ACC Teams Struggling to Adapt to Styles of New Programs

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on January 16th, 2014

Much was made of the three former Big East teams entering the league this season and having to adapt to the ACC’s style of play. This notion was supported by the simple fact of sheer numbers; the returning ACC teams would number 12 teams while the Big East was sending over only three units. What did not get enough preseason attention was how the ACC as a whole would adapt to the very different styles of play of the three incoming teams, all quite successful programs in their own rights. Notre Dame under head coach Mike Brey is known for its selfless team basketball, execution, cutting and the extra pass, while developing a litany of elite low post big men like Luke Harangody, Jack Cooley, and now Garrick Sherman. While the Irish lost its best player in Jerian Grant for the year, their style of play was on display and ultimately decided the outcome in a statement win against Duke.

Pitt's James Robinson is a large reason they are 16-1 (Photo: pittsburghpanthers.com)

Pitt’s James Robinson is a large reason the Panthers are 16-1 (Photo: pittsburghpanthers.com)

Syracuse’s famous 2-3 zone has helped in establishing itself as one of the best teams in the nation and has put the Orange among a group of three unbeaten teams remaining. Their defense has flummoxed ACC opponents to the tune of allowing only 50.0 PPG to ACC foes through their first four games. They clearly have taken charge and dominated the tempo in their outings, most recently holding UNC a full 30 points below its season average of 75.6 PPG. While it remains early in the ACC race, so far it seems obvious that both Syracuse and Pittsburgh have been forcing their own tempo and style of play on their opponents and not vice versa. Jamie Dixon’s Panthers are known for their toughness and gritty play, both of which were evident in their recent 12-point road victory over N.C. State. Famed ESPN analyst Dick Vitale confirmed this theory and perception when he noted: “There are certain programs that get certain labels that help them big-time psychologically… the mindset is where you’re at a negative before you ever start playing, and I think Pittsburgh has that, that label of being tough.”

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ACC M5: 01.13.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 13th, 2014

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There’s a theme to the first four stories this week. They’re local pieces on the four teams that dismantled the ACC’s Big Four this weekend. All four lost for the first time in ACC history and they all lost by double digits. Oh, and Boston College won! So it was a big weekend all around.

  1. Syracuse Post-Standard: Rumors started this weekend that Syracuse may be planning a new basketball stadium (though the rumors to just that and the plans are described as “preliminary”). For all its size, the Carrier Dome could use a major face-lift at minimum. It’s 33 years old and usually doesn’t get high marks from visitors. A new arena–designed with basketball in mind–could provide a recruiting boost. That said, when the dome is full it’s already a good attraction for recruits. I think Syracuse probably keeps the Carrier Dome until Jim Boeheim retires, but it makes sense that a new stadium is on the horizon.
  2. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Lamar Patterson is continuing his poor man’s Oscar Robertson impersonation to start conference play. Right now he’s averaging more than 20 points, six boards, four assists and a steal in conference play. Not bad, especially considering his efficiency stats are off the charts thanks to above average shooting everywhere and a 2:1 assist-turnover ratio. Jamie Dixon called Patterson the most versatile player he’s ever coached. If his final numbers resemble his current ones, he’s a lock for first team all-conference and has a great shot at conference player of the year.
  3. Shakin’ The Southland: Good look at Clemson‘s manhandling of Duke Saturday. Maybe the most interesting point Ryan Kantor makes is that Duke abandoned its 2-3 zone too quickly. The fact that Duke played the zone at all tells you all you need to know about the Blue Devils’ defense. Something hasn’t clicked with this Duke team. It’s really struggling with consistency away from Cameron Indoor. But give Clemson its due. Brad Brownell’s team is out-performing expectations by a lot. The Tigers are a very good defensive bunch, and KJ McDaniels is another all-conference contender (along with the conference’s best posterizer on both ends of the floor).
  4. Richmond Daily Progress: Virginia finishes the Big Four beatdown dealers. The Cavaliers appear to have turned around their middling nonconference performance with three straight wins to start conference play. A big part of the new look Tony Bennett team? The resurgent frontcourt. Mike Tobey finally showed some of that potential that many pointed to while he was injured last season. NC State’s bigs looked overmatched all game. Now Virginia looks to continue its hot start with a trip to Durham where a very motivated Duke team (that has a habit of leaving the lane open) will be waiting.
  5. Orlando Sentinel: Hold off on the Florida State panic buttons. After the ugly home loss to Virginia, Leonard Hamilton’s team did to Clemson what Clemson proceeded to do to Duke. In the same building. Then they took care of business at home against Maryland. This team is for real, and it’s because it plays defense. The Seminoles are very long and have the strength in the post to take risks on the perimeter. They also probably have a chip on their shoulder from last season’s skid. That should terrify the rest of the ACC.
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Pittsburgh’s Toughness Leads To Big Comeback Win Over N.C. State

