Change is in the air at Creighton, and not just in terms of the league in which the Bluejays will compete this year. The school recently held an open house to unveil a new court, featuring a revised logo. Replacing the ‘Jays’ that once adorned the hardwood is a new Billy Bluejay head design over a bold capital ‘C’. This unveiling is a part of a full branding initiative by Creighton, which will include a new Billy Bluejay mascot design, in an effort to solidify the school’s visibility in the college basketball world. Associate athletic director Mark Burgers referred to the branding of two new hoops rivals as a reason for the change in conjunction with a move to the Big East: “If you look across the Big East schools and the benchmarking, Villanova has the ‘V’ and Xavier has the ‘X’ and you go down all the schools; we incorporated the ‘C’ because we thought that was important.”
Earlier this week, we found out that Marquette’s Jameel McKay was planning to transfer, an announcement that came as a surprise to many in the Golden Eagles community. According to Marquette basketball blog Paint Touches, McKay’s decision is largely due to his position and role on the team: “(It was) just disagreements on things, is as simple as I can put it. Playing out of position was a part of it. I wasn’t comfortable (in the role they had him in).” McKay has been contacted by a number of strong high major programs, and will look to make a decision soon, but he plans to finish out the semester at Marquette.
Butler is looking for a bump in recruiting now that it has joined the Big East, and may be on the verge of landing a few prized players. Four-star guard K.J. Walton was on campus this week. The high school junior is still looking for an offer, but according to Zak Keefer at IndyStar.com, he is high on the Bulldogs, and has a strong relationship with new head coach Brandon Miller, who he has known since he was 13. Butler also hosted Covington, Kentucky guard James Bolden at practice this week, as well local product Kyle Guy, who is already on Indiana’s radar.
Josh Smith is one of the most ballyhooed additions to the Big East this year, and as of Thursday, he has been cleared to play for the start of the upcoming season for Georgetown. Smith, who transfers to the Hoyas after leaving UCLA six games into the 2012-13 season, has received fairly unprecedented treatment in his transfer appeal from the NCAA according to ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan, who was incredibly surprised by the NCAA’s decision. Despite not fitting into the general outlines for a hardship waiver, and not moving schools to be closer to home, the NCAA will allow Smith to play without sitting out for a full season, where it has neglected to do so for countless other players over the years. [Ed. Note: There has been some speculation that the NCAA granted the waiver due to the way Smith was treated by the UCLA staff while dealing with his ongoing weight issue.] Brennan believes this decision is another in a long line of strange moves by a rattled NCAA that has been heavily scrutinized on numerous levels: “I think college players should be able to transfer with far fewer restrictions and wait times than currently exist — but that doesn’t make the ruling consistent with any past precedent. What about every kid in the past five years with a legitimate appeal who was denied on technicality? Is the NCAA really that rattled?”
Buzz Williams sat down with CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein to discuss the Marquette program and his outlook on the upcoming season, and as usual, he was incredibly insightful and honest about his team. He believes that Derrick Wilson is ready to step into the leadership role left vacant by Junior Cadougan‘s graduation: “…to be honest, I think that the roster has played out perfectly for Derrick Wilson’s career. I do think that he’s ready for the next step, and I think he’s as prepared as you can be having never been in that role to be ready for that role.” Williams is very high on his freshmen, who he calls the best recruiting class he’s had since becoming the head coach at Marquette, especially guard Deonte Burton, whom Rothstein refers to as a “Buzz Williams type of player.” He also states that he believes Jamil Wilson‘s talent measures up against that of former Golden Eagles stars Jae Crowder and Lazar Hayward, and has similar ability to Jimmy Butler: “Those other guys were every-day, hard core guys and I think that’s what Jamil has to get to and I think he’s working really hard to be that guy. He’s always been talented. He’s extremely intelligent. He’s got some Jimmy Butler qualities. Jimmy could do multiple things, guard multiple guys. So can Jamil.” While Williams is humble as always, and downplays the preseason hype that his team has garnered a bit, the interview should make Marquette fans feel good about their squad heading into the season.
