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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Big East M5: 10.19.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on October 19th, 2012

  1. Marquette blog Cracked Sidewalks cites a new article by Dan McGrath as symptomatic of the growing cognitive dissonance suffered by MU fans, boosters and administrators, as they try to reconcile integrity with the realities of building an elite basketball program. The sex scandal involving basketball players that rocked Marquette last summer is the kind of sensational event that forces introspection and re-evaluation. The schism between fans who strictly prioritize success and those who stress doing things “the right way” is a theme that resonates throughout college basketball, but is an acutely sensitive topic at the Catholic Big East schools. CBS’ Jeff Goodman had recently raised doubts that the ambitious Buzz Williams and hyper-vigilant athletic director Larry Williams could coexist without stepping on each other’s toes. It remains to be seen if their priorities are entirely compatible.
  2. According to Jeff Borzello at CBS, Providence coach Ed Cooley floated the idea of redshirting Kris Dunn during Big East Media Day. “It’s a possibility. But I’m trying to get him for every Big East game. I need him,” Cooley admitted, before qualifying, “but I’m in it for the long haul.” Should Dunn return, the Friars’ coach plans to use him and fellow point guard Vincent Council simultaneously, leaning on a talented starting lineup to carry a pretty shallow depth chart. Cooley did suggest that Providence could have “the best backcourt in the country” next year, though it’s hard to imagine Ledo sticking around for a second year unless his draft stock arbitrarily plummets. (h/t Friar Blog)
  3. John Thompson III ended the week empty handed on the recruiting trail. Roddy Peters committed to Maryland earlier in the week, and on Thursday Memphis forward Johnathan Williams III picked Missouri over the Hoyas, Michigan State and Tennessee. The Casual Hoya depicted the scene as a bizarre caricature of a commitment ceremony: “After an endless slideshow to the tune of R. Kelly’s “World’s Greatest,” a moving speech by his Aunt Lynn and a sermon by some guy in a blue shirt, ‘JW3’…put on a Missouri hat while leavings hats for Georgetown, Michigan State, Tennessee and George Mason on the table to high five themselves for dodging a bullet.” Ostentatious announcement notwithstanding, it’s hard to characterize missing out on a top-50 recruit with Williams’ length and skill as “dodging a bullet.”
  4. Rick Pitino –– a constant fixture in this week’s M5 –– made some interesting comments to St. John’s blog Rumble in the Garden on Wednesday about a flawed recruiting philosophy in the post-Carnesecca era, which he believes had stunted the program for years. Pitino explained, “The mistake that St. John’s made after Louie was that they didn’t recruit outside the city… In Louie’s time, he could do that, when it wasn’t the world of AAU basketball.” New York City basketball has developed a kind of diaspora in the last couple decades, concentrated in prep schools across New England whose blue chip recruits seldom return home. Pitino points out that St. John’s is taking the correct recruiting approach under these circumstances: “Lavin can go to Chicago and to Indiana (to recruit), because now the kids from all over the nation want to come here.” Quinn Rochford astutely points out how unthinkable it would have been 20 years ago to envision a St. John’s team whose best players are from Houston, Los Angeles, Ohio, Nigeria, and the Dominican Republic.
  5. On Wednesday, USA Today published a comprehensive look at the basketball-crazed triumvirate of Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville, and the intense rivalries that develop at the geographical nexus of this year’s top title contenders. One Pitino quote in particular insinuated that having three basketball-centric schools dominate the national consciousness headed into the season is good for college basketball in general. Perhaps having fervent fan bases in such frenzy will counteract the recent common tendency to subordinate basketball to football, and view college sports through the lens of football-driven realignment.
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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #11 Providence

Posted by Will Tucker on October 18th, 2012

Friars coach Ed Cooley made waves in the national recruiting scene last summer when he snagged five-star point guard Kris Dunn out from under Jim Calhoun and other elite suitors. Providence looked like a Big East Contender days later, when Cooley convinced Ricardo Ledo to shun offers from the likes of UConn, Kentucky, Louisville and Syracuse in favor of the hometown program. But that blockbuster recruiting class may never materialize on the court, after Ledo was ruled ineligible to play next season by the NCAA and Dunn had shoulder surgery that could sideline him for most of the season. Despite these disappointing setbacks, Cooley fields a team that managed to beat vulnerable Louisville and UConn teams last year, and acquitted themselves well in several close loses. Bryce Cotton, Vincent Council, and highly touted Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson will carry the load until Dunn arrives.

