Big East M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 20th, 2013

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  1. Ed Cooley says he hasn’t mentioned the possibility of any sort of postseason berth to his Providence team. “I’m just trying to go a game at a time and that’s not coach-speak. That’s reality,” he said, “We’re still fragile. We just have guys trying to believe right now.” While it may be poor etiquette for any coach to broach that topic when his team is below .500 in conference play, it’s fair game for fans. By late last night, all but 10% of 345 respondents in a Providence Journal poll believed the Friars would make either the NIT (72%) or NCAA Tournament (18%). Any discussion of the latter is premature unless the Friars pull off the upset at Syracuse tonight. But Kevin McNamara suggests that prolonged early injuries to Vincent Council and Kris Dunn could constitute a “special circumstance” with the selection committee, should the Friars play their way onto the bubble. We evaluated the outlook for Providence in their final five games in yesterday’s Big East Burning Question.
  2. It’s not all roses in Syracuse, as Jared E. Smith over at TNIAAM presents three alarming trends that have come to the surface since Cuse’s watershed victory at Louisville. Despite leading the Big East with 8 assists per contest overall this season, Michael Carter-Williams has only averaged 4.3 APG in the past six games, and his team is 1-3 when he fails to dish out 5 assists. Smith identifies other culprits in the poor three-point defense from the back end of Boeheim’s zone and a chronic inability to produce the prolific transition offense to which Orange fans are accustomed. Syracuse is producing half as many transition points as last year’s team, and consequently entered last Saturday’s Seton Hall game averaging 8 PPG fewer than their predecessors. Cuse plays two of the league’s hottest teams this week in Providence and Georgetown, so it’s an inopportune moment to grapple with the issues Smith highlights.
  3. Notwithstanding the Scottie Reynolds shot that knocked his team out of the 2009 Elite Eight, Jamie Dixon may have been at his “most inconsolable” as a Pitt coach after his team’s collapse to Notre Dame on Monday night. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook predicts Pitt will achieve the modest requirements to wrap up their NCAA invite, but says they’re clearly just as “capable of blowing the bid.” The loss only confirmed the alarm raised in last week’s 10-point loss to Marquette: “[Pitt] is trending the wrong way at the worst time of the season.”
  4. Speaking of Pitt, Cardiac Hill wonders whether the infusion of blue chip talent coming out of high school next year will influence the length of Steven Adams’ career in Pittsburgh. Adam Zagoria had quoted an anonymous NBA GM who extolled the 2014 draft class and called this year’s group “historically weak” (when can we take that annual refrain out back and euthanize it, by the way?). This prompted CH to ask: “If Adams doesn’t take a huge step forward, one could wonder if he’d be better of coming out this season or waiting until 2015 if next year’s class is as stacked as the GM claims.” It’s an interesting dilemma, and from a broader perspective it’s a kind of cynical calculus necessitated by the one-and-done rule.
  5. Though Cincinnati as a team is 14th in the league in free throw shooting percentage, Mick Cronin claims it’s more an issue of the wrong players getting to the line. “If [Sean Kilpatrick] or Cash [Wright] shoots all of our free throws, I like our chances,” said Cronin, who lamented, “Your bigger guys are the ones who tend to get fouled.” Therein lies the problem, for Cincinnati, whose star guards are the only starters that shoot better than 66%. For their part, Justin Jackson and JaQuan Parker have hit 54% of 156 combined free throw attempts. Despite struggling in many other facets of his game, sixth man forward Titus Rubles’ 67% foul shooting offers a situational substitute should Jackson become a liability late in a game.
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Providence Shows Its Growth With Recent Big East Wins

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 7th, 2013

Dan Lyons is an RTC Big East microsite contributor who also writes for the Syracuse blog, “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.”  You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.  He filed this report after Wednesday night’s match-up between Cincinnati and Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

Providence has played this entire season teetering on the edge.  On one side, losses to the likes of Penn State, UMass, Brown, and DePaul don’t inspire much confidence for Ed Cooley‘s squad going forward.  On the other hand, the only game this season that really got away from the Friars was the January 2nd 80-62 loss to then #4 Louisville.  Every other Friar loss has been within ten points, with two having gone to overtime – the games against Penn State and UConn.  Since the loss to UConn, however, Providence’s luck has seemed to turn a bit.  They went to Villanova, a team that had just logged back to back home wins against the conference’s two big dogs Louisville and Syracuse, and knocked off the Wildcats, and then followed that up with last night’s close win at home against #17 Cincinnati.