Joseph Dzuback is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after spending an evening keeping a close eye on Marquette head coach Buzz Williams.
Why does Marquette, a school about to earn consecutive NCAA bid #8, still struggle to secure a spot in the national limelight? Part of the answer is no doubt rooted in their coach. Buzz Williams, 5’11” with that North Texas drawl, is hardly a presence at Media Day confabs. Unlike Marquette’s legendary Al McGuire, whose height and New York City accent (and ever so slightly too-loud voice) could turn heads and draw ears. Tom Crean, Marquette’s 15th head coach, came with all of the pedigree expected to head a National Championship, two-time Final Four program with 21 bids and previously headed by legends like McGuire, Hank Raymond and Rick Majerus. When he departed Marquette to rebuild a struggling Indiana program, Crean left Williams (head coach #16) with a cupboard full of prep school ballers. Harvested from some of the best recruiting seed beds on the East Coast and Midwest, these players earned Marquette (and Crean) notoriety in basketball circles even before taking their first shot in the Bradley Center. Williams spent his first two off seasons recruiting a raft of unknown players from junior colleges throughout Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
Buzz Williams might not be a media darling, but the man sure can coach. (AP)
Williams sustained the momentum established by Crean with junior college players like Dwight Buycks, Darius Johnson-Odom, Joe Fulce, Jimmy Butler and Jai Crowder, who rounded out the nucleus that included Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, Dominic James and Lazar Hayward bequeathed to him by Crean. The mix-n-match crew garnered Williams 47 wins and a pair of NCAA bids in his first two seasons. And in the course of his first three off-seasons Williams has found what Crean could not — not one but two low post players good enough to move the tweeners out of the rotation. Davante Gardner and Chris Otule have helped Marquette earn another 49 (and counting) wins in seasons #3 and #4. This season the win count is 16 and climbing. The Golden Eagles’ 10 conference wins put them in a three-way tie for first place in Big East conference play, but co-leaders Georgetown and Syracuse have drawn greater national recognition for their seasons.
Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame (16.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 42.9% 3pt)
Fab Melo, Syracuse: Melo should have an immediate impact as the starting center for the Orange. Regarded as one of, if not the, best center in the class, Melo has more polish offensively than most bigs do as freshman, but his size in the middle of the Syracuse 2-3 zone may be more important.
Vander Blue, Marquette: Blue should step in and start immediately for the Golden Eagles. He’s everything you imagine when you think of a Marquette wing player. He’s tough, athletic, and can slash to the basket. He’ll remind some of Jerel McNeal.
Nate Lubick, Georgetown: With the Hoyas losing Greg Monroe to the NBA, they will have a gaping hole in the middle. Lubick has the skill set to be the high post forward of the future for John Thompson III, and he could immediately slide into the starting lineup.
Jay Wright has Villanova in the driver’s seat, with Pittsburgh nipping at the Wildcats’ heels. (AP/Michael Perez)
What You Need To Know
As much as it pains me to say it, the Big East is going to be down this season, especially near the bottom of the league. The two best players in the conference are probably Austin Freeman and Corey Fisher, and while I don’t want to take anything away from those two — I love the way that both play — they are a long way from being lottery picks. Providence, Rutgers and DePaul are as bad as any three teams at the bottom of the power conferences, which is saying a lot considering what the cellar of the Pac-10 and SEC have to offer. Now think about this: If the Big East wants to get more than six teams into the Big Dance, the teams that will likely be fighting for the last couple of at-large bids this season are Seton Hall, St. John’s, Notre Dame and UConn. And that assumes that Marquette and West Virginia are dancing. Yuck.
