Big East Morning Five: 11.29.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on November 29th, 2011

1. The Big East revealed the second installment of its men’s basketball weekly awards on Monday. Syracuse senior forward Kris Joseph earned the Player of the Week award as he led the Orange to an NIT Pre-Season Tip-Off  win, averaging 19.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in the tournament including 18 points, 9 rebounds and 4 steals in the final against Stanford.  Rookie of the week honors went to Connecticut freshman center Andre Drummond who responded to his newfound starting role by posting averages of 11.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in three games, including a near triple-double in the Bahamas against Florida State (12 PTS, 10 REB, 7 BLK).  As for the Honor Roll, Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall checks in with his second consecutive appearance (10.3 PPG, 9.0 APG) powered by double-doubles against La Salle and Robert Morris;  Sophomore Cleveland Melvin has DePaul off to a 4-1 start and backed up his Old Spice Classic All-Tournament Team selection with this conference honor; Georgetown senior guard Jason Clark who averaged 23.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in Maui including 26 huge points in an overtime victory over then No. 8 Memphis; Seton Hall double-double machine and last week’s Player of the Week, Herb Pope, posted two more double-doubles, raising his Big East-leading season total to five; and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones only had one game this past week but he made it count racking up 23 points, 10 boards and two blocks in a win over Morehead State.

2. Last week was a rough week overall for the Big East with a slew of losses but for the most part the top of the league held serve and maintained their Top 25 rankings. Connecticut, on the heels of their 68-63 upset at the hands of Central Florida, represented the only Big East team to record a drop in the Associated Press poll as they slid four spots to #8.  Syracuse shook off the Bernie Fine controversy to win in the Garden and earned a one spot promotion to #4 while Louisville bit back at the injury bug and jumped up a notch to #6 while Marquette (#16) and Pittsburgh (#17) stood pat as compared to last week to help the Big East maintain a total of five ranked teams. Georgetown is within shouting distance of becoming the sixth, receiving 46 votes which would be good for 30th, and has a date on Thursday with #12 Alabama in the SEC-Big East Challenge that could propel the Hoyas into next week’s poll with a victory (assuming they get by N.J.I.T on Saturday).

3. Speaking of the Big East’s less than glorious week, there are currently seven teams with two or more losses in the early going: Notre Dame, South Florida, Providence, Villanova, Cincinnati, St. John’s, and Rutgers.  Clearly the most, and perhaps only, surprising inclusions on this list are Cincinnati and Villanova as they were predicted to finish fifth and eighth respectively in the Big East pre-season coaches poll.  Presbyterian over Cincinnati was a clunker for sure but even including the Blue Hose’s (had to work that in) 3-3 record, the teams that beat Villanova and Cincinnati are a combined 18-5, including a now ranked St. Louis squad (#25).  Further, Villanova gave up the last ten points of the game in a one-point loss to Santa Clara. As far as the single-loss teams go, Pittsburgh and Connecticut falling to inferior teams has to be mentioned, but it is not time to panic just yet. Plus this gives us yet another chance to remind you where UCONN was when the Big East tournament began last year and where they ended up.  OK, enough with the ifs and buts.  Here’s the bottom line: While it is not likely this year’s ninth place finisher takes it the distance again, all that has gone on thus far is a testament to the truth lying somewhere between the conference not being as strong and deep as it was a year ago and the fact that there are simply so many good players and coaches out there today that the big boys need to bring it at a high level every night or risk getting tripped up.

4. Jim Boeheim has found himself moving closer to the center of the Bernie Fine controversy as discussed here at RTC Big East yesterday. The latest has a number of public cries by interested parties, including support and advocate groups for sexual abuse victims, for the head coach’s job whether by firing or resignation.  While Syracuse officials have remained tight-lipped, the NCAA is keeping tabs and issued the following statement on Monday:

NCAA President Mark Emmert spoke today with Chancellor Nancy Cantor to let her know the NCAA is carefully monitoring the developments at Syracuse University, and Chancellor Cantor pledged her full cooperation in determining the facts. The accusations of child sexual abuse reported in the media involving a former assistant men’s basketball coach are deeply troubling. Furthermore, to have similar allegations involving coaches at two of the nation’s major universities saddens every member of the Association. As facts emerge, we will determine what actions may be necessary regarding NCAA bylaws. As always, criminal justice proceedings, if any, take precedence over any NCAA actions.”

