Season In Review: Seton Hall Pirates

Posted by mlemaire on April 26th, 2013

Having lost their two best players in point guard Jordan Theodore and burly forward Herb Pope, the Pirates were not expected to make a lot of noise in the Big East this season and it became quickly apparent that Kevin Willard‘s team was not only less talented but also severely undermanned against the rest of the conference. The team finished the season 15-18 and a dismal 3-15 in conference play with two of those wins coming against the teams that finished behind them in the conference standings (South Florida and DePaul). None of this was surprising to those who followed the team and knew that the Pirates would struggle mightily to replace the production of Pope and Theodore, but if they had been slightly more competitive, it would have at least given Willard something to point to as far as improvement goes. Let’s dive a bit deeper into why Seton Hall wasn’t able to right the ship this season.

Fuquan Edwin Emerged As A Big-Time Big East Player, But He Was The Only One.

Fuquan Edwin Emerged As A Big-Time Big East Player, But He Was The Only One.

The Good

When your best win as a team was either a four-point win over Wake Forest or a one-point win over Villanova, it can be hard to find positives in what quickly became a lost season. But there were some individual positives, such as the play of junior guard Fuquan Edwin, who was always one of the best defenders in the conference but actually emerged as a versatile and dangerous offensive threat for the Pirates this season. Sophomore guard Aaron Cosby became a dangerous outside shooter and important offensive cog, and before his season ended prematurely thanks to shoulder surgery, sophomore forward Brandon Mobley was putting together a solid season and should be an important piece to next year’s team. Despite falling drastically in both offensive and defensive efficiency this season, the Pirates were still relatively judicious shot-takers and they were also an above-average defensive team, at least when they played inspired basketball.

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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #14 Seton Hall

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 11th, 2012

Yesterday, we opened up our Big East season preview with a look at the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.  Today, we shoot up the Garden State to break down their in-state rivals, Seton Hall.  Coming off of a bit of a surprising season led by two big-time seniors, head coach Kevin Willard is tasked with attempting to repeat that success by piecing together a group largely comprised of unproven talent and various transfer players.

2011-12 Record: 21-13, 8-10

2011-12 Postseason: 1-1 (NIT)

How will Kevin Willard’s Pirates fare after the departure of Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope?

Schedule

The Pirates face a solid non-conference slate.  After opening with the Kangaroos of UMKC and Norfolk State at home, Seton Hall travels to Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut for the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off, where they will then face Washington and either Ohio State or Rhode Island. Later in the fall, the Pirates travel to Baton Rouge to take on middling SEC program LSU, and hit the road one more time to face a struggling Wake Forest program. Neither of these teams is a powerhouse at this point, but beating either could prove to be a nice recognizable win for Seton Hall.  The Pirates close out the non-conference season with a rematch against Stony Brook, which they edged out 63-61 in the first round of last season’s NIT.

Seton Hall opens Big East play with a trip to the midwest to take on DePaul and Notre Dame. Seton Hall has home-and-homes with Louisville and Marquette, who look to be at the top of the conference again this season, as well as Providence and Rutgers, who should be a bit more manageable for the Pirates. They also host USF, Cincinnati, UConn, Syracuse, and Villanova at the Prudential Center. It will be interesting to see how the New Jersey fan base embraces Seton Hall this season, as “The Rock” may feel fairly dormant this winter with the NHL lockout bringing uncertainty to the Devils’ season and the Nets relocating to Brooklyn. Seton Hall may be the arena’s only home team for the time being.

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Big East Summer Capsules: Seton Hall Pirates

Posted by mlemaire on August 13th, 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 Seton Hall.