Villanova (NCAA #2 Seed): I like Villanova a lot more than other people do. I think Corey Fisher has a chance to become a star this season as he steps out of the shadow of Scottie Reynolds. I think Maalik Wayns has a chance to come into his own as well. Corey Stokes and Dominic Cheek should provide some size, athleticism, and versatility on the perimeter, while Jayvaughn Pinkston and Isaiah Armwood provide the same along the front line. The trio of Antonio Pena, Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton is one of the better front lines in the conference. More than anything, however, I think that Jay Wright has answered the biggest questions his team had last season. Without a doubt, Villanova will be better inside with Yarou healthy, Pinkston on the roster, and Armwood and Sutton a year stronger. They should also be better defensively without Reynolds and Fisher sharing the floor. This team has a great mixture of size, athleticism, youth, experience, and versatility. They remind me quite a bit of the Villanova team that made the 2009 Final Four. Read the rest of this entry »
NCAA Sanctions: From a basketball perspective, the biggest story in the Big East this summer was up at UConn. The Huskies received a notice of allegations from the NCAA in May, informing them of eight major violations in the recruitment of Nate Miles. UConn will find out its final punishment from the NCAA in October, but the violations have already cost them two assistants — Beau Archibald and Brad Sellers, the son of former Husky star Rod Sellers. Jim Calhoun avoided the heavy artillery — getting grazed with a citation for “failure to monitor” the program, which is ironically what the best coaches need to do to succeed.
Coaches: The NCAA infractions weren’t the only reason Calhoun was in the news. Ailing health as he nears 70, impending NCAA sanctions, a team that is going to need some rebuilding, and the fact his contract was up made many believe Calhoun would hang ’em up this summer. Wrong. He signed a five-year deal instead. Calhoun had far from the worst summer for coaches in the Big East. Rick Pitino let the world — and every single opposing student section — know about his 15-second tryst on a restaurant table with one Karen Sypher. Bob Huggins fell, a result of being in Vegas the medicine he took on an empty stomach making him light-headed, and broke seven ribs. Fred Hill was run out of Rutgers, in part because he lost it on the Pittsburgh baseball team’s coaching staff. Through all of that, perhaps the worst summer was had by Bobby Gonzalez, who lost his job at Seton Hall, had the entire episode come out in the New York Times, sued his former employer, was unable to receive credentials at the NBA Draft, and then find himself arrested for attempting to steal a $1,400 man-purse satchel. The three new coaches to the conference: Oliver Purnell left Clemson for DePaul; Mike Rice left Robert Morris to fill in for Hill at Rutgers; and Kevin Willard left Iona and took Gonzo’s spot at Seton Hall.
LOIs: Three Big East teams made headlines for issues with recruits signing LOIs. DePaul initially refused to release Walter Pitchford, Jr., from his LOI. He signed with Jerry Wainwright, who was at DePaul before Purnell was tabbed. After appealing both the school and the NCAA, DePaul finally released Pitchford. The same thing is currently happening to Joseph Young at Providence, who as of this writing has not yet been granted a release by the Friars. At Marquette, DJ Newbill was dropped from his LOI when Buzz Williams had the opportunity to bring in former top 100 recruit Jamil Wilson, a transfer from Oregon. All in all, Big East members did not shine bright this summer.
Back to Providence: Man oh man, did they have a rough summer. Two freshmen kicked out of school for beating up a student. Their star, Greedy Peterson, thrown off the team. Another player arrested. Did Keno Davis have this much trouble in mind when he took the job two years ago?
Seton Hall Didn’t Fare Much Better: Aside from their coach being kicked to the curb, the Pirates had their best big man spend nearly a month in the hospital because he collapsed after finishing a workouts and saw Robert “Sticks” Mitchell get arrested for (get this) robbing eight people at gunpoint just two days after being kicked off the team.
Villanova stumbled towards the finish line last season. This year, Jay Wright’s troops are Rob Dauster’s favorites to take the Big East in 2010-11.
