Big East M5: 10.25.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 25th, 2013

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  1. Change is in the air at Creighton, and not just in terms of the league in which the Bluejays will compete this year.  The school recently held an open house to unveil a new court, featuring a revised logo.  Replacing the ‘Jays’ that once adorned the hardwood is a new Billy Bluejay head design over a bold capital ‘C’.  This unveiling is a part of a full branding initiative by Creighton, which will include a new Billy Bluejay mascot design, in an effort to solidify the school’s visibility in the college basketball world.  Associate athletic director Mark Burgers referred to the branding of two new hoops rivals as a reason for the change in conjunction with a move to the Big East: “If you look across the Big East schools and the benchmarking, Villanova has the ‘V’ and Xavier has the ‘X’ and you go down all the schools; we incorporated the ‘C’ because we thought that was important.”
  2. Earlier this week, we found out that Marquette’s Jameel McKay was planning to transfer, an announcement that came as a surprise to many in the Golden Eagles community. According to Marquette basketball blog Paint Touches, McKay’s decision is largely due to his position and role on the team: “(It was) just disagreements on things, is as simple as I can put it. Playing out of position was a part of it. I wasn’t comfortable (in the role they had him in).”  McKay has been contacted by a number of strong high major programs, and will look to make a decision soon, but he plans to finish out the semester at Marquette.
  3. Butler is looking for a bump in recruiting now that it has joined the Big East, and may be on the verge of landing a few prized players.  Four-star guard K.J. Walton was on campus this week.  The high school junior is still looking for an offer, but according to Zak Keefer at IndyStar.com, he is high on the Bulldogs, and has a strong relationship with new head coach Brandon Miller, who he has known since he was 13.  Butler also hosted Covington, Kentucky guard James Bolden at practice this week, as well local product Kyle Guy, who is already on Indiana’s radar.
  4. Josh Smith is one of the most ballyhooed additions to the Big East this year, and as of Thursday, he has been cleared to play for the start of the upcoming season for Georgetown.  Smith, who transfers to the Hoyas after leaving UCLA six games into the 2012-13 season, has received fairly unprecedented treatment in his transfer appeal from the NCAA according to ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan, who was incredibly surprised by the NCAA’s decision.  Despite not fitting into the general outlines for a hardship waiver, and not moving schools to be closer to home, the NCAA will allow Smith to play without sitting out for a full season, where it has neglected to do so for countless other players over the years. [Ed. Note: There has been some speculation that the NCAA granted the waiver due to the way Smith was treated by the UCLA staff while dealing with his ongoing weight issue.] Brennan believes this decision is another in a long line of strange moves by a rattled NCAA that has been heavily scrutinized on numerous levels: “I think college players should be able to transfer with far fewer restrictions and wait times than currently exist — but that doesn’t make the ruling consistent with any past precedent. What about every kid in the past five years with a legitimate appeal who was denied on technicality? Is the NCAA really that rattled?”
  5. Buzz Williams sat down with CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein to discuss the Marquette program and his outlook on the upcoming season, and as usual, he was incredibly insightful and honest about his team.  He believes that Derrick Wilson is ready to step into the leadership role left vacant by Junior Cadougan‘s graduation: “…to be honest, I think that the roster has played out perfectly for Derrick Wilson’s career. I do think that he’s ready for the next step, and I think he’s as prepared as you can be having never been in that role to be ready for that role.”  Williams is very high on his freshmen, who he calls the best recruiting class he’s had since becoming the head coach at Marquette, especially guard Deonte Burton, whom Rothstein refers to as a  “Buzz Williams type of player.” He also states that he believes Jamil Wilson‘s talent measures up against that of former Golden Eagles stars Jae Crowder and Lazar Hayward, and has similar ability to Jimmy Butler: “Those other guys were every-day, hard core guys and I think that’s what Jamil has to get to and I think he’s working really hard to be that guy. He’s always been talented. He’s extremely intelligent. He’s got some Jimmy Butler qualities. Jimmy could do multiple things, guard multiple guys. So can Jamil.”  While Williams is humble as always, and downplays the preseason hype that his team has garnered a bit, the interview should make Marquette fans feel good about their squad heading into the season.
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Big East Recruiting Superlatives

Posted by mlemaire on May 23rd, 2013

Sometimes it is OK to choose an arbitrary date in the college basketball recruiting process and take stock of things, using our Big East goggles of course. That said, this date really isn’t all that arbitrary. Most of the top basketball recruits in the Class of 2013 signed National Letters of Intent last week . Rather than break down and rank the Big East recruiting classes from top to bottom — which the guys at recruiting sites do much better than we would anyway — we figured to have some fun and bring you back to high school for some good old-fashioned superlatives. Again, we recognize the Big East is breaking up, but we are still looking back rather than forward.