1. Is it possible that assistant Shaheen Holloway hasn’t used up all of his eligibility yet?

Jordan Theodore Is Gone And He Left Behind A Gaping Hole At Point Guard (US Presswire)

We are joking, although I wouldn’t put it past an ambitious Pirates’ fan to at least do a little digging into the matter given the looming issue at point guard for the program. Say what you want about the importance of Herb Pope, but there should be no argument that senior point guard Jordan Theodore was the team’s most important player last season. He was one of the best point guards in the conference and now he is gone, leaving behind lots and lots of questions for Holloway and coach Kevin Willard to find the answers for. Texas-transfer Sterling Gibbs would have helped answer some of those questions, but his appeal to play right away was denied. Sean Grennan also might have helped with depth, but he transferred to Fairfield to find easier playing time, and now the program will have to rely on the duo of Freddie Wilson and incoming freshman Tom Maayan to run the offense. Wilson is the most experienced, if you count averaging eight minutes per game last season as a freshman as experience. Maayan is a good pass-first guard, but he is coming off ACL surgery and may need time to get acclimated. The Pirates’ coaching staff has been staying upbeat and saying all the right things about the position this summer, but it’s hardly a secret that that is an area of concern for the team that needs to be fixed right away, otherwise this young Pirates team is going to stop before they get started.

2. Transfers are going to be the key to the Pirates’ success

When you lose your team’s top two players to graduation you need to do something to plug that gaping hole, and luckily for Willard and his staff, they didn’t have to look too far considering that two candidates were already on the roster and another wasn’t far away. Transfers Brian Oliver and Gene Teague  sat out last season due to NCAA rules and Kyle Smyth earned the graduate exemption to play right away, so all three are ready to go this season and you better believe Willard will deploy them immediately. Oliver is a New Jersey native who came to the Pirates by way of Georgia Tech and he is quite the chucker (attempting at least 4.5 three-pointers per game in both seasons for the Yellow Jackets), but if he can shoot consistently he should be a dangerous offensive weapon for the Pirates. Another New Jersey native, Teague is a wide-bodied Southern Illinois transfer who should slide right into the spot left vacant by Pope. He is a decent offensive post threat and is a capable rebounder. If he can be more careful with the basketball he should prove to be a reliable big man in the conference. Smyth left Iona as the school’s most lethal shooter and despite the logjam at shooting guard, the senior should find playing time because of his long-range prowess. All three of these players will play meaningful minutes because Willard doesn’t really have a choice, and if they can contribute during those minutes, the Pirates will at least be a pesky opponent.

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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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Four Thoughts: Louisville vs. Seton Hall Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 8th, 2012

Game recaps are boring. If you want to read them, search your local newspaper or the Associated Press. With the Big East Tournament upon us, we figured we would try to offer four thoughts about several of the key games throughout the week.

South Florida took care of business against Villanova tonight and I am only one man with a partner on a family vacation, so I have to pick and choose which game to analyze. I chose the game with juicer storylines. Louisville held off a late rally from Seton Hall that left the Pirates with a lot to worry about on Sunday, so let’s dive right in.

1. When everyone is playing hard, the Cardinals are a really tough team to score against.

This isn’t exactly news to anyone who has watched the team play even once, but Rick Pitino‘s club is full of long, athletic defenders who love to wreak havoc in the passing lanes and contest every shot. And that doesn’t even include the rim-protecting ability that center Gorgui Dieng brings to the defense. According to Pitino, the team had 39 deflections and Dieng had six blocks and 10 rebounds as they harassed the Pirates into 17 turnovers and a 3-19 night from behind the three-point line. The win sets up an exciting matchup with ninth-ranked Marquette in the quarterfinals. The two teams met only once this season, a January tilt in Milwaukee when the Golden Eagles erased a big early lead and won semi-handily. I am going to go out on a limb and say tomorrow’s game will have a little more drama.

Where Does Tonight's Loss Leave Seton Hall on the NCAA Board?

2. If West Virginia’s Kevin Jones went out with a bang, Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope did the opposite.

