Syracuse’s senior game tonight against DePaul features two members of the Orange making their definite final appearances at the Carrier Dome as players: Brandon Triche and James Southerland. However, few would bet that these are the only two scholarship players who will move on after this season. The best bet is that Michael Carter-Williams will join them despite his recent bouts of poor play. Some Syracuse fans argue that he could use more seasoning in college, and they’re not wrong, but many forget that despite being a true sophomore, MCW is already 21 years old now and will be 22 before next season. MCW would be the eighth Syracuse player in six seasons to leave school early, with four of those players — Donte Greene, Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson, and Dion Waiters — picked in the first round of the NBA Draft. Waiters, who played with Carter-Williams last season, weighed in: “Michael’s a 6’6″ point guard. You can’t teach height. If he comes here, he’ll get nothing but better.” In his Syracuse.com piece on the subject, Bud Poliquin also mentions C.J. Fair and Rakeem Christmas as possible early departures, but those seem like stretches from this observer.
In the classy moves by coaches department, Rick Pitino announced that junior Gorgui Diengwill be allowed to participate in Senior Day festivities in anticipation that the center will make the jump to the NBA after this season. “He has given us more than we have asked for. It is in his best interest to come out, and I think he is ready… He has been great for us. I have enjoyed coaching him so much. It is going to be a very difficult Senior Night. I have had some difficult ones, but this may be the most difficult.” There is definitely an argument to be made for keeping senior days for those who finish out their four years of eligibility, but I have no issue with exceptions being made for people like Dieng who were both great players and, by all accounts, students in addition to players during their time in college.
This is the point of the season where teams look to ramp it up and start playing their best ball as they head into postseason play. Pitt’s Talib Zanna had been in an extended slump, averaging just 5.5 points per game for an extended period after averaging 13+ PPG for the first two months of the year. Recently, however, it seems like Zanna has started to find his rhythm again, and that doesn’t bode well for teams at the Garden next week. In Pitt’s last home game against Villanova, Zanna went off for 14 points and 19 rebounds in an overtime victory. Pitt closes the season at DePaul on Saturday before preparing for their final Big East Tournament.
Cincinnati basketball hasn’t been the most beautiful version of the game this season, and things have only been worse in that regard with the constant injury issues that have befallenCashmere Wright. He popped his shoulder out of the joint for the sixth time in Monday’s loss to Louisville, according to Mick Cronin. In the last few games, it seemed like Wright had been getting closer to 100 percent, which he clearly hasn’t been since a mid-January injury against DePaul. If Wright can’t find his shot and the lion’s share of the Bearcats’ scoring falls on Sean Kilpatrick’s shoulders in the postseason, Cincinnati will continue to struggle to score in the season’s most important games.
Scott Martin’s career has been plagued by injuries, so if the Notre Dame forward can’t maintain a long career overseas, he has a fallback plan in coaching. Mike Brey believes that Martin is well-suited for the sideline: “I think he’s going to be a hell of a coach.” In a Chicago Tribune article, Martin discusses how he’s begun to watch the game through an analytical lens and former Irish teammate Ben Hansbrough admitted that he and Martin discussed coaching after their careers had wrapped. Martin’s constant injuries may have derailed a promising career, but it is good to hear that he has a strong plan for after basketball…well, after playing basketball, anyway.
The major institutional news around the league yesterday was that ESPN had elected to match a prior offer from NBC in an attempt to retain media rights to the Big East. ESPN’s bid of $130 million over seven years would shell out $10 million for men’s basketball in 2013-14 before doubling for the latter six years to incorporate football games as well. Should Mike Aresco and the league’s school presidents agree to the deal, each school would make $1.8 million annually in a 12-team format, which is less than they make in the current ESPN contract. Annually, each member would make $1.2 million less than Catholic Seven schools will reportedly fetch from FOX; about $18 million less than members of the other five power conferences; and about $12 million less than they would have made off the ESPN offer they torpedoed in 2011.