He Didn't Have To Look Far, But Buzz Williams Reeled In Perhaps His Best Recruiting Class Ever (AP)

He Didn’t Have To Look Far, But Buzz Williams Reeled In Perhaps His Best Recruiting Class Ever (AP)

Most Likely To Earn Praise For His Recruiting Prowess: Buzz Williams, Marquette

In the always useless world of recruiting rankings, most experts have recruiting classes at Louisville and Syracuse ranked ahead of Marquette’s class, but that shouldn’t keep Williams from receiving the praise he is due. Williams hangs his hat on his program’s ability to develop talent, not in recruiting superstars, but this class could easily be his most ballyhooed yet. Of course it helps Williams look good when much of the talent is in the same city as the school, but he still had to beat out a number of high-major programs for those kids. Duane Wilson is a local point guard with size who may earn the first crack at replacing Junior Cadougan and fellow local product Deonte Burton is a physical and athletic wing who will rebound and defend. The third local product by way of junior college in Iowa is 6’8″ forward Jameel McKay who has everyone excited about his athleticism, rebounding, and motor. The real prize for the Golden Eagles is slashing guard JaJuan Johnson who Williams and his staff plucked out of Memphis’ backyard despite an offer from the Tigers. Everyone in the Southeast recruited the attacking guard who may be asked to step in immediately and replace some of Vander Blue’s now-missing production.

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Season in Review: Marquette Golden Eagles

Posted by Will Tucker on May 21st, 2013

The Golden Eagles earned a share of their first Big East regular season championship with their second consecutive 14-4 conference record. As the No. 3 seed in the Big East Tournament, Buzz Williams’ squad was dispatched in their first game by a lower-seeded Notre Dame team. But it rebounded in the Big Dance, visiting the Sweet Sixteen for the third straight year before suffering an Elite Eight loss to Syracuse in Washington, D.C.

Preseason Expectations

Despite coming off the program’s best season as a Big East member in 2011-12, most anticipated a rebuilding year as Buzz Williams sought to replace leading scorers Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. The Golden Eagles were tagged seventh at Big East Media Day (behind Pitt, Notre Dame and Cincinnati), while we here at the Big East microsite ranked them fifth (still behind the Irish and Bearcats) in what was perhaps our most glaring collective miscalculation.

(AP)

Vander Blue has spread his wings and flown away, but Marquette’s backcourt remains in good hands (AP)

The Good

The Golden Eagles surpassed everyone’s expectations, which in large part was attributable to the coaching abilities of Williams. Even with elite talent –– a luxury that Williams has never had –– nobody takes a program to three straight Sweet Sixteens without having a pretty good notion of what they’re doing. Vander Blue (14.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG) finally bloomed into the explosive scorer everyone expected him to be when he joined the program two years ago, becoming the team’s leading scorer while shooting 45% from the floor. Much in the way that Kadeem Batts developed in 2012-13, so too did Davante Gardner (11.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG) fashion himself into a trustworthy asset on both ends of the floor, becoming one of the best free throw-shooting big men in the league.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 02.25.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 25th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are four games left in the regular season for most teams and the conference battles are still going strong. The last week and a half of the season should be exciting for everyone. Let’s not waste any time and get to the breakdowns.

#11 Syracuse at #19 Marquette - 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

Michael Carter-Williams Has Been a Revelation This Season

Can Michael Carter-Williams cause Marquette to turn the ball over?