Kadeem Batts' 25 points and nine rebounds were essential in Providence's upset of #17 Cincinnati.

Kadeem Batts’ 25 points and nine rebounds were essential in Providence’s upset of #17 Cincinnati.

Providence’s road to relevance under Cooley has been a treacherous one, but there has been reason for hope.  Cooley has been recruiting well above the expectations laid forth by Providence’s 42-53 record over the last three seasons.  Last season Cooley reeled in five-star prospects Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo and he currently has 2013 commitment from four-star small forward prospect Brandon Austin.  He also inherited a team with capable players like Kadeem BattsBryce Cotton, and Vincent Council.  However, in a college basketball landscape where inexperience is no longer an excuse for poor performance, Providence’s turnaround hasn’t translated to on-the-court success as quickly as some fans probably hoped.

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Big East M5: 01.08.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 8th, 2013

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  1. After Syracuse kicked off its Big East farewell road tour with a 55-44 win over USF in the Sun Dome, Jim Boeheim admitted he wouldn’t be accompanying his team to the ACC were Syracuse leaving the Big East of yore. “If it was the same and we were leaving, I wouldn’t leave. I would have just retired. It’s not the same.” Boeheim didn’t seem to elaborate, which leaves us to wonder if he would have eschewed a lateral move to the ACC out of loyalty to the school’s home of 30 years. Perhaps in light of a growingly tenuous conference landscape, Boeheim doesn’t want his retirement to hamper Syracuse’s footing in its new league. Either way, it’s an ironic position considering his administration effectively co-authored the Big East’s death sentence more than a year ago.
  2. Villanova point guard Ryan Arcidiacono won Big East Rookie of the Week honors for the second week in a row yesterday. Confronted by an embarrassing 4-4 record a month ago, the home-grown freshman has helped orchestrate a six-game winning streak, which he capped off with a 36-point performance in Nova’s overtime win over St. John’s. His seven made three-pointers fell one short of Ray Allen’s single-game record –– quite an achievement for a freshman who missed his entire high school senior season with a back injury.
  3. New York Post columnist Zach Braziller has issued a mea culpa for dismissing Louisville’s Russ Smith as a high-major prospect. The writer has spent plenty of time around future pros covering New York City high school hoops, and even he was blindsided by Smith’s metamorphosis. “I felt he was making a mistake by going to prep school, that he should pick whatever mid-major would have him.” While he now appreciates the unrefined talent Smith possessed three years ago, what most impressed Braziller was the junior’s unwillingness to crow to his detractors: “The way basketball is, you just have to end up being lucky,” Smith told him.
  4. Seth Davis calls Marquette his team of the week in college hoops, after a marquee win over Georgetown and a 2-0 Big East start. Davis cautions that Buzz Williams’ team still needs to prove it can pull out similar wins on the road. Elsewhere, MU blog Paint Touches writes that Jamil Wilson has found his niche as a high post zone-buster, after channeling a dash of Jae Crowder in the Georgetown win.
  5. On the heels of last weekend’s 10-point home loss to DePaul, Friarblog argues that Providence has “regressed in all areas” over the past two weeks, despite adding Kris DunnVincent Council and Sidiki Johnson to its roster. After a promising 8-2 start, Ed Cooley’s squad has now dropped four in a row and claims a share of the worst Big East record to this point (0-2). Along with some salient observations about the Friars’ turnover bug and a call for Ed Cooley to make systemic adjustments on defense, the post resurrects this artifact from the dustbin of history:Davis-Full-Court-Pressing-System-774

 

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Big East M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 31st, 2012