In further news, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick’s concerns were heard and addressed as Syracuse police agreed to provide Fitzpatrick’s office additional information regarding the case after he called them out as failing to provide.

5. Louisville continues to roll with the punches and get wins despite the revolving door to the trainer’s room.  One game after junior guard Peyton Siva returned from an ankle injury, sophomore guard Elisha Justice was forced to miss last night’s game against Long Beach State after breaking his nose in practice. Despite the continued shuffling of personnel, Rick Pitino’s Cardinals continued their winning ways, surviving foul trouble and fighting off tough 49er squad en route to a 79-66 victory. Senior guard Chris Smith led the charge with 18 points, including four three-pointers, in 33 minutes of action. Siva turned the ball over six times, but also stuffed the stat sheet with eleven points, three rebounds, five assists and five steals. Freshman Chane Behanan continued his solid play with 13 points and seven rebounds. Louisville (6-0) faces a test on Friday versus #20 Vanderbilt (5-2 after last night’s overtime loss to #11 Xavier) in their leg of the SEC-Big East Challenge.

Share this story

Big East Morning Five: 11.25.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on November 25th, 2011

  1. Connecticut made a significant starting line-up change last night when they replaced 6’9” junior forward and defensive stalwart Alex Oriakhi with 6’10″ freshman center Andre Drummond in the #4 Huskies 73-63 win over UNC Asheville in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. This was the first career start for the highly touted Drummond who responded with nine points, five rebounds, and a block. While Drummond’s, who was slowed by a broken nose suffered in an October practice collision, performance thus far has been pedestrian (5.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.0 BLK coming into Thursday’s action), a starting role was virtually inevitable. It was just a matter of when and at the expense of whom. Drummond was the top-rated center in the country coming out of high school and reclassified to the class of 2011 so he could be a part of this team. While parts of Drummond’s game and activity level have been the subject of criticism coming out of high school, his talent and upside are undeniable. These points coupled with the fact that Drummond’s stay in Storrs is not expected to go beyond this season, implored coach Jim Calhoun to get him into the starting mix during the baked-good portion of the schedule to ready him for Big East play. Oriakhi being the odd man out could be viewed on the surface as something of a surprise given that he started 39 of 41 games last season and posted 11 double-doubles, including an 11 point, 11 rebound performance in last year’s national championship victory over Butler. However, his performance thus far has been spotty, prompting Calhoun to express concern recently.  Oriakhi played 14 minutes against UNC Asheville and registered four points, two rebounds, and three blocks, but his most notable contribution was this post-game Twitter conversation with former Husky Jamal Coombs-McDaniel.
  2. Georgetown’s confidence has to be on the rise after their 2-1 showing in Maui. While coach John Thompson III lamented his team’s mistakes in their 67-63 opening game loss to #15 Kansas saying “It’s frustrating.  