Big East M5: 11.06.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 6th, 2013

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  1. Georgetown is projected to finish around the top of the Big East this season, even after losing its top player from 2012-13 in forward Otto Porter, drafted third overall by the Washington Wizards. Porter is the most recent in a long line of talented forwards who have been the key player in John Thompson’s Princeton offense, following stars like Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe. This year, it is unclear if Georgetown has that type of player at the forward spot. Greg Whittington, the most obvious candidate, tore his ACL over the summer. Nate Lubick will probably get playing time but lacks some of the raw talent and skills that the others have had. Transfer Josh Smith has all the talent a coach could want, but has major question marks after a less-than-stellar two years at UCLA. Instead, this year’s Hoyas may be more focused on guard play with Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a departure from what we usually expect from Thompson’s best teams.
  2. St. John’s has announced that sophomores Felix Balamou and David Lipscomb will take redshirts this season. Balamou was a contributor last year, averaging two points in nine minutes of action per game,and appearing in all but five of the Red Storm’s contests. Lipscomb, a walk-on, appeared in seven games last season but has yet to score in college. The move should allow both guards to develop without burning a year of eligibility during a time when St. John’s already has a crowded backcourt. Players like D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene IV, Rysheed Jordan and Jamal Branch will probably see most of the meaningful minutes in this year’s backcourt, so this is a wise move for these two players’ futures.
  3. It’s hard if not virtually impossible to lose during Midnight Madness, but this year’s event has already proven problematic for Xavier. Guard Dee Davis suffered a concussion during the event and has sat out for more than a week of activities as a result; reports are now that he may not be available for the season opener against Gardner-Webb. Davis is second of all the returning Xavier players in both minutes and points per game, so the Musketeers probably want their guard back as soon as possible. Head coach Chris Mack is taking all necessary precautions: “Until he’s symptom-free we’ll do what’s wise for Dee, and that’s to sit him.”
  4. The injury bug has reared its ugly head in Providence as well. Friars’ guard Kris Dunn suffered a shoulder injury in an exhibition with Rhode Island College and may miss the season opener against Boston College. Dunn’s injury is especially worrisome because it is the same shoulder on which he had labrum surgery before last season, costing him the first nine games of 2012-13. Dunn’s perimeter mate Bryce Cotton is also entering the season hampered by a sore knee, but he is not expected to miss any time. The tandem should be one of the better backcourts in the Big East, and keeping them on the court is key if the Friars want to make a run at the NCAA Tournament this season.
  5. Josh Smith could be the player that swings this season in favor of Georgetown. The UCLA transfer has been with the program roughly a year, and it has allowed him time to grasp the role of playing power forward in John Thompson’s offense. One of the players who he is battling for playing time, Nate Lubick, doesn’t seem too thrilled with going up against the powerful Smith every day in practice: “Ugh. It’s miserable. He backs it down and dunks it on me every time. He’s good. It’s something that’s very hard for another team to prepare.” In Rob Dauster’s article on CollegeBasketballTalk, other teammates commended Smith’s underrated passing ability, which is key for big men in the Georgetown offense. If Smith’s ability in practice translates to the faster pace of real games and his conditioning continues to improve, Smith may be the missing piece for a talented Hoyas team looking to get over the NCAA Tournament hump.
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Big East M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 15th, 2012