2011-12 Record: 15-17, 4-14
2011-12 Postseason: None

Bryce (aka Ice) Cotton: great name, great responsibility. (credit Friarblog.com)

Schedule

The Friars benefit from a manageable non-conference schedule, highlighted by UMass, Mississippi State, Boston College and Rhode Island. Cooley’s squad should enter a brutal Big East schedule with an attractive record, but early losses against Louisville and Syracuse in the first half of January will temper their confidence. Despite a scheduled home-and-home with Syracuse, Providence’s conference slate has limited exposure to this year’s heavy hitters. Winnable two-game series against Seton Hall, UConn and Villanova punctuate the 2012-2013 schedule.

Who’s In

Preseason First Team All-Big East point guard Vincent Council (39 mpg, 15.9 ppg, 7.5 apg) is complemented by productive upperclassmen LaDontae Henton (37 mpg, 14.3 ppg) and Bryce Cotton (39 mpg, 14.3 ppg). That nucleus should give the Friars the physical tools and experience necessary to anchor a serviceable Big East team. The returning starters are complemented by blue chip Connecticut point guard Kris Dunn, who could become conference Rookie of the Year despite being sidelined early in the season by rehab from shoulder surgery. 6’5” 3-star Hampton, Virginia sharpshooter Josh Fortune brings additional length to the Friars’ wings. But Cooley’s greatest recruiting coup to date also happens to be the roster’s biggest question mark; Providence’s prodigal son and major NBA prospect Ricky Ledo is academically ineligibility this fall. If his NCAA appeal goes well and he gains eligibility in the second semester, Providence could easily finish strong and break into the top half of the conference. PC also gains an injection of frontcourt talent in Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson. A promising 4-star power forward recruit out of high school, Johnson only played seven cumulative minutes before getting in hot water for a violation of team rules and eventually transferring. Johnson remains an unproven commodity, which is a common thread when looking over Providence’s frontcourt.

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Big East Summer Capsules: Providence Friars

Posted by mlemaire on July 19th, 2012

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

1. Setbacks to the much ballyhooed 2012 recruiting class.

Questions About The Eligibility Of Ricardo Ledo Continue To Swirl

First it was five-star guard Kris Dunn announcing he would miss at least five months after surgery to repair a torn labrum. Then it was fellow point guard recruit Ian Baker tearing his ACL, which will likely keep him out for all of next season. Throw in the continued eligibility concerns about top shooting guard Ricardo Ledo and Providence fans have reason to be concerned about their once highly-anticipated recruiting class.  Ed Cooley continues to remain positive that Ledo will become eligible, and the Friars still have enough backcourt depth to survive the absences of Dunn and Baker, but it is still a major disappointment considering the hype surrounding this recruiting class and the hope it gave to the program’s future.

2. The Big East didn’t do them any favors when it came to scheduling.

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Morning Five: 06.27.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 27th, 2012

