Ten Tuesday (Wednesday) Scribbles: On Underwhelming Teams, Soft Schedules, Wisconsin and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 6th, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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)

    C.J. Leslie and NC State may have peaked early (E. Hyman/RNO)

  3. 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 »
Share this story

ACC M5: 02.04.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 4th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. 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:
    1. What if Lefty Driesell was given the Duke job?
    2. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Share this story

Michael Carter-Williams Impresses Jim Boeheim in a Rhode Island Homecoming

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 10th, 2013

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’ 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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 12.14.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on December 14th, 2012

bigeast_morning5(2)

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

It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 14th, 2012

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… John Calipari saying what we all were thinking on a nationally-televised halftime interview: “They’re (Duke) floppin’ all over the place.” Preach the truth, Cal.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 11.14.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 14th, 2012

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.”
Share this story

Big East M5: 11.13.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 13th, 2012

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Share this story

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

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

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

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

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

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

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Tipping Off the Big East Countdown: #9 St. John’s

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 26th, 2012

Few programs in the country went through the adversity that St. John’s found itself facing last season.  Head coach Steve Lavin underwent surgery to treat prostate cancer in October of last year, and he was only able to coach four games in early November before deciding to sit out for the rest of the season. Multiple key players left during the season for various reasons, and at times the Red Storm were only able to play with a six-man rotation of scholarship players. This year should prove to be a challenge for the Johnnies, especially after the departure of Moe Harkless following last season, but they return a solid nucleus and add a number of talented freshmen who look to continue the restoration project that is Steven Lavin’s St. John’s basketball program.

2011-12 Record: 13-19, 6-12

2011-12 Postseason: None

Steve Lavin returns to the St. John’s bench in 2012-13. Can he bring back the success of the 2010-11 campaign?

Schedule

St. John’s non-conference schedule is fairly light. The Storm open with Detroit and the ever-dangerous Ray McCallum at Carnesecca Arena before heading to Charleston, South Carolina, for the DirecTV Charleston Classic. In the opening round of the tournament the Storm take on host College of Charleston before facing either Auburn or Murray State. The field also features Big 12 power Baylor, Boston College, Colorado, and Dayton. St. John’s will also host South Carolina in Queens in the Big East/SEC Challenge.  St. John’s plays one non-conference game in Madison Square Garden, against Fordham, and will play one game in Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center against St. Francis. In the Big East, the team opens at Villanova on January 2, and has home-and-homes with Rutgers, Georgetown, Notre Dame, and DePaul.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Let Them Play: A Case For UConn’s Big East Tournament Eligibility

Posted by mlemaire on October 19th, 2012

When the NCAA denied Connecticut‘s final appeal and ruled the Huskies ineligible for the 2013 NCAA Tournament, it seemingly slammed the door on any postseason opportunities for the team as the conference presidents ruled in March to bar any ineligible teams from the conference tournament. In fact, there can’t have been too many people who were even aware that UConn has one last card to play until New Haven Register reporter David Borges just casually dropped this  revelatory nugget in the middle of a recent blog post.

Of course, UConn won’t be able to participate in this year’s event. Or will it? While the chances are extremely slim, UConn is holding out a bit of hope that the league presidents change their mind on their decision last March to bar any postseason-ineligible teams from its conference tourney. The presidents meet again in a couple of weeks in Chicago for what would appear to be the Huskies’ last chance. UConn is hoping that, since the players responsible for the poor APR scores are long-gone (and, now, Jim Calhoun is gone, too), that the presidents may reconsider.

Now it should be noted that Borges immediately noted that this was extremely unlikely and quoted Big East commissioner Mike Aresco as saying that UConn had notified the presidents about making one final plea, but still, why the heck didn’t more people know about this last-ditch opportunity?

Jim Calhoun and the roster of the 2009-10 team are gone, so why can’t Connecticut play in its conference tournament? (AP Photo)

At any rate, UConn may not have told the league presidents whether it wants them to reconsider their decision, but we will gladly make their case for them. The program should not go unpunished for its academic shortcomings, but its current players and head coach — whom had no part in what caused the ineligibility in the first place — deserve something to play for.

In order to build a successful case, we need to examine how we even got here in the first place. In October of last year, the NCAA passed a new set of academic standards that stated that schools must have a two-year APR average of 930 or a four-year APR average score of 900. APR stands for Academic Progress Rate which the NCAA uses to determine the continued academic success of the players within a specific program. Unfortunately for UConn, the school’s APR for the 2009-10 school year was just 826, and even though the program’s APR bounced back to 978 for the 2010-11 season, the damage was done and the averages weren’t going to be up to snuff. Now feels like a good time to point out there is nothing wrong with the NCAA punishing schools that don’t graduate enough of their players. The NCAA may just be trying to prop up their claims of “academics first” but they are at least trying to hold schools accountable for the players in their care and under their direction.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 12th, 2012