The things that we can control, we should control….We’re not going to be singing this young team song all year.” That said, Georgetown is a young team and while Thompson would never admit it publicly, hanging with Kansas had its positives and provided the Hoyas (now 4-1) with confidence to build on. Clearly this was the case as Georgetown dispatched host Chaminade 88-61 on Tuesday and followed that up with a signature 91-88 overtime victory over #13 Memphis in an entertaining game. Georgetown is beginning to establish a core with its experienced players, led by emerging senior guard Jason Clark, who is not afraid to take and make big shots in big moments. Henry Sims is a perfect fit for Thompson’s offense with his ability to pass out of the high post and, at 6’10”, is leading the team in assists (4.2 APG).  Freshman Otto Porter is an absolute keeper. The 6’8” forward was all over the place against Memphis displaying is athleticism and perimeter skills to the tune of nine points, eight rebounds, three assists, four steals and two blocks, and only figures to get better as the season wares on. Watch out for the Hoyas. 
  3. Seton Hall is another young team quietly gaining momentum in the early going. The Pirates are out to a 4-1 start with wins over St. Francis (NY), Virginia Commonwealth, Saint Joseph’s, and Yale. They suffered their only loss in the Charleston Classic final at the hands of Northwestern, who is 4-0 including wins over Louisiana State and Tulsa. Like Georgetown, a pair of seniors are setting the tone for their younger mates. 6’8” forward Herb Pope, who took home the Big East’s first Player of the Week honor earlier this week, is off to a tremendous start, averaging 21.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game while 6’0” guard Jordan Theodore is averaging 18.4 points and six assists per game while playing clutch basketball and emerging as the go-to-guy for the Hall.  Sophomore Fuquan Edwin (15 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 60% FG) is on the verge of a breakout season. The Pirates will certainly continue to be tested en route to their Big East opener at Syracuse on December 28 as they have dates with Auburn (December 2), Wake Forest (December 10), and at Dayton (December 21). 
  4. It’s mini ‘Set Your TiVo’ time! There are some notable games on the Big East schedule today as we move deeper into some of the holiday tournament brackets. The NIT Season Tip-Off championship features a pair of 5-0 teams with Stanford taking on #5 Syracuse at Madison Square Garden at 6 PM on ESPN.  Another match-up of undefeated squads pits 4-0 Villanova against Rick Majerus’ 4-0 St. Louis team in the 76 Classic at the Anaheim Convention Center  2:30 PM on ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU (check your local listings). Finally, in non-tournament action, Cincinnati (3-1), still stinging from their loss to Presbyterian last Saturday, will host Marshall (4-0) at Fifth Third Arena at 8 PM on ESPN3.
  5. With an end to the NBA lockout nowhere in sight there have been a number of things said and written about the enhanced exposure the work stoppage provides college basketball. Given that NBA front office and operations personnel seemingly have little to do without the normal day-to-day rigors of an NBA schedule, could this result in more focused scouting of college players, particularly the upper-classmen who seem to be passed over year-after-year for the latest virtually unknown foreign sensation? It is amazing how devalued a college player can become by staying in school, particularly those who show continuous development over a three- or four-year span, while NBA teams continue to get sucked into pre-draft buzz and gravitate to the flavor of the month. College juniors and seniors are known commodities that can excite the fan base and bring immediate value to their employers by becoming part of NBA rosters right away, without the complications of existing professional contracts that typically hold back foreign players for multiple years. Here’s hoping NBA execs make good use of their free time to take in the college game and see what they have right in their backyards.
Share this story

