Rushed Reactions: Providence 65, #14 Creighton 58

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2014


Brian Otskey attended the Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden.

It Was a Dream Come True For Providence and Ed Cooley (AP)

It Was a Dream Come True For Providence and Ed Cooley (AP)

Three key takeaways.

  1. Dancing Friars. After living on the bubble for much of the season, the Friars left no doubt in clinching the Big East’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Providence won its first Big East Tournament crown since 1994 and will be in the Big Dance for the first time since 2004. It has been a long time coming for an old Big East program with a strong fan base that has been dying for a winner to rally behind. With this team, they have a great bunch of guys to root for. Providence’s late season surge after a mid-season slump has been impressive, with its only losses coming in double-overtime to league regular season champion Villanova and at Creighton on senior night for Doug McDermott and company.
  2. Is the book now out on Creighton? Providence made every Creighton basket a chore with a 2-3 zone that in many ways resembled what Jim Boeheim and Syracuse use. Ed Cooley mixed in some full court pressure at times and that made Creighton use a lot of the shot clock on many possessions. Cooley said he went zone “because I’m crazy,” but it was definitely a smart decision. Providence rotated perfectly in sync and frustrated Creighton all game long with it. Creighton outshot the Friars but Providence was able to get to the free throw line 26 times where the nation’s No. 2 free throw shooting team converted on 23. Offensively, Cooley and Providence made a concerted effort to work the post, specifically when Ethan Wragge was forced to defend Kadeem Batts. When combined with Cotton’s ability to penetrate, Providence was able to generate a number of quality looks around the rim.
  3. Ed Cooley coached a tremendous game. His team was motivated all tournament long and you could tell the confidence of his players was brimming. It felt as if the Providence players played even harder once they realized it was not just a pro-Creighton crowd. Cooley’s defense was physical and his team hit the glass hard, outrebounding the Bluejays by three on the offensive glass. The game plan was clearly to get out on the shooters and get the ball inside when on offense. With a great floor general in Bryce Cotton executing the plan, it worked fantastically for the Friars. Providence also utilized its frontcourt depth, posting up Ethan Wragge all night long, who didn’t stand much of a chance against the bigger and more physical Friars. After the game, Cooley said that was exactly what they planned to do on that end of the floor.

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Three Up, Three Down in the Big East

Posted by George Hershey on January 27th, 2014

Every Big East team played on Saturday. Some had impressive outing, while others fell flat and disappointed. Here we highlight some of the positives and negatives from the weekend’s action with Three Up, Three Down.

Three Up

The Providence Role Players, Including Denton, Are Stepping Up

The Providence Role Players, Including Denton, Are Stepping Up

  1. Providence’s Supporting Cast. Coming into the season the emphasis was placed on senior scoring machine Bryce Cotton. In the non-conference slate, the team fared well but started with a poor 0-2 mark in conference play with a bad home loss to Seton Hall and a blowout defeat to Villanova. In those early losses, players like LaDontae Henton, Kadeem Batts, Tyler Harris and Josh Fortune had rough performances. They turned the ball over too much — 15 from the starters vs. Villanova — played poor defense, and failed to make the key plays that win games. More recently, Providence has been on a roll and these players are the primary reason for the difference. In the Friars’ win on Saturday against Xavier, four starters had at least 10 points with Henton dropping 23, Harris and Batts scoring 12 each, and Fortune hitting a key three as he was fouled to stymie a Xavier run. Carson Desrosiers was also very impressive on the defensive end, with six blocks against the Musketeers. Providence has now won five in a row to move to 5-2 in league play, good for third place in the conference standings. Read the rest of this entry »
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Nate Lubick, Todd Mayo, Semaj Christon Lead Big East Players Who Need to Step Up

Posted by Jameson Fleming on December 28th, 2013

With the exception of Villanova and perhaps Butler, every Big East team at this point probably wishes its season was going a little better. Still, with the exceptions of Seton Hall and DePaul, the league’s teams as a whole have done enough to avoid resume-killing losses entering conference play, and therefore eight teams have a reasonable chance to dream about making the NCAA Tournament field in mid-March. But every team, including top 10 Villanova, has its weaknesses and struggling players, so here’s a look at who needs to step up on each squad if it hopes to achieve its postseason goals.


