DeAndre Daniels Key to UConn’s Season

Posted by Todd Keryc (@tkeryc) on November 22nd, 2013

Todd Keryc (@tkeryc) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday night’s game between Connecticut and Boston College in the 2kSports Classic.

Through the first four games of this season, it looked more like 2010 than 2013 for the UConn Huskies. Shabazz Napier, the 6’1” lightning-quick senior point guard, had inherited the role of Kemba Walker and the rest of the roster was there to support him however they could. This was the basic premise of the 2010-11 national championship season in Storrs. Players like Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi and even Napier himself stepped up when needed but largely deferred to the greatness of Walker and it resulted in a magical March.

Deandre Daniels

DeAndre Daniels Had a Huge Thursday Night Against BC

This November, it’s been the Napier show in Connecticut. He leads the team in scoring (largely expected), assists (no-brainer) and steals (not terribly surprising). He also leads the team in rebounding, which is stunning when you see that he averages just fewer than 10 per game, nearly six more than anyone else on the team. He is a complete floor general and he bears full responsibility to make UConn succeed. With less flair and without the incredible scoring ability of Walker, Napier has nevertheless turned into the 2013 model of Kemba. And if it continues, UConn has no chance of advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament.

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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #8 Connecticut

Posted by mlemaire on October 30th, 2012

Few new coaches in the country will have a more difficult job this season than new Connecticut head honcho Kevin Ollie. Not only does Ollie has the unenviable task of following the most popular and successful coach in the program’s history, but he also has to find a way to overcome the departure of some of the team’s most talented and productive players and he has to find a way to motivate his team because previous academic issues forced the NCAA to bar his team from the Big East and NCAA Tournament. Oh and did we mention that Ollie is on a one-year contract and will be under heavy scrutiny all season as the athletic department decides whether to keep him around or chase a bigger name? Needless to say, Ollie has his work cut out for him. The good news is that Ollie’s staff is chock-full of former Division I head coaches and there is still plenty of talent leftover from last season’s tumultuous run. Depth will become a problem and struggles could turn into a freefall without any postseason to play for, but there are certainly enough pieces in place to at least give Huskies’ fans a glimmer of hope heading into a new era of UConn basketball.

2011-12 Record: 20-14, 8-10

2011-12 Postseason: NCAA Tournament Second Round, lost to Iowa State 77-64.

Point Guard Shabazz Napier Is The Unquestion Leader Of One Of The Conference’s Youngest Teams.

Schedule

Ollie’s career on the bench will start with a bang when the Huskies kick off the college basketball season by playing a very talented Michigan State team on board on active aircraft carrier, and the rest of the non-conference slate won’t be much easier. Last year’s America East champion, Vermont, lies in wait immediately following the opener and the Paradise Jam Tournament with a first game against Wake Forest follows that. Don’t forget about the Jimmy V Classic where they will square off with a very talented North Carolina State squad.

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Big East Summer Capsules: Connecticut Huskies

Posted by mlemaire on August 2nd, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Connecticut.

1. It’s official; there will be no postseason play for the Huskies in 2013.

There was only one truly major story that came out of Connecticut this summer but it was a doozy. The Huskies got into hot water with the NCAA because the program’s APR score wasn’t high enough to meet NCAA standards from 2008-11. The NCAA as a result dropped a postseason ban on the program because of its lackluster APR score and the university and the program have been fighting to appeal that ban ever since.  By the middle of July, they had run out of appeals and it became official that the UConn basketball program would not be participating in any postseason tournaments next season. The logic behind the ban makes sense, but it still seems unfortunate to punish the players directly, many of whom weren’t even on the team during the years in question. It also is truly unfortunate to punish the fans of the program. I am sure Storrs will still be rocking when big names roll through town,  but it is going to be tough to stay invested and motivated in your team’s success when you know no matter how well they do, there won’t be any pot of gold at the end of this proverbial rainbow.

