. Cincinnati basketball hasn’t been the most beautiful version of the game this season, and things have only been worse in that regard with the constant injury issues that have befallen Cashmere Wright. He popped his shoulder out of the joint for the sixth time in Monday’s loss to Louisville, according to Mick Cronin. In the last few games, it seemed like Wright had been getting closer to 100 percent, which he clearly hasn’t been since a mid-January injury against DePaul. If Wright can’t find his shot and the lion’s share of the Bearcats’ scoring falls on Sean Kilpatrick’s shoulders in the postseason, Cincinnati will continue to struggle to score in the season’s most important games.
  5. Scott Martin’s career has been plagued by injuries, so if the Notre Dame forward can’t maintain a long career overseas, he has a fallback plan in coaching. Mike Brey believes that Martin is well-suited for the sideline: “I think he’s going to be a hell of a coach.” In a Chicago Tribune article, Martin discusses how he’s begun to watch the game through an analytical lens and former Irish teammate Ben Hansbrough admitted that he and Martin discussed coaching after their careers had wrapped. Martin’s constant injuries may have derailed a promising career, but it is good to hear that he has a strong plan for after basketball…well, after playing basketball, anyway.
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Ten Tuesday (or Wednesday!) Scribbles: On Scoring, Rule Changes, Syracuse and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 27th, 2013

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Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Much has been made about the decline in scoring in college basketball over the last decade. These days, it is very common to see games played in the 60s, 50s or even 40s in some instances. It is true that scoring has decreased substantially over the last 10 years and the numbers bear it out. In the 2002-03 season, 172 teams averaged at least 70.0 PPG. That number has steadily declined, falling to 145 five seasons ago and 111 this year. With the advent of advanced statistics, one in particular stands out. Ten years ago, 123 teams averaged an adjusted tempo of 70.0 possessions per game. That was cut in half by 2007-08 (62 teams) and the number has continued to decline even since then. This season, only 28 of America’s 347 Division I teams play at that pace or greater. Why is this happening? Pace is certainly a factor but there are other issues at play here. With the proliferation of television coverage and video based scouting programs such as Synergy Sports Technology, scouting and video material is more available than ever. Head coaches and their staffs know everything about an opponent and that makes a huge difference for a lot of teams on the defensive end. A lot of teams run the same sets and it’s simply easier to prepare when you see the same thing over and over again. The elephant in the room, however, is the talent level in college basketball. Most of us probably wouldn’t like to admit it but the talent level has noticeably dipped in our sport over the last decade. I’m not talking about a once in 20 years type of player like Kevin Durant but the overall depth of talent in the game. There’s a reason a lot of people are saying this year’s NBA Draft class could be the weakest ever. That’s because it is. Until college basketball gets a much-needed infusion of talent, low scoring games will remain the norm.
  2. A lot of people would like to see the so-called “one-and-done” rule fade to black and that got me thinking about some much-needed rule changes in college basketball. I’m not going to discuss the one-and-done here, I’m talking about changes that need to be made during the actual games. If I had the power, the first thing I’d do is shorten the shot clock to 30 seconds. Five seconds may not sound like a lot but since there are roughly 66 to 67 possessions in an average Division I game, that would translate into another 10 possessions per game. Immediately you’d see an increase in scoring which makes the game more attractive to fans. One thing that annoys me is the amount of timeouts and stoppages in the game. There are already four mandated media timeouts every half and each team gets a total of five timeouts per game. In an era when coaches rarely leave timeouts on the table, there are 18 different timeouts in a typical college game, an average of one every two minutes and 13 seconds. It hurts the flow of a game in a big way and my proposal would be to reduce the number of timeouts to three per team and no extras in overtime. The end of every college basketball game these days seems to include a multitude of timeouts, fouls and official reviews. Officials reviewing plays has helped many sports get calls right, including college basketball. However, officials are abusing the monitor more than ever before. A big reason why is the NCAA rule change a few years ago regarding flagrant fouls and elbows thrown. I get why this rule was implemented (player safety) but there is no evidence this rule acts as a deterrent. Players have been taught from a young age to clear space with your elbows when being pressured by a defender. Now, a loose elbow can be deemed a flagrant foul even if there was no intent to injure by the offending player. This has to change. I have absolutely no problem with calling a flagrant foul for a malicious elbow or other physical contact. But calling a flagrant for an innocent or accidental elbow is wrong and is another thing that contributes to college games that lack an entertaining flow. A couple other changes I’d make include not resetting the 10-second count in the backcourt after a timeout, not being able to inbound the ball into the backcourt (it’s a bailout move for a team without a quality inbounds play) and starting the 1-and-1 bonus at nine fouls instead of seven. What are your thoughts on some of these proposals?