Villanova (U.S. Presswire)

Villanova Has Had a Great Preconference Season – Can It Continue? (U.S. Presswire)

The Wildcats haven’t been shy about shooting the three-pointer this year. During the past six years, Jay Wright’s club has dedicated about 34 percent of its field goal attempts to the long ball. This year, that number has skyrocketed to 45.7 percent, seventh highest in the country. The problem? The Wildcats are shooting only 32.7 percent from three, 204th best nationally. Jay Wright has role players who are capable shooters – Josh Hart, Dylan Ennis, and Kris Jenkins each drills at least 38 percent of his attempts – but his top two volume shooters have struggled from beyond the arc. James Bell and Ryan Arcidiacono have taken a combined 140 three-pointers, but also hit just 28.5 percent of them. Overall, Bell and Arcidiacono have improved considerably from last season, but if Wright is going to continue to let those two bomb away from distance, they’ll need to at least improve their percentages to last year’s level (Bell at 36 percent; Arcidiacono at 33 percent).


The Bluejays have become the new Gonzaga: All offense and little defense. The last time Creighton was a better defensive team than offensive one was 2008 when it ranked 70th in defensive efficiency and 106th in offensive efficiency under previous head coach, Dana Altman. This year is much of the same: Creighton ranks fourth offensively and 59th defensively. But to give the team some credit, this appears to be their best defensive team since 2007 when they ranked 37th nationally. However, that still won’t be good enough to make a deep run in March. Greg McDermott’s team doesn’t force many turnovers or block many shots. The guards need to interrupt passing lanes better, and the bigs, especially NPOY candidate Doug McDermott, who hasn’t blocked a shot the whole season, need to be a more imposing defensive force around the basket.

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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 26th, 2013

Happy holidays everyone! Feast Week is upon us, and the Big East has been performing pretty well across the board so far this season. There appears to be a lot of parity in the conference, and a few surprise teams like Xavier and Providence look like they may be real contenders this season. Let’s jump into the previous week of action.

Power Rankings

Xavier is Creeping up the Power Rankings Behind Semaj Christon

  • 10.) DePaul (3-2), LW (10): DePaul looks like it might be a solid step up from where it has been the last few seasons, but last night’s game against Wichita State shows there’s still a lot of opportunities for improvement.
  • 9.) Seton Hall (4-2), LW (8): The Pirates have a penchant for close games. Four of their six games have been decided by single figures, including both of their losses: a 77-74 double-overtime heartbreaker to Mercer, and an 86-85 loss to Oklahoma.
  • T-7.) Butler (4-0), LW (9): Butler is still undefeated by the narrowest of margins, winning an overtime thriller against Vanderbilt and a one-point game against Ball State last week. Khyle Marshall and Kellen Dunham are keeping the Butler offense afloat, each by averaging 15.8 points per game.
  • T-7.) St. John’s (3-1), LW (5): Phil Greene IV had a big week for the Johnnies, scoring 16 and 22 points in tight wins over Bucknell and Monmouth, respectively. Greene’s contributions in the backcourt have been very important for a St. John’s team that is struggling to score.
  • 6.) Providence (6-1), LW (6): The Friars had as good of a week as anyone, winning three games over solid competition before dropping last night’s Paradise Jam championship to Maryland. The frontcourt combination of Kadeem BattsLaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris has been as effective as any in the league in the early part of the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 11.20.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 20th, 2013