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.
Share this story

RTC Summer Updates: Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 11th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our Big East update comes from frequent RTC contributor Brian Otskey, co-author of Get to the Point.

Readers’ Take

Summer Storylines

  • Connecticut Revels In National Championship Glory: Connecticut’s storybook year continued on into the offseason as the Huskies were invited to the White House for an event with President Obama on May 16. The team presented the president with a #1 UConn jersey and posed for photographs after being lauded for their remarkable accomplishment. Connecticut made one of the most improbable runs ever en route to the third national championship in school history, all coming since 1999, going 23-0 outside of Big East regular season play. Nobody could have predicted the way last season unfolded and the NCAA Tournament as a whole was a microcosm of that. Connecticut’s national title made up for a lackluster performance by many of the record 11 Big East teams participating in the tournament. Only one other Big East team (Marquette) managed to make it to the second weekend’s Sweet 16. Life without Kemba Walker has begun in Storrs and while the Huskies will be among the 2011-12 Big East favorites, it’ll be very interesting to see who steps up and how the team performs without its warrior. Jeremy Lamb appears to be ready to take over but the way Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi handle their larger roles will be the difference between a team contending for a Big East title and one that finishes fourth or fifth.

Kemba & Co. Celebrated in Style (H-C/B.Hansen)

  • The Ed Cooley Era Begins In Friartown: After Keno Davis stumbled to an 18-36 Big East record over three seasons in Providence, the Friars desperately needed someone to revive their moribund program. Providence has made only two NCAA Tournaments since its 1997 appearance and the last one was eight seasons ago in 2003-04. Enter Ed Cooley, a Providence-born 41-year-old with the fire in his belly needed to succeed in arguably the toughest job in the Big East Conference. Cooley will instill a system of discipline and fundamentals with a special attention to defense, three attributes of successful programs that were sorely lacking under Davis. Cooley’s Fairfield team ranked #22 in the nation in defensive efficiency last season and he improved the Stags’ record each and every year he was there. Providence, a small Catholic school with hardly any recruiting base along with limited facilities and resources, is an incredibly difficult job even before you have to go up against bigger schools like Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh along with tradition-rich programs such as Georgetown, Villanova and Marquette. Cooley must spend his first season laying the foundation for longer term success. He won’t turn this program around overnight but more discipline on and off the court and hard work on the recruiting trail can turn Providence into a solid Big East competitor. We can’t think of many people better suited than Cooley to get the job done at Providence. While it will be a long and difficult process, brighter days are ahead for the Providence program with Ed Cooley at the helm.
  • Signs Of Life In The New York Area: New coach Steve Lavin and St. John’s brought the buzz back to the Big Apple last winter as the Red Storm earned its first NCAA bid in nine seasons. “Lavinwood” has moved east, but St. John’s now enters a year full of mixed feelings. Cautious optimism as well as uncertainty rules the day with nine new faces, part of the nation’s second-ranked recruiting class, making their way to Queens in 2011-12. Malik Stith is the only returnee of note after Dwayne Polee, II, decided to transfer closer to home at San Diego State. St. John’s may be the most unpredictable team in the Big East entering this season. The potential exists for a terrific year if Lavin can mold all this raw talent into a cohesive unit capable of playing with any team in the conference. However, issues with young players, commonly involving playing time and egos, are also very possible and it takes only one incident to destroy the locker room and wreck the season. The Johnnies have enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament again, but Lavin will have to totally adjust his approach to make that happen. With hardly any experience on the roster, he can’t simply roll the ball out and hope for the best. This season will be the biggest test of Lavin’s coaching career on the court, but he faced an even more difficult challenge last year, coaching the entire season with prostate cancer while keeping it a secret until this spring. Turning St. John’s around with that constantly in the back of his mind is an a commendable achievement and we obviously wish Coach Lavin the best of luck fighting this awful disease.
  • Across the Hudson River in New Jersey, Mike Rice and Rutgers appear to be building a program to be reckoned with down the road. The Scarlet Knights have been a dormant program for 20 years, never once enjoying a winning season in any of its 16 years as a Big East member. That may be about to change, although it appears unlikely that Rutgers will crack the .500 mark in league play this season. The fiery Rice reeled in a top 25 recruiting class and now must build on a season of close calls and what-ifs. Rutgers was competitive last year, but could only manage five Big East victories. It’ll take time for the new players to adjust to the collegiate level but bigger and better things should be expected from Rutgers in the years to come. Rutgers, a large state school, has the capability of becoming a pretty good program. All it needs is a commitment from the administration, facility upgrades and great recruiting. Rice is taking care of the latter, now it’s time for the Rutgers brass to provide him with the resources needed to build a top flight program. Rutgers needs major facility upgrades (a RAC renovation has been talked about for over a year), but fundraising has been a major problem. With New Jersey Governor Chris Christie trying to get the state’s financial house in order, there is going to be a lot of resistance to an ambitious project such as this one at the state’s flagship university.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Conference Report Card: Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 19th, 2011

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • College basketball has never witnessed a season like this year’s Big East. The conference destroyed its own record of eight NCAA bids by placing 11 clubs in the Big Dance this year and also claimed the national champion with Connecticut, which spent most of the season in the middle of the pack in the Big East. The Huskies also gave the conference its first title since the Huskies last did the trick in 2004. While there was not a truly great team in the Big East (including Connecticut), the league was better than any other from top to bottom. Of the five teams that failed to make the NCAA Tournament, only South Florida and DePaul were truly uncompetitive. Rutgers showed signs of improvement while Seton Hall managed to win seven league games and gave some good teams a major scare in the process. Even Providence, which finished 4-14, knocked off Louisville and Villanova in consecutive games back in January. Despite the lackluster NCAA showing by most Big East members, it says here the conference boasted the best player in the nation (sorry, Jimmer) and a deserving national champion. Additionally, ten Big East teams were ranked in the AP Top 25 at some point this season. Say what you want about its postseason performance (it’s certainly fair to bash the league in that regard), but this was by far the best conference in the nation this year.