  1. College basketball’s signing day isn’t quite as frenzied for recruitniks as football’s, in large part due to the early signing period, which allows schools to ink recruits early, thus securing their commitment and ending much of the signing day “will he or won’t he” speculation. Cincinnati pulled in a nice three-player class with the opening of the early signing period yesterday, including Summit Country Day guard Kevin Johnson, a lifelong Bearcats fan who has flown under the radar due to injury. Mick Cronin heaped a lot of praise on his future guard: “He fits the mold of a lot of our current players. He can play a couple of different positions and he’s good with the ball in his hands. He’s an extremely unselfish player. He can beat his man whenever he wants.”
  2. It’s fairly common for the coach of a top-ranked team to downplay its abilities, especially early in the year, in order to reel his team in. Rick Pitino did just that when describing Louisville’s rebounding issues heading into the “Battle 4 Atlantis”, a preseason tournament featuring Duke, Missouri, and Memphis: “We are not ready to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis for that type of competition,” Pitino said. “We are not ready yet because we’re not rebounding the ball well enough.” This may not all be motivational bluster from Pitino, however. Louisville has gotten outrebounded by Bellarmine in an exhibition game and Manhattan already this season.
  3. Much has been written about Notre Dame’s experienced starting line up. While a number of players on the Irish have been making an impact for a few seasons, point guard Eric Atkins is becoming the straw that stirs the drink in South Bend. Atkins has stepped into a leadership role for Notre Dame, driven by the failure of last year’s team to put away 10th seeded Xavier in the NCAA Tournament after holding a double-digit lead over the Musketeers. The once-carefree guard is all business this year: ”I thought it would be beneficial for me — just being serious all the time, just trying to perfect everything I’m doing, being focused the whole time… in a game, I’m still smiling. But when it comes down to practice time and getting stuff done, I’m going to be serious.”
  4. Former Syracuse basketball players Fab Melo and Kris Joseph, both of whom were drafted by the Boston Celtics, have been sent to the D-League’s Maine Red Claws. Where the D-League used to be a death sentence for a player’s career, it has recently been more utilized as a minor league system for NBA teams to develop fringe talent. Melo is still a raw player with less than five years of formal basketball under his belt, while Joseph is behind Paul Pierce and former Georgetown great Jeff Green at the small forward slot in Boston. Both players should benefit from the increased playing time at that level more than they would riding the pine in Boston.
  5. The Big East will never quite be the same after the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry ends, or at the very least crosses conference lines, after this season. The rivalry is unique in that it is almost entirely based on mutual disdain from on-court events, rather than proximity or other factors that usually spurn hated rivalries. This season’s games promise to be especially heated, with both fan bases signing on for “the most vitriol-ridden, hate-spewing iteration of the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry ever seen in the 30-plus year history of the teams’ membership in the Big East Conference.”  The flames of the rivalry were fanned by an unusual source today – U2 front man Bono, who spoke at Georgetown today, and, among other things, called beloved Syracuse mascot Otto “a fruit” to the bemusement of the present Hoya faithful. This isn’t the first time that celebrities have pandered to Syracuse or Georgetown fans while on campus by putting down the other school.  During a basketball game at the Carrier Dome last season, Shaquille O’Neal uttered the popular Syracuse catch phrase “Georgetown still sucks” while promoting an anti-binge drinking campaign. At Syracuse’s 2012 commencement, screenwriter and Syracuse alumnus Aaron Sorkin discussed accepting the different viewpoints of others “unless they’re Georgetown grads, then they can go to hell.” Needless to say, that final game in the Big East rivalry on March 9 at the Verizon Center is going to be a fun one.
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Checking in on… the Big East.

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2008

Wow, the Big East really has too many freakin teams… anyway, below is our midseason check-in on that bloated league.

Big East Midseason Check In

F4 Caliber. While the Big East appears to have a lot of solid teams, we don’t really see a bunch of contenders for the F4 this year. Georgetown must top the list, but we still have questions about how the Hoyas are planning on replacing the skill and clutchness of Jeff Green. Next in line would probably be Pittsburgh, but they always seem like a Sweet 16 team to us. Same for Marquette – we just can’t see them making that kind of a run this year. Louisville was supposed to be a contender, but unless the Cards figure out a) how to stay healthy; and b) how to get Edgar Sosa to come out of his shell, we don’t see them making much noise either. That leaves Syracuse as the only other team with enough talent to make a run, and we’ll leave them as the wildcard, because you never know how a young dynamic team is going to react to conference play.

Most Likely to Collapse. Connecticut. We’re going with the Huskies here. We thought about WVU, but they’ve beaten everyone they were supposed to and lost to only good teams. UConn just doesn’t have that same solid guardplay that we’ve come to expect from them over the years, and their mental toughness appears tenuous. A couple of bad losses and this season could unwind quickly for Jim Calhoun.

Most Likely to Rise. Notre Dame. On the flip side, speaking of mental toughness, we really like what the Irish are putting on the court this year. We think they could end up in the top three of the league.

Biggest Surprise. West Virginia. This team was supposed to suck, but Huggins has them playing defense and defending home court with his usual rough-and-tumble style. At this point, even an 8-8 Big East slate probably gets them an at-large bid.

Biggest Disappointment. Louisville. Rick Pitino has been back in the Bluegrass for seven years now, and it’s easy to see that he’s simply not the same coach that he once was. Despite consistently recruiting well, he’s only had one excellent team there during his tenure, the 2005 team that went to the Final Four. This year appeared on paper to be another breakthrough year for the Cards, but we’re having trouble seeing consistency (and health) out of Palacios and Padgett on the interior, and Terrence Williams has also been up and down. That’s without mentioning the Waldo act that Edgar Sosa has pulled this year.

 

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ATB: OJ Mayo’s Debut – “Mercer Mercer Me!”