  1. Butler may not get flashy play  from starting point guard and former walk-on junior Alex Barlow, but the Bulldogs value the consistency and defensive intensity that he brings to the table. News-Sentinel writer Tom Davis often finds himself and his colleagues in the media openly questioning the athleticism and abilities of Barlow, but he admits that it is probably time that he stopped after talking about the guard with members of the program. Head coach Brandon Miller was quick to point out some of the crucial skills that help Barlow excel: “A lot of times when you think about Alex Barlow, you don’t think of athleticism, but he’s very good laterally. He has an ability to stay in front of the ball. He has quick hands.” Barlow’s contributions aren’t always tangible or easy to find in a box score, but they surely don’t lack importance, adds Davis: “There is no statistic in the box score under ‘help and recover’ or ‘talked on a switch’ or ‘rotated quickly and properly’ or ‘closed out under control and contested the shot.’ If those categories were tracked by the media, Barlow, who earned a scholarship as a sophomore, would be All-Big East this season.” Interesting stuff.
  2. Georgetown‘s non-conference slate is among the most challenging in the Big East, and it may take another leap depending on how things in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off shake out. The Hoyas open the tournament with Northeastern, and will then face either Charlotte or Kansas State.  Should the Hoyas make a run to the finals, most expect that they will meet last year’s national runners-up, Michigan, who is looking to rebound from its first loss of the season to Iowa State on Sunday. In speaking with The Hoya, Georgetown players and coaches brought up a couple of newcomers who may make a big difference for the team in Puerto Rico — UCLA transfer Josh Smith and freshman forward Reggie Cameron. Smith flashed his interior scoring talents in a loss to Oregon to open the season, while Cameron was 3-of-5 from deep against Wright State. They both add new dimensions to a Georgetown attack that is averaging 81.5 points per game in the young season.
  3. Providence point guard Kris Dunn saw his first action since the preseason, coming off the bench to score three points and dole out eight assists against Vermont. Dunn injured the shoulder that cost him the first nine games of his freshman season in an exhibition with Rhode Island College in early November. He solidifies a rotation that is already getting strong scoring from forward Kadeem Batts and stalwart shooting guard Bryce Cotton. With Dunn running the offense, Cotton scoring in bunches, and Batts threatening for double-doubles on a regular basis, Providence is off to a nice start in 2013-14.
  4. The Crosstown Classic, the annual showdown between Xavier and Cincinnati, a couple of universities separated by just over two miles, is one of college basketball’s great rivalries but recent turmoil has threatened the future of the game. Since the infamous 2011 brawl, which forced the game to be called early, the Classic has been moved off the campuses to a neutral site — downtown Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena. While both schools would like to continue the game, there is some debate as to where it should take place in the future; and quite naturally, there is some disagreement between the schools. Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin praised last year’s neutral site game, while Xavier’s Chris Mack expressed a desire to have the rivalry back in the campus arenas.
  5. Between preparing for the likes of rivals like Cincinnati or the other foes in the new Big East, Chris Mack has taken on some coaching duties on the side, becoming the head of a proud third grade program at Blessed Sacrament School, where his daughter Lainee channels Semaj Christon on Sunday afternoons. As with any big-time program, Mack is keenly aware of how the rabid Internet fans react to poor play: “I’m sure the message boards are saying, ‘They’re not shooting free throws good enough.’ “ CBS Sports‘ Gregg Doyel stopped by to watch Blessed Sacrament take on St. Pius, and penned a great story about how important this time is for Mack and his family: “I didn’t want to be that dad who shows up with the lawn chair and then leaves at halftime because I have [a recruit coming on] an official visit. I want to have that same experience with my kids, and I want them to have those memories like I have with my father.”
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Introducing the RTC Big East Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by Dan Lyons (@Dan_Lyons76) on November 8th, 2013

College basketball is back! Seven Big East teams open their seasons tonight, including a few big match-ups like St. John’s vs. Wisconsin and Georgetown vs. Oregon. There is no better time to unveil the Big East microsite’s preseason rankings, with comments and analysis from our group of Big East writers:

Marquette Needs to Go Inside Against Davidson

Marquette tops Rush the Court’s preseason Big East rankings.