  • Both of these teams are coming off losses that have dropped them one game behind Georgetown for the Big East lead. The final four games of the season are certainly no cakewalk for Syracuse as they have to play at Marquette, home against Louisville and DePaul, and then at Georgetown to close out the regular season. Marquette has it slightly easier as the will play at home against Syracuse and Notre Dame and then on the road against Rutgers and St. John’s. The Orange are 4-4 in their last eight games and have struggled offensively. They shot below 40% eFG in all four of the losses. Their three-point shooting has been particularly bad as they have gone 5-of-14, 3-of-14, 4-of-23, and 4-of-20 in those games. A road game at Marquette will not be easy since the Golden Eagles are 9-0 at home this year. Turnovers have been the problem for Marquette but mostly away from the Bradley Center — if Marquette can protect the basketball and the perimeter, they can win this game. Syracuse simply needs to knock down its open shots. If they are going to break out of their three-point shooting slump, Marquette is the team to do it against because Buzz Williams’ perimeter defense is suspect at best. Watch out for James Sutherland, as he has been hot and cold from deep since returning to the Orange lineup. If they can get a solid performance from him, SU will be in good shape. Also, keep an eye on the match-up between Michael Carter-Williams and Junior Cadougan. Cadougan is prone to turning the ball over, so if Carter-Williams can use his long arms to poke a few balls away and get the Orange out on the break, his team has a definite shot at a big road win against Marquette.

#7 Kansas at Iowa State - 9:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

  • Iowa State took Kansas to the brink in their first contest in early January, only to cave in overtime at Allen Fieldhouse. With four games to play in the Big 12 season the Jayhawks are currently tied with Kansas State for the lead, which puts the Cyclones squarely in the spoiler role. In the first game, Iowa State shot the ball an absurd 38 times from three. Expect more of the same in this contest as Kansas possesses a significant size advantage down low. Given that advantage, look for them to pound the ball inside to Jeff Withey early and often. Iowa State has no answer for Withey inside. If he is able to establish himself in the paint, it opens the floor for Ben McLemore to take over. If Kansas can defend the three and utilize its advantage in the paint, they should have no problem knocking off the Cyclones. However, if you see that three-pointers are raining down from Fred Hoiberg’s squad early, it’s going to be another nailbiter.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on February 15th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

While there may not be as many marquee match-ups this weekend, the games in the Big East, MW, and Big Ten are extremely important to their conference races. It’s nail biting time for college hoops fans across the country as teams play for their tourney positioning. Should be a good weekend of hoops, so let’s get to the breakdowns!

#16 Georgetown at Cincinnati – 9:00 PM EST, Friday on ESPN (****)

John Thompson III Has His Hoyas Playing At A High Level (Getty)

John Thompson III Has His Hoyas Playing At A High Level (Getty)

  • Georgetown is in a three-way tie at the top of the Big East with Syracuse and Marquette after the Orange lost at UConn on Wednesday. At this point though, half the conference still has a chance to catch them. Despite their inconsistency, Cincinnati is still one of those teams. The Bearcats have been living and dying by the three-point shot. In their last three games, they were 3-13 against Providence, 4-25 against Pitt, and 12-25 against Villanova. It’s fairly easy to tell which games they won and which they lost (losses to Providence and Pitt with a win against Villanova, in case it wasn’t clear). In Big East play, Cincinnati shoots 43% of its field goal attempts from beyond the arc, while only making 30.5% of them. If you recall, Michigan looked like this in the past and had a tough time being consistent, as well. Georgetown will allow teams to get off three-point shots, but teams are only making 28.8% of those shots in the Big East. If you follow Ken Pomeroy, he will tell you the former is more important, so watch closely to see if the Bearcats can take advantage by actually knocking down the deep ball. The Hoyas length may be tough to shoot over, however. Speaking of length, 6’8″ Georgetown forward Otto Porter is on fire recently. Porter is averaging 18.5 points in his last nine games. Not coincidentally  the Hoyas are 8-1 in that stretch. The Cincinnati defense is struggling to stop teams from scoring in the paint, so look for Porter to have another big game. If the Bearcats can’t stop Porter and they can’t make threes, they are going to have a tough time winning.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on February 1st, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The biggest game of the season thus far is upon us, as the top two teams in the Big Ten collide in what could be an epic battle of offensive efficiency. There are some important match-ups in the other conferences as well that should keep your Super Bowl weekend packed with great sports. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#1 Michigan at #4 Indiana – 6:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Darius Morris may be gone, but Tim Hardaway Jr. is primed for big things in 2011-12. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s defense could be the key to a Michigan win. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

