Big East Evening Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 28th, 2012

  1. We missed yesterday, so you are getting a double dose of Big East news this morning because we feel bad. We start with the scouting report on Louisville, based on the opinions of opposing coaches, and put together by the good folks at CBS Sports. The information isn’t exactly new if you have been following the Cardinals all season. Take care of the ball against their press, try to slow down their transition attack, keep Peyton Siva out of the lane, and you will have an excellent chance of winning the game. The good news for Kentucky is, that their defense is so good, Louisville should only be able to score in transition and off of turnovers. So assuming that Marquis Teague can handle the press, and assuming Kentucky’s athletes get back and set up defensively, they should be able to handle the Cardinals with relative ease.
  2. You didn’t think we were going to make it a whole week without a borderline insane story about the fervent passion of Louisville and Kentucky fans did you? In fact, we didn’t even make it through half the week before news broke that two fans got into a fight while awaiting treatment at a dialysis center. You really can’t make this stuff up. If you want to look on the bright side, this is part of what makes college sports so awesome. It may be a wild generalization, but fans of professional sports teams don’t care half as much about their teams as these folks in the Bluegrass State. And the passion for Alabama and Auburn football is on an entirely different level. I am setting the over/under on the breaking of more crazy stories like this at two, which won’t count fallout from the outcome of the game, which is sure to bring out only the best in both team’s fan bases.
  3. In predictable and also understandable fashion, the media has jumped all over the “hated rivals” storyline. Luckily, there is only one columnist angry enough to really put perspective on the whole rivalry, and that is noted flame-fanner Gregg Doyel. His column isn’t long, and it doesn’t make any profound points, but it does succinctly sum up just how insane this game will be.
  4.  The list of Big East players headed to the NBA Draft continued to swell yesterday as Georgetown forward Hollis Thompson announced he would forgo his senior season and hire an agent. Thompson tested the waters last season before withdrawing his name and from the looks of John Thompson III‘s comments, this decision is hardly surprising. The real question is whether Thompson will end up drafted. I understand the move, because his stock isn’t likely to rise dramatically even if he has an excellent senior season, but right now he looks like he will need to get lucky to stick with a team. He does have the skill set and size to be an NBA small forward, but he hardly dominated collegiate competition, so how can he be expected to make an impact at the next level?
  5. Our pal Jeff Goodman over at CBS Sports has released his initial transfer list and there are some interesting names worth noting. First, the list is what alerted me to the news that Notre Dame guard Alex Dragicevich is transferring out of South Bend, a blow to Mike Brey’s program which was going to rely more heavily on his outside shooting next season. The list also reminded me of one of the more interesting Final Four storylines and that is that Louisville forward Jared Swopshire already announced he won’t be back next season, but for now he is playing meaningful minutes on a team eyeing a national championship. Thanks to playing time and the scholarship numbers game, Swopshire will be looking for a new home. But for now, we are sure he is relishing the position he is in.
  6. Speaking of Goodman and transfers out of the Big East, soon after the list was published, Goodman tweeted that Providence sophomore Gerard Coleman was a likely candidate to transfer out of the program. Assuming Vincent Council stays in school and both highly touted freshman guards arrive on campus in time for next season, the Friars’ backcourt was looking awfully crowded. But if Coleman does indeed transfer, coach Ed Cooley loses quite the luxury. Coleman’s play tailed off in the second half of the season, but he is a quality scorer and is physical enough to give Cooley a legitimately dangerous three-guard lineup. On the other hand, his departure will open up more playing time for Ricardo Ledo and Kris Dunn, which can really only be a good thing, assuming the duo is as good as advertised.
  7. As an unabashedly biased Villanova fan, I have spent a good deal of words explaining that Wildcats’ guard Maalik Wayns would be silly to enter the NBA Draft this season, so it’s only logical that Wayns made it final recently, announcing plans to hire an agent and forgo his senior season on the Main Line. Look, players enter the draft for a litany of reasons, so saying he made a stupid decision without knowing his true reasons is rather presumptuous of me. That said, Wayns is looking like a second-round pick at best, and a great senior season probably could have given his draft stock a much-needed shot in the arm. Despite his penchant for taking terrible shots and making questionable decisions, Wayns would have been a huge help to ‘Nova’s rebuilding efforts next season, but now they will need to look elsewhere for that leadership.
  8. Not everyone in West Virginia is spitting on the Big East on their way out the door. Charleston Gazette columnist Mitch Vingle penned a letter to Big East basketball that reads like a breakup letter from a guy who is already regretting the split. He uses some personal reflections mixed with classic personalities from the conference to show plenty of awesome things about the conference and its rich basketball history. The sad thing is, the Big East will miss West Virginia too. Yes, of course they will miss their football tradition and revenue, but the Mountaineers are a quality basketball program, and no amount of SMU and Central Florida will change that. The Mountaineers made their choice, choosing money over tradition, and now so many of us will be left to cling to memories that may never happen again.
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The Ultimate Breakdown: Kentucky vs. Louisville

Posted by zhayes9 on March 27th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

The hysteria leading up to Saturday’s Louisville-Kentucky national semifinal will be unprecedented.