10. DePaul

  • Dan Lyons – With Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young heading into their senior years, this might be DePaul’s best chance to get out of the Big East basement, but I’m definitely taking a wait and see approach with the Blue Demons.
  • George Hershey – It’s DePaul… They have some talent in Melvin and Young, but they don’t play defense.
  • Todd Keryc – It doesn’t matter what league they play in or who else is in it, the poor Blue Demons are destined for the cellar almost every year.
 9. Butler
  • DL – With the injury to Roosevelt Jones, Butler is without a returning double-figure scorer this season. I’m not one to bet against the Bulldogs, with or without Brad Stevens, but this inaugural Big East campaign isn’t shaping up too well for this Cinderella.
  • GH – They lose many pieces from last year’s team. Roosevelt Jones’ injury really hurts, but they are Butler and they always surprise everyone. Expect Kellen Dunham to have a big year.
  • TK – Bad timing for the Bulldogs. They ride two straight national title appearances into two straight conference upgrades, only to see their boy wonder coach Brad Stevens leave for the NBA.

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Season In Review: Providence Friars

Posted by Will Tucker on April 29th, 2013

The Friars (19-15; 9-9) made huge progress in Ed Cooley’s second year at the helm of the rebuilding project in Providence. After limping through the first half of the season with injuries to key players, chemistry issues and no bench to speak of, the Friars rattled off seven of their last nine games to close out Big East play. They posted their first .500 conference record since 2008-09, and with it earned a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2008-09 as well, losing their first game of the NIT on the road at No. 2 seed Baylor.

Preseason expectations

Big East coaches pegged the Friars #13 at media day, while we slightly more optimistically ranked them #11 here at the microsite. Ed Cooley returned the Big East’s reigning two-time assists leader in senior Vincent Council, but his highly-anticipated recruiting class had unraveled in the offseason and his frontcourt remained somewhat of a mystery. In short, nobody really knew what to expect from the program that had been a dismal 12-42 (.286) in Big East play since its last postseason bid.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Reigning Big East Most Improved Player Kadeem Batts returns in 2013-14 (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The Good

Ed Cooley finally got his team to play on both ends of the floor, stamping out the paper bag defense that was Keno Davis’ indelible legacy in Providence. KenPom ranked the Friars 74th in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency –– a figure that, while not outstanding, displayed uncharacteristic balance: Their defense had ranked outside the top 200 in two of the past three years. On paper, only Syracuse was more efficient in defending the three among Big East teams, and Providence snuck into the league’s top 10 in scoring defense as well. At the individual level, it was Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts who led the team’s resurgence. In his junior year, Cotton (19.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.9 APG) stepped into a leadership role few outside of Tucson, Arizona, could have envisioned for the spot-up shooter whose only Division I offer came from Providence. Cotton led the Big East in scoring and three-pointers (98 makes) despite playing more minutes per game (37.8 MPG) than all but six other players in the nation. In the frontcourt, Batts (14.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 47.8% FG) fashioned himself into the Big East’s Most Improved Player after an underwhelming sophomore season that left the 6’9″ forward shrouded in uncertainty entering 2012-13.

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Big East M5: 03.28.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 28th, 2013