  • Michigan versus Indiana should be one of the best offensive duels we see in college hoops this season. Both teams have scoring options all over the floor, shoot the lights out from two and three, and have proven to be incredibly efficient all season long. There is very little that separates these two teams on paper. One factor that could play huge role even before the game starts is the availability of Michigan forward Jordan Morgan. Morgan rolled his ankle early in the game against Illinois and sat out against Northwestern on Wednesday. Morgan gives the Wolverines another sneaky offensive threat and size on the inside. He is a key player on the defensive glass, which will be very important for the Wolverines. If Indiana gets too many second chance points, it will be a long night for John Beilein and company. You will also want to keep an eye on the potential match-up between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Victor Oladipo. Oladipo is clearly the Hoosiers most valuable player at this point and is filling up the stat sheet recently. Michigan must find a way to lock down Oladipo. Additionally for Michigan, keep an eye on Jon Horford. Horford has been very solid in the last two games making up for the loss of Morgan. The Wolverines will need Horford to be at the top of his game, if they want to win. Finally, keep a close eye on Michigan’s demeanor early in the game. If you recall, the Wolverines came out rattled and uninspired against Ohio State on the road. Early mistakes put them behind big. If that happens in Bloomington, it’s unlikely Michigan can bounce back against an offense as good as Indiana’s. If Indiana gets off to a fast start, you won’t see the Wolverines panic.  However, if the fast start is due to mistakes and uninspired play, it’s curtains. While the offenses will be at center stage in this game, the winner will be the team that plays better defense. Watch perimeter defense closely as both teams are excellent from distance. Whoever is able to defend the perimeter better will win the game.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on January 4th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The first weekend in 2013 dives head first into conference season. There are some key match-ups within the Big Ten and Big 12 that will set the tone early for who to watch over the next two months. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#11 Ohio State at #13 Illinois – 2:15 PM EST, Saturday on BTN (****)

While Craft brings experience and relentless defense, losing Sullinger and Buford, and the outsized production loads they accounted for, will be an enormous hurdle for the transitioning Buckeyes (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire).

Aaron Craft needs to lock down the perimeter against Illinois (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire).

  • It seems odd to say that these two top 15 teams are in need of a win, but that appears to be the case in this particular match-up. Ohio State is 0-2 in its two big games against Duke and Kansas, leaving the Buckeyes without a marquee victory thus far, while Illinois has lost two of its last three games after starting 12-0. Illinois’ shooting has been quite poor over the last three games: star guard Brandon Paul has gone 5-of-18, 3-of-12, and 4-of-10 in that span. Alongside D.J. Richardson, the Illini guards will face a tough defensive test from OSU guards Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., and Shannon Scott. Paul is always capable of a breakout game, but keep a close eye on his shooting as Illinois typically goes the way he goes. In their two losses this season to Duke and Kansas, the Buckeyes have faced dominant post players. Illinois does not have that asset per se, so that bodes well for the Buckeyes, even in Champaign. Big forward Tyler Griffey is Illinois’ best inside option, but he could have his hands full on defense if he is matched-up against DeShaun Thomas. Craft and the Buckeye perimeter defense is the key to this game and it doesn’t appear that the Illinois defense is strong enough to keep Thomas from scoring. While it will be a raucous home crowd for the Illini, I think OSU pulls off the win.

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Big East M5: 01.02.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 2nd, 2013