2. A lot of pressure falls on the young shoulders of Omar Calhoun.

There Will Be No Postseason For Jim Calhoun And His Huskies Next Season

As if the postseason ban wasn’t enough of a stomach punch, the program also watched as its two most talented players – Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond – left for the NBA; one of its captains – Alex Oriakhi – transfer because he was unhappy; and another key contributor – Roscoe Smith – transfer out so he could play small forward. Needing to replace a lot of scoring and talent, the coaching staff brought in exactly three players. There is 6-foot-10 Philip Nolan who should provide defensive support in the post but is really raw offensively. There is Leon Tolksdorf, another German recruit who at the very least should provide much needed depth to a frontcourt sorely in need of it. And then there is 6-foot-3 combo guard and New York City native Omar Calhoun. Calhoun is strong enough psychically and multi-talented enough offensively to step into a contributing role immediately. After all, he hasn’t even been on campus for more than a few months and already has held his own against arguably the program’s best player ever in a game of one-on-one. But the Big East won’t be a one-on-one scrimmage, and Calhoun will need to learn quickly, because the Huskies need a lot of help across the board especially given the scoring exodus that took place during the offseason. Calhoun has all the tools to fill some of that scoring gap right away, so he should be ready to make the most of this opportunity.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Jeremy Lamb

Posted by AMurawa on June 23rd, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Jeremy Lamb

School:Connecticut

Height/Weight: 6’5”, 179 lbs.

NBA Position: Shooting Guard

Projected Draft Range: Mid-Lottery

Lamb Had An Enigmatic Sophomore Campaign

Overview: Coming out of high school, Jeremy Lamb was something of an afterthought in Connecticut’s 2010 recruiting class. While guys like Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith were expected to make an immediate impact with the Huskies, Lamb arrived in Storrs at the 43rd ranked shooting guard in his class, according to ESPNU. And really, as the calendar flipped from 2010 to 2011, while Lamb had turned in some nice performances, he had done little to change that perception. But then, in the middle of January, he turned in a streak of eight straight double-figure scoring efforts (averaging 16.7 PPG over that stretch) and presented himself as a significant second option to alpha dog Kemba Walker. He faded back into obscurity down the stretch of the Big East schedule, but once the Huskies got into elimination basketball, he was excellent, scoring in double figures in each of his Big East and NCAA Tournament games as the Huskies swept to a national title. Along the way, Lamb displayed an excellent shooting touch in a variety of areas, posting a 62% eFG while scoring 15.3 PPG and grabbing a hold of the attention of NBA scouts. But last season, in the absence of Walker, the Huskies struggled with team chemistry as an arguably more talented Husky team struggled home to a mediocre 20-14 finish and a first-round NCAA loss. Lamb’s numbers looked much the same across the board (great offensive efficiency numbers, excellent shooting percentages, few turnovers, and fewer assists) albeit with a bump up in usage, but the team chemistry issues are of concern, as are Lamb’s limited trips to the free throw line and occasionally poor shot selection. Still, with an absurd seven-foot wingspan on a solid 6’5” frame, Lamb’s scoring ability and excellent athleticism make him a highly-regarded NBA prospect.

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Rough Offseason Has UConn Reeling, But Team Remains Hopeful in 2012-13

Posted by EJacoby on June 21st, 2012

Breaking news surfaced on Wednesday when the NCAA released its Academic Progress Report (APR) for all Division I athletic programs, and a whopping 10 men’s basketball teams are now banned from the 2012-13 NCAA Tournament after failing to reach the required APR average score of 900 over the last four years. The biggest name on the list, and the only power conference school to ever receive a postseason APR ban, is Connecticut, which recorded a four-year score of 889. But none of this was news to the Huskies, a school which had already lost an appeal this offseason for inclusion. The postseason ban is just one of many pieces of bad news that UConn has received this offseason, which has put the future of UConn basketball in serious doubt. Your 2011 National Champions have struggled on and off the court since that wild run two springs ago sparked by Kemba Walker and company. Transfers, violations, firings, underperformance, and bans have dominated the news cycle around Storrs and 70-year-old future Hall of Fame head coach Jim Calhoun remains on the fence about coaching his team for much longer. Where does UConn go from here, and what can we expect from the Huskies on the court next season?