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 4th, 2014

Back in October at ACC Operation Basketball, Pittsburgh Head Coach Jaime Dixon sounded as though he had something of a chip on his shoulder. It was as if he wanted the ACC media to know that moving from the Big East to the ACC was not a move up in competition for Pittsburgh. He had good reason to think that way, with the Big East rated higher than the ACC in nearly ever conference metric over the last several seasons, and with Pitt the winningest team in the Big East over the last dozen years. Plus, all the talk about this year’s ACC being the greatest basketball conference ever was based on the power of the schools it was bringing in from the old Big East.

The Pitt Panthers Surround N.C. State's Anthony Barber During 74-62 Pitt Win. (Photo: Ethan Hyman, www.newsobserver.com)

The Pitt Panthers Surround N.C. State’s Anthony Barber During 74-62 Pitt Win.
(Photo: Ethan Hyman, www.newsobserver.com)

Dixon must have been wondering if perhaps he had been mistaken when he witnessed his team down 17-2 after the first six minutes against N.C. State in Raleigh Saturday afternoon. But the veteran Panthers came roaring back, cutting the deficit to eight at halftime before dominating the second half on the way to a 74-62 win. Leading the way were seniors Lamar Patterson (22/8) and Talib Zanna (15/9). In particular, Patterson had an outstanding second half, with 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists after the intermission. Here are some takeaways for each team after their first game of ACC play.

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What to Make of Pittsburgh Through Another Weak Non-Conference Schedule

Posted by Jason Priziborowski on December 22nd, 2013

Pittsburgh is having another solid season, currently sitting at 11-1 after torching visiting Cal Poly by 17 points over the weekend. Here’s the key question, though: Does this record represent a run at an elite season for the Panthers or is this just another instance of strategic scheduling? Many coaches schedule their non-conference slates to challenge and help prepare their teams for the rigors of conference play; while others schedule to win a bunch of games. John Calipari, Roy Williams, and Tom Izzo tend to fall into the latter camp, whereas Jamie Dixon, Jim Boeheim and many others are regularly accused of falling into the former camp.

Jamie Dixon has been piling up non-conference wins, but does it prepare his team for later in the season?

For the past three years, Dixon has clearly followed the philosophy of scheduling to win. This season Pittsburgh is 11-1 in non-conference play with one more game against Albany to go before ACC play begins. This year the Panthers have only played four teams in the RPI Top 100 (Stanford at #46, Cincinnati at #67, Penn State at #73, and Fresno State at #92), beating all but the Bearcats. Last season they also finished non-conference play 12-1, having played only two teams in the RPI top 100 (Michigan at #17 and Detroit at #64), splitting those games. In 2011-12, Pittsburgh finished non-conference play at 11-2, playing five teams in the RPI top 100 (Long Beach State at #36, La Salle at #83, Tennessee at #86, Wagner at #92, and Penn at #98), losing to both Long Beach State and Wagner.