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2007

ATB v.4

11.10.07

Story of the Night. Is the A-Sun the best conference in college hoops this season? Three nights after Gardner-Webb shocked the hoops world against Kentucky, and one night after Belmont whacked Cincy… the Mercer Bears went into LA and pushed around #25 USC and OJ Mayo. That’s three road wins against three BCS teams in the span of about 72 hrs (remember: the A-Sun was 0-34 v. BCS teams last year!) As for this game, sure OJ got his numbers (32/7/4 assts on 12-27 FG + 8 tos), and isn’t that really why he’s there? In shooting 59% for the game (led by James Florence’s 30), Mercer rode a 17-pt halftime lead into an easy win. We have a bad feeling that more of this is on the horizon for USC with Mayo running the show. We’re just sayin… (Mercer 96, USC 81)

Things We Didn’t See. #5 Georgetown appears to have had a shaky opening game against Bill & Mary tonight, leading by only 2 pts with under 10 mins to play. When the Hoyas finally realized they have something nobody else in CBB has – a skilled 7’2 center named Roy Hibbert (23/8/3 blks) – they put the game away. We love the Hoya backcourt of Wallace and Sapp (combined for 33/10 assts), but we’ll continue to have a lingering concern over the long-term prospects of this year’s version until we see if Dajuan Summers or someone else can adequately fill the departed role of Jeff Green (Georgetown 68, William & Mary 53). Staying in the Big East, Pitt is a team we never know what to make of from year to year game to game. Tonight they throttled a solid NC A&T team, with a big contribution from Sam Young (career-high 24/11/4 stls). We’re sure they’re on their way to another 20-25 win season and a top 4 seed, where we’ll either pick them to go to the E8 and they’ll lose in the first round; or, the reverse (Pittsburgh 86, NC A&T 61). Tubby Smith’s debut today at Minnesota went much as his debuts at Kentucky (88-49 v. Morehead St.) and Georgia (91-71 v. W. Carolina), with a blowout win versus an overmatched team. In typical Tubby fashion, the Gophers held Army to 35% shooting and forced 23 turnovers. One Gopher blog lauded the hustle and dedication from players that has been missing in recent years (Minnesota 84, Army 52). Over at Oregon, we were interested to see how the Ducks would respond to the loss of Aaron Brooks, and so far, so good, as a balanced attack quickly overwhelmed Pepperdine tonight. Malik Hairston, Tajuan Porter and Bryce Taylor all had 17 pts each as the Ducks raced out to a 30-pt lead at halftime and cruised the rest of the way – we likey (Oregon 100, Pepperdine 70). Vandy is an SEC team that we probably have overlooked this year, but the Dores picked up a solid win over a mid-major tonight by beating Austin Peay. Showing just how tough it is to beat Vandy in Memorial Gym once again, the Commodores shot 55% from the field and 52% from three in keeping AP comfortably at bay most of the night. Shan Foster (21 pts) and AJ Ogilvy (18/9/2 blks) led the way for Vandy, while AP star Drake Reed had a rough night (12/7 on 3-16 shooting) (Vanderbilt 81, Austin Peay 67). There was a great game tonight in Milwaukee when Marquette took on another talented mid-major, IUPUI. Marquette’s 8-pt halftime lead was quickly erased by a second-half 17-2 run by IUPUI, but spurred by Jerel McNeal’s 20 pts, the Warriors came storming back with a 23-8 run of their own to ensure victory (Marquette 76, IUPUI 68).

Score of the Night. Unbelievably, we’re going back to The Farm. For the second consecutive night, Stanford had a 30+ pt halftime lead over an opponent, and again, no starter played more than 20 minutes. Tonight’s beneficiary was Northwestern St. – what’s TJ giving those boys (Stanford 97, Northwestern St. 58)?

Upset Alert. Other than the above USC game, there were no big upsets today.

Joey Dorsey Award. OJ Mayo (USC). Not for his game tonight, but for his quote that hearing his name called in the starting lineup “was a lot of fun. I wish we would’ve won.” Maybe we’re being nitpicky here, but after getting thumped by Mercer, we’re not sure any part of the night should be remembered as fun.

On Tap Today (all times EST). 47 games on tap, several of which are worthwhile (assuming Comcast doesn’t screw us again and gets FC working).