Theodore admitted as much after the game, saying the duo “came up short tonight,” and that may be an understatement. If you also include the third Musketeer, Fuquan Edwin, the team’s three best players combined to go just 12-33 from the field and nobody got comfortable against the Cardinals’ stifling defense. Pope grabbed 15 rebounds, but the fact that he is undersized if magnified when he plays against Dieng, although it is tough for anybody to get a shot off against the conference’s best shot-alterer. Meanwhile, led by Peyton Siva‘s six steals, Louisville’s guard rotation was active and opportunistic on defense and neither Edwin nor Theodore got off many uncontested jumpers. Edwin will be back next year, but this may have been the last hurrah for seniors Pope and Theodore, and it would be a disappointing end to two great careers.

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ATB: Big East Tourney Begins and Four More Teams Punch NCAA Tickets…

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2012

[Ed. note: Technical difficulties last night led to late publication of this post. For that, we apologize.]

Last Night’s Lede. For some in the Northeast, the Big East Tournament is the most spectacular event in the college basketball season. The classic six overtime Connecticut-Syracuse game from the 2009 tourney was replayed last night on ESPNU and brought us all on a trip down (recent) memory lane to one of the best games of the past decade. The conference’s powerhouses will hopefully bring us some more classic moments in Madison Square Garden this week, though Tuesday night’s first round didn’t include a single close game. Elsewhere, three more NCAA Tournament bids were earned in small conference tournaments, and the Ivy League’s champion was also determined a bit earlier than expected. Let’s get into the rundown of another fun Championship Week night…

Your Watercooler Moment.  South Dakota State Finally Dances.

SDSU Celebrates Its First Ever Trip to the Dance (Summit League)

It was a shocker when top-seeded Oral Roberts fell in the semifinals of the Summit League Tournament last night to Western Illinois, and last night’s heavily favored Jackrabbits nearly suffered the same fate. WIU led for much of the night on Tuesday and had a chance to win this game in regulation but could not convert. The Leathernecks (great team name, by the way) had another chance to tie or win it in overtime down by two but again fell short, giving South Dakota State its first ever Summit League championship and NCAA Tournament berth. The Jackrabbits have a mid-major star in Nate Wolters, who averages 21.5 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game, and will look to lead SDSU to an upset victory in next week’s Big Dance. South Dakota State has a fine RPI of #55 and could actually end up as a #14 or even #13 seed, giving it a realistic chance to bust open a bracket with an upset or two. Wolters scored just 14 points on 5-22 shooting in Tuesday’s low-scoring, 52-50 affair, but the guard is capable of going for 30 in any game.

Last night’s Quick Hits…

  • Western Kentucky the Most Unlikely Bid Winner Thus Far. In early January, Western Kentucky was a 5-14 team that had just fired its head coach after one of the strangest finishes you’ll ever see to a game, in which WKU’s opponent used six players on the final possession to win the game. Interim coach/permanent coach Ray Harper is now two months later leading the Hilltoppers to the NCAA Tournament after their 74-70 win over North Texas on Tuesday night. This Sun Belt champion was the #7-seed in the tournament and will enter the NCAA’s as the sixth team in the past decade to have a record below .500, at 15-18. This resilient Western Kentucky team has gone through a wild ride and now will surely be playing early next week as part of the tournament’s ‘First Four’ games, looking to advance to take on a #1 seed. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Morning Five: 02.28.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 28th, 2012