  1. Providence appears to be turning things around at least on the recruiting trail, but their on-court product took a significant hit yesterday when it was announced that incoming McDonald’s All-American Kris Dunn will be undergoing surgery on his right shoulder for a torn labrum in the next two weeks and will miss the next four to six months. Although as much as a half-year is a relatively insignificant amount of time in the life of a basketball player, especially at Dunn’s age, it will likely derail the start of Providence’s season as they look to turn things around under Ed Cooley without one of its stars. We wish Dunn the best in his recovery and hope to see him playing in a Friar jersey soon.
  2. We have to give credit to Tom Izzo who is taking the idea of “playing anybody anywhere” to a new extreme as Michigan State is scheduled to open the season against Connecticut at an Air Force base in Germany (pending approval by the Department of Defense) just a year after the Spartans played North Carolina on an aircraft carrier. Fortunately for Izzo his opponent this year will be markedly weaker than the Tar Heel team MSU faced in the Carrier Classic a year ago and they won’t have to do it on the water. While we would welcome more page views from Germany, we do not believe that this type of game is going to generate any more interest in college basketball overseas, as many of the top teams already make international offseason trips and play against high-level teams including occasional match-ups against national teams.
  3. As he does before every NBA Draft, Seth Davis queried a group of NBA scouts, coaches, and executives and got what amounts to a consensus view on the top players in tomorrow’s NBA Draft. A few of the more interesting comments came about players such as Andre Drummond (“scares me to death”), Draymond Green (“his shot’s not broken”), Darius Johnson-Odom (“a killer”), Austin Rivers (“spoiled and selfish”), Marquis Teague (“not going to be playing against Mississippi State and Auburn up here”), and Renardo Sidney (“no chance”). As always, there’s a bunch of great insights from the quotes in the piece, so make sure to check out the entire thing sometime before Thursday night.
  4. We have already seen plenty of 2012 NBA mock drafts, but the latest ESPN Insider feature is the first one we have seen this year where current NBA players select the draftees who would be their eventual teammates (requires membership, sorry). Like most mock drafts there is a certain degree of groupthink here, but this one varies more from the consensus than most. You might say that players have a capacity to notice special skills that draftniks are unable to grasp; or, that players usually make for horrible general managers (we are going with the latter). If you have ESPN Insider access, it is worth a click just for J.J. Redick‘s analysis of Bradley Beal whom he selected 19th (!). Who knew that behind all that poetry there was a sense of humor?
  5. Duke or Ohio State is set to get some excellent news today when Mississippi State forward Rodney Hood announces his decision as to where he will transfer. The 6’8″ all-SEC freshman averaged 10/5/2 APG last year but decided to leave Starkville upon Rick Stansbury’s firing. If you read the tea leaves in his quotes about each school, it would seem that Duke is where he’ll end up. Regardless of where he heads, though, he’ll have to sit out the mandatory transfer year and will not suit up again until the 2013-14 season. There won’t be a many players in next year’s class of 2013 better than Hood as a rising sophomore, so whichever school gets him will be well ahead of the recruiting game a year from now.
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Two of Nation’s Top Point Guards Facing Potentially Serious Injuries

Posted by EJacoby on June 25th, 2012

It’s been well documented that the point guard position was not a strong suit of Division I basketball last year, and the same applies for the incoming class of freshmen players. The last thing we need is for some of the country’s elite lead guards to suffer setbacks this offseason heading into 2012-13, but it appears that’s exactly what has happened over the past week. NC State’s rising junior Lorenzo Brown is set to undergo knee surgery this week, and incoming Providence stud Kris Dunn suffered a recent shoulder injury that could require surgery as well. Brown’s procedure is notable as only ‘exploratory’ and should not leave him sidelined for more than several weeks, but knee surgeries are never good news for quick guards. It often takes far longer than the required rehab time before a player returns to 100% health and regains the trust to rely on his knee for all the cuts required during games. Dunn’s status, meanwhile, remains unknown but could become a far more serious issue that requires several months of rehabilitation. Both players could also end up fine for the upcoming season — still over four months away — but their teams could also become affected during parts or all of the year.

Lorenzo Brown is a versatile guard for NC State and hopes to avoid a serious knee injury after exploratory surgery this week (AP Photo/C. Burton)

Brown averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game as a sophomore last season for a late-surging Wolfpack team that made a strong run to the Sweet Sixteen. The heady guard has terrific size at 6’5″ that enables him to see the floor well and defend at a high level; he even averaged half a block per game last year. He’s the leader of a preseason top 15 team who led the squad in minutes played last season. Luckily, Mark Gottfried’s team also has incoming McDonald’s All-American freshman Tyler Lewis as its backup point guard, but he is not ready or able to handle all the responsibilities that Brown does — Lewis would fit much better as a rotating reserve to start his career. Hopefully, Brown’s surgery doesn’t reveal anything particularly damaging and the veteran can re-join the team long before the season starts, but having a procedure to “discover the source of pain” leaves reason for temporary concern.