Jim Calhoun’s future remains in doubt, but the Hall of Fame coach doesn’t want to leave the program in chaos (AP Photo)

Connecticut basketball has been nothing short of a disaster since hauling the National Championship trophy two seasons ago. While that year’s historic run of 11 straight postseason wins is forever engrained in Storrs lore and perhaps fans can accept a few years’ grace period after winning a title, it’s still hard to believe how quickly things have fallen. UConn entered 2011-12 as the Big East preseason favorites but struggled to a 20-14 finish, playing through multiple suspensions and the extended absence of Calhoun due to rules violations and health reasons. The team lost its first round NCAA Tournament game to Iowa State in convincing fashion, and things have only gotten worse since that game in March. Top talents Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond both declared for the NBA Draft, and forwards Roscoe Smith, Michael Bradley, and Alex Oriakhi all transferred out of the program, leaving major holes in the roster. The team is ineligible for both the 2013 Big East and NCAA Tournaments after poor academic performances in the past four years. Recruiting has been understandably difficult, as the school remains a questionable short term destination for prospects. There’s a brand new athletic director (Warde Manuel) on campus who has yet to implement his long-term strategy. And perhaps most importantly, Calhoun remains uncommitted to his future on campus. The 70-year-old has two more years left on his contract and certainly does not want to leave the program in chaos, but the future Hall of Famer will probably not stick around much longer no matter what situation the team is in.

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Big East Weekly Five: 04.24.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on April 24th, 2012

  1. With three weeks having passed since Kentucky snipped the nets in victory we here at RTC Big East are officially in withdrawal and already cannot wait until the 2012-13 season tips off.  However, we understand that things tend to slow down a bit over the summer months and will just have to cope. That said there will continue to be plenty to discuss from week-to-week so we are happy to introduce the Big East Weekly Five.  Think of it as the Morning Five’s lazy cousin. You know, that cousin who doesn’t show up as much as some of the other relatives, but always seems to grace you with his presence if there is free beer?  The Weekly Five will continue throughout the summer and its goal is to provide similar content as the Big East Morning Fives that you have come know and cherish. In keeping with the desire of many to slim down for summer, there will just be less of us to love.  Still, just because we are getting lean and mean does not mean cutting back on the Fresca!
  2. Recruiting is the name of the game in the spring and summer, especially if you are St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin who coming into the weekend had five open scholarships for next year burning a hole in his pocket. What a difference a few days makes as Lavin and St. John’s scored three solid commitments when Harvard transfer Max Hooper joined Monroe (junior) College teammates Marco Bourgault and Orlando Sanchez in pledging for the Red Storm. All three players were on the Queens campus over the weekend — Lavin just needed to seal the deal. Bourgault and Hooper are shooters who will be tasked to help St. John’s stretch the floor with their ability to hit it from deep. The 6’6” Bourgault averaged 10.9 points per game for Monroe and made 42% of his three-point attempts. Hooper, also 6’6”, appeared in just two games while at Harvard and did not make the only shot he attempted. Fittingly both shooters will have three years of eligibility, although Hooper will have to first sit out a season under NCAA transfer rules. The 6’9″ Sanchez may represent Lavin’s biggest coup of the week as he fought off Big East rival Providence and the always persistent Ed Cooley in a battle for the big man. Sanchez will have two years of eligibility remaining.
  3. Seton Hall appears to have filled the significant void vacated by graduating star point guard Jordan Theodore as Texas transfer and Seton Hall Prep alum Sterling Gibbs will be coming home to suit up for the Pirates. The addition of Gibbs solidifies Seton Hall’s lead guard position, but the real kicker for head coachKevin Willard is that he may have Gibbs at the controls this coming season. Gibbs has applied for a hardship waiver that, if granted, would allow him to avoid sitting out next season per normal NCAA transfer rules.  The basis for the hardship waiver request is reported to be a family member’s illness. In Gibbs’ freshman season in Austin, he played in 30 games averaging 2.6 points and 0.7 assists in 7.5 minutes per game for the Longhorns.
  4. While players appear to be headed to St. John’s in droves, the exit door at Connecticut is getting an intense workout. Faced with the reality of not being allowed to play in next season’s Big East and NCAA Tournaments due to his program’s failure to meet NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards, sophomore forward Roscoe Smith became the latest to leave the program when he indicated he will transfer over the weekend. Smith, who averaged 4.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game this past season, joins fellow transfers Alex Oriakhi, who has since committed to Missouri, and Michael Bradley, along with Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb who declared for the NBA Draft.  Bradley, however, may ultimately opt to remain in Storrs as his primary reason for requesting a release from his scholarship is to explore options around moving closer to his ill grandmother.  The 6’10″ forward was scheduled to meet head coachJim Calhoun yesterday to discuss his future.
  5. The NCAA defended its position on Academic Progress Rate (APR) guidelines when it responded to a letter written by six members of Connecticut’s legislature that said banning the Huskies from NCAA Tournament play next year represented too harsh a penalty. The crux of the letter echoed the university’s appeal-losing position, stating that the APR calculations are not fair because they incorporate performance dating back four years when no one on the current roster was on the team. NCAA spokesman Bob Williams countered that the standards have been in place since 2006 and Connecticut knew the standard by which they and all other schools and teams were being measured.