  1. It appears that Nerlens Noel, the #1 recruit in the class of 2012, has cut his list of finalists from seven to five, resulting in two Big East schools left wanting. Noel was interviewed as part of a WCVB 5 Boston segment on him and his Tilton School teammates. In the interview Noel stated he has “narrowed it down” to Kentucky, Syracuse, Florida, Georgetown, and North Carolina. Omitted from Noel’s original list of seven were Connecticut and Providence.  Noel made similar news recently in a radio interview when he seemingly cut his list only to quickly clarify via Twitter that his list had not changed. Fans of Connecticut and Providence will hold out hope of an inadvertent omission once again, but all had been quiet in the Noel camp as of late Monday evening. In a related story, Jim Calhoun and Ed Cooley have retained Ryan Braun’s lawyers because they believe the WCVB 5 news feed was tampered with in post-production.
  2. Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun underwent successful back surgery yesterday according to a statement issued by the school. Calhoun has been away from coaching since February 3 due to a painful condition called spinal stenosis. As part of the two-hour procedure conducted at New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center, doctors removed a “large extruded disk fragment” which was believed to be contributing heavily to Calhoun’s discomfort. Recovery time is not expected to be extensive and Calhoun could be back on the sideline for Connecticut’s regular season finale against Pittsburgh on March 3. George Blaney will continue to coach the team until Calhoun returns. The Huskies play a road contest versus Providence tonight.
  3. For the first time this season the Big East has a back-to-back Player of the Week as Marquette’s Jae Crowder has once again claimed the crown. Crowder, who may be the front runner for Big East Player of the Year, did it all for the Golden Eagles as usual in a 2-0 week posting averages of 26.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 steals and, 2.5 blocks per game. St. John’s had an impressive two-win week, including an upset of then red hot Notre Dame. Much of the Red Storm’s success had to do with the Big East Rookie of the Week, Moe Harkless. Harkless played every minute in both games and nearly averaged a double-double at 18.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Last week’s Rookie of the Week, Anthony Collins begins this week’s Big East Honor Roll.  Collins made two huge free throws to give the Bulls an important win over Cincinnati, and averaged 13.0 points and 7.5 assists in a 1-1 week.  Other Honor Roll recipients were: Providence’s LaDontae Henton who put up a career-high 29 points against DePaul, with the most important two coming with 1.7 seconds left in the game to give the Friars the 73-71 win. Henton also had 15 rebounds; Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb who also notched a career-high with 32 points in a win over Villanova and averaged 25.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in a 1-1 week; Syracuse’s Kris Joseph kept the Orange rolling, averaging 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in victories over South Florida and Connecticut; Seton Hall’s Jordan Theodore had a, guess what…career-high 29 points in the Pirates’ upset of Georgetown and averaged 23.0 points and 7.0 assists on the week.
  4. It’s late February which means you can either toil over who your favorite baseball team’s left-handed setup man will be or you can check out the college basketball rankings as you gear up for conference and NCAA tournament play. We actually love baseball here at RTC Big East so why not make it this week’s corny poll theme? Syracuse (29-1, 16-1) is the Big East’s version of a five-tool player and remains in the two-hole after holding off Connecticut on Saturday.  We don’t know if it was chicken and beer in the club house or not but Marquette (24-5, 13-3) weathered in-game suspensions to three key players and pulled out a road win at West Virginia as Buzz Williams and his Golden Eagles waltzed ahead two spots to #8. Georgetown (22-6, 12-5) does it the old fashioned way with pitching and defense but their setback against Seton Hall knocked the Hoyas down two notches to #11. Louisville and their Tony LaRussa-like tactician, Rick Pitino could not pull the right strings in a tough environment at Cincinnati and as a result of their loss to the Bearcats, Louisville also slipped two spots to #19.  Notre Dame (20-10, 12-5) has that ‘Moneyball’ look about them and the Irish held serve to remain at #20 this week despite a setback to St. John’s, which has now turned into a two-game losing streak on the heels of the Irish’s Monday night loss to Georgetown.
  5. The potential loss of Nerlens Noel notwithstanding, Providence head coach Ed Cooley has made plenty of noise on the recruiting trail in his brief time at Providence. While incoming players have made all the headlines, Cooley’s first recruiting coup may have been the luring of Andre LaFleur away from conference rival Connecticut to join his staff as associate head coach. When Connecticut visits Providence tonight it will be a reunion of sorts as it marks the first time the two teams meet since LaFleur’s departure. There has been speculation since LaFleur, who was an assistant coach at Connecticut, came to Providence around his reasons for leaving. One prevailing theory is the rising star that is Kevin Ollie provided more writing on the wall than LaFleur could stomach leading to somewhat of a mutual departure. Many believe Ollie is being groomed as Calhoun’s heir apparent. LaFleur dispelled that idea yesterday in an interview with the New Haven Register, saying he felt the increased responsibilities associated with the move to Providence would best help him build toward his goal of being a head coach.
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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 27th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Temple In Big East Talks: The Big East may have a new all-sport member as early as this fall if the reports are true that the Temple Owls are in discussions about joining the conference.  Adding Temple to the mix would be terrific for Big East basketball. While Syracuse is irreplaceable, you could make an argument that Temple and Memphis offset the departures of West Virginia and Pittsburgh. The enhanced stature of these two programs in the Big East will help fuel recruiting and could easily make them equal to what WVU and Pitt are right now. Temple will make its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance next month, its 30th in a storied history. The Owls have made two Final Fours and five Elite Eights, better than both Pittsburgh and West Virginia (WVU has two Final Fours, Pitt has one). Memphis has been to more Final Fours and Elite Eights as well, although two were vacated (1985 and 2008). All in all, I’d argue that the Big East hit a grand slam with Temple and Memphis, should this all go through. The league simply couldn’t have done better given the constraints it faced.
  • Punching Your Ticket And Voiding It In The Same Week: One could argue that Seton Hall and Cincinnati punched their NCAA Tournament tickets with wins over Georgetown and Louisville, respectively, last week. However, both squads lost over the weekend (to Rutgers and South Florida), wiping out the good vibes from huge home wins earlier in the week. As of right now, the Pirates and Bearcats are likely still in the Tournament, but in much more precarious positions than before. In late-season college basketball, nothing is ever a sure thing until all the games are played. A team’s status can change at a moment’s notice.  