The problem for Pittsburgh is that it plays in the tough-as-nails ACC, so if non-conference play doesn’t prepare the Panthers for the difficulties of league play, it’s tough to just flip the switch on come January. It’s understandable that coaches don’t want to schedule such a difficult non-conference schedule that their teams are burned out and lacking confidence heading into the conference season, but there needs to be enough competition so that the team also improves from early November to late December. Last year Pitt finished the non-conference season at 12-1, went 12-6 in the Big East, and then lost its first game of the Big East Tournament before doing likewise in the NCAA Tournament. The year before that, Pitt finished non-conference play at 11-2 before falling apart in the Big East with a 5-13 record and not making the NCAAs at all.

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Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh: Four Key Storylines at Tonight’s Jimmy V Classic

Posted by CD Bradley on December 17th, 2013

Here’s a look ahead to the Jimmy V Classic game between former Big East rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh guard Cameron Wright (3) and Cincinnati forward Titus Rubles (2) go for the ball during last year's matchup. The two old rivals square off Tuesday night. (AP)

Pittsburgh guard Cameron Wright (3) and Cincinnati forward Titus Rubles (2) go for the ball during last year’s matchup. The two old rivals square off Tuesday night. (AP)

  1. For nearly a decade, the Bearcats and Panthers squared off in the old Big East, but they now find themselves representing the AAC and ACC, respectively. And of course, it was Cincinnati that tried to follow Pittsburgh to its new conference, only to be left behind by fellow conference-mate Louisville. So the two teams are certainly no strangers to each other; Pitt seniors Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson have played against Cincinnati seniors Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson each of the past three years, with the results split evenly at 2-2. It wouldn’t be surprising if Cincinnati had a bit of extra motivation to show the ACC what it passed on, and Pitt likewise will probably want to reinforce that its new league made the right choice.
  2. Both of these programs have a bit of reputation for soft scheduling in the non-conference portion of the season, and this year is no different. Cincinnati will be just Pittsburgh’s second top 60 foe, according to the rankings from KenPom (Stanford, #46, lost to Pitt by 21 in Brooklyn last month). The Panthers will be the Bearcats’ third such foe, both this season and in a row. The first two parts of the Cincinnati scheduling-up trifecta hasn’t gone particularly well; they lost a hard-fought game at New Mexico only to follow up with a drilling by crosstown rival Xavier. For both teams, a win tonight might well be the strongest victory on their resume when conference play starts, which could well prove very important come Selection Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »
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Lamar Patterson Key to Pittburgh’s Success

Posted by Jason Prziborowski on December 9th, 2013

The Pittsburgh Panthers, a team comprised almost entirely of underclassmen, werent supposed to take the ACC by storm in its first year. Clearly the prognosticators didn’t realize what one of Pitt’s lone seniors was doing this offseason. Lamar Patterson, a fifth-year senior known mostly for his sharpshooting ability coming off the bench, wanted to make himself into a better athlete and a more complete player. Through the first nine games of the 2013-14 season, Patterson’s hard work is paying off. He is now averaging 16.2 points per game (on 49 percent shooting), a remarkable six points per game higher than any other season in his collegiate career. And he’s proving to not just be a scorer, either. His teammates have been feeling the love as he is stuffing the stat sheet by dishing out five assists per game and grabbing five boards per game this season. That’s the kind of all-around production that Jamie Dixon will need from him this season if the Panthers are to reach their ultimate goals.

Lamar Patterson will need to continue his solid play if Pitt wants to truly compete in the ACC this season. (AP)

Lamar Patterson will need to continue his solid play if Pitt wants to truly compete in the ACC this season. (AP)

His athleticism is evident in his more aggressive style of play. Patterson is taking the ball to the basket and regularly getting to the free throw line. He has made twice as many free throws per game (3.8) than at any point in his career, and he ranks among the top 500 players in America in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (5.2). In past seasons, he had relied on his shooting so much that an off night here or there would greatly impact his effectiveness. That shouldn’t happen as much if Patterson continues to leverage his shooting threat to work with his athleticism to get to the basket. On Friday night against Loyola Marymount, Patterson struggled for most of the game with his jumper but didn’t let that stop him from scoring. He recorded four points at the charity stripe, and put in back-to-back layups in the second half to put the game out of reach, propelling the host Panthers to an 85-68 win.