Jim Calhoun (left) and Kemba Walker will be inextricably linked to UConn's memorable NCAA Tournament run. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

Team-by-Team (teams are in order of finish, but grades are based on performance vs. expectations):

  1. Pittsburgh (28-6, 15-3): The regular season was terrific once again for Jamie Dixon and the Panthers but, as has become common over the years, they fell short of their goal–getting to the Final Four. Pittsburgh lost four of their final eight games after starting the season 24-2. A mid-season injury to Ashton Gibbs was thought to bring them down a peg, but Pitt responded with wins at West Virginia and Villanova without him to quiet any doubters. That turned out to be their peak. Dixon did not really test his team out of conference except for two games at Madison Square Garden against Maryland and Texas back in November as part of the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer event and a “home” game (in Pittsburgh) against Tennessee, which they lost. Looking back, one theory could be that an average non-conference schedule did not adequately prepare this team for the NCAA Tournament which is all about match-ups and teams you haven’t seen before from other leagues. While Big East coaches love to use the strength of the league as a crutch when questioned about a lack of non-conference heft to their schedule, I think this is a theory that has to be taken into consideration. Big East play is obviously rough and tumble every night but that can actually be a detriment come tournament time when games are officiated tighter and you don’t have as much time to prepare for an opponent who you likely don’t know very well, if at all. Pitt will lose Gilbert Brown, Brad Wanamaker, and Gary McGhee to graduation while Gibbs tests the NBA waters. I expect Gibbs to come back to join a very good recruiting class led by five-star forward Khem Birch. Despite the loss of three senior leaders, look for Pitt to be in the thick of the Big East race yet again next season. Dixon has established a culture of winning and I have learned never to doubt him after witnessing the 2009-10 campaign, a season that certified Dixon as one of the best basketball minds in the country. While this year was a great success during the regular season, Pitt’s inability to get to the Sweet Sixteen and eventually the Final Four renders this year a disappointment. GRADE: B- Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 01.26.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 26th, 2011

***** – 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.

Coming off their huge win at Kansas on Saturday, Texas heads back out on the road to another tough environment and looking to avoid a letdown while the game of the year in the Mountain West takes place tonight in Provo, Utah. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#6 Texas @ Oklahoma State – 7:30 pm on ESPN (***)

Hamilton and the 'Horns Enter a Tough Environment Tonight, Even Without the Added Emotion

Emotions will be running high in Stillwater as the Cowboys take the court tonight and the Oklahoma State community honors the legacy of the ten lives lost in the plane crash that occurred ten years ago Thursday. Gallagher-Iba Arena is always a tough place to play and that will especially ring true this evening.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Week That Was: Jan. 11-Jan. 17

Posted by jstevrtc on January 18th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Only three undefeated teams are left in the nation after Duke and Syracuse suffered their first losses of the season within the past week. Who will be the next team to go down? Ohio State travels to Illinois on Saturday and Kansas hosts Texas. TWTW wouldn’t be shocked if San Diego State is the only unbeaten team remaining in this space next week.

What We Learned

Kemba Walker Is The Governor: He Always Saves You At the Last Moment (J. Woike/Hartford Courant)

When ESPN uses its full arsenal, it can put on a great day of college basketball. Monday (in honor of MLK Day) ESPN had a 24 Hours of Hoops Lite. They gave us four great games, three of which pitted two teams in the top 25 against each other, while the other featured a nice matchup in Kansas-Baylor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

BGTD: Early Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on January 8th, 2011

With the first weekend of major conference action upon us, we’re back with another weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite.  The idea behind this is that we’ll update after each three-hour (or so) block of games with some instant analysis on what we’ve seen so far today.  So here goes…