Syracuse Senior Scoop Jardine Helped Lead The Orange To A Title-Clinching Win Over Connecticut. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (29-1, 16-1) – The men in orange just keep moving right along, picking up two more wins this past week. Finding a way to win is so cliché, but it has been the theme with this group over the last few weeks. Syracuse has moved its record to 29-1 with seven of their nine wins since the loss to Notre Dame coming by ten points or less. In the win over South Florida, Syracuse overcame 35% shooting and a 20-7 Bulls run to start the game by going on a massive 26-0 run that started about midway through the first half and bled deep into the second. Kris Joseph struggled shooting, but Scoop Jardine picked him up by scoring 15 points. Joseph rebounded in a big way with 21 points at Connecticut while Fab Melo added 11 points and nine rebounds. This team has more weapons than any in the nation, allowing the Orange to overcome off nights by some of their key players. More importantly, Syracuse out-rebounded UConn, 39-35. That’s significant because of what the Huskies bring to the table in their front court and Syracuse’s awful rebounding numbers that have persisted throughout the season. With the win at UConn, Syracuse officially clinched the Big East regular season title, something everyone knew was going to happen as early as when the calendar flipped to January. This week: 3/3 vs. #23 Louisville.
  2. Marquette (24-5, 13-3) – There are teams more talented than Marquette out there, but you will not find one with a greater will to win than this bunch of Golden Eagles. You might as well call them their old nickname, the Warriors, because that’s exactly what they are. Jae Crowder made his case for Big East Player of the Year last week in grand fashion, totaling 53 points in two wins over Rutgers and West Virginia. Crowder dominated West Virginia’s Kevin Jones in their head-to-head matchup and may have moved in front of Jones in the POY race in the process. Crowder certainly plays for a better team and that has to enhance his case even more. Despite Buzz Williams suspending Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan for the first half against West Virginia and Todd Mayo for the second half, Marquette rallied yet again to pull out a victory. I don’t understand the half-suspensions. Sit them down for the whole game if you want to make a statement, but that’s beyond the point. The Golden Eagles shot 50% for the game and forced 19 WVU turnovers, helping to offset 16 Mountaineer offensive rebounds. In the win over Rutgers, Marquette forced 21 turnovers and Johnson-Odom added 21 points alongside Crowder’s 27 as the Golden Eagles shot 54% overall. MU can close out the Big East regular season in grand style and finish with a 15-3 record if it takes care of two tough games in the coming week. This team has a legitimate chance to win the Big East Tournament and go deep in the NCAA’s. This week: 2/29 @ Cincinnati, 3/3 vs. #9 Georgetown. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Morning Five: 02.24.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 24th, 2012