On the heels of the ESPN offer, Rumble in the Garden excerpts and interprets some substantial Catholic Seven logistical updates from the blog of writer Mark Blaudschun. The two developments that immediately jump off the page are speculations that the C7 won’t inherit the Big East name, and that it’s unlikely to secure a long-term commitment from Madison Square Garden to host its conference tournament. While the naming issue might seem trivial, RITG points out that its outcome could carry major implications on the matter of disbursing NCAA Tournament units and exit fees from schools departing to the ACC and Big Ten.
With Steve Lavin back on the sideline, St. John’s has three remaining NCAA Tournament-caliber opponents on the regular season schedule, and they each present prime opportunities to help the Johnnies build their own Tournament resume. Despite taking losses on the road to Syracuse and Louisville in Lavin’s absence, St. John’s RPI actually improved from #59 to #58 before defeating USF on Wednesday night. It’s not enough to earn an at-large bid yet, but at least they’re positioned to control their own destiny. Howard Megdal at Capital New York points out that a 2-2 split of the remaining schedule would bring St. John’s to 10-8 in the league, and that only twice since 2005-06 have 10-win Big East teams failed to earn an NCAA berth.
In anticipation of this weekend’s highly anticipated installment of the storied Georgetown–Syracuse rivalry, Mike Waters at the Syracuse Post-Standard breaks down his top 10 moments in the series. Some of the anecdotes recalled from the annals of this vitriolic feud put the relative civility of its recent history in perspective. Michael Graham’s punch of Andre Dawkins in 1984 (which didn’t result in ejection), followed by Patrick Ewing’s serendipitously misplaced haymaker thrown at Pearl Washington the following year highlight a more violent era in the rivalry.
UConn overcame unfavorable momentum and dismal rebounding among other things to overcome a slumping Cincinnati team in overtime last night, 73-66. Shabazz Napier’s 11 points in overtime helped the Huskies match the point total of their entire second half (18) in just five minutes. Napier finished with 29 points on 6-of-9 from beyond the arc, and Kevin Ollie credited him with architecting his team’s victory down the stretch: “The last three minutes of the game, and OT, it was just put it in Shabazz’s hands and let him make a play… there weren’t a lot of X’s and O’s.” Napier didn’t glamorize his performance either, telling reporters, “In overtime, I just want to get the game over with. I get tired of playing.”
As expected, more details have emerged in the Jim Boeheim-Andy Katz “feud”, which came to a head last night when Boeheim called Katz an idiot and refused to answer his questions at the presser that followed Syracuse’s loss at Connecticut. What was originally assumed by many to be an issue with Katz sharing some information about James Southerland’s academic issues now seems to be more about last year’s Bernie Fine fiasco. Let’s hear from Boeheim: “It’s really simple. I went to New York last year to play in the (NIT Pre-Season Tip-Off) Tournament in November and he (Katz) asked if he could interview me about the tournament. And I said, ‘Yeah, but I can’t talk about the (Bernie Fine) investigation.’ We got in the room and he put me on camera — there were several witnesses there — and he asked me what I’d told him I couldn’t answer. I kept telling him, ‘I can’t answer that.’ And he asked me, like, 10 times on camera. He never took the camera off me. Two or three people in the room were so disgusted they walked out of the room. The producer came over and apologized afterward. And I told Katz right then and there, ‘Don’t talk to me. Do not try to talk to me again.'” Katz issued a response following the Syracuse.com article: “There was no deal. I don’t cut deals. He might have thought there was a deal, but I have never, ever made a deal… The reason I did that is because with guys like Jim Boeheim, John Calipari, Jim Calhoun they’ll, say there’s a certain subject they don’t want to talk about and then they’ll talk about it. If I asked it one too many times, fine, criticize me. I was just trying to see if he’d answer the question.”
On the brighter side for Syracuse fans… err, maybe not so much after Wednesday night in Hartford… Michael Carter-Williams continues to grab headlines for his play. Mike DeCourcy of Sporting Newswent into depth with MCW about his high-risk, high-reward play this season, and how his scant playing time last season has helped in his maturation process. Carter-Williams, like Dion Waiters before him, is a fiery competitor, and is has gotten the best of him in games before, including one instance last season when he snapped at Jim Boeheim after being taken out of a game: “Definitely, there were a couple of times when it got the better of me and I lashed out at Coach. Those were mistakes I made. Coach told me if I wasn’t yelling at him, he wouldn’t know what to expect from me. I was a McDonald’s All-American and I wasn’t playing … he knew I wanted to be out there.” Carter-Williams’ play has been up and down this Big East season, but few deny his talent, and the fact that if Syracuse has a chance at making a final four run this season, it will be in large part due to MCW’s play.