Villanova: While the Wildcats lose All-American Scottie Reynolds, Jay Wright‘s club (as always) will be more than fine in the backcourt. Corey Fisher, fresh off an alleged 105-point performance in a Bronx summer league, and Maalik Wayns will be as dynamic as any backcourt in the country and should be able to thrive in Scottie’s absence. Corey Stokes is still going to be a lights out shooter. Dominic Cheek and James Bell will be dangerous on the wings. Up front, the five-man rotation of Antonio Pena, Mouph Yarou, Isaiah Armwood, Maurice Sutton, and JayVaughn Pinkston gives Villanova a very deep, very talented roster for the upcoming season. The Wildcats should compete for the Big East title and, depending on how well some players develop (Armwood, Cheek, Wayns, Yarou) and how good a couple of freshmen are (Bell, Pinkston), Nova could very well make a run at the Final Four.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers were the surprise of the Big East last season, and with the majority of their roster coming back this season, its tough to envision Pitt falling off. Pitt has almost reached the level of a Wisconsin — no matter who is on their roster, this is a team that is disciplined and well-coached to the point that they are always going to be competitive. As always, expect a gritty, defensive-minded team from the Panthers. An already-solid back court of Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Travon Woodall will be bolstered by the addition of freshmen Isaiah Epps, JJ Moore and Cameron Wright, as well as Lamar Patterson finally getting healthy. Gilbert Brown, who missed the first half of last season due to academic issues, will be back at the small forward spot. Brown had an inconsistent season in 2010, but showed flashes of some serious potential. Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson will bolster the front line, but the real x-factor on this team is going to be sophomore Dante Taylor. Taylor was one of the most highly-touted recruits last year, but it took him awhile to adjust to the Big East. If Taylor can live up to his promise, Pitt is a potential Final Four team. If not, this is still a club that will be competing for a league title.
Syracuse: It is easy to look at the Orange and think that, with the players they lost (Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku), they will be down next season. Well, they might not win a Big East title, but they certainly will be in the mix atop the conference standings. Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine will anchor the backcourt, with freshman Dion Waiters providing an offensive spark as an off-guard. Kris Joseph should blossom into a dangerous weapon as a slasher on the wing, and if he can add some strength and a jumper this summer, could very well be in the running as a first-team all-Big East selection. Rick Jackson will be paired with Fab Melo, who Jim Boeheim has been raving about (he raved about Johnson last summer, and look how that turned out), in the frontcourt. With guys like CJ Fair, Mookie Jones, James Southerland and DaShonte Riley providing minutes off the bench, there is no doubt Syracuse will be a good team. How good — borderline top-25 or a potential Big East champ — remains to be seen. Read the rest of this entry »
Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.
Now that the Draft is complete, time to look back at Thursday night’s winners and losers, from coaches to NBA teams to players to conferences and everything in between:
Paul George saw his stock skyrocket all the way to #10 and the Pacers, Al Bello/Getty Images
Big 12 – One of the premier college basketball conferences has gained quite a surge of momentum in the last few weeks. Big 12 commish Dan Beebe convinced Texas it was in their best interests to keep the league in tact even after the defections of Colorado and Nebraska, two of the more downtrodden BCS-conference hoops programs in the country. After chopping off those two anchors, a ten-team, 18-game round robin format has been agreed to starting in 2012. The Big 12 momentum only continued at the draft on Thursday where an astonishing seven of the top 24 selections reside from the conference (and Kentucky isn’t even a member). Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh, Kansas’ Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, Texas’ Avery Bradley and Damion James, Oklahoma State’s James Anderson and Iowa State’s Craig Brackins, not to mention Cyclone transfer Wes Johnson, were all nabbed in the first 24 picks. The Big 12 barely trailed the ACC in terms of overall conference strength last season and the results of the first round only confirmed those numbers.
John Calipari – As Fox Sports Jeff Goodman astutely pointed out, expect plenty of John Calipari mug shots in near future drafts unless he bolts for a dream NBA job. Five of his Kentucky Wildcats from one recruiting class were taken in the first round on Thursday, from John Wall at #1 overall to Daniel Orton at #29. Next year could see two more Kentucky players announced early in the draft in center Enes Kanter and point guard Brandon Knight with forward Terrence Jones another potential first rounder. In 2011-12 when Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist and another top ten recruit TBD join Big Blue Nation, it’ll be the same Calipari hugging his revolving door of players on a June night in NYC. Don’t think this is just Calipari doing this for his departing players or that recruits are not noticing. He’s fully aware of what his face constantly showing up on ESPN’ s cameras means: furthering his reputation of sending talented players to the riches of the NBA. And quickly.