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  1. One could say that Kevin Ollie’s first Big East season got going in the wrong directionAfter late game heroics for both UConn and Marquette by Ryan Boatright and Junior Cadougan, respectively, the two teams lined up on the wrong sides of the center circle to begin overtime. Enosch Wolf won the tip, and Shabazz Napier had an open look on what should have been his own basket swatted away by Jamil Wilson on what normally would have been a goaltend.  After reviewing the play, the referees did not count the goaltend for UConn as the Huskies shot at the wrong basket.  However, referee Karl Hess later admitted that after letting the players play in the wrong direction, they should have given UConn the two points. UConn would go on to lose to the Golden Eagles by six, 82-76.
  2. Louisville hasn’t had trouble putting points on the board, as the Cardinals are averaging 78.2 points per game so far this season. However, Rick Pitino is still not happy with his team’s defense. Louisville’s 17-point lead over Kentucky was nearly erased as the Cardinals played tentatively on defense due to foul trouble. That doesn’t gel with the high-pressure full court scheme that Pitino likes to use. Another concern is the team’s interior defense — despite the imposing presence of Gorgui Dieng (out for most of December with an injury), the Cardinals are still only 14th among Big East teams in blocked shots, a number that Pitino would surely like to move up.
  3. Jim Boeheim has been the head coach at Syracuse since the nascent days of the Big East conference, so naturally he has many strong feelings and opinions about the league that he credits for his national championship and Hall of Fame induction. In a two-hour interview with USA Today, Boeheim discusses the past and future of the conference, including the near-”warfare” like atmosphere of the coaches meetings in the 1980s, the Big East media contract negotiations which broke down before Syracuse and Pittsburgh made the announcement that they would be moving to the ACC, and, of course, his future plans to coach the Orange. Boeheim keeps his plans close to the vest and marches to the beat of his own drum, but when he does decide to hang the whistle up, he is confident that the program will survive and thrive under Mike Hopkins - “I don’t have any plans on retiring, right now. Could that change? Yeah, I think that could change. But I don’t have any plans on retiring. I know Mike will be the coach and Syracuse will be in great hands… I told every recruit the last five years that I think I am going to coach but don’t know it. Mike will be the coach. And the (recruits) all came. Most recruits don’t care anymore because they only think they will be here one year.”
  4. Seton Hall was sitting solidly on the bubble last March before a shocking 86-58 loss at league dregs DePaul derailed the Pirates’ dancing aspirations. Seton Hall opens its Big East season with the same road trip tonight, looking to improve on an 11-2 record with a win over an improved Blue Demons squad. While some Big East teams may lack some motivation when playing DePaul, Brandon Mobley and Seton Hall have all that they need: “If playing at DePaul is not motivation, then I don’t know what is… Not only did we lose, we got embarrassed and that cost us the NCAA Tournament. We’re going up there with a grudge on our shoulder.”
  5. In news that is not directly related to basketball but may effect the futures of UConn, Cincinnati, and USF, the three schools who appear to be getting left behind by conference expansion and realignment, Boise State will no longer be joining the Big East in football. There is a good chance that San Diego State, which was also set to join for football only, may follow suit, leaving the remaining three Big East members and their future rivals in an increasingly vulnerable conference. In addition, the Mountain West has reworked its television contract which will give increased revenue to teams who make national television appearances. There have even been rumors that the MW could end up raiding the Big East for a school like Cincinnati. The conference carousel goes round and round…
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Marquette Coming Along With Its Reloading Effort This Season

Posted by WCarey on December 22nd, 2012

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between LSU and Marquette.

Last season was a wildly successful campaign for Marquette, as the Golden Eagles finished second in an ultra-competitive Big East and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles were led by the great senior leadership and phenomenal play of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. Those two graduated in May were selected in the second round of June’s NBA Draft. Entering this season, Marquette returned many of its other key role players from a season ago. Point guard Junior Cadougan, scoring guard Todd Mayo, swingman Vander Blue, athletic forward Jamil Wilson, and big man Davante Gardner had all shown glimpses of becoming major contributors, but due to the presence of Crowder and Johnson-Odom, star performances were rarely needed from them. The Golden Eagles also secured the services of fifth-year senior swingman Trent Lockett, who transferred to Marquette from Arizona State after the conclusion of his undergraduate academic career.

Buzz Williams Knew He\'d Have Some Reloading to Do This Season (MJS/R. Wood)

Buzz Williams Knew He’d Have Some Reloading to Do This Season (MJS/R. Wood)

This preseason, Marquette was projected to finish seventh in the Big East by conference coaches. Many media outlets’ predictions coincided with that of the coaches, as the Golden Eagles were almost unanimously chosen to finish within the top half of the conference but not near the top tier. Just before the season began, the team was dealt a tough blow when it was revealed that Mayo would be academically ineligible for the fall semester. Another misfortune occurred when the season opener with Ohio State at the Carrier Classic was cancelled due to dangerous condensation on the court. In just their third game of the season, the Golden Eagles were dealt yet another tough break when Butler guard Rotnei Clarke was able to connect on a desperation 25-foot one-handed heave to give his team a triumphant 72-71 victory in the first game of the Maui Invitational.

