Georgetown’s Big Three Replacing Otto Porter’s Offense Nicely

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 19th, 2013

Georgetown is on a six-game winning streak after defeating Elon at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night. Elon gave John Thompson III’s squad all it could handle after hitting eight three-pointers in the first half, but in the second half, the Hoyas’ “Big Three” of Joshua Smith, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and Markel Starks led the team back from a possible upset by scoring 36 of their 46 second half points. In a previous post on the topic, I discussed how Thompson was using these three players in tandem to replace the loss of Otto Porter by committee. Now that a quarter of the season is complete, this strategy has become even more apparent. While Smith, Smith-Rivera and Starks provide the offensive punch, JTIII relies on his role players and bench to shore up the Hoyas’ rebounding and defense.

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Georgetown’s Otto Porter By Committee Approach

The Big Three accounts for 45.2 points of the team’s 75.5 PPG, or 60 percent of the overall scoring. When Porter left after last season, he took 16.2 PPG with him. This season, Smith has added 13.6 PPG, Smith-Rivera has improved his average by 7.7 PPG, and Starks has improved his by 2.2 PPG; the sum of these is an increase of 7.3 points more than Porter’s average. While the trio has more than replaced their former teammate’s points, they have fallen well short of replacing his rebounding and defense. Last season, Porter grabbed 7.5 RPG and had a defensive rating of 85 (which means he would allow 0.85 points per possession). This season’s rebounding contribution from the Big Three — accounting for the addition of Smith and the improvement in boards from the other two — is 3.6 RPG, which is nearly four rebounds per game short of what Porter was contributing. Additionally, all three players are lacking in defensive effectiveness — Smith is the closest to Porter with a defensive rating of 94.1. The gap in defensive rating may even understate the impact of Porter’s absence since he was used extensively against the opponent’s best player, which is not captured in the rating.

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Big East M5: 11.22.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 22nd, 2013

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  1. What’s going on, Georgetown? Losing to a good Oregon team after traveling all the way out to South Korea is one thing, but Northeastern? And it’s not even the NCAA Tournament yet? The Hoyas joined the ranks of the upset specials on Thursday afternoon, dropping their first game in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and moving on to face Kansas State, which was knocked off by Charlotte just a few hours earlier. The Hoyas led Northeastern at the half, 36-25, but went extremely cold in the second half, especially at around the 10-minute mark when Northeastern went on a 14-0 run. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera was the only Hoya in double figures, scoring 14 points. His backcourt mate Markel Starks was held to nine points on 2-of-12 shooting. Despite a significant size disadvantage, Northeastern really won this game on the interior. Their forward combination of Reggie Spencer and Scott Eatherton combined for 30 points and 19 rebounds, while the six frontcourt players who got playing time for Georgetown totaled just 26 points and 25 rebounds. Losing to a team nicknamed the “Huskies” which played a lot of zone can not feel good for the Georgetown faithful.
  2. With his team struggling to find playmakers, Creighton coach Greg McDermott has moved to a two point guard lineup, featuring both Austin Chatman and Devin Brooks in the backcourt, and the lineup has paid dividends so far.  Both played well down the stretch in the Bluejays’ comeback win against St. Joseph’s, sparking a 21-11 run. Chatman is a fan of what the lineup brings to the table: “I think this is a good option for us. It spreads the court more and opens things up. It makes it easier to get into the lane and find our shooters, and we have a lot of guys that can shoot it.” As the more experienced of the two, he usually moves off the ball and allows the explosive Brooks to take over at the point. The early dividends have been good, making Creighton a bit more diverse on offense: “When we’re out there together, it gives us more people to make plays on the court. I like playing with Dev. It’s fun.”
  3. Zone defenses have been becoming more en vogue for a few years now, and this season with the more heavy scrutinization of contact on the perimeter, even more teams are looking to implement zones in their defensive repertoire. One of those squads is St. John’swhich used a zone effectively down the stretch in a win over Bucknell. Down three with 10 minutes left, the Johnnies shifted to the zone and held the Bisons to 5-of-16 shooting from that point, securing a 67-63 Red Storm victory. Steve Lavin credits the defensive switch as one of the main reasons that his team was able to pull the game out: “The zone defense was the difference. It took them out of their rhythm and set up the blocks because it kept our bigs at home.”
  4. Marquette, known as one of the more staunch man-to-man teams in the nation under Buzz Williams, may also begin to incorporate more zone defense into its system this year. The Golden Eagles, who were picked to win the Big East by many, have been among the teams most affected by the way the game is being called this season, Williams admitted to Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: “We were fouling with all five guys the way things are being called now.” Between the more frequent fouls called on physical defense, and the loss of a number of big playmakers from last season, the Golden Eagles are a team in a bit of flux, as was apparent in an ugly loss to Ohio State last week.
  5. Xavier has had some injury issues in this early season, and those reared their head once again in Wednesday’s 77-51 win over Miami (OH) when Isaiah Philmore was forced out of the lineup with a wrist injury. Philmore is fourth on the team in scoring at nine points per game and is not someone that Chris Mack can really afford to lose for an extended stretch, especially with a big match-up against Iowa on the horizon. Luckily, the injury seems to only be a sprain, and Philmore’s status is currently day-to-day. Here’s hoping he’s back soon.
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Georgetown is Replacing Otto Porter by Committee