The mutual loathing between legends John Calipari and Rick Pitino is only matched by the contempt between the two fan bases. Such a passionate and deep-seeded rivalry playing out on the grandest of stages is tantalizing to even the most casual observer. But once the smoke clears and the ball is tipped, those juicy storylines all become secondary, fading into the background with the hype and frenzy. Suddenly all that’s relevant is Peyton Siva’s speed, Kyle Kuric’s smooth jumper, Anthony Davis’ shot-blocking and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the open floor.

For the lowdown on what to expect from the biggest basketball game in the history of the commonwealth, here’s a full-fledged Dr. Jack-style breakdown covering every aspect of Saturday’s opener:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist celebrating Kentucky's regional final win

Backcourt- It’s no accident that Peyton Siva’s remarkable late-season turnaround has coincided with Louisville’s spurt from a seventh place finish in the Big East to the Final Four in New Orleans. Russ Smith is an irrepressible, confident ball stopper just as prone to a mindless turnover as he to is scoring 10 points in the blink of an eye. Siva and Smith provide the engine to Louisville’s attack, while athletic two-guard Chris Smith and long-range marksman Kyle Kuric are Pitino’s steady cogs. Kentucky’s Achilles heel was long considered freshman point Marquis Teague, but he’s significantly cut down on his turnovers and can pack an unexpected scoring punch. Doron Lamb is a superior gunner to Kuric, shooting a fantastic 47% over his career from three. Look for Calipari to plug versatile swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on Siva to stifle the Cardinals’ offense. Kidd-Gilchrist is a standout defender and the best collegiate player in transition since Derrick Rose. Edge: Kentucky.

Frontcourt- The progression of Louisville center Gorgui Dieng from a raw, bungling, and clumsy big man to a premier post defender and competent scoring threat in just two seasons has been nothing short of incredible. The popular crutch that freshmen are sophomores by the time March rolls around is often untrue, but it applies in the case of Chane Behanan, a gifted offensive rebounder who will be asked to contain Terrence Jones. When Jones is engaged, active and filling up the stat sheet, Kentucky is unstoppable. Anthony Davis has had an OK year: number one high school recruit, starting center for top-ranked Kentucky, national freshman of the year, likely national player of the year, and future top overall pick in the NBA Draft. Only North Carolina can come close to matching Kentucky’s weaponry down low. Edge: Kentucky.

Bench- Neither team extends very deep into their bench, yet both boast a de facto starter in Russ Smith and Darius Miller. At just 38% from two and 31% from three, Smith isn’t exactly the pillar of efficiency, but for a team that didn’t finish in the top 100 in offensive efficiency and scored less than 60 points in five of their final six conference games, Pitino will gladly accept the good with the bad (per Luke Winn, Pitino likes to say Smith “makes coffee nervous”). Any coach in America would love to have Darius Miller on their team, a steady wing defender equally adept at attacking off the dribble or firing from deep. Louisville steady defender Jared Swopshire and Kentucky pick-and-pop threat Kyle Wiltjer also see limited time off the pine. Slight Edge: Louisville.

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RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • The Realignment Circus Continues: The latest blow to the Big East came just recently as West Virginia was accepted into the Big 12. That leaves the Big East with 13 basketball schools remaining and a handful of others (football schools) desperately trying to flee the sinking ship. Commissioner John Marinatto has said he is committed to holding Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia to the 27-month notice provision in the conference’s bylaws but one has to wonder if a financial settlement will be worked out in order to expedite the transition and move the conference into rebuilding mode. It’s going to be quite awkward if these three schools remain in the league until 2014. All of the current Big East members should eventually find a stable home in one form or another, but the days of Big East basketball as we know it will soon come to an end. Enjoy the 2011-12 season because it just might be the last year of this remarkable 16-team behemoth.
  • How Many Bids This Year?: After sending a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament last year, can the Big East reach that mark again? That seems unlikely but you never know how things will truly play out. I’d say there are ten contenders for NCAA bids and to make 11 you would need all of those teams plus one of the three New York City-area schools to have a wildly successful year and snatch a bid. The Big East is quite possibly the best conference in the land yet again but 11 NCAA teams is far-fetched. Eight or nine bids this season would seem to be much more realistic.
  • Can Connecticut Repeat?: The technical answer is yes but it will be extremely tough to do. There’s a reason only two teams have gone back-to-back in the last 20 years. College basketball is as deep as ever in terms of talent and quality teams, plus there’s someone missing from last year’s Connecticut team. Kemba Walker is now in the NBA and, despite Jim Calhoun’s impressive recruiting haul, there is a major leadership void to be filled. This team is stocked with talent but Walker was a one-of-a-kind leader who took complete control in Maui and parlayed that into a way of life for the rest of the season. Jeremy Lamb figures to take control but remember how young this group is. They’ll get better as the season progresses and may even win the Big East but when the chips are down in the NCAA Tournament, they won’t be able to call on Kemba and that’s why I feel they will not repeat.