  1. Chicago Tribune: (author’s Note: with Notre Dame joining the conference, it’s time to start including some midwestern media outlets) According to Brian Hamilton, there was mutual interest between the ACC and Madison Square Garden in hosting the ACC Tournament, but the Garden never bid for it. Swofford noted that Madison Square Garden wanted an annual relationship with the league, but the ACC wishes to continue its current location model (normally in North Carolina, but moving around regularly). North Carolina makes the most sense from a fan perspective: It’s central location is closest to the most schools, making fans more likely to make the trip.
  2. BC Interruption: There’s cautious optimism out of Chestnut Hill! Whether or not its record shows it, Boston College improved dramatically from 2011 to 2012. Over the course of the season the Eagles went from a ragtag group of teenagers who were blown out by Holy Cross at home to a rough around the edges team that shocked the eventual ACC champion. Expect the Eagles to improve markedly again this season, as they get more experience. However, there’s still a talent ceiling for this group — especially after the trio of Ryan Anderson, Patrick Heckmann and Dennis Clifford. Don’t expect Boston College to find itself on the bubble, but the watchability of Steve Donahue’s team should improve.
  3. Fox Sports Carolinas: Roy Williams talked a little bit in this article about finding out about tumors on his kidneys. Both of Williams’ parents died of cancer, so the news hit the UNC head coach particularly hard. In addition to the great news that the tumors were benign, the best part of this story is the support for Williams from fans, his team and even from his opponents: “Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski called three times, and Wake Forest head man Jeff Bzdelik sent ice cream.” Williams spoke with the rest of the conference coaches as well. This story proves, once again, that some things are bigger than basketball.
  4. Orlando Sentinel: Florida State has eight newcomers joining the roster this season led by Devon Bookheart and three new seven-footers. There are around three people out of a million over seven feet tall, and Leonard Hamilton is bringing in three of them this year alone. While raw, the three — with the possible exception of Michael Ojo — should see decent playing time this season thanks to all of the spots that opened up after last season. Even when players aren’t seven feet tall, they should fit Hamilton’s system well thanks to their off -the-charts wingspan and athleticism.
  5. The TandD.com: In what’s rapidly becoming a theme, Brad Brownell and Clemson have 12 first or second-year players. Across the league teams are much younger than in most years, heavily relying on underclassmen to shoulder significant responsibility. From Brownell’s comments, he’s really concerned with energy on both ends of the floor. He wants to play quickly (but efficiently) on offense and defense, so the team is doing a lot of defensive drill work. One thing that still needs significant improvement is the team’s communication, which is the linchpin for a strong team defense.
Share this story

Big East M5: Columbus Day Edition

Posted by mlemaire on October 8th, 2012

  1. Today is the rare double holiday and no offense to Columbus Day, which is great and all, but let’s face it, the first day of the 2012-13 Big East Microsite is a far bigger deal across the country. If you read Will’s opening post, you know that we have a solid group of folks this year and we are aiming to be bigger and better this season. So let’s dive right in, shall we? It seems only fitting that we should lead off with a note involving new commissioner Mike Aresco, who spoke to reporters about the state of the conference this weekend and had some interesting things to say about basketball in particular. The jist of his chat was that he isn’t worried about weak football teams dragging down the brand because Big East basketball is “legendary.” I guess we shouldn’t tell him that some of the conference’s most “legendary” programs are leaving soon enough for greener pastures and one has already left. We will cut him some slack since its his job to make the conference sound good and because the basketball will remain pretty darn good. Frankly, we have always thought of the Big East as a basketball conference, I am sorry, but Syracuse v. Connecticut just doesn’t hold the same allure on the gridiron as it does on the hardwood.
  2. Well, that was quick. Facing a rather grim season outlook, UConn fans got a surge of hope in September when the nation’s No. 1 prospect, Jabari Parker, took an in-home visit from the Huskies after new head coach Kevin Ollie was promoted last month. But just as quickly as it began, it has ended, as Parker has announced his five finalists and UConn is not among them. UConn was hardly a favorite at any point in the race so it shouldn’t be too disappointing. And in some sense, just the fact that Ollie has enough influence to get through Parker’s doorway after the Huskies had already been cut from the list means that the program’s recruiting is in capable hands.
  3. I don’t have any idea how far away the “very near future” is but it sure sounds like Georgetown and coach John Thompson, III, are very close to getting a new, on-campus, athletic facility that would help Georgetown’s athletic teams stay competitive in the conference’s ongoing facilities race. The new building will cost $60 million dollars and basically only needs a final round of fundraising before the school can get started on its construction. The facility is going to house multiple sports teams, but make no mistake about it, Georgetown knows where its bread is buttered, and this move is designed to help the basketball teams stay competitive. The conference is full of programs with glimmering, shiny, multi-million dollar facilities, and it is high time that Georgetown got its own.  It is far too early to see what type of impact the facility will have on recruiting, but needless to say, it won’t hurt.
  4. The good folks over at CBS Sports examined the question of whether Madison Square Garden is better-suited to host the ACC Tournament than the Big East Tournament, especially in the wake of all the defections. There are a lot of angles to analyze here but it does seem surprising Madison Square Garden didn’t at least take a shot at landing the ACC, which figures to feature better altogether basketball programs and programs like Syracuse and Pittsburgh that always draw well in New York City. It is also pretty clear that while the Big East has done an admirable job of patching up its basketball holes, the tournament isn’t going to have the same aura about it. I would explain more but frankly they do a better job, so just go read the article.
  5. We end with something fluffy and really there is nothing fluffier than a nice “top list.” Taking a break from its excellent coverage of the local Orange, Syracuse.com ranked the top five transfers coming into the Big East this season and the list is pretty excellent. Personally I would have said Luke Hancock will make more of an impact for Louisville than Tony Chennault will for Villanova but that is the beauty of these lists. They are pointless and fun-to-read at the same time. We will try to stay away from these for the most part and deliver some actual news. But it’s the first day, and this post is already late. So enjoy and welcome back for what should be another excellent season of college basketball.
Share this story