  1. Jim Boeheim retirement rumor-mongering has become something of a cottage industry in recent seasons, so it’s always relieving when the man himself can add some clarity to the things that bounce around the world of message boards and e-mail chains. In his Sweet Sixteen presser yesterday, Boeheim took the time to end speculation as to whether he will coach the team in the 2013-14 season: “There is no process. There is no process. I’m coachin’ next year, I kid around a little bit and everybody gets crazy when I do so I’m not going to kid around about it anymore, I’m coaching next year, thrilled, got a great challenge, looking forward to it.” That is, unless he isn’t: “About September, if I don’t want to coach, I won’t coach.” That last little bit seems to open the door for a Jim Calhoun/Kevin Ollie situation, although Mike Hopkins has been the established head coach in waiting at Syracuse for years, so that type of manipulation seems unnecessary.
  2. Match-ups between elite programs like Syracuse and Indiana are always great fun for a variety of reasons. Because these types of schools dip into the same small pool of blue-chip recruits, a lot of these players have long relationships, and these back stories can only help build intrigue for the games. IU”s Victor Oladipo spent a lot of time on Wednesday talking about his relationships with Syracuse’s DMV-area forwards Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair. Oladipo is very close with the entire Grant family, and descibed Jerami as a “little brother” while calling Fair a “good player” who is “a real cool dude to chill with.”  Much of the pregame speculation on the Syracuse end of things has been about whom Oladipo will be tasked with guarding. That assignment may very well be Fair, who has been SU’s most consistent scorer all season.
  3. The Marquette-Miami game has its own built-in storyline heading into tonight’s Sweet Sixteen bout. Hurricane assistant Eric Konkol coached guard Trent Lockett, who has come on as a big factor in the backcourt for the Golden Eagles, at Hopkins High School. Both took an unconventional road to this NCAA Tournament match-up. Konkol found himself in the high school ranks after coaching under Jim Larranaga at George Mason while his wife worked on a degree at the University of Minnesota. He rejoined Larranaga in 2010, moving with him to Miami. Lockett spent his first three years at Arizona State, where he averaged over 13 points per game as a sophomore and junior before transferring to Marquette. Lockett had a big game in the Round of 32 against Butler, scoring 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting and grabbing six rebounds.
  4. Dueling articles are always fun. Think Progress‘ Travis Waldron penned a piece called “The University of Louisville is Everything That’s Wrong With College Basketball“, where his basic thesis is that because Louisville is the most profitable college basketball program but their basketball alumni don’t all matriculate to the NBA and make millions of dollars within a year or two, they’re evil… or something. I’m not a fan of using someone’s alma mater and inherent biases to try to invalidate their arguments, but when Waldron brought up his Kentucky background a lot of things were cleared up. SB Nation‘s Louisville blog Card Chronicle writer Mike Rutherford responded with his own post: “The University of Louisville is Not Everything That’s Wrong With College Basketball“, and I think he sums things up pretty well in response to Waldron – “You forgot the #BBN hashtag as your signature.”
  5. Alas, this year’s sprint towards NIT glory was not to be for the Providence Friars, who fell in the quarterfinals to Baylor in Waco last night.  The Friars had big performances from the usual suspects – Bryce Cotton led the team with 23 points while Vince Council and Kadeem Batts were close behind with 21 and 20 points, respectively. Kris Dunn was the only other Friar to score, however, and Baylor took advantage of Providence’s limited depth to cruise to a 79-68 victory. With Providence now out of the NIT, the three remaining Big East teams in the NCAA Tournament are the conference’s last representatives in postseason play this season.
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Five Thoughts From the Big East Tournament: Wednesday Afternoon Editon

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 13th, 2013

Brian Otskey attended the afternoon session of the Big East Tournament and filed this report. Follow him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Cincinnati proved it was NCAA Tournament worthy in the first game of the day, easily dispatching Providence by 17 points. The Bearcats, who had lost six of their last nine games to put their NCAA hopes in some jeopardy, left no doubt this afternoon. Cincinnati brought it on the defensive end and limited Providence to 28% shooting. The Bearcats were well prepared for what they would encounter from what had been a hot Friars team. Coach Mick Cronin said he wanted to make Kadeem Batts uncomfortable and that they did. Cincinnati also held Bryce Cotton, the Big East’s leading scorer, to 12 points on just 5-of-15 shooting. Cincinnati was at its best this season when it defended well. We saw that today and that’s the reason why the Bearcats will hear their name called this Sunday regardless of what happens the rest of the way at Madison Square Garden.