Calhoun Won't Have His Mr. Everything Around This Season

  • Cautious Optimism at Georgetown, Villanova and West Virginia: These traditional powers lose a lot of talent and figure to be lodged in the middle of the conference. All three programs return key cogs but the departures of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, Casey Mitchell, John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla leave more questions than answers. These teams all need someone to step up and become a deep shooting threat while maintaining a low post presence. Guards win in college basketball but you also have to be able to rebound and score inside occasionally. Hollis Thompson, Mouphtaou Yarou and Deniz Kilicli must become better all-around post men if their respective teams hope to make the NCAA Tournament. At 6’7”, 205 lbs., Thompson isn’t one to bang with the big guys but he’s going to have to score in the paint at times. Each team has a nice recruiting class coming in, but it’s up to the returning players to make the ultimate difference.
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Around The Blogosphere: January 12, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on January 12th, 2011


If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • #13 Kentucky 78, Auburn 54: “This was one of those home games that went the way you expected to.  One thing this Kentucky team has shown it can do is beat teams they are supposed to beat.  That’s what they did tonight.” (A Sea of Blue)
  • #14 Texas 83, Texas Tech 52: “The ‘Horns showed no signs of a hangover from the last second overtime loss to Connecticut last Saturday. Texas dominated the Red Raiders from start to finish, especially on the defensive end, and improved to 12-1 under Rick Barnes in conference openers.” (Burnt Orange Nation)
  • Penn State 57, #15 Illinois 55: “Is it worse to be surprised by a let down loss, at the hands of one of the most exciting and murdersome players in Big Ten history, or is worse to have seen in coming from miles away, and been unable to stop it, screaming and flailing like a Cassandra in  your living room. I think I can safely say it is worse to be the latter.” (Hail to the Orange)

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Morning Five: 01.12.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2011

  1. Rick Pitino confirmed in yesterday’s news conference that Louisville forward Jared Swopshire will miss the rest of this season with a groin injury.  The senior has missed the entire season already and would probably be eligible for a redshirt should he choose to pursue one.  Pitino said the problem is that he’s simply not getting any better and it appears that he will require surgery to repair this injury.  In some other injury news, Virginia confirmed that Mike Scott will miss the remainder of its season because he also needs surgery to repair his left ankle.  Scott played in ten games in November/December and was UVa’s top scorer and rebounder in those games.  The senior is right on the eligibility cutoff for a medical redshirt next season, so let’s cross our fingers that he doesn’t have to finish his collegiate career with a broken season.
  2. This report from Percy Allen, the Washington beat writer for the Seattle Times, has a few additional details about the allegation of sexual assault involving a Husky player over the weekend, but it does not name the player nor will the team hold anyone out of practice or games at this point in time.  The article notes that the players are off limits to the press at this time and gives additional details as to the alleged incident.  There are no winners in a situation like this, but if it turns out that the story is true, we certainly hope that justice is served.
  3. You’ve waited for it all year, and it’s back.  Luke Winn’s 2010-11 Style Guide.  From the Reeves Sleeve to Scotty Hopson’s “Fresh Prince” high fade to Marcus Jordan’s accessories, it’s all there.  One of our favorite columns of the year, by far.
  4. Seth Davis’ Hoop Thoughts from Monday has quite a bit more meat from his interview with NCAA president Mark Emmert over the weekend.  Davis hinted at the primary weakness that the NCAA’s enforcement folks have in the public view right now, and Emmert seems to fail to understand the depth of the problem.  When asked about a seeming inconsistency in the organization’s recent decisions and punishments, Emmert’s response was that these cases (Cam Newton, Ohio State, Renardo Sidney, Josh Selby) were “very different cases with very different facts.”  Undoubtedly true.  We know that the NCAA isn’t a court of law and we don’t have an NCAA version of Lexis/WestLaw to research all the case law pertaining to each situation; but the NCAA needs to establish a core set of transparent jurisprudential guidelines beyond the enigmatic rulebook so that schools and players will have a reasonable basis to know what to expect.  As it stands now, every enforcement proceeding appears to be decided on a “case-by-case” basis, which ultimately means that the guidelines shift so much in the aggregate that nobody can figure out just where the bright lines are.  When Emmert refers to people being “shocked” by a decision on Enes Kanter’s ineligibility, he’s making the same mistake in that he’s looking at the individual facts of that case in a vacuum.  He’s not considering that other, similar cases were decided differently, and the justification needed to distinguish between all of these cases has become downright impossible to discern.  That is what is bothering most people… not the Kanter decision itself (only Kentucky fans care about that).
  5. Jeff Goodman hooks us up with his constantly-evolving midseason transfer list.  Ole Miss appears to be the big winner thus far with the addition of Jelan Kendrick next season; that is, assuming that he doesn’t try to fight everyone on the roster prior to becoming eligible next December.
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Set Your Tivo: 12.31.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 31st, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