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ACC M5: 12.03.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 3rd, 2013

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  1. Backing the Pack: Brief tempo-free comparison between TJ Warren‘s stats last season and this season. Somehow despite being involved in 10 percent more possessions and shooting more than a third of the Wolfpack’s shots when he’s on the floor, Warren is essentially just as efficient this year as he was last year. The big difference is that he’s turning the ball over less, which makes up for his slightly depressed shooting percentage. That’s terrific news for NC State. If Warren can draw more fouls, look out.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: Want to know how much North Carolina misses PJ Hairston (and to a lesser extent Leslie McDonald)? Well Barry Jacobs found it. Currently Marcus Paige has hit 85 percent of the team’s threes this season. For comparison, Trevor Cooney is the next most important distance shooter at 56.8 percent (comparable to Scott Wood for NC State last year). His teammates have hit a whopping three long balls on the entire season. That’s one simple scouting report. Going forward someone in light blue needs to find some range, or look for teams to start sagging off everyone else at 20 feet and beyond.
  3. Syracuse Post-Standard: Speaking of somewhat obscure statistical tidbits, props to Patrick Stevens for hunting down ACC coaching records in November (and read the article for his asides). Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski are neck and neck… for second place. Jamie Dixon actually leads the way, having only lost three games in the month of November at Pittsburgh. I suspect Dixon’s record will go down as early season tournaments continue to get better fields, though.
  4. Chicago Tribune: This article is only peripherally related to the ACC, but cool story here from Chris Hine on Fran McCaffery and his close ties to Notre Dame. McCaffery was an assistant at Notre Dame and is currently good friends with Mike Brey. Interestingly, their friendship goes back to their assistant coaching days on the recruiting trail. His wife also played basketball in South Bend. But now McCaffery, who is in his fourth year at Iowa and has his best team there yet, is the favorite.
  5. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh has been one of the biggest surprises of the year (for me), and Lamar Patterson, last week’s ACC Player of the Week, is a big reason why. He’s playing very efficiently all the way across the board. Patterson is shooting better, more often, assisting more, turning the ball over less, fouling less and drawing more fouls. Oh, and he’s also grabbed more steals. That’s amazing. Right now he’s playing like an ACC Player of the Year contender. If Patterson continues his torrid Renaissance Man production into December and beyond, Pittsburgh absolutely will be one of the favorites in the ACC this season.
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Pitt’s Bruising Toughness on Display at Legends Classic

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 26th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Monday night’s Pittsburgh vs. Texas Tech game from the Legends Classic.

Texas Tech has a long ways to go before becoming a complete basketball team, but that doesn’t mean that the Red Raiders couldn’t have offered Pittsburgh its first real challenge of the season on Monday night. After all, when you begin the campaign with a quartet of opponents (Savannah State, Howard, Lehigh and Fresno State) sporting a combined 4-16 record versus D-I competition, any foe with a power conference membership may be enough to constitute a challenge. But any hope of a taut battle was quickly erased, as Pittsburgh used a 34-8 first half run to power themselves to a 23-point halftime lead, ending this Legends Classic semifinal before it ever really began. It was a dominant show of strength from a program quite accustomed to delivering them, but is this Panther team capable of conjuring up the echoes of past glory? Wins over Big-12 also-rans won’t answer that question in isolation, but Jamie Dixon seems to believe this Pitt team, as bruising and tough as so many of those that came before them, may have the talent and chemistry to do just that.

Lamar Patterson's Career Night (23 Points) Helped Undefeated Pittsburgh Surge To A 76-53 Victory Over Texas Tech

Lamar Patterson’s Career Night (23 Points) Helped Undefeated Pittsburgh Surge To A 76-53 Victory Over Texas Tech