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 14th, 2013

Alex Moscoso is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Georgetown-Wright State game on Wednesday evening.

The Georgetown Hoyas are dealing with some changes this season. For starters, they are in a “new” Big East conference. While they still play many of the same opponents, the Hoyas will have new teams and a round-robin format to adjust to. Secondly and more significantly, they are trying to replace superstar Otto Porter, who left early to become the third overall pick in last summer’s NBA Draft. Porter led the team in points (16.2 PPG) and rebounds (7.5 RPG) last season, and helped them win a share of the Big East Championship. Now, with Porter gone, they are in search of a new identity. It was thought that Greg Whittington would be the next player in line to take the reins. But Whittington tore his ACL over the summer and will most likely not play this season. After two games, Joshua Smith, D’Vauntes Rivera-Smith and Markel Starks have emerged as the candidates most likely to fill Porter’s shoes, even if by committee. In order to do so, they will need to foster enough chemistry between them to become a consistently effective offense.

D'Vauntes Rivera-Smith will be part of a triumvirate leading the Hoyas offense this season.

D’Vauntes Rivera-Smith will be part of a triumvirate leading the Hoyas offense this season.

In his first game for the Hoyas, a loss to Oregon in South Korea, Smith made his presence known on the block by erupting for 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting. But in last night’s game against Wright State, Smith looked more like his old UCLA self — slow and uninterested. He ended his night with only six points. What may be more worrisome is that in both contests he only managed to grab four rebounds per game and was a liability on defense. Rivera-Smith, on the other hand, had the inverse problem. Against Oregon, his shooting was ice-cold as he went 2-of-10 from the field and 0-of-5 from deep. Last night, he was simply unconscious. Smith-Rivera scored 25 points by shooting 8-of-12 from the field including three bombs from deep. However, it has been the senior point guard Starks who has been the Hoyas’ steady hand. Starks has scored 16 and 23 points and dished out four and six assists in both games, respectively.

The loss of Whittington and Smith’s weaknesses on the defensive end means this team will have to rely on their offense to win games. This should not be a problem as the trio complements each other well. Smith’s soft touch and great hands not only make him effective on the block, but they also make him a superb passer for a big man. When he is double-teamed, he is easily able to kick the ball out to Smith-Rivera in the perimeter or hit Starks running the baseline from the weak side. If these three can find their timing and rhythm with one another to the point where they’re all consistently producing in the scoring column, they have enough pieces around them to get John Thompson III his fourth Big East title this season.