A really good schedule awaits college basketball fans today on your New Year’s Eve. The Battle of the Bluegrass gets things going right away with an early noon tip, a game tailor made for Gus Johnson. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#12 Kentucky @ Louisville — 12 pm on CBS (*****)

Louisville will be shorthanded in this game but is favored according to the Vegas odds. The Cardinals, still without Jared Swopshire, will also be missing the services of Rakeem Buckles and Mike Marra this afternoon. Still, this is a game you must watch with Gus Johnson on the call. It is a unique rivalry that doesn’t get enough press and has only heated up with the addition of John Calipari and the switch of Rick Pitino from Kentucky blue to Louisville red. It started almost 100 years ago in 1913 but the teams have only met 41 times prior to today with Kentucky holding a 27-14 edge. These teams did not meet for 24 years from 1959 until an elite eight NCAA Tournament game on March 26, 1983. They have met every year since then with UK leading 18-11 in the modern era. One interesting fact is that Kentucky has never failed to win at least two games in a row after winning one throughout the entire history of this series. With the Wildcats on a one game winning streak entering the game today, that statistic, though ultimately meaningless, would suggest a UK win. Expect this game to feature a lot of threes, a big part of each team’s offense. Kentucky actually has five guys who can knock down a triple, much more than the average team. Doron Lamb and Preston Knowles are the big shooters for their respective teams with Lamb being the better of the two so far this year. The freshman has connected on 54% of his treys including a seven for eight performance against Winthrop, a large part of Kentucky’s #13 three point percentage. Knowles is Louisville’s leading scorer and a good defender who teams with Peyton Siva to really disrupt opponents on the defensive end. That will be a big factor against Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight, averaging almost four turnovers per game. Rick Pitino loves the zone press so expect a lot of trapping and aggressive on-ball defense from the Cardinals, trying to get Knight out of a rhythm and make him turnover-prone. As a whole, Kentucky takes remarkably good care of the ball with only 11 turnovers as a team. Calipari needs a good point guard to run his dribble drive offense and Knight is often the key to their success. He had an awful game in a loss to Connecticut and fouled out after committing six turnovers in UK’s loss to North Carolina. In the front court, Kentucky has the best player on the floor in Terrence Jones. The 6’8 freshman can score from almost anywhere on the floor and uses his superior athleticism effectively to create space. Another T.J., Terrence Jennings, has to have a good game defensively for Louisville. He’s a good shot blocker and must neutralize Jones inside. Despite their reliance on the three pointer, the Cardinals get a lot of points inside as well, the seventh best two point shooting team in the country. With Buckles out however, Louisville may turn even more towards the trey in order to win. Kentucky lacks a true scoring center as Josh Harrellson rebounds well but doesn’t look to score much, attempting just four field goals per game. Expect Kyle Kuric to step up in the absence of Marra and Buckles. He’s played more minutes lately and scored 25 points against Morgan State on Monday. Quite simply, this game is going to be a war. The fans hate each other, the coaches do too and even the players got into it right away last year. Most rivalry games are close and despite Louisville’s personnel issues, we expect this one to be as well. However, depth could rear its ugly head if the Cardinals get into foul trouble. Louisville fouls a lot and Pitino has to ensure that doesn’t become an issue. Even though they’re on the road, Kentucky is the better team and has to get the edge here. Take the Wildcats and the points today.

#13 Minnesota @ #18 Michigan State – 4 pm on Big Ten Network (****)