    Tubby Smith, Minnesota

    Tubby Smith has Minnesota pointed in the right direction

  3. This time of year, bubble talk dominates the discussion. My way of looking at bubble teams is simple: Did you beat quality opponents and what have you done away from home? This approach is one Jay Bilas mentions on television every year, something I wholeheartedly agree with. I remember years ago when Bilas went on ESPN and said something like, “Bubble teams have all proven they can lose. The question is, who did you beat and where did you beat them?” Truer words have never been spoken. You can’t dismiss all losses but when we’re talking about bubble teams, we’re usually looking at teams that have lost anywhere from 9 to 12 games, sometimes more. When I look at this year’s group of bubble teams, a few stand out. Minnesota is only 7-8 in Big Ten play but has multiple quality wins over Memphis (neutral), Illinois (away), Wisconsin (home), Michigan State (home) and last night’s massive upset of Indiana at the Barn on its resume. All of that trumps Minnesota’s loss to Northwestern and should get the Golden Gophers into the Big Dance.  Staying in the Big Ten, Illinois is in the same boat and I believe the Illini have done enough to warrant a bid at this point. Villanova is an interesting team. The Wildcats have a high number of losses (11) but wins at Connecticut and home versus Louisville and Syracuse have them in the NCAA discussion. I think Villanova is an NCAA-worthy team but the Wildcats need to do more to earn a bid because a pair of bad losses on their resume hurt the cause. Teams like St. Mary’s are harder to quantify. The Gaels have just one top 50 win (home vs. Creighton) on their resume and a pair of bad losses to Pacific and Georgia Tech. When a team wins a number of games against poor competition as St. Mary’s has, it’s very hard to determine if they’re NCAA-worthy. I think the Gaels are, but their resume leaves a lot to be desired. Beating Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament would prove to everyone that they deserve a spot. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 02.15.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 15th, 2013

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  1. As expected, more details have emerged in the Jim Boeheim-Andy Katz “feud”, which came to a head last night when Boeheim called Katz an idiot and refused to answer his questions at the presser that followed Syracuse’s loss at Connecticut.  What was originally assumed by many to be an issue with Katz sharing some information about James Southerland’s academic issues now seems to be more about last year’s Bernie Fine fiasco.  Let’s hear from Boeheim: “It’s really simple. I went to New York last year to play in the (NIT Pre-Season Tip-Off) Tournament in November and he (Katz) asked if he could interview me about the tournament. And I said, ‘Yeah, but I can’t talk about the (Bernie Fine) investigation.’ We got in the room and he put me on camera — there were several witnesses there — and he asked me what I’d told him I couldn’t answer. I kept telling him, ‘I can’t answer that.’ And he asked me, like, 10 times on camera. He never took the camera off me. Two or three people in the room were so disgusted they walked out of the room. The producer came over and apologized afterward. And I told Katz right then and there, ‘Don’t talk to me. Do not try to talk to me again.’” Katz issued a response following the Syracuse.com article: “There was no deal. I don’t cut deals. He might have thought there was a deal, but I have never, ever made a deal… The reason I did that is because with guys like Jim Boeheim, John Calipari, Jim Calhoun they’ll, say there’s a certain subject they don’t want to talk about and then they’ll talk about it. If I asked it one too many times, fine, criticize me. I was just trying to see if he’d answer the question.”
  2. On the brighter side for Syracuse fans… err, maybe not so much after Wednesday night in Hartford… Michael Carter-Williams continues to grab headlines for his play.  Mike DeCourcy of  Sporting News went into depth with MCW about his high-risk, high-reward play this season, and how his scant playing time last season has helped in his maturation process.  Carter-Williams, like Dion Waiters before him, is a fiery competitor, and is has gotten the best of him in games before, including one instance last season when he snapped at Jim Boeheim after being taken out of a game: “Definitely, there were a couple of times when it got the better of me and I lashed out at Coach. Those were mistakes I made. Coach told me if I wasn’t yelling at him, he wouldn’t know what to expect from me. I was a McDonald’s All-American and I wasn’t playing … he knew I wanted to be out there.”  Carter-Williams’ play has been up and down this Big East season, but few deny his talent, and the fact that if Syracuse has a chance at making a final four run this season, it will be in large part due to MCW’s play.
  3.  College basketball is wide open this season, and the Big East is no different. It seems like half of the league is still in contention for the conference crown, and no one knows what will happen once the Big East tournament kicks off at Madison Square Garden. UConn was never supposed to be in the discussion this season.  After being handed a full post-season ban due to APR issues, and losing a number of talented players from their NCAA tournament team last season, UConn was largely an afterthought in the league.  However, with the win over Syracuse, the Huskies sit just a game out of first place in the conference, and the team may be especially dangerous, as a regular season Big East title is all that they can play for this year.
  4. Cincinnati’s offensive woes have been well-documented, especially since Cashmere Wright’s injury in January.  Sean Kilpatrick has been a one man show for the Bearcats, and that hasn’t been a winning formula.  In their recent win over Villanova, Cincinnati was able to find offense from another sourceJaQuon Parker.  Parker averages 10.9 points per game for Cincy, but had been in a bit of a scoring drought before breaking out with 19 points against the Wildcats.  The significance of his contribution was not lost on Mick Cronin: “He’s got to stay aggressive and I’ve got to help him with that. Put him in situations to where he can be aggressive and he’s thinking offense.  He’s thinking attack. For us to win, he’s got to play that way. For us to be a high-level team, he’s got to be a double-figure guy.”
  5. The ballad of Todd Mayo at Marquette has hit frequent rough notes, but he is a rare talent that could become a major asset for Buzz Williams’ squad if kept in check.  Mayo spent the early part of this season on academic suspension, and he has had his playing time cut at points since his return for what many expect is disciplinary reasons.  When Mayo does suit up, he is a dangerous offensive weapon, averaging over 17.5 points per 40 minutes played.  The trouble is, for every double digit game he tallies, he only plays five minutes in another.  There are rumblings that Mayo may not be long for Marquette, but while he is still on the team, they can certainly use him in their race for the top of the Big East.
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Big East M5: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 12th, 2013