  • Georgetown Moves to 1-3 We’ve been touting Georgetown for most of the early part of this season, but it’s obvious that the Hoyas have some serious identity problems at the halfway mark. By that, we mean that they have to find a way to succeed when Chris Wright is off his game. Wright had a miserable shooting day in today’s loss against West Virginia (65-59), going 3-13 from the field, including 1-7 from three. The other problem is that they have to learn how to finish games. Four straight turnovers at the end of the game doomed the Hoyas, but losing the battle on the offensive glass 15-4 and coughing up 18 turnovers will ruin you every time, too. Even the effort of Jason Clark (16/6) couldn’t offset the poor play of Wright and Austin Freeman today. Casey Mitchell continued his excellence for the Mountaineers (28 pts on 10-18) and showed that WVU will be a force in the Big East this year despite very little early season talk about them.
  • Upset Saturday? Looks like we have a little bit of an Upset Saturday brewing. Oklahoma State beats Kansas State by 14, right as people were starting to regain a little confidence in the Wildcats. What’s odd is that OSU was able to win despite showing just 40.4% and 2-10 from three. The defense was the story here for the Cowboys, snagging eleven steals and forcing 21 turnovers. KSU only got production fron two players, namely Jacob Pullen (20/5, but on 4-11 from the field) and Rodney McGruder (19/6 on 7-11). Oklahoma State showed up in force, placing four players in double-figures, led by reserve Jan-Paul Olukemi’s tasty double-double of 22/11 on an efficient 7-9 from the field. At 13-2 and a win over a ranked K-State team, you’ll see Oklahoma State grab some votes this week.
  • MSU Continues to Lapse.  We’re trying, Tom Izzo. We’ve defended your Michigan State squad pretty loudly this year. We know that you guys usually save the best for last. But it’s getting tougher. Yes, life on the road during conference play is tough, especially in the Big Ten. But if we’re going to keep backing you, you have to pull out games like this one you just dropped at Penn State (66-62). Talor Battle drilled a jumper with 18 seconds to seal the win for the Lions, who put four players in double figures, as opposed to Sparty’s two. Looks like there’s a little road team virus going around the country this weekend.
  • Another Top Ten Loses.  If you require further evidence for that diagnosis, we give you Missouri, who got shelled, 89-76, at Colorado. Of course when Alec Burks loses his mind on you with 36/8, where you’re playing matters a lot less. The Buffs owned the Tigers on the boards, 46-31, and the Missouri defense, known for forcing opponents into frustrated turnovers, could only coax 11 out of Colorado. Not a bad way to start your final Big 12 campaign, Buffaloes.
Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 01.03.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 3rd, 2011

***** – 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.

Two ranked teams take to the road this evening against a couple of clubs trying to crack the top half of their respective conferences. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#8 Georgetown @ St. John’s — 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Can Hardy And the SJU Boys Maintain Recent Gains Tonight Against the Hoyas?

Steve Lavin makes his Big East home debut tonight at Madison Square Garden as St. John’s looks to score a big win and move to 3-0 in conference play, already off to their best start since the 1999-2000 team began 4-0 in the Big East under Mike Jarvis. The Red Storm have looked like a different team over the last four games. Since an embarrassing loss at Fordham on December 11, St. John’s has won four straight over better competition. The offense started to click in the second half against Northwestern and they haven’t looked back at all. Lavin’s offense is on fire due to the inside play of Justin Burrell and Justin Brownlee, the former shooting 76% over his last three games, as well as Dwight Hardy on the perimeter. The 6’2 senior guard has scored 41 points over the last two games and is shooting 40% from three over the last three. Even with the improved shooting, Hardy is still under 30% on the year from deep giving you an indication of how much he was struggling before this hot stretch. St. John’s gets a lot of points inside (59% of their total production) and has only attempted 17 threes over the last two contests. They shoot 53.5% inside the arc and utilize their forwards and dribble penetration effectively.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2010

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

After Pitt’s win on Monday night over UConn, I’m officially declaring the Big East a four team race between Georgetown, Pitt, Syracuse and Villanova as we prepare to kick off conference play. Here is a breakdown of why each team will and/or won’t win the conference:

Why They Will Win

  • Georgetown: Its a topic that has been beaten to death, I know, but the Hoya backcourt is just that good. Its more than just the individual talent of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark. Those three play so well together. They are just so in tune with each other on the offensive end of the floor. And, more importantly, John Thompson III has allowed them to play more in transition, taking advantage of the ability of this group to play in the open floor.
  • Pitt: The thing I love about the Panthers is just how in tune they are with what Jamie Dixon wants them to do. Every player on the team understands what his role is and how to execute in that role. Their offense is a thing of beauty to watch, which is not something you often hear said about Pitt. They run their plays, they get the look they want, and they ferociously attack the offensive glass.
  • Syracuse: Rick Jackson is a new man. He’s streamlined his body and become the most dominant big man in the conference. Think DeJuan Blair plus a few inches and minus a few pounds on the bench press. He anchors a front line that is has been as good as any in the conference and still is not at full strength. With Kris Joseph starting to round into form, the Orange seem to have hit their stride this season.
  • Villanova: The Wildcats are going to be in this thing the entire season. Why? Because this team defends. I’ve said it all season long. This group reminds me so much of the team that went to the Final Four in 2009. They have a number of versatile players, they can utilize a number of different lineups, and they have frontcourt depth. That’s not something that you would have said about the Wildcats last season.