Pitt’s 23-point victory was achieved despite an unusual Panther failing: Its opponent grabbed more rebounds than the men in blue and gold. Jamie Dixon’s teams have classically been downright fearsome on the offensive boards – their offensive rebounding percentage has been among the nation’s five best in four of the past five seasons – but the physical identity that Dixon breeds impacts the backboards at both ends. Dixon admitted that “rebounding hurt us tonight,” but the scoreboard showed that little else did. Pitt continued its early season display of offensive efficiency by making more threes (10) than lost turnovers (eight), along the way to making 16 of 21 free throw attempts. Dixon said after the game that he had felt like Pitt’s offense had been ahead of their defense all season long. With all due respect to a stellar Panthers effort on the defensive end (it took a late barrage of Texas Tech made field goals to lift their field goal percentage to just 39 percent for the evening), crisp ball movement and a career day from emerging leader Lamar Patterson (23 points on 8-of-13 shooting) certainly substantiated Dixon’s claim. The offensive precision is a great sign for Pitt. Dixon can turn a good defensive team into an elite one with his coaching; It’s far harder for him, or any coach, to turn an average shooting team into an excellent one.

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ACC Team Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 22nd, 2013

Of the three new members in the ACC for the 2013-14 season, the Pitt Panthers are probably generating the least amount of excitement. Of course that’s understandable considering the deserved elite reputation of Syracuse, and the national brand name of Notre Dame. But make no mistake, Coach Jamie Dixon brings one of the top programs in the country to the ACC this year. In fact, during his 10 year tenure as head coach, Pitt has averaged 26 wins per season.

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Pitt’s First Season in the ACC Will Be an Interesting One

2012-13 was a bounceback season for the Panthers after missing the NCAA Tournament the year before (for the first time under Dixon). It was an interesting year in which Pitt finished 24-9 overall and 12-6 in the Big East. The computers loved the Panthers, as they finished #11 in both Ken Pomeroy’s and Jeff Sagarin’s popular ratings systems. But the NCAA Tournament selection committee saw things differently, giving Pitt a #8 seed, no doubt because of a non-conference schedule that rated #269 in the RPI. Even though losing in the first round to Wichita State looked better when the Shockers made the Final Four, that 73-55 beating ended the Panthers’ season on a downer. Soon after the season’s end, Pitt’s roster suffered an unusual bout of heavy attrition. In addition to losing seniors Tray Woodall and Dante Taylor, talented seven-footer Steven Adams left after one season for the NBA, and two others, juniors J.J. Moore and Trey Zeigler, decided to transfer out of the program. Dixon and his staff deserve credit for restocking the roster with some late additions and transfers of their own. Read the rest of this entry »

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Season In Review: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by mlemaire on May 15th, 2013

If you are one of those glass half-full type of people, then you could easily point out that a season which saw Pittsburgh finish 24-9 and 12-6 in the Big East is a giant step forward from the year before when the Panthers went just 22-17 and 5-13 in the conference. But chances are that if you are a Pittsburgh basketball fan, you aren’t one of those glass half-full type of people and that is because all of Pitt’s regular season success has never translated into anything more than a single trip to the Elite Eight and a few Sweet Sixteen appearances. The Panthers were good enough to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, which likely saved coach Jamie Dixon from a wave of criticism this offseason, but it wasn’t exactly a triumphant return to the Big Dance. Advanced metrics loved the Panthers because of the team’s exceptional efficiency on both ends of the floor, but that didn’t stop them from shooting 35.1 percent from the field in a first-round clunker against Wichita State and departing from the NCAA Tournament in unceremonious fashion.

Preseason Expectations

Most pundits were cautiously bullish on the Panthers’ chances of rebounding from the 2011-12 debacle. Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson were both gone, but the team returned basically every other contributing player and also added Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler (15.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 46.1% FG as a sophomore with the Chippewas) and ballyhooed freshman center Steven Adams, a seven-footer from New Zealand who was universally considered an NBA talent. No one expected the Panthers to shock the world this season, but both the coaches and our writers had Pitt pegged as one of the top five teams in the conference, and during the regular season at least, they made us look smart.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