College basketball is wide open this season, and the Big East is no different. It seems like half of the league is still in contention for the conference crown, and no one knows what will happen once the Big East tournament kicks off at Madison Square Garden. UConn was never supposed to be in the discussion this season. After being handed a full post-season ban due to APR issues, and losing a number of talented players from their NCAA tournament team last season, UConn was largely an afterthought in the league. However, with the win over Syracuse, the Huskies sit just a game out of first place in the conference, and the team may be especially dangerous, as a regular season Big East title is all that they can play for this year.
Cincinnati’s offensive woes have been well-documented, especially since Cashmere Wright’s injury in January. Sean Kilpatrick has been a one man show for the Bearcats, and that hasn’t been a winning formula. In their recent win over Villanova, Cincinnati was able to find offense from another source: JaQuon Parker. Parker averages 10.9 points per game for Cincy, but had been in a bit of a scoring drought before breaking out with 19 points against the Wildcats. The significance of his contribution was not lost on Mick Cronin: “He’s got to stay aggressive and I’ve got to help him with that. Put him in situations to where he can be aggressive and he’s thinking offense. He’s thinking attack. For us to win, he’s got to play that way. For us to be a high-level team, he’s got to be a double-figure guy.”
The ballad of Todd Mayo at Marquette has hit frequent rough notes, but he is a rare talent that could become a major asset for Buzz Williams’ squad if kept in check. Mayo spent the early part of this season on academic suspension, and he has had his playing time cut at points since his return for what many expect is disciplinary reasons. When Mayo does suit up, he is a dangerous offensive weapon, averaging over 17.5 points per 40 minutes played. The trouble is, for every double digit game he tallies, he only plays five minutes in another. There are rumblings that Mayo may not be long for Marquette, but while he is still on the team, they can certainly use him in their race for the top of the Big East.
Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey
The Super Bowl marks the beginning of a two month stretch where college basketball dominates the national sports scene. From now until April 8, the focus will be squarely on our terrific sport. Sure it can be frustrating for the diehard fans that have been following every game since early November but the attention of the casual fans is what drives coverage and television ratings. The unfortunate reality is that without casual fan interest, college basketball would exclusively be a niche sport. We all have had that NCAA Tournament pool experience where the person who starts watching in February or March and knows very little other than team names and rankings wins the pool while the person who studies the efficiency metrics and knows that Travis Trice is a great three point shooter but awful inside the arc (h/t Luke Winn) finishes near the bottom of the pool standings. Nevertheless, it is an exciting time of year as bubble talk, last four in and last four out quickly creep into the daily sports conversation. Games like Tuesday night’s Ohio State/Michigan classic are what drive interest in the sport. We’ve been treated to plenty of great games this season but this one couldn’t have come at a better time, a time when most of America is now squarely focused on college basketball. Strap in, it’s going to be really fun as we head into the part of the season where every game is so big and teams make their final push towards March.