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  1. Early in the season, one of the things that the 2012-13 Syracuse Orange seemed to have on the 2011-12 edition was reliable three-point shooting. James Southerland and Trevor Cooney can both act potentially as knock-down shooters for Jim Boeheim. Syracuse has struggled to score recently, and poor outside shooting is one of the main reasons for this lull. The Orange are now shooting 32% from behind the arc this season, and are just 5-of-33 since halftime of the win over Detroit. Boeheim acknowledges this issue, but doesn’t offer up much in the way of a detailed solution after Syracuse’s win over Alcorn State: “Well, it is what it is… Whatever the stats are, they don’t lie. Shooting stats don’t lie. Some people think they do. But they don’t.”
  2. With a dwindling lead against archrival Kentucky, Louisville’s Russ Smith started doing what he’s done all season – he made huge plays. Pat Forde describes how strange it is for Cardinals fans to think of Smith as their star, even this far into the season: “The improbable rise of Russ Smith as a s-s-s-star (hard to type with a straight face) has keyed everything Louisville has done last March and so far this season.” Louisville is right about where most people expected they would be, but Smith’s breakout has shifted the focus off of Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng, the players that people expected to lead the Cardinals to a great 2012-13 season.  Siva, Dieng, Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, and a slew of other Cardinals are still very dangerous college players, and when combined with the dynamo Smith, who is averaging a shade under 20 points per game, Louisville is set to make major noise come March.
  3. GoLocalProv sports writer Scott Cordischi thinks that Providence coach Ed Cooley needs to ‘cool’ it down with regards to calling out his players after games. When asked a question about LaDontae Henton’s stretch of 24 straight points for the Friars in a loss to Brown, Cooley ignored Henton’s offensive outburst and put down his defensive performance, calling it “awful.” Cordischi also notes that Cooley alluded to the team as soft with regards to Bryce Cotton’s injuries, and earlier in the year diminished a 13-assist effort by Kris Dunn in his first collegiate game, calling it “gross.” While many coaches in all sports use the media to motivate their teams, I can see where Cordischi is concerned that Cooley is being too negative with respect to his players. Losses to teams like Brown are frustrating, but those thing will happen with a young, raw team like Providence.
  4. The transfer of Malcolm Gilbert from Pitt to Fairfield may be disconcerting to some Panthers fans, but it isn’t coming as a huge surprise to Jamie Dixon. Gilbert has always wanted to play with his brother Marcus, who is a freshman forward for the Stags, and he will have a chance to do that next season by leaving between semesters. Pitt fans may worry about this becoming a trend for Dixon’s program after losing Khem Birch last season, but the guys at Pitt blog Cardiac Hill don’t seem to be too worried, as this transfer seems to be more about an opportunity elsewhere rather than an issue with Dixon or the Panther program.
  5. USF star Anthony Collins was taken off the floor on a stretcher after being kneed in the head while diving for a loose ball during a 61-57 win over George Mason. After the game, Stan Heath said that Collins had feeling in all of his extremities, which is obviously a positive sign, but it is always jarring to see a player taken out of a game like that, especially in today’s sports world where concussions and head injuries are so prominent in the public consciousness. The Bulls also lost Victor Rudd to a concussion in the second half, and are very banged up heading into Big East play.
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Big East M5: 12.14.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on December 14th, 2012