Paul George – It’s been a quick ascension for George, a workout wonder who saw his draft stock shoot up in the last few weeks until he landed to Indiana at #10. It’s doubtful even George saw this coming after being lightly recruited out of Palmdale, Calif, and settling on Fresno State for his college choice. George saw both his FG% and 3pt% plummet from his freshman to sophomore seasons and he only upped his PPG by 2.5 and RPG by 1.0 along with very low assist totals. He also played for a 15-18 WAC team against far more inferior competition than, say, Kansas’ Xavier Henry, who went one pick later to Memphis. Henry averaged 13.5 PPG, shot 46% from two and 42% from three on a team filled with players who needed touches.
Greivis Vasquez’ reaction – I don’t think anyone who watched Greivis Vasquez play four years at Maryland was surprised when they saw the emotional Venezuelan surrounded by family and friends in the crowd at Radio City Music Hall waiting for his name to be chosen. Vasquez has been projected as an early-to-mid second round pick- a scorer, leader and improved floor general that simply lacks the lateral quickness to defend NBA guards. Yet rumblings surfaced that Memphis loved Vasquez at #28. Sure enough, when he was pegged at that exact spot, the only outward, raw emotion we saw Thursday night emerged as Vasquez pumped his fist, hugged his family and practically sprinted to shake David Stern’s hand on the draft stage. Congratulations to Greivis.
Best first flight of games ever? It just might be. Right now the Selection Committee are looking like a bunch of geniuses. We have confidence in the second flight of games bringing some excitement, too. We popped for the DirecTV package so we’ll be monitoring every game:
Ohio vs Georgetown
East Tennessee State vs Kentucky
Northern Iowa vs UNLV
Washington vs Marquette
San Diego State vs Tennessee
Wake Forest vs Texas
Lehigh vs Kansas
Montana vs New Mexico
After what we saw this afternoon, we suggest you join us for our live-blogging feature this evening. Get that refresh-button finger warmed up, and by all means let us know in the comments section what you’re watching and how you’re celebrating this unofficial national holiday. We’ll start at around 7 PM ET. See you there!
7:00: That’s OK Hemogoblin. Though scheduling a fantasy baseball draft TODAY?? Hmmm… Anyway, Butler is polishing off UTEP in a game that is going to screw up a lot of brackets. UTEP was a popular upset pick for the first round, and sometimes beyond. Frankly, I expected more from Arnett Moutrie at the forward spot. Zero points today.
7:30: OK, sorry there, folks. Had a quick dinner break, which I tried to time right so it would happen during the single-game interval. Didn’t hit it. We haven’t missed much. Kentucky has started pretty hot against ETSU and UNLV has taken an early lead over Northern Iowa.
7:52: Kentucky is shooting 70% to start this game. YEESH. They’re already up 41-16 against ETSU. At what point do you pull the starters to rest for the second game against either Wake or Texas?
7:58: Anyone want to wake up Georgetown? The Armon Bassett/D.J. Cooper tandem has been quite effective for the Bobcats, so far a combined 6-12 and 15 of Ohio U.’s 33 points.
8:02: Goodness. John Wall already has seven assists. Let’s see what else is on…
Greetings, everyone, from beautiful San Jose, California. It’s a 75-degree outside the building, but nobody cares about that because it’s time for March Madness, and already across the country today, the games have been insane. Is there any other sporting event in the world that is so consistently awesome on a year-to-year basis? I’m going to be updating this diary by the half so as to accord with NCAA policies. Let me know if you have anything you’d like to know in the comments.