As we move into this crucial part of the season, the issue of teams peaking early can become a concern for some. The season is a process, an evolution if you will, and not every team is playing its best basketball come March. As I look across the nation, there are a few teams that may have already peaked or are peaking right now and may not be able to sustain their current level of play into March. Oregon, NC State, Miami and Butler come to mind. Two losses to the Bay Area schools have put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. Is it a short term blip or a sign of things to come for the Ducks? Their ability to score and propensity for turnovers are causes for concern but Oregon’s defense is surprisingly solid. NC State’s issue is just the opposite. The Wolfpack certainly can score, although their offense was shut down in losses to Maryland and Virginia. However, defense has been a problem all year and NC State’s efficiency, ranked #141 in the country, is simply not at a level where you can win games consistently. Chances are the Wolfpack have already peaked and their inability to stop teams will catch up to them eventually. Miami is a case of a team that may be peaking as we speak. The Hurricanes have won 10 consecutive games in a variety of different ways. This fact (meaning they can play different styles/speeds) combined with a defensive efficiency ranked fourth in the country suggest Miami can sustain this level of play. Concerns for the Hurricanes include three point shooting, free throw shooting and offensive rebounding but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Miami hold steady, at least for the next few weeks. Butler is an interesting case. The Bulldogs are 18-4 (5-2) but have lost two of their four games since the emotional win over Gonzaga on January 19 while also struggling through a win over lowly Rhode Island. Butler’s league isn’t as tough as the other teams mentioned here so it will likely enter the NCAA Tournament with a very strong record. Of concern is the BU defense which is not at the elite level it was when the Bulldogs first went to the national title game three years ago. However, it would be foolish to doubt Brad Stevens and his group. With a soft schedule down the stretch, there is still time for Butler to pile up wins and gather confidence heading into the tournament. I would say Butler has not peaked yet despite some major wins already on its resume. Look out for the Bulldogs next month.
C.J. Leslie and NC State may have peaked early (E. Hyman/RNO)
As we head into February and the regular season begins to wind down, I figure this is a good time to look at a few of America’s underwhelming teams. There are teams out there with gaudy records but few quality wins or those who just haven’t gotten on track relative to preseason expectations. Notre Dame, UNLV, UCLA and Missouri come to mind immediately. Notre Dame is 18-5 and 6-4 in the Big East which appears good on the surface but this was a team many thought would finish third in that rugged conference. However, a closer inspection reveals the Irish have just two quality wins on their resume (Kentucky (maybe) and at Cincinnati). In Big East play, Notre Dame has lost twice on its home court, something that has been almost unheard of over the years in South Bend. Notre Dame has never been a defensive juggernaut under Mike Brey but this is arguably his worst defensive team in 13 years at the helm. UNLV is a team with lots of talent that always leaves you wanting more, always following up a stretch of good play with a disappointing loss. The Rebels struggle away from Vegas which is understandable but you would still like to see them beat a few good teams on the road. They have failed to do that. UNLV can still turn it around but I feel like we’ve seen this movie before. Three consecutive first round NCAA flameouts show that UNLV isn’t quite ready for primetime. In fact, the Rebels have not won a postseason game since a first round victory over Kent State in 2008. UCLA is still a work in progress but there is no denying it has been underwhelming. The Bruins have lost three of their last four games since winning 10 straight games after a disappointing 5-3 start. Defense has been a concern all season long but it’s the offense that has scuttled of late. Five of UCLA’s final seven games are on the road and one of the home games is against Arizona. Things could get a little dicey down the stretch for the Bruins. Missouri is the team I feel is the most overrated of all. Despite a resume that lacks one single freaking SEC road win and non-conference wins over fading Illinois and mediocre Stanford, the Tigers continue to be ranked in both major polls. Missouri is not a good defensive team and has given up a lot of points to pretty much every good team it has played. Phil Pressey can be a great distributor but he’s also a turnover machine and a poor jump shooter. Mizzou will probably make the NCAA Tournament but an early departure is highly likely. Read the rest of this entry »
Duke Basketball Report: This is a phenomenal article from Al Featherston, looking back at Duke winning number 1,000 nearly four decades ago. The article also includes two of the biggest ACC “What ifs?” ever:
What if Lefty Driesell was given the Duke job?
What if Adolph Rupp had taken over for Duke in the mid-1970’s?
The first question is fascinating. Driesell built Maryland, but Duke already had a history of success (only five teams beat the Blue Devils to the 1,000 win mark). Could he have taken the Blue Devils to similar heights (and lows)? Just how different would Duke’s program be today if the (aptly described) “mercurial” Driesell ushered in the modern era instead of Coach K. Also, what would have happened to Mike Krzyzewski? Similar butterfly effects happen if Rupp takes over. The article also has historical anecdotes about the dominance of the Durham YMCA in the 1920’s. Seriously, give it a read.