The Good

Despite the disappointing finish, there are plenty of team-wide positives Dixon can point to this offseason. For starters, the Panthers’ trademark defense returned with a flourish. After finishing outside the top 150 in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2011-12, the Panthers leaped all the way back into the top 20 in that category by creating turnovers and contesting shooters on every possession. The offense was even more efficient, finishing just outside the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency thanks in large part to the team’s terrific offensive rebounding, taking care of the basketball, and insistence on scoring inside of 20 feet. Also, he very much looked the part of a freshman point guard at times this season, but James Robinson (6.1 PPG and 3.5 APG in just 26.6 MPG) is going to develop into an excellent floor general for Dixon as quickly as next season. Neither Woodall nor Lamar Patterson took their games to the next level, but they were still the only two consistent offensive threats on the roster. Even Adams (7.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 57.7 FG%) proved himself to be an excellent prospect, although he didn’t exactly set the conference ablaze like so many had predicted.

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Big East M5: 03.21.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 21st, 2013

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  1. So technically the first four games of the NCAA Tournament have already been played but today is the day that truly feels like the start as games tip off early and will be broadcast all day long. Speaking of folks who are excited, how can you not want to root for a team that has a fan base comprised of a hodgepodge of students, faculty, and of course 79-year-old Indiana transplants living in nearby Fort Myers. Yes, the ride has already been a fun one for Florida Gulf Coast and its fans, and I don’t think any of them care that the team’s chances of beating Georgetown are not very good. The Eagles may have thought they deserved a slightly higher seed, but the chips have fallen where they did and FGCU is apparently thrilled at the chance to play giant-slayer against one of the best teams in the Big East. It is more fun for us when Big East teams are playing well in the NCAA Tournament, but let’s just say that if FGCU were able to pull off a shocker, I wouldn’t be mad about it.
  2. I really can’t agree more with the opinion that “if you value a player based on how much worse his team would be without him, Otto Porter would be your pick for National Player of the Year.” The Hoyas were, at one point this season, a team that scored 37 points against Tennessee and got a 26-point beat down from Pittsburgh. When the Hoyas lost second-leading scorer Greg Whittington to academic suspension, Porter put the team on his back for the rest of conference play and Georgetown ended the regular season as the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Admittedly, this is an opinion that is shared by many others, but I still feel like calling it out because Porter really isn’t getting enough NPOY consideration and so I’ve taken on the job of single-handedly jump-starting his campaign myself. 
  3. I called point guard Tray Woodall my key player on Pittsburgh in the Panthers’ NCAA Tourney capsuel, but Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette makes a pretty good case that streaky Lamar Patterson is actually the key to the Panthers’ tournament success this March. Big things were expected of Patterson this season and while he remains a versatile defender and dangerous offensive player, he has been inconsistent and seemingly nonchalant, resulting in an up-and-down year that he is not particularly proud of. The Panthers desperately need a good showing in the Big Dance to silence some of the critics and if Patterson can rise to the occasion and be the guy for coach Jamie Dixon, their chances of making run improve greatly.
  4. While this story about potential major and wide-ranging violations committed by the Syracuse basketball and football programs is somewhat old news, sources in the CBS story certainly do not paint a flattering picture of the sort of things that the NCAA is investigating. UConn fans are already having some tempered fun with the story, while head coach Jim Boeheim has already issued a surprisingly tempered “this happens every year and I don’t care” statement. This no longer feels like it is always something with the Orange, it IS always something with the Orange. The NCAA and its investigations have proven to be a giant joke, but considering the fact that NCAA investigators are sniffing around an alleged 2007 sexual assault and several academic suspensions at the school, brace yourselves for yet another story about some scandal that took place under Boeheim’s watch. At this point, is there anyone in the country who feels confident in saying he will be back on the sideline next season?
  5. It has been rumored for some weeks now because there are good reporters on the beat that Butler, Creighton, and Xavier would be the three schools likely to join the new Big East and, now that it is official, those three teams will join the former Catholic 7 to form a basketball-first conference that is already being over-hyped by giddy college basketball fans forgetful that DePaul has been terrible for nearly two decades. The door is still open for two more teams (good reporters say Saint Louis and Dayton are next) to join the conference in the near future, but for now, the new Big East is set and it will be fascinating for college basketball lovers to watch. These additions make sense on every level and for everyone involved. The Bulldogs, Bluejays, and Musketeers haven’t really been true mid-majors in a long time and there is a chance one of these teams could win a conference title in its inaugural season. They will get a bigger profile and some lovely television cash, while the new Big East gets three teams to further improve their basketball chops and make sure that media rights deal will remain a lucrative one.
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Big East M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 21st, 2013