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Big East M5: End of the World (And I Feel Fine) Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 21st, 2012

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  1. The system that Buzz Williams has put into place at Marquette has generally done a good job of preventing major letdowns after the Golden Eagles lose significant contributors. However, this year’s Marquette squad has struggled at times, especially during Wednesday’s loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay. What looked to be a solid core that includes Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan, Davante Gardner, Jamil Wilson, and Chris Otule has really struggled to score this year, with only Blue and Gardner averaging double figures in points at just over 12 per game each. The Eagles are 162nd in the country in scoring this season, at 68.6 points per game
  2. Many coaches contend that some of the best games for a developing team are the ones that count in the win column but feel like losses. Jim Boeheim’s 900th career victory sure felt like a loss in many ways, and he will find plenty of teachable moments in Syracuse‘s near-collapse against Detroit. This was the first game all year where the Orange really had their backs against the wall, and that situation provides good feedback to Boeheim and his coaching staff. “These are things that usually you don’t learn from games that you win, but usually players almost need to lose a game to really think about things such as ‘this is what we have to do’ and I think this game feels more like a loss. It’s good to get one that feels like it but isn’t and I think we’ll be able to look at some plays.”
  3. The Kevin Ollie situation seems to be wearing on UConn, as evidenced by comments made by Shabazz Napier following a Thursday practice: “Warde (Manuel), our AD, we all know what he’s doing… After (beating) Michigan State, I felt like he was going to get this job, but sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. I’ve kind of come to terms that, no matter what we do, it’s not going to be in our hands. We can win as many games as we want, I still don’t believe it’s going to be in our hands where he’s going to give him a job.” With no postseason prospects to look forward to, the chance to win long-term job security for Ollie is one of the tangible things that the Huskies have to play for this year; but if new athletic director Manuel is really that difficult to win over, it will be interesting to see how the team reacts.
  4. One of the major categories that hurt USF early on this year was their mediocre efforts on the glass. Enter: Victor Rudd. After seeing the Bulls get dominated in the rebounding department through the first few games of the year, Rudd took it upon himself to excel in this area and he is now averaging 8.2 boards per game, good for third in the Big East. Rudd’s rebounding prowess, coupled with improved play from Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and Anthony Collins, has helped the Bulls recover from a slow start. USF has won four of its last five games, with the only loss coming to a ranked Oklahoma State squad.
  5. According to Blue and Gold Illustrated‘s Wes Morgan, Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant has a bruised back and may miss the Irish’s game against Niagara tonight. After scoring 14 points the last time out, Grant left Notre Dame’s game against Kennesaw State after a collision with an Owls player. Grant, who is second on the Irish in scoring this year, would be a big loss if he misses extended time, but Mike Brey’s squad should not have any issue with a 5-6 Niagara squad tonight with or without him in the lineup.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Kentucky, Florida, Minnesota, Canadian Imports, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2012

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. When the AP Top 25 was released Monday afternoon, Kentucky wound up unranked for the first time in the John Calipari era after a blowout loss to Notre Dame and a home setback to Baylor, UK’s first loss at Rupp Arena under Calipari (UK remains ranked at #20 here at RTC). Kentucky’s drop from #8 to unranked was the largest in AP poll history since the poll expanded to include 25 teams in 1990. Now we all know college basketball polls don’t really matter (unlike a certain other collegiate sport) so this is just something to discuss among basketball junkies. But seriously, do people really believe this isn’t one of the Top 25 teams in the country? I guess it depends on your philosophy when it comes to filling out a ballot. If you’re going purely by record, sure the Wildcats shouldn’t be ranked at 4-3. But a deeper inspection reveals a team with a win over Maryland, one that could turn into a very good win if the Terrapins sustain their early season level of play, and three losses to very good basketball teams (Duke, Notre Dame and Baylor). The Wildcats aren’t anywhere near last year’s juggernaut but until they lose to a bad team or the losses to good teams keep piling up, I’ll continue to rank Kentucky and won’t overreact. What are the issues Calipari faces? Number one, Ryan Harrow has proven not to be the answer at point guard. Archie Goodwin has been forced to be the primary ballhandler and is turning the ball over more than three times per game. Second, Kentucky’s rebounding and defense has taken a dip from last year but who didn’t expect that? Anthony Davis is in New Orleans now, not Lexington. Third, the team is relying exclusively on freshmen, one sophomore (Kyle Wiltjer, who does need to pick his game up) and two transfers. There is no veteran presence who has been through the SEC wars like Doron Lamb and Darius Miller had been last season. While Cal’s teams have had tremendous freshmen talent, the presence of Miller and Lamb pushed the team over the top last year. Without that crucial element, Kentucky will continue to struggle with immature plays and poor decision-making. However, I’m sure that Calipari will find a way to make things work eventually. Let’s not panic in early December because Kentucky lost three games to Top 25 teams.