You May Not Have College Hoops For Awhile, But You Can Always Have Fresca

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Morning Five: 04.11.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 11th, 2012

  1. After running the NCAA Tournament for over a decade, Greg Shaheen was replaced yesterday by Mark Lewis. As the article by Jeff Goodman points out Shaheen was widely respected within the college basketball community and was viewed as a good person to work with. We are not privy to the inner workings of the NCAA so we will not comment on how the entire process went down. We can however comment on our multiple interactions with him over the years and have to say that he always dealt with us fairly and when other people in similar positions of power may have been less likely to be as welcoming. We are not sure what his plans are, but there should be plenty of other organizations and companies that take a good, hard look at him for whatever openings they may have.
  2. We may have identified the early 2013 national title favorite as Cody Zeller and Christian Watford announced that they will be staying at Indiana for at least one more year. Zeller was the key to the Hoosiers’ resurgence and in most years would have been a serious contender for most national freshman of the year awards while Watford provided what was widely considered the play of the year with his game-winning three against Kentucky. With those two returning Indiana should be poised to compete with Louisville and Kentucky (depending on their additions today) for next year’s national title.
  3. With spring signing day upon us, we have a couple of articles to take you through the key players. The first is from  Eric Bossi, who takes a look at the ten top uncommitted prospects and where they might be headed.  The second is from Kevin Pelton and looks at the top incoming freshman from the Nike Hoop Summit. The names are mostly the same ones you have been hearing for the past year, but it is interesting to see legitimate criticism of their games, which you rarely see from most recruiting services when they discuss the top prospects.
  4. Apparently adding one of the best freshman classes in the country was not enough for Arizona as they picked up T.J. McConnell, a transfer from Duquesne, yesterday. McConnell, who left Duquesne less than a month ago, picked Arizona over Virginia citing among other things his desire to win and compete in the NCAA Tournament. McConnell will not be eligible to play until the 2013-14 season due to transfer rules, but when he does he will have an outstanding supporting cast assuming that most of the incoming freshmen stay in college for more than a year. The addition of McConnell, who will likely be a four-year guy, should also add some stability to the roster over the long-term as many of the more highly rated recruits may not stay all four years.
  5. The Indiana guys may have stolen the headlines, but there were a few others that made significant NBA Draft announcements yesterday. Jeremy Lamb decided that he would leave Connecticut before they had to deal with their 2013 NCAA Tournament ban. The move should not come as much of a surprise and our only question is how long until Andre Drummond joins him. Mason Plumlee will stick around Duke for his senior season, which may have led to Alex Oriakhi announcing that he had taken the Blue Devils off his transfer list. Plumlee’s return is fairly significant in that if he becomes a little more assertive the Blue Devils should be firmly in the top half of the very ACC next season. The last major announcement from yesterday was that Quincy Miller has decided to stay at Baylor for one more year. Miller’s announcement also should not come as a surprise as his freshman year was mediocre enough to scare away most NBA scouts.
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Morning Five: 04.06.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 6th, 2012