ESPN: Well, the inevitable has arrived. Despite not receiving bids from Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center in New York City, “because of the league’s changing membership,” those two arenas will still be in the running for the 2016-2021 ACC Tournaments. The move makes sense, but it has the potential to be a major flop too. The atmosphere at the ACC Tournament the past few years hasn’t been the same. The declining excitement is largely thanks to an increase in noncompetitive teams, the addition of Thursday and an expanding geographic footprint. Moving the tournament to New York could exacerbate the issues if the league continues to aim for a balanced allotment of tickets.
ACC Sports Journal: The ACC is slowly rebuilding. Almost all programs appear to be moving in the right direction, though there are still plenty of questions surrounding almost all of the new coaches: Can Jim Larranaga and Steve Donahue recruit at the ACC level consistently? Can Brian Gregory and Brad Brownell break through to the next level? And can Jeff Bzdelik and Donahue pull their teams out of the cellar? The next couple of seasons are critical to the success of the ACC going forward because coaching stability is a huge factor in sustained success.
Raleigh News & Observer: NC State took a gut-punch against Miami without junior guard Lorenzo Brown. The Wolfpack controlled for most of the game, but a late Miami run and some costly errors from CJ Leslie (missed foul shots, turnovers, and dumb fouls) gave the Hurricanes the chance to win. But two stories more important than Reggie Johnson‘s buzzer-beating tip are starting to show through the game. For one, Miami is a solid two games ahead of Duke in the loss column (everyone else has three or more losses). That’s a very, very good place to be going into the second half of conference play. Second, Tyler Lewis finally started showing why he was a McDonald’s All-American. Lewis ran NC State’s offense very well against the best defense in the ACC, and he didn’t look nearly as lost on defense. He still needs some work, but developing Lewis is crucial in the long run.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia Tech was a different team Sunday than the one that got smacked in Charlottesville (to be fair the home-road splits are looking fairly dramatic for Virginia too). The Yellow Jackets looked like they might be due for a repeat of their last game with the Cavaliers as they went into the half down by nine. Brian Gregory said after the loss that his team needed to learn how to finish. Well, the second time around they did just that. Georgia Tech held Virginia to six points in the final 9:40 of the game. The Yellow Jackets were the first ACC team to drop 60 on Virginia. Good luck ranking the middle and bottom of the ACC this season. It’s a train-wreck, though it’s a train-wreck played at a higher level than last year.
Dan Lyons is an RTC Big East microsite writers who also writes for the Syracuse blog, “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.” You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s match-up between Syracuse and Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.
Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams has had more impressive games this season than last night’s 17-point, six-assist, six-rebound, five-steal effort against Providence. The 6’6″ guard, who grew up in Hamilton, Massachusetts, and played his high school ball 15 minutes from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center at St. Andrew’s School in Barrington, Rhode Island, has flirted with triple-doubles on various occasions this season, missing the milestone by a single assist or rebound three times already. Last night, the general steadiness with which Carter-Williams ran Jim Boeheim‘s offense impressed the venerable head coach.
Carter-Williams’ steady point guard play helped Syracuse grind out a win at Providence.
Carter-Williams’ play for Syracuse this year has been almost revelatory, considering the sophomore played few meaningful minutes last season. After the game, when asked about his guard’s ascent from little-used freshman to All-American sophomore, Boeheim made a comparison to perhaps the greatest point guard in school history: Sherman Douglas, who sat behind Pearl Washington as a freshman before leading the Orangemen to a national championship game berth as a sophomore. Boeheim spent a large portion of his presser discussing Carter-Williams’ play, as one would expect in Providence, saying that “MCW” is “playing as well as you can expect.”