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RTC Big East Preseason First Team

Posted by George Hershey on November 11th, 2013

The RTC Big East microsite writers have put together their Preseason Awards and First Team. Some quick notes on the group:

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  • There is lots of experience on the first team. Semaj Christon is the only player who isn’t a senior.
  • Doug McDermott and Christon are newcomers to the Big East and arguably the two best players in the league. It will be interesting to see how they adjust to the tougher competition, and how the other teams adjust to them.
  • No team had more than one player receive any award.
  • The freshmen selected are great players and are expected to contribute from the start, a big reason why they were picked. There may be some freshmen with more talent, such as Brandon Austin and JaJuan Johnson, but they may not have as big a role this year as Billy Garrett and Rysheed Jordan.

Photo credits: McDermott (John S. Peterson/ICON SMI), Cotton (US Presswire), Starks (all-metelite.blogspot.com), Christon (cincinatti.com), Gardner (US Presswire), Garrett Jr. (Grant Myatt), Jordan (Bradley C. Bower).

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Big East M5: 11.11.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 11th, 2013

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  1. The college basketball season has begun! Friday night saw seven Big East teams play and the other three played on Saturday. Big East teams went 8-2 to begin and the losses were to two ranked teams, Oregon and Wisconsin. Georgetown battled with Oregon in South Korea and although the Hoyas came away with a loss, there were some positives for the team. Newcomer Joshua Smith showed his top-notch talent on the offensive end and Markel Starks took control of the offense and showed his ability to score. Smith was a beast in the post as he scored 25 points and Starks contributed 16 of his own (including the only Hoya three-pointer). Georgetown teams have gotten off to slow starts during the past few seasons, but John Thompson III typically transforms his teams into contenders by mid-season. Although they lost the game, there shouldn’t be too much concern as the Hoyas will buckle down on defense and the shooting will improve.
  2. One of the most talked about topics over the weekend was the new foul rules. The often criticized change was apparent in all the games. Games stretched well over two hours and several records for fouls in a game and free throws attempted were set. Marquette got to the line 53 times against Southern and Seton Hall and Niagara combined for 102 total attempts. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said after the game that “it’s going to take everyone a little bit of time to adjust to. Players are going to take a little time. Refs need to take a little time. It was one of those ugly, early games, but I’m just glad we won.” In Providence‘s win over Boston College, each team had three players foul out in an important, tightly-contested game. Fans were upset throughout the night and referees heard it all over the nation. Teams are obviously going to have to adapt to the rules and modify the way they play defense, but one has to hope that big games at the end of the season don’t come down to the 10th guy on the bench shooting free throws to win the game.
  3. Providence came into the season with high hopes of a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. Those hopes have faded slightly in the past week. Stud sophomore Kris Dunn hurt his shoulder going after a loose ball in the Friars’ scrimmage last week. There is particular concern because Dunn missed the beginning of last season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Dunn was ruled questionable for Friday’s season opener and he did not play. The Friars also were without freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock, who are suspended indefinitely for “not upholding their responsibilities as student-athletes.” Austin was supposed to have an important role from the start and earned national prominence for his dunk at Late Night Madness. Hopefully Dunn is able to return to the lineup soon and the freshmen are reinstated before Providence gets too far into the season, including a fun match-up with Kentucky in Brooklyn.
  4. Brandon Miller won his first game as Butler’s new head coach. Miller has big shoes to fill after Brad Stevens left for the Boston Celtics, but he got off to a good start with a convincing win over Lamar. Zak Keefer of the Indy Star pointed out some interesting stats after the Bulldogs’ win. Khyle Marshall was the best player on the floor Saturday, pouring in 19 points and 13 rebounds. Last year, Butler went 16-1 when Marshall scored in double figures and this year the team will probably go as far as he takes it. The team didn’t shoot the ball well, but were still able to win easily even with Kellen Dunham having an off night. The Bulldogs have a strong, well-balanced starting lineup, and if some reserves can contribute meaningful minutes, Butler could make a push in the Big East standings.
  5. One of the most surprising and impressive players this weekend was DePaul‘s freshman center, Tommy Hamilton IV. Hamilton poured in 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as he beat down Grambling State’s front line. The freshman has slimmed down considerably and is down to 267 pounds. He had not played in a meaningful game in two years after a knee injury derailed his junior year campaign in high school. Hamilton acknowledged he could have played better, but his performance bodes well for the Blue Demons. If Hamilton is able to play a significant amount of minutes each night at center, it will allow star Cleveland Melvin to play on the wing instead of in the post. Hamilton may have been fairly unknown coming out of high school, but his immediate contributions could be a massive help to Oliver Purnell’s squad.
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Introducing the RTC Big East Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by Dan Lyons (@Dan_Lyons76) on November 8th, 2013