  1. After months of waiting Connecticut finally heard from the NCAA regarding its appeal against their 2013 NCAA Tournament ban for low APR scores. Unfortunately for the Huskies, the response was not the one they wanted to hear as the NCAA rejected the appeal so now the Huskies will be forced to sit out the NCAA Tournament. Outside of the immediate impact of the team not being able to play in the Big East and NCAA Tournament next year, this will likely have a significant influence on the NBA Draft decisions of Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond as well as the inevitable retirement of Jim Calhoun (he has to retire sometime, right?). And of course, as we have mentioned several times before this also means that Alex Oriakhi would be able to play for the school that he transfers to for next season without having to sit out a year. Although the Huskies do not have any other players who would appear to be in urgent need of going to a program that could play in the NCAA Tournament next year, it will be interesting to see if other players try to leave the program too.
  2. While some of Connecticut players may be leaving school early, there are at least a few notable names that will be staying in college. Yesterday, James Michael McAdoo, Isaiah Canaan, and Kenny Boynton all announced that they would be returning to their respective schools next season. McAdoo is perhaps the most interesting case as his playing time was limited by a loaded frontline in front of him at North Carolina, but he still would have been a first round pick. Now he will return to a Tar Heel team that has lost a lot of its minutes and McAdoo should be ready to showcase his skills for the nation and the NBA scouts. Canaan, who is coming off a spectacular junior year at Murray State, would not have been a first round pick so his return seems reasonable although we are not sure how much he can improve his stock unless he works on his point guard skills as the NBA is typically not in love with 6’0″ shooting guards. For us, the decision by Boynton to come back for his senior year at Florida seems like a no-brainer. While we have had issues with Boynton’s tendency to jack up shots (he will almost definitely end up as the school’s all-time leader in field goal attempts), his place in the Gator rotation should be more clear next season with the departure of at least one and probably two pieces from what was a crowded backcourt this season. Boynton will still probably end up playing overseas, but at least now he will have a chance to prove himself without a ton of other redundant options available to the coaching staff.
  3. Is this the beginning of the end for the ESPN BracketBusters event? One of the marquee conferences involved in the annual late February series of games, the CAA, has moved on to make an exclusive partnership deal with NBCSports Network starting in 2013, and therefore it will no longer participate in the event. In different-but-same news, the Mountain West’s television arm, The Mountain, will cease operations at the end of June as the league figures out its next step with a pending merger with Conference USA. This news undoubtedly will be received well far and wide for those of us who hated tuning into the fishbowl otherwise known as The Mtn’s production values every weekend. To whoever killed this network: Thank You.
  4. We’ve heard of a lot of crazy recruiting stories over the years — some true, most not — but we’re not sure that anything approaches what Nerlens Noel reported that a Kentucky fan offered him over Final Four weekend: the man’s wife. At this point, it’s just hearsay, but Noel seemed to have enough belief in the offer to state, “nah, [he’s] good,” so we’re generally tending toward belief on this one. Regardless of whether the surely fine young Mrs. was offered to a 17-year old, this much is true: Noel will choose between Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown in the coming week.
  5. While on the subject of recruiting, and really, what else is there at this time of year… the nation’s #1 recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, is considered a must-get for Ben Howland’s UCLA program. His list of schools is down to UCLA, Kentucky, and Duke, but there hasn’t been more pressure on a single coach to get a single player in recruiting circles since Cody Zeller inked for Tom Crean’s Indiana program a year and a half ago. As the recruiting analysts all preach, it isn’t even about the single year that Muhammad would spend in Westwood as much as the future cachet that he would provide. John Calipari was able to lock down he likes of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist through his work two and three years ago with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
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NCAA Sticks to Its Guns: UConn Appeal Denied

Posted by rtmsf on April 5th, 2012

In news today that was only surprising to those who believe the NCAA has no spine, the organization denied Connecticut‘s final appeal over its eligibility for the 2013 NCAA Tournament based on its Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores. NCAA legislation enacted last October requires a four-year average APR of 900 or a two-year average of 930 in order to become eligible for next year’s Tournament — UConn’s APRs of 826 in 2009-10 and 978 in 2010-11 average out to a two-year score of 902 (well below the 930 cutoff), and its four-year average of 893 also comes up shy of the eligibility threshold (900). The Husky program argued that its proposed remedial measures, which included the possible forfeiture of NCAA Tournament revenue, greater academic support mechanisms and the existing loss of two scholarships, should be sufficient punishment for the school’s past academic failings. But that appeal was rejected, presumably on the grounds that the NCAA cannot afford to lose further credibility by backtracking on this mandate.