A critical game for both teams, the loser will face some tough questions going forward. With a loss today, Minnesota faces the real possibility of starting Big Ten play at 1-3 with a game at Ohio State next Sunday and Indiana in between. Michigan State would drop to 8-5 overall with a loss today, making Monday’s game at Northwestern a huge one for the Spartans. For Tom Izzo’s team, the three point line is critical in this matchup. Minnesota doesn’t defend it well at all (#260) and the Spartans shoot 40% behind a trio of capable long range bombers. Durrell Summers leads Michigan State in scoring and is arguably their best shooter from deep while Kalin Lucas and Korie Lucious can also knock down the trifecta. Tubby Smith likes to play a zone but that may hurt the Gophers in this matchup. Unless Minnesota extends their defense beyond the line, Michigan State can easily shoot right over it. Of course when you extend a zone there will be holes inside. Minnesota’s big men must lay down the law in the paint and force MSU to beat them from the outside. A strong defensive game will really limit the Spartans offensively and turn this into a rebounding battle, one Minnesota should feel confident in their ability to win. Michigan State has not been a vintage Izzo team in terms of defense and rebounding, a bad sign against a tall and talented Minnesota team. Trevor Mbakwe could be deadly against the Spartans today with his quickness and long arms around the tin. With Mbakwe inside and Blake Hoffarber outside, the Gophers will keep Michigan State on their toes all game long. Al Nolen must play better for Minnesota. Wisconsin shut him down on Tuesday night held the Minnesota offense in check en route to a victory. Turnovers will again be the story for the Spartans, averaging 16 per game. Extra possessions only enhance the Gophers chances. Michigan State looked awful against Syracuse and the Gopher bigs are even taller than Syracuse’s. Despite the KenPom prediction and the Vegas odds, we’re going against the grain and feel this game will come right down to the very end. This is anyone’s ballgame in East Lansing this afternoon.

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Two Minutes’ Hate: The RTC Rivalry Series — Kentucky vs Louisville

Posted by jstevrtc on December 31st, 2010

One of the best things about college basketball is the rivalries. Whether rational or not, rivalries usually manifest themselves through the players and fans of the involved schools in the form of true, unmitigated disdain for the other side. Because we love making trouble, and with apologies to Orwell, we give you the Two Minutes’ Hate, a series of posts in which we give fans/bloggers/writers of both sides of a given rivalry a chance to vent about the other side, with minimal but identical prompting from us. We encouraged them to cut loose and hold nothing back, and we’ll be doing this with various rivalries throughout the year as such games arise. If you want to nominate a rivalry or even offer a submission, email us at JStevRTC@gmail.com. And remember, the published opinions are those of the respondents and not necessarily those of RTC, heh heh.

Today’s Rivals: Louisville and Kentucky

Coaches Crum And Hall Might Be Smiling Here, But BOY, Do These Two Teams Hate Each Other.

First, speaking on behalf of the Cardinals, we have Mike from the excellent Louisville site Card Chronicle. You can follow him on Twitter here. And you should, if for no other reason than because his bio describes him as the “fourth-ranked Chaucer scholar in the Ohio Valley.”

1. In your opinion, what was the Ville’s greatest win over UK?

The 1983 “Dream Game” without a doubt.

Even after Louisville had established itself as a national power, Kentucky refused to play them. The game finally happened in ’83 when the teams were paired in the same region and met in the Mideast Regional championship on March 26 in Knoxville. Despite a buzzer-beating shot by Jim Master to send the game into overtime, the Cardinals ran off 14 straight points in the extra period and prevailed, 80-68.

The U of L community erupted and quickly the governor, legislators and even the boards of trustees at both universities began to talk about a series between the two. Shortly thereafter, the announcement was made that Louisville and Kentucky would begin playing each other annually.

The game played a huge role in making the rivalry what it is today. If Louisville loses that day, the two might still not be playing annually.

2. What was the most painful loss?

Probably the ’04 game where Louisville led by 15 at half and as many as 18 before the Cats came all the way back and won it on Patrick Sparks‘ free-throws with less than a second left. Sparks walked twice. Neither were called. Louisville won the game.

Still, we went to the Final Four a few months later and UK didn’t.

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RTC Conference Primer: #2 – Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the Big East correspondent for Rush The Court.


Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Villanova (15-3)
  • T2. Pittsburgh (14-4)
  • T2. Syracuse (14-4)
  • 4. Georgetown (12-6)
  • T5. West Virginia (11-7)
  • T5. Marquette (11-7)
  • 7. Seton Hall (10-8)
  • T8. Notre Dame (9-9)
  • T8. St. John’s (9-9)
  • T10. Connecticut (8-10)
  • T10. Louisville (8-10)
  • T12. South Florida (7-11)
  • T12. Cincinnati (7-11)
  • T14. Providence (3-15)
  • T14. Rutgers (3-15)
  • T14. DePaul (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Corey Fisher, Villanova (13.3 ppg, 3.9 apg, 2.8 rpg)
  • G: Kemba Walker, UConn (14.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.3 rpg, 2.1 spg)
  • F: Austin Freeman, Georgetown (16.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 44.4% 3pt)
  • F: Kris Joseph, Syracuse (10.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 spg)
  • F: Kevin Jones, West Virginia (13.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg)

6th Man

Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame (16.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 42.9% 3pt)

Impact Newcomers

  • Fab Melo, Syracuse: Melo should have an immediate impact as the starting center for the Orange. Regarded as one of, if not the, best center in the class, Melo has more polish offensively than most bigs do as freshman, but his size in the middle of the Syracuse 2-3 zone may be more important.
  • Vander Blue, Marquette: Blue should step in and start immediately for the Golden Eagles. He’s everything you imagine when you think of a Marquette wing player. He’s tough, athletic, and can slash to the basket. He’ll remind some of Jerel McNeal.
  • Nate Lubick, Georgetown: With the Hoyas losing Greg Monroe to the NBA, they will have a gaping hole in the middle. Lubick has the skill set to be the high post forward of the future for John Thompson III, and he could immediately slide into the starting lineup.