    Coach Cal’s Team Is Now Unranked, But Don’t Panic Yet

  2. With Kentucky struggling to find its way right now, Florida has emerged as the early favorite in the SEC. The Gators are 6-0 with a pair of blowout wins over Wisconsin and Marquette and a nice “neutral” court win over a good Middle Tennessee team. It’s pretty clear that Florida is for real but the schedule ramps up in a big way this month with tomorrow’s road trip to rival Florida State followed 10 days later by a visit to Arizona and a quasi-road game against Kansas State in Kansas City on December 22. Everyone knows about Florida’s high-powered offensive attack but the most astonishing thing about this team has been its defense. This could very well be Billy Donovan’s best defensive team in Gainesville. Florida leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 48.5 PPG to date. The Gators are fourth in defensive efficiency and have also improved their rebounding from a year ago with Patric Young and Will Yeguete doing most of the work on the boards but even UF’s guards are contributing to that effort as well. Florida is just as efficient on the offensive end of the floor with balanced scoring and depth. Seven Gators are averaging at least seven points per game, led by Kenny Boynton. Donovan has to be thrilled with senior Erik Murphy, someone who is an absolute match-up nightmare for almost every opponent because of his length, versatility and ability to stretch defenses. When Murphy hangs out on the perimeter he can hit shots or open up gaps for his teammates to drive and score, or get to the line as Florida has done so well this year. His numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet at you but he’s such a valuable asset to this team. Murphy has had his share of off-court problems and here’s to hoping he’s learned from that and takes on a leadership role for his team as a senior. He’s off to a great start and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Florida in the top 10 all year long. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your DVR: Opening Weekend

Posted by bmulvihill on November 9th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The college basketball season is finally here! This season Set Your DVR (ed. note: sadly, nobody has TiVos anymore) will be a twice-weekly column outlining the must-see games for the upcoming week and weekend.  This column will lay out the key factors in each game to focus on and how those factors could affect the outcome. It’s a military-themed weekend of hoops with three games taking place on aircraft carriers and one game taking place at a military base located across the Atlantic Ocean.  Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#16 San Diego State vs. #5 Syracuse – 4:00 PM EST, 11/11/12 on FSN HD (*****)

Jim Boeheim takes the Orange to the USS Midway to take on San Diego State

  • The USS Midway provides the backdrop for an exciting opener between Syracuse and San Diego State. SDSU returns four starters including Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin as well as Chase Tapley, James Rahon, and Xavier Thomas. Keep a close eye on the match-up between the Aztec guards and Syracuse point guard Brandon Triche. Triche is taking over for Scoop Jardine and faces a tough test against this crew. Steve Fisher’s squad will have to improve in two areas if they are going to start beating top-tier programs like Syracuse – shooting and offensive rebounding. The Aztecs grabbed only 30.8% of their offensive rebound opportunities last season, so if they are only going to hit 33% of their three-point attempts and 49.8% of their two-point attempts like they did in 2011-12, it’s going to be difficult to beat the best teams in the country. Watch to see if transfers Dwayne Polee II and J.J. O’Brien can help the Aztecs grab more of those missed shots.
  • After losing four starters to graduation and the NBA Draft, Syracuse is in a much different place than SDSU. Jim Boeheim’s ability to fill the talent void will be a key factor in determining if this Orange team can beat an experienced Aztec team. The ‘Cuse returns two significant contributors from last year’s team – C.J. Fair and Triche. Both players need to improve their sub-50% eFG in order to prevent the team from taking a step backwards.  The key to the Orange’s success in this game and in the future, however, may be 6’8” senior forward James Southerland. In a somewhat limited role last year, Southerland put up some impressive shooting numbers from inside the arc. Keep a close eye on Southerland’s ability to take advantage of his size inside the three-point line. Syracuse will also be able to throw additional size at the Aztecs with 6’9” sophomore Rakeem Christmas, 6’10” junior Baye Keita, and 6’7” 275 lb. wide-body freshman, DaJuan Coleman. Read the rest of this entry »
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