How Will the NCAA's Decision Impact Calhoun?

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy got involved on Thursday, telling the Hartford Courant:

It’s almost as if they’ve decided to get UConn one way or the other. [The NCAA] can’t get out of their own way. I think I have the same reaction a lot of people have when they understand what’s going on. For the first time in its history, the NCAA is making a retroactive application of a new rule. They modified a rule without modifying the time in which he comes into effect. … They changed the rule and didn’t give people time to adjust to it. … They are breaking their own precedents to bring this about. UConn has cleaned up its act, and now the NCAA is punishing a bunch of kids who have absolutely nothing or very little … to do with the failures of the past.

NCAA spokesperson Eric Christiansen responded to this criticism by saying that “schools have known since 2006 that APRs below 900 could result in serious penalties including postseason restrictions.” Of course, he’s right. UConn and other schools have known about the 900 threshold for a long time — they only started to take it seriously, though, when the NCAA gave it the necessary teeth to impact postseason eligibility through last year’s added legislation. And about the argument that the players from the 2009-10 team that caused so much of the APR problem are no longer around? No disrespect intended toward those former or current Huskies, but how is this different from other rules violations where a school is placed on probation for the actions of a former coach and/or players? The list is long of such situations on the other side of the rule-breaking fence — why should academic issues be treated any differently?

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Big East Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 27th, 2012

  1. Syracuse’s super sixth man Dion Waiters is not going to wait around for his starting slot next season with the Orange as Waiters announced he will be entering the NBA Draft.  The athletic 6’4” guard will sign with an agent, eliminating any possibility of returning for his junior year.  Waiters did not start a game this season for Syracuse but was widely regarded as the team’s most talented player.  He posted averages of 12.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 24.1 minutes per game while being named the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year and making All-Big East Third Team.  There could be quite a bit of roster turnover this offseason as Waiters joins departing seniors Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, while fellow sophomore Fab Melo, who was suspended for the NCAA Tournament due to academic issues, may be soon to follow Waiters into the NBA draft.
  2. Another Big East guard, Providence’s Vincent Council, ended speculation that he might be leaving school to turn pro when he told Brendan McGair of the Woonsocket (RI) Call, who reported via Twitter,  “I wasn’t really thinking about leaving (Providence College) at all.”  It had been said Council was considering foregoing his senior year and that academics may have been a driver.  An All-Big East Third Team selection this past season, Council averaged 15.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and a conference best 7.5 assists per game. The 6’2” New Yorker figures to be one of the top returning Big East point guards in what should be an entertaining backcourt next year as the Friars welcome in top 25 recruits Ricardo Ledo and McDonald’s All-American Kris Dunn.
  3. There are so many storylines around the Louisville versus Kentucky Final Four matchup there could be a two-week Super Bowl-type hype period to analyze and dissect.  While everyone loves some good old-fashioned overkill, the good news is we only have until Saturday to anticipate how this historic match-up might play out.  Certainly the head coaches are at, or near, the forefront of it all and as Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel points out, Louisville’s Rick Pitino will enjoy playing the underdog role in an effort to perhaps tighten Kentucky coach John Calipari and his team up a bit.  While there is no question the pressure rests on Calipari and Kentucky, it is hard to fathom the magnitude of the moment getting by either team.  As much as Pitino might love his side to play loose, he and his team both know the margin for error will be thin on Saturday.
  4. Plane ticket from Kentucky to New Orleans? $500-$1800.  Hotel room in New Orleans? $400-$600 per night.  Ticket to see Louisville take on Kentucky in the Final Four? $377.  A chance to see one of the most anticipated match-ups in college basketball history?  Well…pricey!  If this weekend is any barometer of the economic state of our country things are progressing nicely.  Despite the price tag demand is high for all of the above and supply is getting low as basketball crazy residents of the Bluegrass state have been more than willing to pony up. Getting to New Orleans is one thing.  Plane seats are limited and anything involving a gas powered vehicle, whether car, SUV or bus comes with the pain of surging gas prices.  What to do when one gets there is another. As of yesterday there were only about 2,200 of New Orleans’ 22,000 hotel rooms available even with hotels setting four-night minimums. It is great to go to a big game but will also be interesting to see if television sales in Final Four markets increase this week as people decide to ditch the planes, trains, and automobiles and use that money to purchase a longer-lasting Toshiba.
  5. The Associated Press revealed its All-America teams yesterday and while the Big East cannot boast any first teamers, the conference was well represented overall.  Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder of Marquette (17.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG) and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones (19.9 PPG, 10.9 RPG) represented two of the six players who received second team honors while Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb (17.7 PPG, 4.9 RPB) took home an honorable mention distinction.  Members of the first team included: Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Draymond Green (Michigan State), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Thomas Robinson (Kansas), and Jared Sullinger (Ohio State).  Robinson was a unanimous selection.
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Big East Morning Five: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 20th, 2012