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  1. It’s become overwhelmingly clear that the seven Big East Catholic basketball schools will publicly articulate their plan to split off from the league, although it appears outright dissolution is off the table; “a more likely scenario will be that they simply break away and start anew.” As one of the departing ADs told Kevin McNamara at the Providence Journal, “the train has left the station. Get on board or get run over.” The basketball schools will likely shun the wandering eyes of UConn and Cincinnati in favor of raiding the A-10 of programs like Butler and Xavier, who will view a centralized Catholic basketball league as a destination rather than a stepping stone affiliation. There remain a tremendous number of loose ends to tie up before either of the splintering Big East factions can move forward developmentally. Branding rights (the “Big East” title––however toxic––carries AQ status); a tournament venue in Madison Square Garden; exit fees; NCAA Tournament units, which are much more lucrative than television revenue, and will provide a rolling annuity for another five or six years –– we’re entering uncharted territory, and these issues will be painstakingly hammered out in court for months or years to come. Pete Thamel’s piece (linked above) does the best job of depicting the tedium of what has quickly become the most convoluted episode in the realignment saga to date. As one AD told Thamel, “If anyone tells you they know what’s going to happen with the legal issues, the brand, the name, Madison Square Garden and all those issues, I don’t think they’re being honest.”
  2. Michael Carter-Williams describes the exasperation he experienced in his freshman year, as the former McDonalds All-American resigned to riding the pine behind a veteran backcourt. Yahoo!’s Jeff Eisenberg presents a vignette from the Syracuse locker room after a win at Providence in January: The freshman sat by himself after his teammates left, dreading the disapproval of his local friends and family who had traveled to see him play only to watch the Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters show for all but four minutes. The notion of a blue-chip recruit waiting his turn is an old-school ethic that’s becoming harder and harder for coaches to sell, and Carter-Williams demonstrated a patience that would have eluded many 18-year-olds accustomed to the superstar treatment. “Michael had to pay his dues like when I went through high school and college,” said MCW’s high school coach, Mike Hart. “He got very frustrated at times. But we all knew his time would come and I’m glad everyone was patient.” Syracuse fans probably share that sentiment.
  3. Two weeks after undergoing surgery to install an orthopedic screw in his fractured left hand, Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng is out of his cast and could return to the court in about a week. Pitino was initially hoping his center could return by the Cards’ Big East opener against Providence on Junary 2, and my pessimistic outlook for Dieng-less Louisville had been predicated on that timetable (the joke is on me for credulously accepting one of Pitino’s infamously conservative injury prognoses). On his Wednesday night radio show, the UofL coach said he was eying the December 22 Western Kentucky game as a good opportunity to ease Dieng back into the lineup. The coach said he’d “love to get 15-18 minutes out of him” against WKU to prepare for the Battle for the Bluegrass five days later. Though Kentucky will presumably enter the Yum! Center with a “3” in its loss column rather than beside its initials, Pitino won’t trivialize any Calipari-coached UK team after losing four straight against the Cats. Barring a medical relapse, you can bank on Gorgui Dieng playing 20-plus minutes in that game.
  4. Rutgers AD Tom Pernetti has suspended Mike Rice for three games without pay and fined him $50,000 for inappropriate behavior in practices. Rice has caught flak in the past for sideline misanthropy, and was cautioned by his AD after being ejected for the first time in his career in a loss at Louisville last season. So it wasn’t much of a shocker when Brendan Prunty at the Newark Star-Ledger reported that the suspension was triggered by an internal investigation that revealed “abusive, profane language” he used towards his team and an episode in his first two seasons “in which Rice threw basketballs at some players’ heads during practice.” The timing couldn’t be any worse for the RU coach, whose team will play decent UAB and Rider squads without him before tripping to Syracuse to play the role of sacrificial lamb in Cuse’s Big East opener. Rutgers is off to a 6-2 start –– its best since 2010-11. In that season, Rice’s inaugural campaign ended in a 6-15 nosedive. This is the kind of distraction that could trigger a similar collapse.
  5. With the imminent addition of Vincent Council, Kris Dunn and Sidiki Johnson to Ed Cooley’s arsenal, Friarblog declares “the gang’s all here.” Not only will the Providence coach have a bevy of skilled bodies at his disposal after struggling to field the most spartan rotation all year, but that depth will grant Cooley wider latitude in exploiting mismatches on offense and not forcing players to play roles outside of their comfort zones. For example, he can slide LaDontae Henton primarily to the three-spot, and stop plugging an uncomfortable Josh Fortune in at point guard due to attrition at the position. It will be a relief to see Providence finally catch a break and watch what they can do with a promising roster at full strength.
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The Freshman 10: The Best and Worst of Big East Newcomers

Posted by mlemaire on December 6th, 2012

The season is only a month and some change old but it is never too early to check in on the progress of some of the conference’s most heralded and surprising freshmen. While young bloods like Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and Nik Stauskas of Michigan have made an instant splash on the college scene, the Big East’s crop of rookies have made a more muted impact.  There was no methodology when it came to selecting which freshmen to analyze, so we just chose 10 of the most interesting freshmen to follow. Of course, conference play hasn’t even begun yet, so evaluating their body of work is somewhat of a trivial venture. But don’t you worry, we will be back later in the year to check in on some of these players again.

DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse)

The Learning Curve For Prized Freshman DaJuan Coleman Has Been Steeper Than Some Expected

It is still far too early to make a judgment call on what type of player DaJuan Coleman can become this season. But those who expected the highly touted forward to come in and immediately start anchoring the paint for the Orange probably need to adjust their expectations. To his credit, he seems to be getting better each game. But in six games against subpar competition, Coleman hasn’t seen much playing time and has shown only promise and inconsistency when he does play.

Anyone with eyes can see the wide-bodied forward is going to be an excellent rebounder and considering he is averaging 5.3 rebounds per game in just 16.3 minutes of playing time, he is already on his way to validating that obvious observation. But he isn’t a shot-blocker which is fine so long as he is an efficient scorer in the post and an elite rebounder. He has an impressive skill set and nimble feet for a man his size, but the ball rarely makes it back out to the perimeter if it goes to Coleman in the post, and he will need to take better care of it and make smarter decisions if he wants to continue to receive looks in the paint. His downfall offensively may be his sketchy free-throw shooting (55 FT%) as he is the type of strong interior player destined to draw a lot of fouls, and if he can even make his free throws at a 66 percent clip, he will be a much more productive scorer.

Jakarr Sampson (St. John’s)

It should come as no surprise that Sampson has adjusted to college basketball quickly because the Akron native was supposed to be suiting up for the Red Storm last season before lackluster academics forced him to return to prep school. But now that he is on the roster, he has wasted little time making his mark on both ends of the floor and is the clear front-runner for conference rookie of the year honors. The lanky 6’8″ forward already had a well-deserved reputation as a sensational dunker, but his game is more nuanced than that. Sampson has thus far started all nine of the team’s games, averaging 30.8 minutes per game, and he ranks second on the team in scoring (13.8 PPG), first in rebounding (6.6 RPG), and second in blocks (1.6 BPG).

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Big East M5: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 29th, 2012