  1. It’s not exactly a new story but Dan Wetzel tells the story of Cincinnati rallying together after their ugly brawl. The Bearcats took another step towards securing a NCAA Tournament berth last night when they upset No. 17 Louisville. Point guard Cashmere Wright needed 19 shots to score 22 points, but he paced the team offensively and they held the Cardinals to 34.5% shooting, including 1-14 from behind the arc as they got their 20th win of the season. There is no doubt Mick Cronin and company were stuck in neutral before the brawl and have emerged more focused and determined after it. Now we will see if they can keep the momentum in what is a relatively soft finish to the season.
  2. Speaking of stretch runs, Marquette begins a three-game doozy against West Virginia tomorrow night. They will be in Morgantown Saturday playing a desperate Mountaineers team, then they will head to play the streaking Bearcats Wednesday before finishing at home against Georgetown. It also gave us this gem from Buzz Williams where he explains his team “is not good enough to be sedated” and still win.  The Golden Eagles are already in the NCAA Tournament, but these games will play a big role in where they end up as a seed.
  3. The health of Jim Calhoun is also taking its effect off the court as well. While he nurses himself back to full health, he will be forced to miss the Autism Speaks event in Southington, Connecticut, at which he was scheduled to speak. The Hartford Courant used that as their news peg for an excellent story about Calhoun’s personal experience caring for his autistic granddaughter, Reese. I won’t offer much commentary other than to say it is well-worth the read.
  4. This article explains that if the season ended today, Seton Hall will definitely be in the NCAA Tournament, and they can thank their recent mini-resurgence for that status. But the Pirates will also not be able to rest on their laurels and you can bet Rutgers will be itching to play spoiler when the two teams clash on Saturday. It will be Senior Night for the Pirates, so hopefully that will make sure their best players, Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore, bring their A-games. A win would probably put them closer to the lock status with only one game left in the regular season, but anything can happen in the in-state rivalry.
  5. Finally, the biggest game of the weekend will take place in Storrs when the No. 2 Syracuse Orange come to Gampel Pavilion to play a Huskies team desperate to save their season. The game means less for the Orange, but they do have seeding to think about. It will be much more important for the Huskies, who will be looking to climb back to 8-8 in the conference and keep their shaky NCAA Tournament hopes alive. The Orange are the better team, but desperation and a noisy homecourt advantage could help energize the Huskies and propel them to the upset.
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Night Line: Seton Hall The Big Winner In a Huge ‘Bubble’ Night

Posted by EJacoby on February 22nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

The NCAA Tournament ‘bubble’ is in perpetual motion during this time of year, as it expands or shrinks based on small conference qualifiers and new teams move in and out seemingly every day. Tuesday night was no different, as 10 different teams on the Bubble Watch tracker were in action against quality opponents. Of those, a total of five teams had home games against Top 20 opponents — the kind of must-win games that can add a great victory to a resume and build confidence down the stretch. Seton Hall and Colorado State were the only two teams to come out victorious at home against their talented foes, and the circumstances surrounding the Pirates’ win against No. 9 Georgetown should seal the deal for the Hall as an NCAA Tournament team.