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Top Incoming Freshmen Battling For Under-18 USA Team

Posted by EJacoby on June 8th, 2012

Who are some of the most college-ready freshmen players heading to school next season? Gain insight into that answer by following the USA Men’s Under-18 National Team tryouts, whose roster was announced this week. Twenty-three of the country’s top young players, comprised mostly of recent high school graduates, are fighting for 12 spots to compete at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship. It’s a short tryout, as the team will fly out for competition on June 12. While there are plenty of factors that go into the team’s selection, the final cut could give us some insight as to which players’ games are most developed at this point. Of the group of participants, 15 are recent high school graduates. There are also seven high schoolers from the class of 2013, and the final player is Jarnell Stokes, already at Tennessee after reclassifying up last year to join the Volunteers in the second semester. Our biggest interest involves which of the 15 high school graduates will make the squad, perhaps proving that their college teams can expect big things next season after outperforming their peers and gaining some international experience.

Rasheed Sulaimon Has a Strong Chance to Play on the U-18 Team USA (AP Photo)

The 15 high school Class of 2012 participants are as follows:

  • Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova
  • Robert Carter, Georgia Tech
  • Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
  • Kris Dunn, Providence
  • Shaq Goodwin, Memphis
  • Jerami Grant, Syracuse
  • Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
  • Joel James, North Carolina
  • Jake Layman, Maryland
  • Rodney Purvis, NC State
  • James Robinson, Pittsburgh
  • Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
  • Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
  • Robert Upshaw, Fresno State
  • Adam Woodbury, Iowa

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Handicapping Next Season’s SEC/Big East Challenge Matchups

Posted by EJacoby on June 4th, 2012

The Big East sent more teams (nine) to last year’s NCAA Tournament than any other conference, while the SEC compiled the best winning percentage (.769) during the Big Dance. The two leagues are squaring off next season in the second annual SEC/Big East Challenge, whose matchups were announced on Friday. With plenty to offer in the form of juggernaut teams and program traditions, the idea of this event should provide great intrigue to the non-conference season, something the Big Ten and ACC have done in their cross-conference challenge for the past 14 years. Next year’s slate doesn’t look nearly as enticing as some were hoping for — UConn, Louisville, and Missouri aren’t participating, while Syracuse is in but wants out – and our SEC microsite broke down the lack of headline games on the schedule. Nonetheless, we can’t overlook this event that allows for top conference teams to play true road games against other power leagues. Last season, Georgetown played at Alabama in one of the most entertaining games of the entire non-conference slate, and that game didn’t garner much publicity at all. The Big East came away victorious, 8-4, in last year’s event. Here’s what the 2012 SEC/Big East Challenge presents us.

Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish Like Their Chances Against the National Champs Next Year (AP Photo)

Youth vs. Experience, Kentucky at Notre Dame (Nov. 29) – Notre Dame returns all five starters from last season; Kentucky returns none. But both teams have high hopes next year, as the Fighting Irish bring back the entire core from a team that went 13-5 in the Big East while the National Champion Wildcats showcase the nation’s number two recruiting class of SEC-ready stars. Both programs have decorated pasts with loyal fanbases; each team is ranked in the RTC preseason Top 25. What’s not to love about this matchup? A Kentucky-Syracuse game would have garnered more hype, but this matchup could produce a better game. Who wins out, the young guns or the vets? We should get a great read on the new crop of UK freshmen in this their first real road test.

Seeking Sweet Revenge, Marquette at Florida (Nov. 29) - These two teams squared off in last year’s Sweet Sixteen, when the Gators ended the Golden Eagles’ season and Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom’s careers. Buzz Williams’ boys are looking for revenge in Gainesville, though both teams will look a lot different from last season. Florida loses its own pair of stars (Erving Walker, Bradley Beal) but Kenny Boynton and Patric Young are back to form one of the nation’s most threatening inside-out duos. Each team must call on a host of young players that showed promise last year but have to step into more prominent roles in 2012-’13. There’s plenty of intrigue in this one, though Florida is the strong favorite at home.