  1. St. John’s freshman and reigning Big East Rookie of the Year Moe Harkless confirmed speculation and announced yesterday in a press conference held at Madison Square Garden that he will be leaving the Red Storm for the NBA. “It has been my lifelong dream to play in the NBA and I am excited to have that opportunity to make the jump,” said Harkless.  He also confirmed that he will hire an agent, which would prevent him from returning to school.  The 6’8” forward is currently projected as a mid-to-late first round pick.  Certainly his status can, and likely will, change as other early entrants make themselves eligible and overseas names emerge but should Harkless be selected in the first round he would be guaranteed an NBA contract.
  2. Moe Harkless’ declaration to turn pro made him the second Big East player to do so thus far, following Villanova’s Maalik Wayns who made his intentions known last week, but, unlike Harkless, he does not plan on retaining an agent. Players with early draft entry on their minds have until 11:59 pm ET on April 29 to decide and CBSSports.com has come up with a watch list of those most likely to be considering the move.  While this appears to be a link to Kentucky’s roster, if you look close enough among those cited you will see Connecticut’s Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb as well. While Drummond could use a bit more seasoning and Lamb’s stock has perhaps dropped some, with Connecticut currently banned from next year’s NCAA Tournament due to Academic Performance Rating (APR) issues, it feels like a foregone conclusion that they will both opt for the NBA.  However, if NCAA Tournament eligibility is a deciding factor, Drummond and Lamb may hold off on a decision until the last minute given Connecticut has an appeal in progress on which a ruling could come during April. The other apparent no-brainer on the list when it comes to Big East players is Syracuse’s Fab Melo.  On the heels of the academic ineligibility ruling that has forced Melo to sit out this year’s NCAA Tournament, it has been widely speculated that his Syracuse days are over. Melo’s Syracuse teammate Dion Waiters is the only other Big East player on the watch list.
  3. And then there were three.  Nerlens Noel, the number one prospect in the class of 2012, has narrowed his college choices to Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown. North Carolina and Connecticut are the latest schools to be cut.  Noel was scheduled to visit Tar Heel country this week but has since canceled. As for Noel’s interactions with the three finalists, the shot-blocking center took an official visit to Georgetown last week, was scheduled to have an in-home visit with Kentucky yesterday, and another with Syracuse tomorrow. A decision could come shortly thereafter as Noel’s official reclassification to the class of 2012, which had been pending, is now complete.
  4. They say success breeds success. Well Cincinnati is sitting pretty in the Sweet Sixteen and just picked up a commitment yesterday from junior college star Titus Rubles.  Rubles, a slashing 6’8” forward from Blinn Community College in Texas, averaged 16.0 points and 10.0 rebounds for the Buccaneers. This commitment does not come as much of a surprise to those who either follow the Bearcats closely or know how to operate Twitter, as Rubles’ Twitter handle is a somewhat revealing “@bearcatbound.” Even with Rubles in the fold, Cincinnati remains in hot pursuit of center Chris Obekpa, arguably the most sought-after recruit among Big East schools as he is also garnering significant interest from Connecticut, DePaul, Providence, Seton Hall and St. John’s.
  5. Speaking of Cincinnati, the Bearcats have certainly come quite far from what appeared to be a season on the brink following an embarrassing November loss to Presbyterian and that ugly brawl-marred loss to Xavier which led to multiple suspension.  As we wrote at the start of the season, Cincinnati carried with it perhaps the highest increase in expectations among Big East squads as the Bearcats returned their top four scorers from a 26-9 team that made it to the third round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Playing through the suspensions seemed to unlock some individual potential and lineup combinations that may have otherwise been left untapped as head coach Mick Cronin has rallied his troops to another 26 wins and at least a round further in the Big Dance than last year to this point.
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Big East Afternoon Five: First Weekend Recap Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 19th, 2012