Jordan Theodore was Locked In for Seton Hall on Tuesday (Seton Hall Athletics)

The Pirates did on Tuesday what Northwestern, Mississippi State, and NC State couldn’t — beat a great team at home. Seton Hall dominated the Hoyas en route to a 73-55 win highlighted by senior Jordan Theodore’s massive night. The point guard had a career-high 29 points and five assists, including a perfect 5-5 night from behind the arc and 8-8 performance at the free-throw line. The Pirates have been up and down during Big East play, at one point losing six straight games and looking nothing like a postseason-worthy squad. But they’ve recovered to win four of their last five contests to improve to 19-9 overall and 8-8 in the Big East. Knocking off Georgetown was the team’s fourth top 50 win and propels them onto solid ground at the moment. With remaining games versus only Rutgers and at DePaul, the Hall is in great shape to simply take care of business against inferior opponents and lock up a bid.

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Checking In On… The Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 20th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Bubble Teams Hanging On: Four Big East squads reside in the purgatory known as Bubbleville, but all are still hanging on to their projected NCAA bids. Cincinnati, Seton Hall, West Virginia, and Connecticut are all projected to be in the NCAA Tournament field as of this writing according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, but it’s the Pirates who are really skating on thin ice. The Hall is one of the “last four in” and has a huge opportunity this week against Georgetown. Cincinnati has a similar opportunity against Louisville while West Virginia has two excellent chances to seal the deal this week. As for Connecticut, the Huskies appear to be imploding. How UConn responds against Villanova on Monday night and Syracuse this coming Saturday will determine its fate.
  • South Florida Guaranteed a Winning Record: With its win at Pittsburgh on Sunday night, South Florida won its tenth Big East game for the first time ever and is now guaranteed at least a 10-8 Big East finish. However, the Bulls have their sights set higher. Thanks in part to a backloaded schedule, USF’s best win to this point is over bubble team Seton Hall, but upcoming games against Cincinnati and West Virginia could push the Bulls towards the field if they can win. South Florida needs to finish at least 12-6 in order to have a chance at a bid. Even with that, the Bulls will likely need to do a lot of work in New York City. A 12-6 league record is usually automatic, but not when your best non-conference win is Cleveland State. How much does Stan Heath want the close losses to Southern Miss (two points) and Connecticut (three points) back now?

Darius Johnson-Odom And The Golden Eagles Embarrassed The Huskies On Saturday.

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (27-1, 14-1) – I can hardly remember a year with zero change at the top of the league rankings. Syracuse is simply a cut above every other team in this league although Marquette and Georgetown have closed the gap a little bit over the last few weeks. Syracuse flirted with losses twice last week, but won gutty road games at Louisville and Rutgers. The Orange held Louisville without a point over the final 3:30 and won by a point despite shooting 1-15 from deep and Scoop Jardine going 0-8. Syracuse shot 34% for the game, but limited Louisville to 35%. Against Rutgers, Syracuse shot 50% and Jardine played much better (17 points, 7 assists). C.J. Fair had a stellar game, scoring 21 points and grabbing eight rebounds off the bench. Kris Joseph added 14 for the victors as they moved their overall record to 27-1. Rebounding remains a concern (31-26 Rutgers on the glass), but the Orange continue to roll along. Syracuse will battle Kentucky for the top overall seed in next month’s NCAA Tournament. This week: 2/22 vs. South Florida, 2/25 @ Connecticut. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Morning Five: 02.14.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 14th, 2012