Game 1: #4 Vanderbilt vs. #13 Murray State
What a crazy early afternoon of games so far – are you kidding me? Two games in OT and a third down to a last-second shot that missed? The one thing that I can’t believe the NCAA doesn’t mandate is at least a running scoreboard to keep the fans here abreast of other games. Because that’s all anyone wants to know about right now is what’s going on in the Villanova – Robert Morris game.
Vandy is more athletic than you might think, but Murray is right there with them, jump for jump. The only real advantage I see Vandy having is a little more size and length inside with 6’11 pair of AJ Ogilvy and Festus Ezeli.
This Murray team has the look of a team that won 30 games this year. They have a swagger and confidence that they belong here and have shown no sense of intimidation against their SEC foes. There’s a regional rivalry at play here too, as Murray is located squarely in SEC country and surely gets their fill of talk about Kentucky, Vandy and so forth.
Racers Mascot Hyped Up
Murray State forward #43 Tony Easley acts as cheerleader/coach when he’s not on the floor, encouraging his teammates, getting in their ears, and greeting them as the first one off the bench during timeouts. I love seeing that. Every team needs at least one of those players to keep his teammates honest.
Gotta love March Madness when an upset is brewing… the buzz in the room just turns on like a switch, and suddenly 90% of the arena starts looking to buy Murray State t-shirts and caps.
In keeping with the style of play of both Murray and Vanderbilt, a lot of players saw action and put up points in the first half. Murray was led by the electric little guard BJ Jenkins with 9 pts and Vandy by Jeffery Taylor also with 9 pts. AJ Ogilvy has been largely unheard from in the game (2 pts, 1 reb).
Each day this week during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region. If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at email@example.com.
South Region Notes(Patrick Sellars)
The first “upset” of the tournament occurred in the South Region when SWAC champion Arkansas Pine-Bluff took down the Big South tournament champion Winthrop, 61-44. The Golden Lions earned the right to play top seeded Duke on Friday night.
When #9 Louisville takes on #8 California on Friday night, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino says he’ll be ready for the Bears’ “organized chaos.” There is also an interesting quote in the article from Cardinals’ guard Edgar Sosa that says he has heard Cal referred to as “poor man’s Marquette”.
Utah State’s leading scorer, junior guard Tai Wesley,broke his nose in the WAC tournament final on Saturday when the Aggies got pounded by New Mexico State. He will play in the Aggies’ upcoming game versus Texas A&M, but you have to wonder what kind of effect it will have on USU’s star. On TAMU’s side, they will have Dash Harris back in the lineup after he missed the Big 12 Tournament with a bone bruise in his right wrist. Head coach Mark Turgeon said that if his team wants any chance to win this weekend, they will need Harris healthy.
Fran McCaffery is not letting his Siena team think they can beat Purdue by just showing up in Spokane on Friday. He says Purdue is by far the best team Siena will face all season even without Robbie Hummel. You’d have to think a Butler Bulldogs fan would think otherwise.
Here is an interesting article from The Times-Picayune which highlights the #3Baylor vs. #14Sam Houston State game. Not only are the two teams from Texas, but they have two New Orleans natives returning to their home town for the first round. Star senior guards Tweety Carter (Baylor) and Ashton Mitchell (Sam Houston State) both played their high school ball in The Big Easy.
Villanova head coach Jay Wrighttold the Philadelphia Inquirer about his team’s lackluster play in first round games the past two seasons. Wright said “we’ve survived first-round games, but we really haven’t played well in first-round games.”
Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is spending the week as the RTC correspondent at the Big East Tournament. In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action. Here is his submission for the semifinal games.
Georgetown 80, Marquette 57
Georgetown whooped Duke. They smacked Villanova. Just yesterday they knocked off Syracuse. That said, would you believe me if I told you that this may be the Hoyas’ most impressive win of the season? Marquette doesn’t get blown out. Prior to this, their ten losses were by an average of 3.5 ppg; just 3.0 in seven Big East losses. They hadn’t lost by more than nine on the season (at Wisconsin) and seven in Big East play (Pitt). 14 of their 21 Big East games were decided by five points or less. With 13 minutes left in this game, Marquette was down one. From that point on, the Hoyas blitzed Marquette, something that simply does not happen.