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Providence: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by mlemaire on April 19th, 2012

Our apologies for plagiarizing borrowing the ideas of our colleagues over at the Pac-12 microsite, but we liked their post-mortem team breakdowns so much that we decided to replicate them with our conference. So over the course of the next two weeks, we will break down each team’s season, starting from the bottom of the conference standings. Next up is Providence.

What Went Wrong

If you were one of the few dreamers who thought Providence could make a run to the NCAA Tournament this season, then you probably thought a lot went wrong. But if you were realistic about new coach Ed Cooley‘s first season in charge of the Friars, then you probably weren’t too disappointed in the way the season went. Basically the Friars cruised through a relatively easy out-of-conference schedule before being exposed by the better teams in the Big East.

It didn’t help that Kadeem Batts was suspended for the first semester of the season and there were grumblings about discontent in the locker room which led to a number of key transfers. On the court, the defense was the primary issue as the team finished 212th in defensive efficiency and 13th in the conference in scoring defense. Offensively the team had plenty of weapons, but they didn’t shoot it very much from behind the three-point arc and they were much too inconsistent, especially against better defensive teams.

What Went Right

LaDontae Henton Was A Revelation For The Friars This Season (credit: Providence Journal)

Although perception and opinion can change quickly in college basketball, Cooley’s hiring brought a lot of energy and optimism for a program lacking both after the Keno Davis era. Snagging big man LaDontae Henton after arriving at Providence proved to be an excellent move as the freshman was a consistent double-double threat and should only get better next season. Point guard Vincent Council missed one game for undisclosed reasons but for most of the season he was one of if not the best point guard in the Big East, and the development of sophomore wings Bryce Cotton and Gerard Coleman should give the Friar faithful plenty to look forward to, especially considering how loaded the backcourt will be next season. Batts was only okay after his return from suspension, but he and rising sophomore Brice Kofane give the team some interior depth heading into next season as well.

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Who’s Got Next? Muhammad & Noel Commit, Updates On Elite Recruits…

Posted by Josh Paunil on April 12th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. 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 who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. 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.

Lead Story: Top Recruit In the Country Chooses Kentucky

Noel's Commitment Gives UK the Number One Recruiting Class. (Sports Illustrated)

Noel’s Commitment Gives Wildcats Top Recruiting Class. Class of 2012 center Nerlens Noel, the best player in the high school ranks, committed to Kentucky yesterday over Georgetown and Syracuse. Noel joins shooting guard Archie Goodwin, small forward Alex Poythress and center Willie Cauley-Stein to give head coach John Calipari the best recruiting class in the country again. Goodwin and Poythress are both top-15 guys whereas Cauley-Stein is a top-50 recruit. Noel, a 6’11”, 216-pound big man, is the only person on this planet capable of filling Anthony Davis’ shoes at Kentucky and will provide an even better defensive presence and a great target in transition. The Massachusetts native is an excellent finisher and has good explosiveness and athleticism all over the court. He also has done a great job developing his offensive game and has shown an improved 15-foot jumper as well as better interior scoring moves. His rate of development is an extremely good sign for Kentucky fans since he’s already very talented. The good news for Wildcat fans doesn’t stop there since Coach Cal isn’t done yet in the Class of 2012. They’re still after power forward Anthony Bennett, a top-10 recruit, and have a very realistic shot at landing him too. The addition of Bennett would put this Kentucky recruiting class in the conversation of one of the greatest recruiting classes of all-time.

What They’re Saying

  • Anthony Bennett on how he would fit in at Kentucky: “I can see myself fitting in [with] all schools but Kentucky, they produce great players. Coach Cal produces them to the league and makes them better and also they win national championships on top of that so it’s a great fit.” Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Morning Five: 04.02.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on April 2nd, 2012