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  1. Syracuse and UConn seem to be moving in very different directions as basketball programs on a number of levels. Syracuse is looking for another top-10 finish to the season and a high seed in the Big Dance. UConn, on the other hand, is ineligible for all postseason play. Syracuse is moving on to the ACC, leaving behind the shell of the once-great Big East. UConn was left at the altar, wondering what its next move will be. And this week, like ships passing in the night, Syracuse gained back dynamic sixth-man James Southerland, while UConn will likely be without big man Enosch Wolf after an arrest this week. Wolf was charged with third-degree burglary, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct after refusing to leave a campus apartment and getting in a physical altercation with a female resident at 6:00 AM. According to Kevin Ollie, Wolf has been suspended indefinitely.
  2. When he suffered a sprained ankle in the first half of what would become an epic five-overtime game against Louisville, Pat Connaughton probably didn’t realize how crucial his presence would be. The sophomore returned to the game later and ended up playing 56 minutes and contributing 16 points and 14 rebounds in the hard-fought Irish win. Connaughton probably didn’t feel great about it on Sunday, but luckily for him Notre Dame is off until Wednesday night when the Irish will take on DePaul. Ice up, Pat.
  3. Jim Boeheim is old, you guys, and I guess it works for him. The Hall of Famer has noted on many occasions that he doesn’t own a computer, and apparently he just recently got into this whole “cell phone” business, mostly because of his young kids. However, in a shocking revelation brought on by the constant Syracuse rumor-mongering surrounding the James Southerland situation, we have now learned that Boeheim knows what a blog is! And surprise, surprise — he resents them as much as we all imagined he would!
  4. Pittsburgh had a slow start to the Big East slate this year, and a lot of that derived from a lack of production from vaunted freshman center Steven Adams.  However, in recent weeks Adams has really come along with his offensive production, allowing Pitt to go back to a more traditional inside-out Panthers attack. The post presence of Adams and power forward Talib Zanna allows Jamie Dixon’s offense to harken back to the days where Levance Fields was able to feed DeJuan Blair under the hoop. The recent emergence of Adams and Zanna’s solid production opens things up for guards like Tray Woodall, who had to shoulder much of the scoring load earlier in the year.
  5. Rutgers has probably played better than many expected this season, but its 3-8 conference record doesn’t really reflect it. The Scarlet Knights have been in many close games but have so far failed to contain the opposition’s best player down the stretch. This problem came to pass once again in Saturday’s 69-63 loss to Georgetown. Scoring has been an adventure for the Hoyas all season, but they have been able to get by on the shoulders of star forward Otto Porter, who led the way by scoring 19 points (including 10 of Georgetown’s final 12) and grabbing 14 boards. Good defensive teams can remove a singular threat like Porter, or at least slow him down in crunch time, but Rutgers isn’t quite there yet.
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Big East M5: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 11th, 2013