It’s become overwhelmingly clear that the seven Big East Catholic basketball schools will publicly articulate their plan to split off from the league, although it appears outright dissolution is off the table; “a more likely scenario will be that they simply break away and start anew.” As one of the departing ADs told Kevin McNamara at the Providence Journal, “the train has left the station. Get on board or get run over.” The basketball schools will likely shun the wandering eyes of UConn and Cincinnati in favor of raiding the A-10 of programs like Butler and Xavier, who will view a centralized Catholic basketball league as a destination rather than a stepping stone affiliation. There remain a tremendous number of loose ends to tie up before either of the splintering Big East factions can move forward developmentally. Branding rights (the “Big East” title––however toxic––carries AQ status); a tournament venue in Madison Square Garden; exit fees; NCAA Tournament units, which are much more lucrative than television revenue, and will provide a rolling annuity for another five or six years –– we’re entering uncharted territory, and these issues will be painstakingly hammered out in court for months or years to come. Pete Thamel’s piece (linked above) does the best job of depicting the tedium of what has quickly become the most convoluted episode in the realignment saga to date. As one AD told Thamel, “If anyone tells you they know what’s going to happen with the legal issues, the brand, the name, Madison Square Garden and all those issues, I don’t think they’re being honest.”
Michael Carter-Williams describes the exasperation he experienced in his freshman year, as the former McDonalds All-American resigned to riding the pine behind a veteran backcourt. Yahoo!’s Jeff Eisenberg presents a vignette from the Syracuse locker room after a win at Providence in January: The freshman sat by himself after his teammates left, dreading the disapproval of his local friends and family who had traveled to see him play only to watch the Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters show for all but four minutes. The notion of a blue-chip recruit waiting his turn is an old-school ethic that’s becoming harder and harder for coaches to sell, and Carter-Williams demonstrated a patience that would have eluded many 18-year-olds accustomed to the superstar treatment. “Michael had to pay his dues like when I went through high school and college,” said MCW’s high school coach, Mike Hart. “He got very frustrated at times. But we all knew his time would come and I’m glad everyone was patient.” Syracuse fans probably share that sentiment.
Two weeks after undergoing surgery to install an orthopedic screw in his fractured left hand, Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng is out of his cast and could return to the court in about a week. Pitino was initially hoping his center could return by the Cards’ Big East opener against Providence on Junary 2, and my pessimistic outlook for Dieng-less Louisville had been predicated on that timetable (the joke is on me for credulously accepting one of Pitino’s infamously conservative injury prognoses). On his Wednesday night radio show, the UofL coach said he was eying the December 22 Western Kentucky game as a good opportunity to ease Dieng back into the lineup. The coach said he’d “love to get 15-18 minutes out of him” against WKU to prepare for the Battle for the Bluegrass five days later. Though Kentucky will presumably enter the Yum! Center with a “3” in its loss column rather than beside its initials, Pitino won’t trivialize any Calipari-coached UK team after losing four straight against the Cats. Barring a medical relapse, you can bank on Gorgui Dieng playing 20-plus minutes in that game.
Rutgers AD Tom Pernetti has suspended Mike Rice for three games without pay and fined him $50,000 for inappropriate behavior in practices. Rice has caught flak in the past for sideline misanthropy, and was cautioned by his AD after being ejected for the first time in his career in a loss at Louisville last season. So it wasn’t much of a shocker when Brendan Prunty at the NewarkStar-Ledger reported that the suspension was triggered by an internal investigation that revealed “abusive, profane language” he used towards his team and an episode in his first two seasons “in which Rice threw basketballs at some players’ heads during practice.” The timing couldn’t be any worse for the RU coach, whose team will play decent UAB and Rider squads without him before tripping to Syracuse to play the role of sacrificial lamb in Cuse’s Big East opener. Rutgers is off to a 6-2 start –– its best since 2010-11. In that season, Rice’s inaugural campaign ended in a 6-15 nosedive. This is the kind of distraction that could trigger a similar collapse.
With the imminent addition of Vincent Council, Kris Dunn and Sidiki Johnson to Ed Cooley’s arsenal, Friarblog declares “the gang’s all here.” Not only will the Providence coach have a bevy of skilled bodies at his disposal after struggling to field the most spartan rotation all year, but that depth will grant Cooley wider latitude in exploiting mismatches on offense and not forcing players to play roles outside of their comfort zones. For example, he can slide LaDontae Henton primarily to the three-spot, and stop plugging an uncomfortable Josh Fortune in at point guard due to attrition at the position. It will be a relief to see Providence finally catch a break and watch what they can do with a promising roster at full strength.
Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.