  1. While fans are rejoicing in Louisville, the Connecticut fan base is not taking it nearly as well and for good reason. The decision to grab the Cards, while potentially only one of a few moves the ACC may make in coming years, leaves the Huskies as the premier athletic program in the Big East. The problem is, they really, really don’t want to be in the Big East anymore, because being the premier athletic program doesn’t exactly speak well to the programs left over and the programs coming in. Now UConn is left to pick up the pieces and console a fan base that sees the writing on the wall as long as their favorite team remains in the slowly decaying Big East. At the end of the day, the fact that Louisville has not one but two excellent money-making programs on its roster probably shifted the balance in their favor. The Huskies have some time to figure out their next move, but the people in charge better start thinking about it right now.
  2. Good news for Marquette today as coach Buzz Williams announced that junior guard Vander Blue would be ready to go when the Golden Eagles square off with No. 7 Florida in the SEC/Big East Challenge. The once-highly touted recruit sprained his knee in the Maui Invitational and luckily for Williams’ club, the injury wasn’t serious and he will return to action immediately. The Golden Eagles are going to need Blue’s athleticism, defensive and scoring ability against the Gators’ ballyhooed backcourt. Blue has been the team’s second-leading scorer thus far (11.4 PPG) and while he has contributed much category juice elsewhere, he is undoubtedly one of the team’s most talented players, and they will need his steady hand if they expect to beat Florida.
  3. Syracuse really couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season from its sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Buried on the bench last season because the Orange were incredibly deep in the backcourt, Williams has embraced his new starting role and has burst out of the gate, leading the nation in assists and nearly leading in steals as well. Of course Jim Boeheim’s club hasn’t exactly played a murderer’s row of opponents yet, so Carter-Williams’ numbers will likely regress some. But even so, the sophomore has proven he is plenty talented enough to hold his own once conference play begins and it is not exactly a secret how important he is to Syracuse’s success this season. He still turns the ball over a little more often than Boeheim would probably like, but that will even itself out as he gets more experience running the team. For now, the Orange and its fan base should feel pretty good about its new point guard.
  4. I am entirely too lazy to look back through my Morning Fives from last season but I seem to remember highlighting a very similar article last season, one in which a reporter highlights that Cincinnati has an excellent basketball team that struggles to draw fans to watch them play. The good news is that coach Mick Cronin and the program’s administration are well aware of the attendance issues, but the bad news is that there isn’t really a definitive plan on what to do about the problem. Cronin has a whole bag of excuses that includes lack of quality seating at his home arena and the fact that Cincinnati is a pro city and not a college town, but the fact of the matter is that crosstown rival Xavier isn’t drawing well either. It’s a real shame too because the Bearcats have the look of an excellent team and should be a real contender once March rolls around. There is no doubt the team will draw better when it plays higher-profile opponents, but hey, folks in Cincinnati, your local college has an excellent product to view, so go view it.
  5. The Bearcats aren’t the only team with attendance issues as Providence coach Ed Cooley has resorted to basically groveling to fans to get them to come out and watch the Friars play. Of course it would be a lot easier to convince oneself to go watch Providence if they were as good as Cincinnati, or even if Kris Dunn or Ricardo Ledo were suiting up. But the Friars have only a few scholarship players and while watching Bryce Cotton shoot the lights out is entertaining, Providence is not going to be very good this year, and fans don’t usually turn out to watch crappy teams lose to conference foes. Of course this is also another case where Providence has played exciting competition, and while Mississippi State rolls into town this weekend, fans probably won’t really turn out in earnest until conference play begins.
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Big East M5: 11.28.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 28th, 2012

  1.  Everyone has already used up all the good “Big East is turning into Conference USA” jokes so I will refrain, but we would be remiss not to mention that two more C-USA teams — East Carolina and Tulaneplan to defect to the Big East and will join the conference in 2014. The move is considered a reactionary decision to Rutgers’ impending departure, and a proactive decision considering the conference, smartly, expects more teams to defect in the coming months (Connecticut and Louisville, we are looking at you). As Big East fans, I wish we could say we were excited, but from a basketball perspective, Tulane and East Carolina hardly move the needle, if they move it at all. Don’t get us wrong, the Big East is trying to stave off irrelevancy and adding more teams is really the only way to do that, but adding mediocre teams from Conference USA is really only a band-aid, especially if UConn and others don’t plan on staying for much longer. I seriously doubt basketball fans are going to pack Madison Square Garden for a Big East Tournament matchup between Tulane and SMU.
  2. Things started well enough for Villanova as Jay Wright’s club began the season 3-0 including a solid win over Purdue in Madison Square Garden. But since then, everything has gone downhill in a hurry. A blowout loss to Alabama was followed by an embarrassing home loss to Columbia, and things hit a low point on Sunday when the Wildcats blew a second-half lead and lost in overtime to Big Five rival La Salle. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Wright and his team, but things were never supposed to get this bad, and the Wildcats have enough talent that they have no business losing by double figures to a mediocre team from the Ivy League. It should also be noted that this sort of embarrassing effort has become commonplace for ‘Nova over the last few seasons, and if they don’t start playing with more intensity and passion, Wright, even with his Final Four pedigree, could find himself on the hot seat at the end of the season.
  3. The biggest match-up involving a team from the Big East will be Thursday’s showdown between Notre Dame and Kentucky in the SEC/Big East Challenge. The Wildcats aren’t the same dominating force they were last year, but as the Fighting Irish understand, they are probably just as supremely athletic, especially in the frontcourt. Notre Dame probably has the advantage in the backcourt, at least when it comes to experience, but it will be extremely interesting to see Jack Cooley square off against Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein in the post as it figures to be a battle between great athleticism and great fundamentals. Cooley isn’t half as athletic as Kentucky’s young frontcourt, but he is more experienced and he won’t get rattled in the post.
  4. With UConn guard R.J. Evans out for at least another game because of a chest injury, coach Kevin Ollie has turned to junior combo guard Niels Giffey to pick up the slack. And if the first six games are any indication, Giffey will be up to the challenge. The Huskies have a talented backcourt duo in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, but Ollie  considers Giffey the team MVP to this point because of his work ethic, intensity, and “glue guy” qualities. Giffey won’t wow anybody with his athleticism or overall skill set, but he can knock down an open three-pointer, rebounds well for his size, and is the type of scrappy player that every good team needs in the rotation. Conference play will really tell us what type of role Giffey has carved out on this team, but it’s not as if the Huskies have played all pushovers, so if Ollie and his team leave an impression this season, chances are Giffey will be a big reason why.
  5. Speaking of role players on teams without a lot of scholarship athletes who are being forced into crucial roles, Providence freshman Joshua Fortune has been playing A LOT for coach Ed Cooley. The forgotten guard in the Friars’ much-ballyhooed recruiting class has been thrust into duty because of injuries and is averaging better than 38 minutes and nearly 10 points per game through six contests. The Friars have very few competent Big East players and the 6’5″ Fortune is one of them. His shot selection and decision-making has been sketchy as he has more turnovers (22) than assists (17), but these are valuable minutes considering he will soon experience the brunt of a Big East schedule. One thing is for certain, there is no way Cooley can expect Fortune to handle this workload all season, as no freshman can. The good news is that fellow guard Kris Dunn should be back some time after the new year, and when he and senior Vincent Council return, Cooley will finally boast one of the best backcourts in the conference.
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Who’s Got Next? Top Centers to ACC, Isaac Hamilton Picks UTEP, Syracuse Adds Tyler Roberson…