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  1. Well, just when everyone had become enchanted with the idea of Providence giving Syracuse a stiff challenge, the Orange came out and showed everyone why they hadn’t lost at home in 37 games. Boeheim’s defensive length sparked a 31-5 run to close the first half, and the Friars were run out of the gym, 84-59. CJ Fair logged his second consecutive double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and the Orange shot almost 57% on a Providence defense that had held Notre Dame to 39% last week. Most encouraging for Syracuse fans was the impeccable performance Michael Carter-Williams turned in after his tapering assist numbers had raised eyebrows. The sophomore ended with 12 assists and an absurd 6:1 assist to turnover ratio to go along with 15 points and five rebounds. Any doubts about Syracuse’s trajectory were erased as they moved back into a tie for first place in league play.
  2. In another Wednesday night blowout, Georgetown freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera played a career game as the Hoyas pounded DePaul, 90-66, to extend their winning streak to eight. Coming off the bench, the stocky Thompsonian guard racked up 33 points on 10-of-12 (83%) shooting, hit 5-of-6 threes and 8-of-10 free throws. It was the most points scored by a Georgetown freshman since Victor Page put up 34 in the 1996 Big East Tournament. It also warrants some further research to determine the last time anyone accumulated as many points shooting 80% or higher from both the field, three-point and free throw lines. We’ll look into it.
  3. Jamie Dixon’s emphasis on rebounding is well documented, but it’s even more important this season without a reliable scorer. Despite entering last weekend’s game tied for the best rebounding margin in the Big East, Pitt emerged bloodied from its Notre Dame embarrassment with a -22 margin between two straight losses. In fact, Pitt’s lost six of the last eight games in which it hasn’t earned an advantage on the glass. Dixon stresses the need for “rebounding from every position,” but Lamar Patterson had questioned the effort from his big men after last weekend’s Marquette loss: “We’ve got big guys, too. Steve [Adams] and Talib [Zanna] are big guys. It came down to who wanted it more.” The two performed even worse on the boards against the Irish, collecting four and two rebounds, respectively. Maybe it’s not the kind of criticism you’d pose publicly, but it appears to have some merit.
  4. Notre Dame forward Scott Martin is poised to return to full participation in practice this weekend after missing eight games with chronic knee issues. Despite the leadership and production Martin brings to the table, the Irish are 6-2 in his absence, as Tom Knight has ascended from obscurity to become a reliable starter. It’s not an unfamiliar situation for Mike Brey: “Luke Harangody came back to us at time we were rolling along with a different nucleus. Scott will have to work himself in and he and I talked about that. His attitude is great… I would love to have that body available down the stretch.” Brey also revealed he’s also contemplating inserting Martin at the three spot, which would alleviate the problematic numbers game in Notre Dame’s frontcourt. It’s hard to imagine a hobbled Martin having the lateral quickness to guard many Big East threes, though.
  5. Eric Crawford at the Louisville Courier-Journal juxtaposes the patchwork understanding of basketball Gorgui Dieng brought to Louisville with the astute mind for the game he’s developed in three seasons. He’s gone from not grasping that offensive and defensive fouls count toward one’s foul total, to becoming one of the team’s best passer, whom Rick Pitino compares to former point-center David Padgett for his passing ability and intellect. “He’s our coach on the floor,” says Pitino. While Dieng demurred when asked about his coach’s comments that he may encourage the 23-year-old junior to test the draft after this season, Crawford picks up on subtleties in Dieng’s speech that suggest he might be preparing for an exit. Responding to concerns about fatigue, Dieng said, “I will do whatever to help this team. I’m not worried if I play a lot of minutes or less minutes. I don’t know if I’m going to have this chance again, ever.”
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