Why They Won’t Win

  • Georgetown: I’m concerned about the Hoyas winning under pressure. As I said, this team is experienced, but they haven’t exactly experienced success under pressure. In 2009, this team crumbled under lofty expectations and finished below .500 in the Big East. Last season, the Hoyas seemed to lose every time people started talking about them, including in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Ohio. This year, there have been two games against elite competition where the Hoyas had the final possession and were losing. Both times, Hollis Thompson forced up a tough three pointer with plenty of time on the clock. The Hoyas were bailed out against Missouri when Kim English saved the ball under his own basket, but they weren’t so lucky in the loss to Temple.
  • Pitt: The Panthers are not as good defensively as they have been in year’s past. They are physical on the perimeter, they are big inside, and they rebound the ball, but they also allow a lot of open shots from the perimeter. Tennessee exploited that defensive weakness. Texas nearly did as well. Even UConn got and missed a number of good looks from the perimeter.
  • Syracuse: Are the Orange going to be able to score consistently against better defenses? Putting up 100 points on Colgate is nice. Scoring 53 against Michigan isn’t. They’ve looked better of late, but a lot of teams look good playing cupcakes at home. Which Kris Joseph and which Scoop Jardine show up during Big East play will determine how far this team goes.
  • Villanova: Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns have not been able to fill the leadership void left by Scottie Reynolds. They’ve also not played well in his absence, shooting a combined 38% from the floor and 22% from three. If those two continue to struggle, Villanova is going to be in trouble.

1. Georgetown (11-1) (3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola MD 99-75, 12/23 @ Memphis 86-69

Next Week: 12/29 @ Notre Dame, 1/1 vs. DePaul

2. Pitt (13-1, 1-0) (2)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. UM Eastern Shore 97-64, 12/22 vs. American 61-46, 12/27 vs. UConn 78-63

Next Week: None

3. Syracuse (10-0) (1)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Iona 83-77, 12/20 vs. Morgan State 97-55, 12/22 vs. Drexel 93-65

Next Week: 12/28 vs. Providence, 1/1 vs. Notre Dame

4. Villanova (10-1) (5)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Delaware 78-59, 12/22 @ Monmouth 76-36

Next Week: 12/30 @ Temple, 1/2 vs. Rutgers

5. Connecticut (10-1, 0-1) (4)

Last Week: 12/20 vs. Coppin State 76-64, 12/22 vs. Harvard 81-52, 12/27 @ Pitt 63-78

Next Week: 12/31 vs. South Florida

The loss at Pitt will end up being a good thing for the Huskies. They needed to come back to earth. UConn is not a bad basketball team, especially with Kemba Walker on the court, but they certainly were not the fourth best team in the country. UConn looked bad against Pitt, but their younger players struggled in the Big East opener on the road against an actual top ten team. For the freshmen, it was their first Big East game ever, and it was also two days after Christmas. It is not yet time to panic with this team.

6. Notre Dame (11-1) (6)

Last Week: 12/19 vs. Stony Brook 88-62, 12/22 vs. UMBC 93-53

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Georgetown, 1/1 @ Syracuse

I really like this Notre Dame team. I like the pace they play at. I like their ability to execute offensively. I like that they have multiple lineups that can be effective. I like the number of different weapons they have. The problem? This team doesn’t force any turnovers. Playing great defense, forcing tough shots, and cleaning up the defensive glass is commendable. But the Irish will be that much better if they can start getting easy baskets off of turnovers.

7. Louisville (11-1) (7)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Gardner-Webb 78-49, 12/22 vs. Western Kentucky 114-82, 12/27 vs. Morgan State 104-74

Next Week: 12/31 @ Kentucky

Louisville slipped up against Drexel, as the Dragons were able to control the tempo and force Louisville into bad shots. So how do the Cardinals respond? By hitting 33-53 from three in routs of Western Kentucky and Morgan State, two teams expected to compete for their conference’s crown. Louisville may not have a star, but in those two games they had three guys (Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric and Preston Knowles) go for at least 25 points.