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  1. So, Mike Brey might be a bit prescient. Before Notre Dame’s epic five-overtime win over Louisville this weekend, the Irish coach showed his team film from great boxing matches as motivation, and made comments comparing the upcoming game to a 15-round bout. Brey may have intended his analogy to allude to Louisville’s frantic, fast-paced style of play that often wears out opponents, but as fate would have it, the game played out in a much more literal fashion. I expect that Brey will discuss first-round knockouts before this Wednesday’s game against DePaul.
  2. Steve Lavin missed St. John’s Sunday loss to Syracuse due to the passing of his father Albert “Cap” Lavin. Lavin and his father were reportedly very close, and Cap had played a part in this St. John’s season earlier this year, when the Red Storm traveled west to take on his alma mater, San Francisco. According to St. John’s assistant Rico Hines, who stepped in for Lavin during his absence in Syracuse, the players took the loss hard, as they had been able to spend time with the elder Lavin this season: “They were sad. They were really sad… Cap was one of those guys that watched every game or listened to it on the radio, and those guys knew that. … They all said they’d say a prayer for him, and we’ll try to play as hard as we can.”
  3. Syracuse’s long national nightmare is (probably) over. Shortly before tip-off against St. John’s Sunday, word leaked out that James Southerland had won his Friday appeal to a university academic panel, and that he’d be ready to play in the game. The re-introduction of Southerland to the team gives the Syracuse offense more potency from three-point range and vastly improves the Orange’s spacing on the floor, allowing guards Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche more room to operate.  Southerland played 26 minutes off the bench against the Red Storm, scoring 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field.
  4. The adjustment to Division I basketball for Pitt’s Steven Adams has been a tough one, and it has apparently had a negative impact on the seven-footer’s NBA Draft stock. Adams’ play has been improving of late, and with his newfound ability, Pitt has been playing inspired basketball. The Panthers have won four of their last five contests, and during that stretch the freshman has averaged a very solid nine points, nine rebounds, and two blocks per game.
  5. Cincinnati hasn’t been a pretty offensive team at all this year – without a significant low post threat like former Bearcat Yancy Gates manning the middle, it is almost entirely up to guards Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright to score in bunches from the outside.  Unfortunately for UC, that two-guard punch has been significantly hampered by a sprain to Wright’s right knee, which he sustained in a January 15 game against DePaul. Since returning from the injury, Wright has only scored in double-figures once, and as a team Cincinnati has averaged under 60 points per game during that stretch.  For a squad without many reliable offensive options, Wright needs to return to form as soon as possible or the Bearcats risk falling further down the Big East standings.
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Morning Five: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 11th, 2013

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  1. The big news of the weekend was the reinstatement of James Southerland. The Syracuse senior had been declared ineligible for what was presumed to be an issue with a term paper from the fall semester. The Orange had managed to keep their head above water without their leading scorer for nearly a month, but Southerland’s probably moves them from a likely Sweet 16 team to a Final Four contender. In his return yesterday against St. John’s, Southerland scored 13 points including three three-pointers, which should come as a welcome relief to Syracuse fans who have missed outside marksmanship (he was still the team’s most prolific three-point shooter even after missing the previous six games).
  2. On Friday we heard about a feature that The New York Times was doing on Jason Williams (we’re a college basketball site so he is still Jason to us just like Kareem is Lew Alcindor around these parts) and expected it to be an interesting read, but never expected it to be quite as in-depth and revealing as what was published. For those of you who forgot or might have been too young to remember (writing that that makes us feel so old), Williams was one of the best college basketball players of the past decade and that is even counting the one-and-dones. When he was at his best he was as dominant a force at guard as you will see (just ask USC, Maryland, or Kentucky fans about that). After Williams essentially ended his career with a motorcycle accident he disappeared from the public eye before reemerging as a college basketball analyst for ESPN. The article does a great job detailing what happened during that period including a suicide attempt by Williams.
  3. In a drop in valuation that would make MySpace investors blush the latest reports indicate that the Big East is set to agree upon a six-year deal with NBC Sports worth $20-23 million per year, which doesn’t sound too bad until you consider that they had been seeking a $300 million per year deal from ESPN, which the network not surprisingly declined. That offer may have been ridiculous, but it is amusing to note that the conference turned down a $1.17 billion offer for nine years from ESPN, which would have worked out to $13.8 million for football schools and $2.43 million for non-football schools compared to the $3.12 million and $1.5 million for the two groups respectively now. To pour a little salt in the wound, the so-called Catholic 7 are reportedly looking at a deal worth $30-40 million per year from Fox Sports depending on how many teams they add to the conference.
  4. Speaking of the Catholic 7 and the Big East we didn’t think it was possible, but it looks like they may have a somewhat amicable split as both sides are agreeing to separate following the 2013-14 season. We expected that to be the date that they split, but it sounds much cleaner than we expected to be. We guess this means that people will still pretend that the Big East is a relevant conference for another year although the big moves from the conference (Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville, and Notre Dame) are already set in motion so this move is really delaying the inevitable.
  5. After winning their first two games in the SEC it is possible that Mississippi State fans got their hopes up. Unfortunately those two wins may have been the highlight of their season as they lost their next seven SEC games before suspending junior guard Jalen Steele indefinitely for violating undisclosed team rules. [Ed. Note: They lost their eighth straight on Saturday against Florida.] Steele, who missed eight of the team’s games earlier this season with a broken wrist, was among the team’s leading scorers (one of the few positives for the Bulldogs is they have a balanced scoring attack with seven players averaging between 7.8 and 10.5 points per game). Normally we would say the loss of a player of Steele’s caliber would be a big loss, but in the case of Mississippi State they don’t have much further to fall.
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Can Syracuse Still Win the Big East Without James Southerland?