  1. A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT FROM RTC BIG EAST:  This is not a test. If you have any designs on watching your favorite team take part in their upcoming conference tournament, not to mention the NCAA tournament next month, and have yet to get a Valentine’s Day gift for your significant other, what are you waiting for dude? Are you crazy? Not to worry. This important RTC announcement should post around 8:00 am eastern, which gives you plenty of time to run to your local florist, jewelry store, or car dealership (depending on how badly you want to watch “March Madness” with your buddies) and take care of business. You are welcome.
  2. What a season Jack Cooley is having for Notre Dame. He has been a model of consistency as evidenced by his four selections to the Big East Honor Roll this season but this past week Cooley ascended from steady to spectacular, averaging 21.5 points and 13.0 rebounds in two big wins for the surging and surprising Fighting Irish to earn him Big East Player of the Week honors. Villanova forward JayVaughn Pinkston earned Rookie of the Week accolades by virtue of going ham on Providence. Pinkston posted career-highs in points with 28 and rebounds with 14 to lead his team back from a 19 point second-half deficit to overtake the Friars. Marquette’s Jae Crowder stuffed the stat sheet in typical fashion to the tune of 18.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 3.0 steals and earned a spot on the Big East Honor Roll. Rounding out the Honor Roll are Syracuse’s Kris Joseph who went for 29 in a big win over Georgetown; Georgetown’s Otto Porter who averaged 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds; South Florida’s Hugh Robertson who helped the Bulls to two wins by averaging 12.0 points and 3.5 rebounds; and Seton Hall catalyst Jordan Theodore who got the Pirates back on track by averaging 19.5 points and 6.0 assists in two much-needed wins.
  3. I did not watch the Grammy’s the other night but you can bet Mike Brey and his Notre Dame squad are singing a tune and dancing a jig after seeing their name in the rankings. Yes, the Fighting Irish (17-8. 9-3) are your #23 ranked team and let’s just shut down Big East Coach of the Year voting now and give it to Brey. No matter what happens the rest of the way, Brey has defied odds and expectations once again, and deserves all the credit in the world. Notre Dame’s inclusion gives the Big East five ranked teams now as Syracuse (24-1, 13-1) held firm at #2 while Georgetown (19-5, 9-4) went 1-1 but benefited from other upsets and jumped up two notches anyway to #10. Marquette (21-5, 10-3) vaulted a half-dozen spots to #12 after taking out DePaul and Cincinnati. Finally, surging Louisville (20-6, 8-5) popped up five to #19 on the heels of their fifth and sixth straight wins before dropping a heartbreaker to Syracuse last night.
  4. Things are not going so well in Storrs these days. Connecticut is under .500 in conference play (5-7) after dropping two in a row and six of seven. They are facing an NCAA tournament ban next year due to Academic Performance Rating issues that could also bring headwinds for years to come. Further, and perhaps most importantly, the Huskies have been without head coach Jim Calhoun for three games with spinal stenosis and it does not appear he will be back for Wednesday’s game at home versus DePaul.  The Hartford Courant reported yesterday that Calhoun is still in “significant pain” according to those who have visited him recently. Calhoun will continue to seek medical advice and may ultimately opt for surgery that could keep him out for the rest of the season. Long time assistant George Blaney has assumed the head coaching duties in Calhoun’s absence.
  5. Cincinnati came into this season with perhaps the highest expectations and biggest target on its back (save for Connecticut perhaps) of any Big East team. The Bearcats returned their top four scorers from last year’s 26-9 team that reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years, and notched a second round win while they were at it. However it is one thing to get up near the top of the Big East, and a whole other thing to stay there. This has been an up-and-down year to say the least for Cincinnati (17-8, 7-5), but the Bearcats remain in position to grab an NCAA tournament bid if they can finish the season strong. In order to get there head coach Mick Cronin thinks it is time for his team to realize they are now the hunted and no longer the hunters. “Last year, people didn’t respect our team, even though we really were good,” Cronin said. “I watch the way other teams prepare for us. You can tell when other teams think they have to play really well to beat us.” Given that the Bearcats are no longer under the radar, Cronin needs his team to adjust their preparation accordingly because opponents view them differently now. “I don’t think our guys understand that,“ Cronin said. “It’s a hump that we have to get over, and it’s nipped us. Our weakness is we try to be too cool.” Cincinnati hosts Providence on Wednesday.
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