  2. Providence couldn’t get the big wins it needed down the stretch in losing its regular season finale to Connecticut on Saturday and following that up this afternoon with a dismal performance against Cincinnati. Providence was a long shot to make the NCAA Tournament but its late season surge had put the Friars in position to sneak into the field with a solid ending to the season and a run at the Garden. Most people have felt Providence is a year away and that’s what we saw today and last Saturday. The Friars needed to beat UConn, Cincinnati and probably Georgetown tomorrow in order to have a chance. They lost to the Huskies and Bearcats and as a result won’t have a chance to play the Hoyas. Providence is NIT-bound but this has been a successful season for Ed Cooley’s group. It’s one to build upon as the Friars transition into the “new” Big East next season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 03.12.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 12th, 2013


  1. The Big East named Kadeem Batts and Michael Carter-Williams co-Most Improved Players in the conference yesterday. Though Vincent Council was the only Providence player to receive Preseason All-Big East honors, it was ultimately the explosive development of his teammate at center that buttressed the Friars’ best Big East record since 2009. The embattled junior revamped a flagging college career in dramatic fashion, becoming his team’s second-leading scorer (15.2 PPG) and rebounder (7.4 RPG) after his production dipped across the board in his sophomore campaign. Batts scored 14 or more points in seven of the Friars’ final eight regular season games, and his 20-point performance in last month’s victory over Notre Dame had drawn an emphatic nomination from Mike Brey for the league’s Most Improved Player.
  2. Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti reiterated his support for Mike Rice yesterday, and confirmed that Rice will return to coach his fourth season despite struggles on and off the court in 2012-13. Rice is 16-38 in the Big East in his three seasons in Piscataway, with a list of reprimands that includes an ejection in Louisville last season and a three-game suspension levied by Pernetti in December for prior abusive behavior towards his players. But Pernetti told The Star-Ledger (NJ) that he was impressed with the response from Rice, who claims he’s “grown up a lot and learned a lot about what it means to be a better coach, a better person and a better leader” after the humbling experience. Pernetti conceded his program’s progress this season hasn’t manifested “in the win-loss column,” but insisted “you can definitely see us getting better.” Rice will enter the fourth season of his five-year contract in 2013-14.
  3. With UConn’s final game of 2012-13 in the books, The Hartford Courant’s Dom Amore evaluates the inaugural year of the Kevin Ollie era as an “unqualified success.” With the specter of impending NCAA penalties finally lifted from the shoulders of next year’s team, “any rationale for losing also disappears.” The toxicity of Storrs last year scared away transfers, exacerbated a tenuous coaching transition, and disincentivized talented players from eschewing the NBA for one more year. Suddenly, Amore contends, those bleak conditions have given way to long-term coaching stability, optimism on the recruiting trail and an opportunity to persuade UConn’s draft prospects to return to compete for a national championship next season.
  4. Despite the alarm surrounding Syracuse, Jim Boeheim believes it’s “very possible” his team can still regroup in the Big East Tournament and salvage a strong postseason performance. After losing seven of their final 12 and failing to eclipse 40 points in the final game of a heated rivalry, the coach admitted that the Orange are “not a good Tournament team.” But he also insisted that a couple of games in Madison Square Garden and the week of practice beyond pose valuable opportunities for the Orange to locate signs of life on offense. The Post-Standard’s Bud Poliquin points out that since starting 18-1, the Orange have shot less than 39% from the field in eight of 12 games, concluding with a 15-of-47 (31.9%) outing in the Georgetown debacle.
  5. Steve Politi’s Sunday column in the New Jersey Star-Ledger contains some great anecdotal history from the Big East Tournament’s humble inception. To put this week’s highly orchestrated, sold-out event in perspective, consider the following. In 1981, the second year of the tournament, four ticketless Georgetown fans entered the bowels of the Carrier Dome donning various animal costumes, including a penguin suit. Each told oblivious security guards –– who had no clue what a Hoya was supposed to look like –– that he was the official school mascot. And astonishingly, it worked, which merely underscores how many of the league’s most intimate modern rivalries were predated by striking unfamiliarity, and forged only through time and competitiveness.
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