Posted by mlemaire on February 6th, 2013

We won’t know for sure whether James Southerland‘s season is done or not until Friday but there are some who feel that allegations that Southerland had a tutor write his term papers will be too much for the university to overlook and Southerland’s Syracuse career will come to an ignominious end. At first the Orange didn’t seem to be affected by Southerland’s absence, continuing their winning streak and rising to the top of the conference standings. But in the last two weeks Syracuse has looked vulnerable and back-to-back losses to Villanova and Pittsburgh have left the Orange just a half-game ahead of Marquette, causing some fans to wonder whether the lack of Southerland’s scoring punch and defense are finally catching up to Jim Boeheim‘s club.

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Jim Boeheim Knows The Importance Of James Southerland On His Team’s NCAA Tournament Chances

The team got back to its winning ways with an easy home rout of Notre Dame on Monday but in the long-term the question remains — can Syracuse win what is sure to be a hotly contested Big East title race without the services of their senior sixth-man? The team obviously remains in excellent position as the schedule heads into the home stretch but the team also has four games against ranked opponents left on the schedule and can ill-afford a regression to mediocrity at this point. But is Southerland’s absence really the difference-maker for the Orange, or are the team’s struggles rooted in something else?

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Big East M5: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 6th, 2013

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  1. Providence hasn’t been relevant in basketball in a long time and this season has been no exception. The popular argument seems to be that in order for Ed Cooley to turn the program around, he needs the entire team to buy in to his plan. The point is a good one as the Friars have arguably as much pure talent on their roster as any other team in the conference yet still can’t put anything together. The evidence of such issues is pretty damning actually. Transfer Sidiki Johnson took a voluntary leave of absence from the team recently and two of the program’s best players, LaDontae Henton and Vincent Council, both sat to start the Connecticut game because of issues with Cooley — and you know Ricardo Ledo doesn’t care about the long-term success of the program given his recent comments about considering the NBA. Ledo is the only one with a decent excuse since it isn’t his fault he has to sit out this season, but Johnson has set new records for using up good will wherever he goes and this is hardly the first issue Council has created because of his cavalier attitude. The article is right. Cooley can stockpile the most impressive collection of basketball talent on the Eastern Seaboard and it won’t matter unless he can get the whole team to buy in to what he is selling. Until then, Providence is going to be a program that produces a few NBA players without ever winning many college games.
  2. Yes, it is just the ranting of an angry fan, but there was already plenty of buzz around the topic of whether DePaul should fire head coach Oliver Purnell and that buzz has only grown louder after the Blue Demons were embarrassed on their home court last night by a mediocre Villanova team. The loss came on the heels of two hard-fought overtime losses last week but it was also the seventh-straight defeat for Purnell’s club, which really hasn’t shown much improvement now in his third year at the helm. The school paid Purnell handsomely to spurn Clemson in the hopes that he would come in and rebuild a once proud program. Instead, his lack of ties to Chicago have hurt him in recruiting and, never one to be mistaken for a strategy whiz, Purnell’s team consistently blows winnable games and is often obviously outplayed. No matter how the team finishes this season, Purnell probably deserves to watch his first recruiting class graduate and if the team’s best players, Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, don’t do something silly like enter the NBA Draft, it could be the best and deepest club Purnell has coached in Chicago. But if he can’t make it work next season with a solid recruiting class and a host of returning talent, I wouldn’t bet on him making it through another full season unscathed.
  3. With questions swirling about whether super-sub James Southerland‘s season is done, the good folks at Troy Nunes Is A Magician took a quick look at why the program’s fans hate freshman guard Trevor Cooney so much. The article does a fine job of examining the issue on its own so there is no need to rehash everything, but we will say that if Southerland is deemed ineligible for the rest of the season, ‘Cuse fans better get used to seeing Cooney because head coach Jim Boeheim doesn’t have a whole lot else to work with. Would it be nice if Cooney shot better than 29 percent from behind the three-point arc and played better perimeter defense? Of course it would. But we are talking about a redshirt freshman who is receiving inconsistent minutes and still hasn’t found his range yet. Don’t get us wrong, heading into the NCAA Tournament with Cooney as our sixth man would make us nervous too, but let’s cut him some slack and give him another year or two before ‘Cuse fans angrily try to run him out of town.
  4. We have confirmation of some “needed wake-up call” talk down in Louisville where Cardinals players speaking to the media stopped just short of calling their three-game losing streak a good thing because it let the team know that letdowns wouldn’t cut it. While there is still no supporting evidence to convince me that losing three important conference games in a row is a good thing, the argument works well with a team like Louisville. Advanced metrics and eyeballs tell you that Louisville is as complete a team as there is in the country and certainly a viable national championship contender. Seeding is important and a three-game losing streak obviously has an effect on that, but if the Cardinals actually learn from their struggles and are able to maintain intensity and focus for the rest of the season, then maybe I will start buying more of the talk  about these “moral victories” and “wake-up calls.”
  5. File this under someone should probably tell Larry Brown there is no Santa Claus either, as the famous first-year coach at SMU is still holding out hope that the Big East as it currently stands will stick together for another year or two, long enough for the Mustangs to get a taste of the conference. It is possible that the Catholic 7 will be forced to play out their contracts with the Big East, but it is more likely that after some legal wrangling, the Big East gets paid and the Catholic 7 jumps ship sooner and starts collecting checks from their supposedly impending television deal. The 72-year-old Brown seems to just now be coming to grips with all of the conference realignment and you can assume by his assertion that it is “ruining every other sport” other than football that he is not at all a fan. We don’t disagree with Brown, we just think it might be time to get with the picture and realize that the Big East that SMU enters will not look the same as the Big East that SMU thought it had signed up for.
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Big East M5: 02.05.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 5th, 2013