Five Things I Loved This Week
I LOVED… a lottery pick play. They’re some of my favorite moments every year – the two seconds that make you go, “Ohh, OhhhhhhWOWWW!” as a talented underclassman goes to a level you weren’t sure he had – and one that definitely translates to the next level. I ventured down to Chapel Hill for Sunday’s UNC-Florida Atlantic game, and soph sensation James Michael McAdoo provided that moment in the second half when he drove baseline, took off from under the hoop and floated all the way to the other side before stretching back and stuffing it home. The season is young, but he definitely looks like a player ready for the next level after blooming during the final weeks of last season. And I can barely wait to see him go head-to-head with Indiana’s Cody Zeller on November 27.
I LOVED… Duke doing what they do in the early season – using superior coaching and discipline to beat a much more talented Kentucky squad. It seems like Coach K specializes in this – he uses the early-season schedule to prey on the highly-skilled but less highly-disciplined youth that comes into college basketball every November. They might not beat those Wildcats in March, but they certainly outplayed them on Tuesday night.
I LOVED… feeling like college basketball was back on November 13. Sometimes it seems like it takes a few weeks to get going, but as soon as Duke-UK heated up in the second half, the energy was there. We had a high level of play early in the year, Dickie V simultaneously trying (successfully) to jump on both bandwagons in the span of one telecast, Blue Devils flying through the air horizontally despite no contact…. ah yes. It’s back.
The first Naismith Award watch list, comprised of 50 players, was released yesterday. While it is difficult to take a ton of stock in a list that is so long and backed by so little in terms of on-court results, it’s always interesting to see who is highlighted. Seven current Big East players have been chosen for this first watch list. Louisville has three players included, with guard Peyton Siva, center Gorgui Dieng, and forward Chane Behanan all named. Syracuse point guard Michael Carter Williams, Notre Dame center Jack Cooley, Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick, and Georgetown forward Otto Porter were also included.
Villanova‘s Jay Wright and Purdue’s Matt Painter each look forward to their teams’ upcoming match-up in the 2k Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden, as they believe the two programs are in a similar place early on this season. Jay Wright explains how the two teams, who are generally known for quite different approaches, mirror each other: “We’re similar to Purdue in that we have a lot of young players, and a lot of returning players who are taking on new roles… Right now, we are an inconsistent team, probably like a lot of people are early.” Villanova has started the year 2-0, but wins against the District of Columbia and Marshall aren’t enough to get people excited about Wildcats basketball again. A win over a quality Big Ten opponent surely would be.
Marquette got a big boost from an unlikely source in its 84-63 victory over Colgate Sunday: sophomore Juan Anderson. Anderson has been a bit of a forgotten man in the Golden Eagles program, at least he had been before coming one point and rebound short of a double-double in the game against the Red Raiders. Anderson missed much of last season due to surgery and an NCAA suspension, and he was supposed to miss the beginning of this season again after undergoing another surgery, a fact that makes his performance all the more impressive. Buzz Williams was impressed with Anderson’s play as well, and indicated that we’d see more of the forward in the future: “His energy level is what helps us… He had energy last year; he just didn’t have purpose to his energy. I think now he better understands how to play with that energy and have purpose in what he’s doing… I’ve been telling him the last few weeks that he needs to put me in a position where I can’t keep him off the floor, and the way he’s going to do that is by doing the things he did today.”
Many basketball pundits are high on Notre Dame due to their experience — the Irish return four players from last season’s starting line-up. The prestigious Rush the Court: Big East Microsite preseason rankings place Notre Dame in at #3 after perennial powers Louisville and Syracuse. For all of the experience that Mike Brey returns, there are lingering questions about the team’s depth. Enter: Garrick Sherman and Cameron Biedscheid. Notre Dame was very sluggish in the first few minutes against Monmouth on Monday, until Sherman and Biedschied entered the game and sparked a 12-0 run. Sherman led the Irish with 22 points, while Biedschied added nine points and five assists. If Notre Dame can count on consistent performances like that off the bench, Brey’s squad may be more dangerous than originally thought.