8. Cincinnati (12-0) (8)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Oklahoma 66-56, 12/21 vs. Miami OH 64-48, 12/23 vs. St. Francis PA 94-58

Next Week: 12/28 vs. DePaul, 12/31 vs. Seton Hall

I’m getting sick of writing this about Cincinnati. Their backcourt has been better than expected, their frontcourt is big, and they are undefeated against a Charmin-soft schedule. Come the New Year, we’ll finally start to get a grasp of how good this team is.

9. Marquette (9-3) (9)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Centenary 81-52, 12/21 vs. Mississippi Valley State 104-77

Next Week: 12/29 @ Vanderbilt, 1/1 vs. West Virginia

I say it every year, and then I sit back and watch as people disregard my advice until it comes to fruition — don’t count out Marquette. This is a scrappy team that competes as hard as anyone in the country. Once Darius Johnson-Odom finds his stroke, the Golden Eagles are going to be a team no one wants to play.

10. West Virginia (8-2) (10)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Cleveland State 74-63

Next Week: 12/29 vs. St. John’s, 1/1 @ West Virginia

I cannot figure out this West Virginia team yet, and I’m guessing Bobby Huggins hasn’t either. Casey Mitchell went for 20 ppg scorer to 20 mpg role player. Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli have had as many brain farts as post moves. Truck Bryant can’t stay out of trouble. There are a lot of pieces in Morgantown, the question is whether or not Huggins can put the puzzle together.

11. Providence (11-2) (11)

Last Week: 12/21 vs. Sacred Heart 84-76

Next Week: 12/28 @ Syracuse, 1/1 vs. St. John’s

Providence is going to be fun to watch this season. They run the floor, they shoot a lot of threes, and they score a lot of points. But will they play enough defense to win games in the Big East? Regardless, Marshon Brooks is a name you need to remember.

12. St. John’s (7-3) (14)

Last Week: 12/20 vs. Davidson 62-57, 12/21 vs. Northwestern 85-69

Next Week: 12/29 @ West Virginia, 1/1 @ Providence

The Johnnies may have had the best half of any game from any team this season when they went 16-20 from the floor in the second half against Northwestern. But can that half erase the memories of a 21 point second half lead they blew against Fordham?

13. Seton Hall (6-6) (12)

Last Week: 12/19 vs. NJIT 68-45, 12/22 vs. Dayton 65-69, 12/26 vs. Richmond 61-69

Next Week: 12/31 @ Cincinnati

The Hall’s season went from bad to worse when Jeremy Hazell was shot on Christmas Day. I just don’t think it is in the cards for the Pirates this season.

14. Rutgers (9-2) (13)

Last Week: 12/18 @ Monmouth 79-56, 12/23 vs. St. Peter’s 55-52

Next Week: 12/28 vs. UNC, 1/2 @ Villanova

The biggest news coming out of Piscataway this week was that the Scarlett Knights opted to redshirt Kadeem Jack. Jack is a top 50 recruit and has the potential to be a very good player down the road. No sense in wasting a year of eligibility on half of a meaningless season.

15. South Florida (6-7) (15)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. James Madison 61-66, 12/22 @ Cleveland State 62-69

Next Week: 12/28 @ Seton Hall, 12/31 @ UConn

Gus Gilchrist quit the team. Then he came back. How many people noticed?

16. DePaul (6-6) (16)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola IL 81-74, 12/22 vs. Florida Atlantic 71-62

Next Week: 12/28 @ Cincinnati, 1/1 @ Georgetown

DePaul won two games this week. With Big East play starting, it may have been the last two games they win all season.

Looking Ahead

Big East play is kicking off this week. I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for top 25 matchups, Big Mondays, Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery, Bob Huggins’ track suit, Jay Wright’s Gucci suit, Jim Calhoun’s scowl, the claims that the Big East isn’t the best conference because it’s too big, 3 am replays of Providence-Marquette on MASN, the trash talk between Georgetown and Syracuse fans, and, most importantly, arenas packed to the gills with drunk, screaming college students cheering on their team in games that actually matter.

Share this story