Posted by CLykins on November 20th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Kennedy Meeks Chooses UNC Over Georgetown

Two schools consistently stood out above the rest for West Charlotte High (North Carolina) center Kennedy Meeks. Appropriately, both schools have had a long and successful history in landing and producing top big men. With his recruitment winding down, Georgetown and North Carolina were in a neck-and-neck battle that left most national recruiting pundits undecided. On Friday, Meeks made it official as he will remain in his home state and play for the Tar Heels and head coach Roy Williams.

Charlotte native Kennedy Meeks picked UNC over Georgetown

“I talk to Roy Williams almost every other day. He understands the recruiting process and gives me good advice about college and about being a great player,” Meeks said of his decision. “Coach Williams said he liked my tenacity, my desire to play the game, my rebounding and outless passing.” Ranked as the No. 20 overall prospect and No. 2 center in the class of 2013, the 6’9″, 275-lb. big man is expected to contribute right away during his freshman season. Due to his size, Meeks is a true center that impacts the game significantly down low. With an extremely wide frame, he has a soft touch around the rim and is able to rebound at an extremely high rate by carving out space. One of his better traits is his passing. Whether it’s his superior outlet passing skills or if it’s out of the low-post, he exhibits excellent vision for a big man. There is no question regarding his talent and skill, but his conditioning has been a constant issue in the past. With North Carolina’s up-tempo style of play, it is extremely necessary for him to arrive at Chapel Hill in the best playing shape of his young life. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 16th, 2012