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  1. Last night’s game between Syracuse and Notre Dame featured two top-25 teams jostling for position in the conference standings, but it also was the first and maybe the only time the Grant brothers–Jerian and Jerami–will get to play against each other in college. This will be the only meeting between the two teams this season and with Syracuse set to leave for the ACC posthaste,  who knows when the next time these two teams will play unless they meet in the Big East Tournament. The brothers are apparently quite close and Jerami even credits his older brother with making sure he didn’t give up when he wasn’t getting playing time early in the season. Jerami and his Orange repaid the older brother by throttling his Fighting Irish. Jerian may have scored more (15 to 14) but Jerami added six rebounds and two assists as Syracuse cruised to a 63-47 win.
  2. Pittsburgh finally got itself a marquee win over the weekend against Syracuse and then avoided the obvious letdown by beating Seton Hall last night for its sixth win in seven games. The Panthers tried their best to let Seton Hall beat them, shooting a season-low 34 percent from the field, but Pirates’ star Fuquan Edwin got hurt in a one-point game and Pitt managed to pull away thanks to its depth and its defense. Seton Hall is headed for a finish near the bottom of the conference, but the win was still huge since the Panthers will play three ranked teams over the course of the next nine days.
  3. The end of the James Southerland saga is now in sight according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports who cited a source to say Southerland’s eligibility appeal will be held Friday. Counting the game last night against Notre Dame, Southerland has missed six games and the team has gone 4-2 in his absence but surely Syracuse fans are excited to get one of their most dynamic offensive players back on the floor. Grant and Trevor Cooney were able-bodied replacements but they lack the scoring punch and athleticism of Southerland. The appeal is being heard by the university and assuming it is granted, the Orange could have Southerland back in uniform as soon as Sunday’s game against St. John’s. But few people know the severity of Southerland’s academic transgressions and even fewer will know the nature of the appeal, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves quite yet.
  4. It has been a good past few weeks for Cincinnati and coach Mick Cronin. The Bearcats have won five of their last six and currently sit just a half-game behind Syracuse in the conference standings. They also recently secured one of the more high-profile recruits of the Cronin era when the Bearcats landed New Jersey native and five-star forward Jermaine Lawrence on Sunday. Lawrence is an athletic power forward with plenty of face-up skills and decent range. He will need to add some meat to his bones but he has the frame to add serious muscle and could make an immediate impact in terms of floor-spacing and natural ability. Perhaps more importantly is that it signifies that Cronin can recruit with the big boys and once he is able to do that with consistency, the Bearcats will be a perennial contender no matter what happens to the Big East.
  5. Steve Lavin has St. John‘s playing tough basketball, which is why freshman point guard Jamal Branch‘s knee injury and presumed sprained MCL is especially inopportune. Branch has been up and down since becoming eligible,  but recently he has been a spark plug for the Johnnies and the team is 5-1 since being inserted into the starting lineup. The Red Storm don’t really have a true backup for Branch and will likely use a combination of Marc Bourgalt and Phil Greene IV at the point in Branch’s absence. Hopefully Branch isn’t out long because while Lavin’s club doesn’t quite have the look of a tournament team, they are headed in that direction in a hurry.
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Big East M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 1st, 2013