  • Loyola (MD) (-5) v. Pennsylvania 12pm – our favorites in the Ivy and the MAAC.
  • Rutgers (NL) v. North Dakota St. 1pm - NDSU gave Florida trouble; they can do more than that with Rutgers.
  • Seton Hall (NL) v. Monmouth (ESPN FC) 1pm – um, we’ll be washing our hair at that time.
  • Virginia (NL) v. Vermont 2pm – don’t understand why this isn’t FC worthy but the garbage game above is.
  • Florida (-17.5) v. Tennessee Tech 3pm – really would like to see if Calathes can keep it up.
  • Gonzaga (-12.5) v. Montana 4pm – we’re very high on Gonzaga this year, but Montana is no slouch.
  • Stanford (NL) v. UCSB 6pm – if Stanford is up 30+ at half of this game, we’re putting them #1 in Monday’s blogpoll ballot.
  • Pittsburgh (NL) v. St. Louis (ESPN FC) 6pm – we’re tuning in just to see Majerus back on the sidelines.
  • Kansas (NL) v. UMKC (ESPN FC) 8pm – let the Kansas Kremations continue.
  • Oregon (NL) v. Pacific (ESPN FC) 9pm – both of these teams had great first games.
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06.18.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 18th, 2007

With the draft withdrawal deadline looming…

  • Should I stay…  Cal’s DeVon Hardin, Marquette’s Dominic James, Nevada’s Marcelus Kemp, Illinois’ Shaun Pruitt, Texas A&M’s Joseph Jones and GW’s Maureece Rice will stick around another year to play for free.
  • Or should I go?  Georgetown’s Jeff Green, Georgia Tech’s Thaddeus Young, Nevada’s Ramon Sessions, Oklahoma State’s JamesOn Curry have all decided to keep their names in the draft.
  • In case you missed it, Florida guard Brandon Powell was arrested last week.
  • We thought this was kinda cool: Kareem‘s commencement speech at UCLA last weekend.
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NBA Predraft Camp Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on June 5th, 2007

Thanks to the guys over at draftexpress.com, we’re just getting our first look at some of the height/weight and athletic numbers coming out of the NBA Predraft Camp last weekend in Orlando. We don’t put a lot of stock in drafting players based on these measurements – after all, if a guy can play, he can play (tip of the hat to Jonathan Givony for making this very point perfectly on draftexpress.com) – but it’s always fun to see who wins for the “incredible shrinking” award (aka the Lonny Baxter Trophy) as well as who appears to be the top athletes coming out of college this year. Note we said “appears.”

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The Logo and MJ discussing the talent in Orlando

Why wasn’t Maryland better this year?

Guard D.J. Strawberry was rated the top overall athlete this year, and Ekene Ibekwe had some of the most eye-popping big man numbers, featuring a 7’6 foot wingspan and a thirty-nine inch veritical leap. This is yet another example of superior basketball skills and IQ (see: Florida Gators) trumping a stable of athletes. Either that, or Gary Williams was too busy resting on his laurels to teach these kids anything the last four years.

Durant needs to beef up

We realize he’s only eighteen and he can score on just about anyone already… but zero bench presses of 185 lbs. is pathetic. That stat, combined with his surprising lack of speed and agility in the drills, may suggest that he’ll face long obstacles in becoming a solid two-way player in the long run. He’s also going to take a beating on drives into the paint the next few years unless he commits himself to a weight training program to improve his strength.

Perhaps not surpisingly, most of the one-and-dones were weaker than their older peers. Durant, Julian Wright (2), Brandan Wright (2) and Daequan Cook (4) combined for a total of just eight bench presses at the 185-lb. weight. Mike Conley, Jr., (13), Javaris Crittenton (11) and Spencer Hawes (9) did better. Greg Oden sat out that event due to his injured wrist.

Lonny Baxter Award

Corey Brewer. Routinely listed at 6’9 at Florida, he came in at just 6’6.75 by the camp measurements. Lucky for him, he’s not a post man, so this won’t likely affect his draft status too much. Another Floridian, Al Thornton, deserves a nod here too. FSU listed him at 6’8, but the measurements put him at a mere 6’5.75. Considering that Thornton logged significant minutes on the interior, this puts him at a major disadvantage going into the draft.

Who Knew?

Aaron Gray is a legitimate seven feet tall, and Joakim Noah is a solid 6’10.5. We would have guessed both were shorter. ACC bigs Brandan Wright and Josh McRoberts are both 6’8.75 tall, but Wright has the slightly longer wingspan and McBob needs to put… the… coffee cupcakes… down (camp high 13.7% body fat).

Guys who’ll get a look based on their measurements alone

SEC big men Major Wingate and Jermareo Davidson. Both measure in the solid 6’9-6’10 range, have extremely long wingspans (7’4) and solid if not spectacular athleticism. Clemson’s James Mays could be a Renaldo Balkman type – a 6’7 jumping jack with a 37″ vertical and long arms (7’1.5″ wingspan).