Jay Wright has Villanova in the driver’s seat, with Pittsburgh nipping at the Wildcats’ heels. (AP/Michael Perez)

What You Need To Know

As much as it pains me to say it, the Big East is going to be down this season, especially near the bottom of the league. The two best players in the conference are probably Austin Freeman and Corey Fisher, and while I don’t want to take anything away from those two — I love the way that both play — they are a long way from being lottery picks. Providence, Rutgers and DePaul are as bad as any three teams at the bottom of the power conferences, which is saying a lot considering what the cellar of the Pac-10 and SEC have to offer. Now think about this: If the Big East wants to get more than six teams into the Big Dance, the teams that will likely be fighting for the last couple of at-large bids this season are Seton Hall, St. John’s, Notre Dame and UConn. And that assumes that Marquette and West Virginia are dancing. Yuck.

Predicted Champion

Villanova (NCAA #2 Seed): I like Villanova a lot more than other people do. I think Corey Fisher has a chance to become a star this season as he steps out of the shadow of Scottie Reynolds. I think Maalik Wayns has a chance to come into his own as well. Corey Stokes and Dominic Cheek should provide some size, athleticism, and versatility on the perimeter, while Jayvaughn Pinkston and Isaiah Armwood provide the same along the front line. The trio of Antonio Pena, Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton is one of the better front lines in the conference. More than anything, however, I think that Jay Wright has answered the biggest questions his team had last season. Without a doubt, Villanova will be better inside with Yarou healthy, Pinkston on the roster, and Armwood and Sutton a year stronger. They should also be better defensively without Reynolds and Fisher sharing the floor. This team has a great mixture of size, athleticism, youth, experience, and versatility. They remind me quite a bit of the Villanova team that made the 2009 Final Four.
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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: DeMarcus Cousins

Posted by jstevrtc on June 20th, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: DeMarcus Cousins

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’11/290

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Early to Mid Lottery

Overview: DeMarcus Cousins showed up at Kentucky as part of the Calipari Revolution of 2009 as the man who was supposed to do for the Wildcat frontcourt what John Wall was projected to do for the back.  High expectations, indeed, but the man they call “Boogie” actually lived up to them.  At various points in the year Cousins was statistically the most efficient player in the country, and was a tenth of a rebound away from averaging a double-double (15.1 PPG and 9.9 RPG) for his only season in Wildcat blue.  In the early part of Kentucky’s SEC campaign, Cousins put up 11 double-doubles in one 13-game sample, including a string of seven in a row, totalling an impressive 20 on the year.  He may have developed a reputation as a “hothead” or “wildcard” — two terms long in vogue to describe him — but Cousins seemed to enjoy such descriptions and used that characterization to his advantage, especially when using his imposing frame to gobble up rebounds or punish rims with put-backs.  Throughout the season, he showed he possessed the skill to finish on the inside with authority as well as the ability to drill a jumper out to about 15 feet.  He may have only been in Lexington for one year, but his hard work, production, openness with the fans, and personality have endeared him to Wildcat supporters to the point where he’ll be an icon in Lexington for decades to come.  His tip-in at the buzzer against Mississippi State that put the SEC Tournament Final into overtime (which Kentucky eventually won) may represent the pinnacle of one terrific year in the Bluegrass — one that earned him SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

Beats by Boogie: The stratosphere's the limit, given the right fit.

Will Translate to the NBA: Cousins’ knack for vacuuming the ball off the glass is his greatest NBA-ready skill right now.  It’ll especially serve him well on the offensive end, as he’s superb at snagging garbage buckets off missed shots by his teammates.  Even though he only averaged an assist per game at UK, he’s a better passer than many people will remember, especially on the interior.  And let’s face it, he wasn’t exactly asked to distribute the ball a lot (Kentucky had another guy doing that).  The intensity and emotion that he brings to the court need no adjustment, and the right setting in terms of teammates and coaching staff could help him better focus that drive into improving the areas in which he needs to gain some ground.  He won’t jump out of the gym, but he’s happy going body-to-body with the other team’s biggest player on defense and has surprisingly good timing in terms of shot-blocking, and led his Wildcat squad in that category (1.8 BPG).  Finally, though Cousins is known primarily for his finishing ability close to the rim, he often showed a turn-around jumper and a fade-away of impressive accuracy, both of which he’ll need.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on February 26th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin Is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Barring an improbable collapse or an unforeseen run through Madison Square Garden, there are just six Big East teams that are still sitting somewhere on the bubble.