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  1. The U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association released its Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List yesterday, which featured Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and Louisville’s Russ Smith. The Big Ten placed four players on the list, followed by the Big East and Big 12 with two apiece. The award, which recognizes the best player in college basketball each season, hasn’t been claimed by a Big East player since St. John’s Walter Berry won it in 1986. While Carter was a consensus 4/5-star recruit with NBA prospects coming out of high school, the recognition denotes a long three-year journey for Smith, who was hardly even evaluated by national scouting services out of high school.
  2. Syracuse forward James Southerland will get an opportunity to appeal his recent academic suspension before a university panel next week, but not before missing two more games. Jim Boeheim’s leading three-point shooter will sit out for upcoming bouts at Pitt and at home against Notre Dame. But in light of DaJuan Coleman’s recent knee injury, Southerland’s presence under the basket might be missed most of all: The two combine to average 9.5 rebounds per game. The Orange bench will only go seven deep for at least two pivotal games, but at least for Syracuse fans there’s a definite possibility that Southerland could return this season.
  3. Speaking of timetables, Rick Pitino revealed during his weekly radio show yesterday that there’s a chance Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware could both return for Sunday’s game with Marquette. Blackshear (sprained shoulder) and Ware (“indefinite” suspension) both practiced yesterday for the first time this week. Blackshear was expected to recover from his injury this week, but news of Ware re-entering Pitino’s good graces came as a surprise to Louisville fans. He seemed firmly and perhaps irrevocably planted in the doghouse after the Pitt game, when his coach claimed he “isn’t coming back anytime soon.” We’re left to wonder what exactly it was that Ware did, but Pitino indicated it wasn’t an egregious offense like drug use.
  4. Though outrebounded by a Big East-record 55-24 margin, UConn managed to outduel Providence on the road in overtime last night, 82-79. It was a war of attrition Ryan Boatright claims last year’s Huskies would have surrendered: “Last year’s team, when it got tough like that, when they made all those runs, we would have folded.” Jeff Jacobs at The Hartford Courant outlines a strong argument that the Big East members’ agreement to exclude the Huskies from the conference tournament looks increasingly disingenuous as league members disperse to greener pastures. “It’s too bad all those schools that are fleeing the conference sit in judgment of UConn. At this point, the only schools that should count are Cincinnati, South Florida and the schools that are coming in to be part of the Big East’s future.”
  5. They may be sitting in third place in the league standings with a 6-3 record, but Steve Lavin recognizes his St. John’s team is “still a work in progress.” Despite two impressive wins over ranked teams in the top half of the conference, the Red Storm have narrowly avoided upset against their last two inferior opponents and the meat of their schedule undeniably lies ahead of them. Lavin’s players are well aware of the criticism and seem excited for an opportunity to make a statement against another hot team. Said D’Angelo Harrison, “Teams are probably still doubting us because if you look at our schedule we’ve played the bottom half of the league. We’re looking to prove ourselves at Georgetown next.”
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Big East M5: 01.30.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 30th, 2013