  1. The dust has settled from what was another wild opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament and four Big East teams have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen — Syracuse, Marquette, Louisville, and Cincinnati. Only the Big Ten has as many teams still dancing. But there will be plenty of chances to hear about the teams still playing this week, so let’s dedicate this roundup to news about the teams that are done.
  2. Let’s give North Carolina State some credit, because they are playing good basketball right now, but Georgetown should be the most disappointed of the eliminated Big East teams today. Hampered by Henry Sims‘ foul trouble and a rough shooting day from Jason Clark, the Hoyas were never able to get all the way back into the game and exited the tournament early for the third straight season. As The Washington Post points out, Georgetown can take solace in the fact that they easily outperformed everyone’s expectations in the regular season and put together an impressive season given their inexperience. But somehow, I don’t think Clark and Sims and John Thompson III are giving that much thought right now.
  3. Are the referees kidding us by calling a technical when Jawanza Poland hung on the rim for an extra beat after throwing down an alley-oop to give his team a five-point lead? He wasn’t taunting; he wasn’t yelling; he wasn’t even showing any emotion. He just took a little extra swing on the rim, and the referees got all indignant, called the technical, and swung the momentum back in Ohio’s favor. It wasn’t the decisive reason that the Bulls ended up losing, but it was an unnecessary call, especially in a hard-fought tournament game. Looking on the bright side of things, no one expected Stan Heath‘s club to be playing for a Sweet Sixteen berth when this season started. After the game Heath said his team will be a “hungry group” next season, and with a solid returning cast as well as a recruiting class ready to make an impact, the Bulls could change from perennial league laughingstock to perennial tournament contender in no time.
  4. Since we are still on this overachiever kick, now feels like the right time to ask if anyone expected Notre Dame to be dancing earlier this season when star forward Tim Abromaitis was lost for the season because of a torn ACL. Unfortunately, that probably doesn’t do much to dull the sting that the Fighting Irish must feel after letting a double-digit second half lead slip away in their loss to Xavier. They don’t get to cry about the correctly called lane violation because they let the Musketeers shoot 50% from the field and were never able to clamp down defensively and stop the run. The good news for Mike Brey and company is that they will be a much better and more experienced team next season, especially if Scott Martin is granted a sixth year of eligibility. This team, at times, was too inconsistent and streaky which was due partially to their youth. But this season will be an excellent learning experience for guards like Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, so expect the Fighting Irish to be out for redemption next season.
  5. Connecticut barely made it onto anyone’s radar this March before they were summarily dispatched by Iowa State with ease. The defending national champions came out flat, like they have many other times this season, and the Cyclones took advantage and ran away with the win. While most Huskies’ fans will quickly forget about this season, there is still a lot to talk about for this program. UConn is facing a potential ban from next season’s NCAA Tournament because of previous players’ poor academic record; the possibility that their Hall of Fame coach will retire; and the possible defections of two of their best players in Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond. All of this drama will make for an interesting offseason in Storrs.
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