Major Wingate and Chris Richard

Wingate & Richard battle in the post

Watch for these guys in a future NBA dunk contest near you

  • Al Thornton – 6’6 with a 7’1 wingspan and a 41-inch vertical – wow!
  • Nick Young – 6’5 with a 7’0 wingspan and a 40.5 inch vertical
  • Jeff Green – 6’8 with a 7’1 wingspan and a 38-inch vertical.

Dis-honorable Mention – Jared Jordan, who managed a standing still 14.5-inch vertical (to be fair, he doubled it to 28.5 inches in the running vertical).

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Can you outjump this JJ?

Quick bigs and slow guards

  • Greg Oden, Ekene Ibekwe and Chris Richard. We covered Oden yesterday and Ibekwe above, but how about super-sub Chris Richard? He never struck us as very fast. At 6’7.5 he’s a classic tweener, but his length (7’4.5 wingspan) and agility might just get him a spot somewhere eventually.
  • Marcelus Kemp and Sammy Mejia. Both of these guards were slower than big-ass Mario Boggan and a host of other big men at the three-quarter court sprint. Kemp in particular may need to think about heading back to Nevada for another season.

Classic Tweeners

Hard-luck Villanova forward Curtis Sumpter and BC forward Jared Dudley. Both are ferocious rebounders in the paint, but both happen to measure at around 6’6. Their only real chance at the next level is to re-invent their games to face the basket, akin to what Corliss Williamson and more recently, Chuck Hayes, have done.

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NBA Draft Lottery

Posted by rtmsf on May 23rd, 2007

 NBA Draft Lottery Logo

As we watched the NBA Draft Lottery last night, we wondered if the ultimate settling and selection of the envelopes in the hopper represented another cruel fait accompli to long-suffering NBA fans in cities like Boston and Atlanta; or whether it would manifest as the final piece to the puzzle in renaissance projects ongoing in cities like Chicago or Phoenix.  Chalk one up for the French. 

The shot on ESPN of Celtic fans in that pub that looked like a place Sam Malone would frequent, heads in hands with despair, was one that will not soon be forgotten – missing on Duncan a decade ago; and Oden/Durant now.  Bill Simmons is probably just stirring awake from the Southie gutter where he chose to rest last night.  (update: he crawled out of the gutter to post this article by 3pm EDT)  Instead, the clean and green cities of the Pacific Northwest should enjoy a basketball rebirth, not unlike that of the area in the past several years of college basketball (Gonzaga, UW, Wazzu, Oregon).  Oh, and the Varsity Conference just got that much tougher.

Boston Draft Logo

Sign us up for Xi Xianlian!!

It’s not always the case that a #1 pick from the draft lottery guarantees success.  In the lottery era, only Ewing (85), David Robinson (87), Shaq (92), Duncan (97), and Lebron (03) were considered no-brainer dominant picks who could carry a franchise from day one.  Shaq and Duncan have had the most success, whereas Ewing and Robinson were somewhat constricted by the pure brilliance of the MJ era.  Lebron is TBD.  Oden is expected to follow the career arc of these players, considering his skills and athleticism as a 19 yr old 33 yrs old.  As long as the Blazers go for the big man over the guard this time, just as  they did in 1984 (that one didn’t work out so well), they should be fine.  Will Oden lead Portland to championships?  Nobody knows for certain, but Portland fans are ready to take that gamble after a long period of “jail blazer” sucktitude, crashing the team website twice last night amidst all the giddiness over their good fortune. 

Oden/Durant

What about Durant going to Seattle?  Will he become the next T-Mac or KG, or someone who can actually win something once in a while?  He is undoubtedly a spectacular talent, someone who has a presence about him (even at such a young age) that makes you ashamed to avert your eyes.  He also may be the golden cow that inspires Seattle voters into approving a new arena so as to keep the Sonics from eventually moving to Oklahoma.  And as much as the Oklahoma City fans were supportive during the Hornets’ exile there after Katrina, the NBA needs to keep its presence in an internationally-focused and culturally important city such as Seattle.

Draft News:  Roy Hibbert has announced he is returning to Georgetown for his senior campaign.  His frontcourt mate Jeff Green is entering the draft.        

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04.18.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 18th, 2007

  • Sixteen games of root canal basketball weren’t enough.  Big Ten will expand its conference season to 18 games next year.   
  • Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert may both return to Georgetown.  Minor quake felt in central NC as Franklin St. collectively shudders. 
  • Indiana could be legit next year.  DJ White plans on returning to play with super frosh Eric Gordon.
  • UCLA backcourt remains half intact, as Darren Collison stays in Westwood another year. 
  • Nick Young makes it official that he is leaving USC. 
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