Syracuse, Villanova, Pitt, Georgetown, and West Virginia are all playing for seeding and a double-bye in the Big East Tournament. South Florida, Providence, Rutgers, DePaul, and St. John’s are all playing for pride and, well, pride.

That leaves the six teams sitting in the middle of the league — Marquette, Louisville, UConn, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, and Seton Hall — with a shot at dancing. Commencing Big East Bubble Breakdown.

Marquette:
  • 18-9, 9-6; RPI: 54, SOS: 65
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 2-6, 3-7, 6-7
  • Best Wins: Xavier, Georgetown
  • Worst Losses: DePaul
As has been the case all season long for Marquette, their inability to win close games early in the season has been a killer. The Golden Eagles’ RPI does not properly represent how well this team has played this season. None of their nine losses have come by more than nine points, and seven have come by less than five points. It seems like Marquette’s luck is starting to turn a corner, as they have now won their last four close games, including Wednesday’s buzzer-beating W at St. John’s. Marquette gets Seton Hall on the road and Louisville and Notre Dame at home before heading to the Big East tournament, where it looks as if they will get a first round bye. Win three more games, and Marquette will lock up a bid.

Louisville:
  • 18-10, 9-6; RPI: 42, SOS: 9
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-5, 2-6, 6-9
  • Best Wins: UConn, Syracuse
  • Worst Losses: Western Carolina, St. John’s
Louisville is in a tough spot. They have a solid RPI bolstered by very good strength of schedule, but they have not really beaten anyone this season. The win at Syracuse is as good as it gets, but after that, their best W is against a UConn team that could lose their last four games by 20 points and no one would be surprised. If the eye test matters to anyone, Louisville will pass with flying colors. They have a very good front line, anchored by Samardo Samuels and the suddenly-dangerous Jared Swopshire. Their backcourt, which has been inconsistent this season (although there have been some injuries), is as talented on paper as any in the conference save Villanova. Louisville has a tough schedule down the stretch, but that means that they will have three chances to really improve their resume — at UConn and Marquette (who are both fighting for a bubble spot as well), and at home for Syracuse (who will likely be playing for the Big East title and will be looking for revenge). Lose all three, and Louisville is in trouble. But if they win all three and make some noise in the Big East Tournament, and this is a team that could be a top six or seven seed.

Connecticut:

  • 17-11, 7-8; RPI: 40, SOS: 2
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 3-5, 3-6, 9-9
  • Best Wins: Texas, Villanova, West Virginia
  • Worst Losses: Providence, Michigan
The Huskies are coming along at the right time. Since Jim Calhoun returned from his illness, UConn is 3-1 with wins over Villanova and West Virginia. Overall, UConn is in a similar boat to Louisville, as their lofty RPI is, in large part, a result of the tough schedule they have played. UConn brings up an interesting question – how will the committee handle the seven games Jim Calhoun missed? With him, the Huskies are 14-7. Without him, they are 3-4 with a loss to Providence. But UConn also beat Texas without him and lost to Cincinnati in terrible fashion without Calhoun. The Huskies get Louisville at home and South Florida and Notre Dame on the road. Win their last three and their first game in the Big East, and this team wins.

Cincinnati:

  • 16-11, 7-8; RPI: 59, SOS: 29
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-3, 4-6, 6-11
  • Best Wins: Maryland, Vanderbilt, UConn X 2
  • Worst Losses: St. John’s
Cincinnati is in a really tough spot. Before beating DePaul, the Bearcats had lost four of their last five games and seven of their last eleven. And now they are sitting at 59th in the RPI without a good conference win under their belts. They will get three chances at getting one in their last three games, as they go on the road to face Villanova, get Georgetown at home, and play West Virginia on the road as well. As I said, the Bearcats are in trouble.

Seton Hall:

  • 16-10, 7-8; RPI: 52, SOS: 18
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-7, 3-9, 6-10
  • Best Wins: Cornell, Pitt
  • Worst Losses: South Florida
You know, Seton Hall’s resume is not as bad as many people think it is. They have a couple of nice wins, beating Cornell on the road and knocking off Pitt and Louisville at home. They do have 10 losses, but of those ten, the only one that can be considered a “bad” loss came in overtime at South Florida during that two week stretch when South Florida was pretending they were good. The Pirates play three more regular season games – Marquette at home and Rutgers and Providence on the road. If they can win all three of those, a task which is far from improbable, the Pirates will head into the Big East Tournament at 10-8 in the league with a very real chance of being able to play their way into the tournament.