  1. While one prominent Pac-12 incomer awaits the NCAA’s decision on whether he’ll see the floor this year, another one received his eligibility papers on Thursday. Oregon’s Arsalen Kazemi, a Rice transfer and former all-CUSA forward, has been cleared to suit up for the Ducks effective immediately, which means that we’re likely to see him in uniform against Vanderbilt tonight. The addition of Kazemi to a talented Oregon front line consisting of Tony Woods, EJ Singler and Carlos Emery is a major coup for Dana Altman right at the start of the season. In a league already fighting hard to regain national relevance this season, this good news for Oregon puts the Ducks at the head of the list of about six Pac-12 teams in the second tier behind Arizona and UCLA who realistically have designs on an NCAA Tournament bid.
  2. So Kazemi is in, Shabazz Muhammad is still out, and a whole host of other players around the country are sidelined as well for a number of different reasons. Andy Glockner lists the most prominent of the group and you could probably make a decent run at the national title with several different iterations of the talent sitting on benches around the country right now. From Providence’s Kris Dunn (injury) to Missouri’s Michael Dixon (team suspension) to St. Louis’ Kwamain Mitchell (injury) to Texas’ Myck Kabongo (NCAA investigation) to Miami’s Durand Scott (impermissible benefits) and on and on, many teams around the nation cannot be fairly evaluated at this point in the season because they’re playing at significantly less than full strength. Injuries are an unfortunate byproduct of the game, but many of the players on the list are there because of their own mistakes — here’s hoping all of them make it back into lineups sooner than later.
  3. One player who at the time of this writing we’re crossing our fingers for is Oklahoma State’s JP Olukemi, who left the Cowboys’ game against Akron on Thursday afternoon with a left knee injury that his head coach Travis Ford characterized as not “look[ing] good.” Just two weeks ago Olukemi was given an eligibility waiver by the NCAA that allowed him to play a full season (rather than just the fall semester), and now if worst comes to worst, he might be forced to miss part or all of the entire season. Last year he played in only 13 games before suffering an ACL tear on New Year’s Eve against Virginia Tech, which begs the question whether the basketball gods just don’t want Olukemi to suit up in a Cowboys uniform for some reason.
  4. File this one under the strange intersection of pop culture and (college) basketball: Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon accused Lil’ Wayne of  cursing at him during Duke’s win over Kentucky at the Champions Classic on Tuesday night. In a tweet from the young guard after the game, Sulaimon said “Still a @LilTunechi fan but was shook when he cursed me out court side lol. Where the duke love at slime.” With an admission that Sulaimon — who shot 3-of-14 from the field — was “shook” by Weezy’s verbal bombs, ACC coaches from Coral Gables to Chestnut Hill no doubt have already started inviting Lil’ Wayne and his friends as honorary guests at some of their more prominent home games against a team in blue.
  5. The Charleston Classic, Puerto Rico Tip-Off and 2kSports Classic all got under way yesterday (the medal rounds, at least), and the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic will tip off tonight in Brooklyn. With so many brackets and games in far-flung places, you probably need a primer on the top contests to watch this weekend in these events. Ryan Fagan of the Sporting News has us covered, picking out five key games over the next few days that are most worth your time and energy to watch. Or, you could do us one better, and just watch them all — junkies of the world, unite. Have a great weekend, everyone.
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Lost and Found Again: Unearthing Providence Guard Bryce Cotton

Posted by mlemaire on November 13th, 2012

On the heels of transfer announcements from Gerard Coleman and Bilal Dixon, the rumors started swirling at Providence in early April that yet another guard — then-sophomore Bryce Cotton — asked for his release and was set to leave the program. The thought was that with Vincent Council returning for his senior year and at least two superstar guard recruits entering the program, Cotton saw the writing on the wall and was headed for a place that offered more playing time.

The Friars Have A New Star Of The Show, But The Team Should Be Happy It Has Him At All

Friars’ fans did not take the news well  but the discussion was never about losing a starting guard, it was about losing “depth” and a solid player who could back up Council and uber-freshmen Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo. Never mind that the then-sophomore was coming off a season in which he had averaged 38.6 minutes and 14.3 points per game, the message was already clear. Cotton was a nice player, but he wasn’t Council, or Dunn, or Ledo.

Fast forward to present day and you can bet that the Providence faithful is thanking its lucky stars that Cotton decided to stick around.   The backcourt logjam that was supposed to eat into Cotton’s minutes never materialized. In fact, the backcourt has gone from an area of strength to an area of weakness almost overnight. First Dunn had shoulder surgery, then Ledo was ruled ineligible, and then, early in the team’s season-opening win over the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Council injured his hamstring, leaving him sidelined for an undetermined amount of time.

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The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

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