  1. Congratulations to Louisville for their tremendous run through the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. A run that culminated with Saturday’s national semifinal 69-61 loss to in-state rival Kentucky. This was a team that battled injuries all year long but persevered and peaked at the right time. Losing is always tough, and we are sure this one stung Rick Pitino on some level, especially since it came to Kentucky and John Calipari. However Pitino understands what was, somewhat improbably, accomplished by his team this year and genuinely chose to reflect on the positive. “They made me really, really proud,” Pitino said. He then added, “I told the guys … `I’m celebrating a season where we worked around the clock, around injuries and everything else. If you guys don’t celebrate and have good, clean fun, you’re fools. ‘Because I think there’s only been eight (other Louisville) teams that got to the Final Four in the history of the one of the greatest traditions and they did it.”
  2. There could be an official change to the holiday calendar in one area of the country as Noel will come on April 11 this year to either Lexington, Syracuse, or Washington, D.C. Noel, as in center Nerlens Noel and the number one prospect in the class of 2012, who said yesterday that he will announce his college choice on April 11.  The three finalists in the Noel sweepstakes are Kentucky, Syracuse, and Georgetown. “It’s time to end this and make a decision,” Noel told the media in New Orleans yesterday after he played in the All-American Championship game. Kentucky, who will vie for a national title tonight, is widely believed to be the favorite but Noel said tonight’s result will not impact his decision.
  3. Providence bolstered its highly ranked recruiting class when guard Ian Baker gave head coach Ed Cooley a verbal commitment. Baker is a native of Washington, D.C. who prepped for the last two years at Jacksonville, FL powerhouse Arlington Country Day. This is an interesting turn of events for both Providence and Baker. There existed mutual interest between the two last summer, but the courtship, logically, seemed to end when highly touted point guard Kris Dunn committed to the Friars. Almost immediately after Dunn’s commitment, Baker verbally committed to South Carolina but subsequently decommitted. Baker’s change of heart means he will be the fourth guard in the class for Providence as he will join Dunn, Ricardo Ledo, and Joshua Fortune in Friartown. Arlington Country Day coach Rex Morgan calls Baker a combo guard but at 6’1”, he figures to project as more of a point guard in the Big East. The McDonald’s All-American Dunn is also a point guard, but possesses the length and skills to play off the ball as well. So while it may appear the backcourt is crowded, Ed Cooley has stressed the importance of good and deep guard play. Further with incumbent point guard Vincent Council entering his final year, the addition of Baker should help to provide longer term security and stability at the position.
  4. After the frustrating season Pittsburgh had, no one would have faulted Jamie Dixon and his crew for taking a pass, as many schools do, on the less than prestigious College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Well, kudos to Dixon and the Panthers for embracing the challenge, and for winning the tournament. Pittsburgh capped off its title run on Friday with a 71-65 triumph over Washington State to win the best-of-three series. Winning is always great, but by accepting invitations to these secondary tournaments, teams like Pittsburgh that struggled in a given year can use the experience to help get back on track. Not only do coaches get additional practice and game experience, but they may benefit from the emergence of a player or two and build momentum moving into the following year. This is exactly what happened with Pittsburgh. Certainly the momentum factor is there simply through winning the tournament, but Dixon now knows he has two bigger pieces coming back than he may have thought just a few short weeks ago. Sophomore forward Lamar Patterson leapt forward in the CBI, averaging 13.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists while taking home MVP honors. The other was 6’9” forward Talib Zanna who showed he is ready for a bigger role heading into next season. Zanna posted tournament averages of 11.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
  5. Seton Hall was not expecting to see Aquille Carr in the Garden State until the fall of 2013, but the 5’7” point guard from Baltimore surprised many when he enrolled and started classes at St. Patrick, of Elizabeth, NJ, last week.  This is a strange story even in the murky world of academic qualification, but the latest twist may show the true motivation behind Carr’s move and could help to save a legendary school and program. At the time of Carr’s enrollment, the move seemed out of place because St. Patrick was believed to be closing after this academic year due to financial issues. Carr, a member of the class of 2013, indicated as such last week that he would be back in Baltimore for his senior year, meaning he would be at St. Patrick for just a few months. Initial speculation around Carr’s enrollment at St. Patrick had him there to take advantage of the school’s broader allotment of core classes that are needed for student athletes to qualify academically under NCAA standards. However St. Patrick coach Chris Chavannes and principal Joe Picaro have since confirmed that they believe the school will reclassify as a private institution and remain open. Further Chavannes said that if the school stays open, Carr will stay and play for St. Patrick as its focal point next season.
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