Notre Dame:

  • 18-10, 7-8; RPI: 72, SOS: 63
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-7, 3-9, 6-10
  • Best Wins: West Virginia, Pitt
  • Worst Losses: Loyola Marymount, Northwestern, Rutgers

Call me crazy, but is Notre Dame playing better basketball without Luke Harangody? Since the all-american went out with a knee injury against Seton Hall, ND has looked downright scary at times. They lost to Louisville on the road in double overtime most recently they just put a whooping on Pitt at home. Without ‘Gody on the floor, ND seems to play better defense and move the ball better. The rest of the team also seems to be a bit more aggressive, knowing that they don’t have to get the big fella touches. In the three games ‘Gody has been out, Tim Abromaitis has up his average to 23.3 PPG in the last three. Ben Hansbrough is averaging 16.3 PPG. Tory Jackson is averaging 13.7 PPG, and scored 25 the night ‘Gody was hurt. Clearly, Notre Dame is a better basketball team with Luke on the floor, and they are going to need him if the Irish are to navigate a difficult stretch run — at Georgetown, UConn, at Marquette. With the losses ND has this season, they probably needed to sweep those three games and pick up at least one win in the Big East tournament for a shot at an at-large.

PLAYER AND TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kemba Walker and the Connecticut Huskies

Since we last checked in with you guys, UConn has gone on a tear. The Huskies have been left for dead a number of times this season, but I think that even the most diehard UConn fans at given up hope after an embarrassing loss to Cincinnati at home. Its one thing to lose at home, its another thing to get upset at home. But to lose the way UConn did was a downright disgrace. They didn’t play with any heart or emotion and showed no energy on either end of the floor. Should I even mention that it was Calhoun’s first game back from an illness? The performance was bad enough that just about everyone at the game questioned whether or not Calhoun had lost this team.

With Villanova looming on the horizon, most had written off the season. But at Villanova, the Huskies — and specifically Kemba Walker — woke up. Walker went for 29 points and a team-high nine boards to lead UConn to an upset win. Five days later, UConn went to Piscataway and knocked off Rutgers. And just this past Monday, the Huskies held off a tough West Virginia team down the stretch, running their winning streak to three games and giving UConn fans a real reason to hope for the postseason this year.

In the three wins, Walker averaged 22.0 PPG, shot 7-15 from three, and got to the line an incredible 36 times. He’s turning into a leader for the Huskies, something they have been waiting for all season long.

POWER RANKINGS

The Final Four Contenders

1. Syracuse (26-2, 13-2)
2. Villanova (23-4, 12-3)

The Sweet 16 Contenders

3. West Virginia (21-6, 10-5)
4. Pitt (21-7, 10-5)
5. Georgetown (19-7, 9-6)

The We-Passed-The-Eye-Test-ers

6. Marquette (18-9, 9-6)
7. Louisville (18-10, 9-6)

The You-Don’t-Want-To-Play-Us-ers

8. Connecticut (17-11, 7-8)
9. Seton Hall (16-10, 7-8)

The Sleepers

10. Cincinnati (16-11, 7-8)
11. Notre Dame (18-10, 7-8)

The Deep Sleepers

12. South Florida (16-11, 6-9)
13. St. John’s (15-12, 5-10)

The Rest

14. Providence (12-15, 4-11)
15. Rutgers (14-14, 4-11)
16. DePaul (8-19, 1-14)

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Checking In On… The Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on December 2nd, 2009

checkinginon

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Despite the holiday, loyal readers of RTC may have noticed something missing last week.

Where was Checking in on the Big East?  Without BIAH waxing poetic about the happenings within the nation’s biggest conference, how were you able function?

For that, I must apologize.  But, you see, it wasn’t all my fault.  For starters, the editors at RTC are ruthless.  Not only did they have me traveling up and down the eastern seaboard during the busiest travel weekend of the year, they forced me to cover the semifinals and finals of the Preseason NIT for RTC Live.

Brutal, those guys.  I guess that’s why they pay me the big bucks.

Anyway, I probably could have found the time to put together a recap for you, but apparently grandmas don’t realize that having dial-up isn’t the same as having the internet.  Old folks, you gotta love ‘em.  She made me a mean Thanksgiving leftover sandwich as a peace offering.  She’s not all bad, that one.  I forgave her, just like I hope you all will forgive me.

Back to the point, since we have a lot to go over, and seeing as the first few weeks of the college hoops season are a bit hectic, the structure of this post is going to be a bit different than future posts.  But never fear, as your trusty Big East expert is here to guide you through it.  So tuck the children in, strap on your seat belts, and, well, you tell them, B.B…

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