Greg Monroe had a two minute stretch where he showed why people are saying he is a lottery pick. From deep in the left corner, he drove baseline and finished with a dunk. The next possession, he knocked down a three. The following possession, he took a rebound and went coast-to-coast, finishing it with a gorgeous bounce pass to Austin Freeman for an and-1 layup. And for good measure, he blocked a Jimmy Butler shot 20 seconds later.
Marquette is going to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. At least one. This is a team that is scrappy, tough, and runs a difficult offense to defend.
Jimmy Butler is one of the key players for Marquette. Along with Lazar Hayward, his ability to defend inside and play on the perimeter is a huge reason Marquette is able to play – and is successful doing so – the style they play. Hell, two weeks ago he hit a buzzer-beater in overtime to beat St. John’s. He’s a pretty important part of this Marquette team. You wonder, then, why the Marquette fan sitting next to me asked, after Butler’s tip dunk in the first half, “Jimmy Butler? Who’s Jimmy Butler?” Fan fail.
Over the course of the night, as with any big time event, the MSG people like to run promotions that give away money. All week, they have been using this game with an oversized die where three of the same roll in a row wins you $10,000. They’ve done it in each of the 12 previous games, and not once did anyone win, only a few times did they even get to the third roll. Well, in both games tonight, the contestant won the $10,000.
There’s more. At halftime of the first game, three people came to center court to try and win $10,000 in a Dickie V impersonation contest. The first two were heartily booed by the NYC crowd. The third contestant, however, had shaved his head bald, was wearing a half of a gray wig, had on a fake unibrow, screamed “Are you serious?!?!?” a good five times, and received a standing ovation and $10,000. I had to pay $8 just to take part in the MSG dinner buffet. I think I need to find a new profession.
Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.
Season in Review
The Big East regular season ended on Saturday, and I think it is safe to say that the league had a bit of an unpredictable season. Don’t believe me? Show me a season preview that had Syracuse winning the league, Pitt getting a double-bye, UConn playing on Tuesday, and with South Florida and Notre Dame finishing above UConn and Cincinnati. See? Unpredictable.
But what does that mean? Was the Big East better from top to bottom than it was last year? Did teams like Marquette, USF, and Notre Dame benefit from a down year? The one thing that is for sure is that the top of the Big East is nowhere near the top of last year’s Big East. Five Sweet 16 teams and three No. 1 seeds is a pretty phenomenal feat. But last year the conference only sent seven teams to the tournament, and there is a very good chance that number will be surpassed this season.
The way the Big East bubble is shaping up right now, five teams are in – Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pitt and Georgetown. Louisville and Marquette should be ok, but a loss on Wednesday and things could get dicey depending on how the rest of the bubble plays out. If Notre Dame happens to lose their first Big East Tournament game (to either Seton Hall or Rutgers), then the Irish could be in trouble as they will likely be right on the cut line. That gives us eight that are reasonably safe.
It is possible, however, for the Big East to get two more teams in. If today was Selection Sunday, then Seton Hall may actually be in the tournament. While they have 11 losses, the average RPI of the team’s that have beaten the Pirates is 26 and they have not lost to a team with an RPI below 64. Add into that mix that the Pirates have wins over Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt, at Cornell and an RPI of 53. Its not a great profile, but its a very weak bubble this year. That could be enough. The other team that still has a shot of an at-large bid is UConn, simply because the Huskies have more good wins than most of the bubble teams. That said, they also have 14 losses. UConn will likely need to make it to the Big East semis for any kind of real shot at a bid.
The Big East Conference released their all-conference teams today, and there isn’t much there that I disagree with. (Note: there are six players on the first team because one of those six will win POY; POY, COY, and ROY will be announced on Tuesday between Big East Tournament sessions)