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  1. The recognitions continue to roll in for Villanova sophomore Darrun Hilliard, who was named Player of the Week by the US Basketball Writers Association a day after the folks in Providence pegged him as its Big East Player of the Week. It’s a significant national distinction: Hilliard joins Victor Rudd (December 23) as the only Big East players to earn the honor this season.
  2. After watching the Villanova loss in which Louisville’s Chane Behanan struggled to handle a couple of passes down the stretch, his brother made an unconventional suggestion to improve his coordination: juggling lessons. Behanan gave Chip Cosby of Louisville’s cn|2 Sports a glimpse of his juggling baseline. Maybe he’s being tongue-in-cheek, but Cardinals fans should feel encouraged that Behanan plainly acknowledges his recent problem clutching the ball and is striving to improve.
  3. At 1-7 in the Big East, South Florida is squarely in last place in the league standings heading into February. Moreover, they’re averaging fewer points per game than all but 44 teams in Division I, and they haven’t eclipsed 70 points since before Christmas. Collin Sherwin at Voodoo Five tries to diagnose what’s right and wrong with Stan Heath’s offense right now. His conclusions are, in a word, bleak: “You can’t run a pick-and-roll if you don’t have anyone that can roll to the rim effectively. You can pick-and-pop, but our perimeter shooters aren’t exactly known for their quick triggers… And we really don’t have anyone (besides Collins) that can put the ball on the deck and get into the teeth of the defense.”
  4. Substantial Syracuse freshman Dajuan Coleman underwent knee surgery yesterday that will keep him off the court for four weeks. With Coleman rehabbing and James Southerland benched for a while, Jim Boeheim is left with only seven scholarship players. Syracuse’s enviable depth is suddenly a thing of the past, and Brent Axe at the (Syracuse) Post-Standard points out Coleman’s injury is just one of a series of mid- and late-season big man casualties for the program. Nonetheless, Axe questions how much of a substantive impact the loss of Coleman will have on Syracuse: “Coleman may start every game, but has barely been used by Jim Boeheim in game situations that matter.” It will be interesting to see whether the coaching staff elects to slide Rakeem Christmas to center or start backup five-man Baye Keita. The Orange have several days to deliberate this issue as they look to rebound from the Villanova loss against Pitt on Saturday.
  5. It’s not all doom and gloom in upstate New York, as CJ Fair was entrusted with the official Syracuse Athletics Twitter account yesterday, to the great benefit of humanity. CJ apparently liked Django and believes he’s the ‘Cuse player most likely to win the Hunger Games. No profound insights, but his blunt economy of language is what really made the cameo entertaining:
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Big East M5: 01.25.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 25th, 2013

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  1. In the words of the immortal Roseanne Roseannadanna, “it’s always something” with Syracuse basketball. This year’s something — or second something on the heels of Michael Carter-Williams Lord & Taylor mishap — is the current academic ineligibility of James Southerland. Details and rumors have been leaking out around the Internet, as they are wont to do in circumstances like this, and new information from Jim Boeheim seems to give credence to one of them“He’s a senior, he has worked hard to be in school, to stay in school – he has worked hard on and off the court. He had a great semester last fall academically. I am hoping that through the process you have to go through that he will be able to come back.” There has been speculation that Southerland’s issues may stem from a fraudulent term paper which is being investigated by the NCAA. While there is always the chance that the NCAA discovers that the NCAA wrote Southerland’s paper and that the NCAA will now impose sanctions on the NCAA, most Syracuse fans aren’t too optimistic about the situation.
  2. Louisville‘s been in this spot before. After running through a huge chunk of its schedule with one blemish against their record, the Cardinals have dropped two straight, the latter being a heart-breaker at the hands of Villanova in Philadelphia. The 2010-11 Cardinals lost to a much stronger Villanova team at the time, but the feelings are the same as they were a few seasons ago – something must change. That team found its leadership in Preston Knowles, who rallied the team following the loss to ‘Nova and led them to the NCAA Tournament. This squad does not have a Knowles to lean on, but it does have a number of experienced veterans who have plenty of wins under their belt. If any team is equipped to handle a down spell, it is probably Louisville. I don’t think this year’s squad will be falling to any #13 seeds in March either.
  3. Many have complained about the Big East scheduling this season and it is justified criticism, but UConn and Shabazz Napier are currently the benefactor of some serious time off. Napier had been playing with an injured shoulder and was not able to provide what UConn needs from its star, and as a result the Huskies dropped two games. After a week of rest, UConn takes on Rutgers at the XL Center Sunday, and Napier should be in much better shape than he has been over the last few weeks.
  4. Speaking of Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights are in a bit of a quandary when it comes to Eli Carter. He is one of the team’s only reliable scorers and the offense suffers without him on the floor, but Carter has gone absolutely ice cold and shot the Knights out of the game on multiple occasions this season. Scorers will go through droughts, and staying aggressive is one way to get through them, but having multiple one-field goal games is unacceptable. The Star-Ledger‘s Brendon Prunty believes that Carter should come off the bench as a spark plug for Rutgers if he cannot be the consistent scorer in the starting lineup that he was expected to be.
  5. Despite recent success, Cincinnati is a long way from selling out Fifth Third Arena on a regular basis, but an increase in student turnout has helped create a spike in attendance from last season. Cincy moved from an assigned seat to a general admission student model that many schools use, set up a loyalty rewards program, and has implemented some creative marketing to help drive student turnout. However, the biggest factor is the team’s success, according to athletic director Whit Babcock: “We’re not satisfied until every game is sold out, but I like the steps that we’ve taken. Mick and the team should get the bulk of the credit.”
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