Many former college basketball players who aren’t lucky enough to carve out careers in the NBA are long-forgotten, but many of these athletes have long, fulfilling careers overseas. DePaul athletics highlighted former Blue Demon stars Will Walker and Krys Faber, a pair who are playing exceptionally well in Bulgaria and Uruguay, respectively. Walker plays guard for BC Beroe, while Faber has become a 20/20 machine for Atletico Welcome. While both players certainly have NBA aspirations, they’re making the best of their current situations. It is refreshing to see Walker spreading an important message to up and coming athletes: “no matter what, always remember it’s a blessing to be playing professionally. Don’t take any of it for granted because there are hundreds of guys wishing for a spot.”
The last few weeks have unveiled a number of interesting facts about Louisville coach Rick Pitino‘s career. A few weeks ago, we learned that he was originally planning to take the vacant job at Michigan instead of the one at Louisville before being called out by his wife for being “afraid” of working in the same state as his former school, Kentucky. Now we know that 2010-11’s Louisville squad that lost to Morehead State in the NCAA Tournament was almost his last. According to Fox Sports, Pitino heavily considered retirement following that upset. However, once again, it was his wife Joanne who was one of the major catalysts in his decision: “My wife told me I would miss it too much. And then all of a sudden three of my closest friends in life go back to work (after retiring). They all went back to work and I called them and said, ‘Why?’ They sad they couldn’t get any better at golf, they were bored as hell and their life wasn’t as meaningful… I learned a valuable lesson from those guys – I would miss it.” Going out after an upset loss in the tournament would have been quite unbefitting of a coach of Pitino’s stature, and the whole notion probably seems pretty funny now, with another Final Four in his back pocket and a preseason top five team at his disposal this year.
The “Battle on the Midway” between Syracuse and San Diego State was a lot of things, but ‘good’ basketball probably wasn’t one of them. The wind had a definite adverse effect on shooting from outside – the teams combined for 2-22 from beyond the arc – causing both squads to pack the defenses in, which turned the game into a series of scrums around the basket. Post-Standard writer Bud Poliquin argues that the importance of the event itself supercedes the challenges of playing outdoors. It seems like Jim Boeheim agrees: “I’d play in this event again…I think it’s something that every program should experience.” While it wasn’t the prettiest thing to watch on TV, and Aztec fans could make the case that the elements had a more negative effect on them than the incredibly tall, physical Orange team, it is one game and this isn’t college football. San Diego State will have plenty of room to prove itself going forward, but may never have a chance to play in a setting like the USS Midway again.
In the early season, Georgetown‘s lack of experience has reared its ugly head, especially after star forward Otto Porter went out with an eye injury against Duquesne. Porter is the leading returning scorer and rebounder for the Hoyas, and one of the most important cogs in John Thompson III’s Princeton offense. Without Porter, much of the onus falls on freshman guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who led the team with 19 points against Duquesne.
Yesterday, the NCAA announced the sites for 2014 and 2015’s NCAA Tournaments, and a number of Big East and future-Big East towns made the cut. The most notable arena selected is Madison Square Garden, which will host the 2014 East Regional. The Garden has a major place in NCAA Tournament history, having hosted 71 tournament games in its history but none since 1961. Memphis will also host a 2014 regional, and both Milwaukee and Orlando will host second and third round games. In 2015 Syracuse and Houston will host regional games, and both Pittsburgh and Louisville were selected as pods for the second and third rounds.
Rutgers’ season didn’t start quite as well as Mike Rice and his team would have hoped, to say the least. After dropping the season opener to St. Peter’s, the Scarlet Knights are looking to move forward and not dwell on one upset loss as the season progresses. Junior Wally Judge summed up the feelings in the Rutgers locker room well: “We took a punch, and it hurt… We have to respond the right way. Now it’s over, and we have to go win the remaining games on our schedule.” Rutgers has a very manageable schedule ahead of them before Big East play, and need to capitalize if they hold out any hopes to make a run at a Tournament berth. Rice emphasized trying to find toughness within his team, and the desperation of this search showed in his substitution patterns during the game, as Rice moved quickly between 11 players on the roster. Rutgers bounced back nicely last night with an 88-62 win over Sacred Heart.