College basketball is back! Seven Big East teams open their seasons tonight, including a few big match-ups like St. John’s vs. Wisconsin and Georgetown vs. Oregon. There is no better time to unveil the Big East microsite’s preseason rankings, with comments and analysis from our group of Big East writers:

Marquette Needs to Go Inside Against Davidson

Marquette tops Rush the Court’s preseason Big East rankings.

10. DePaul

  • Dan Lyons – With Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young heading into their senior years, this might be DePaul’s best chance to get out of the Big East basement, but I’m definitely taking a wait and see approach with the Blue Demons.
  • George Hershey – It’s DePaul… They have some talent in Melvin and Young, but they don’t play defense.
  • Todd Keryc – It doesn’t matter what league they play in or who else is in it, the poor Blue Demons are destined for the cellar almost every year.
 9. Butler
  • DL – With the injury to Roosevelt Jones, Butler is without a returning double-figure scorer this season. I’m not one to bet against the Bulldogs, with or without Brad Stevens, but this inaugural Big East campaign isn’t shaping up too well for this Cinderella.
  • GH – They lose many pieces from last year’s team. Roosevelt Jones’ injury really hurts, but they are Butler and they always surprise everyone. Expect Kellen Dunham to have a big year.
  • TK – Bad timing for the Bulldogs. They ride two straight national title appearances into two straight conference upgrades, only to see their boy wonder coach Brad Stevens leave for the NBA.

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Breaking Down Oregon vs. Georgetown

Posted by Andrew Murawa & Brian Otskey on November 7th, 2013

Can you believe it? Games! Actual games! And tomorrow! We’re excited too, so Big East correspondent Brian Otskey (@botskey) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of one of opening night’s most buzzworthy games: Oregon vs. Georgetown in South Korea.

Georgetown will win if… It controls tempo, dominates the paint and takes advantage of Oregon’s misfortune. The Hoyas would love nothing more than to play a conservative, halfcourt game where Oregon’s athleticism and quickness can be neutralized. Fortunately for John Thompson III’s team, that is something they have done very well over the years. Hallmarks of Georgetown basketball are strong defense and offensive discipline, two strengths that can do significant damage to Oregon’s chances. It is a fairly safe bet to count on point guard Markel Starks to control the ball and run the offense efficiently. Starks turned the ball over just two times per game last year, bad news for a Ducks team that thrives in the open court and was one of the more athletic teams in the entire nation. With Dominic Artis and Ben Carter suspended, along with Damyean Dotson and Mike Moser possibly not at 100% (injury-related), Georgetown is primed to shut down Oregon’s primary strength and take advantage of Dana Altman’s misfortune. The Ducks are light in the frontcourt aside from center Waverly Austin and Moser so this is a prime opportunity for Josh Smith to show a national audience that he is serious about basketball in the more disciplined Georgetown program. If Smith can stay on the floor, control the glass and win the battle against Austin, the Hoyas should not have much of a problem coming out on top.

John Thompson III And The Hoyas Will Try To Slow The Game Down And Dominate The Halfcourt

John Thompson III And The Hoyas Will Try To Slow The Game Down And Dominate The Halfcourt

Oregon will win if… Their guards, primarly Dotson, Joseph Young and Jason Calliste can score regularly and efficiently against a stingy Georgetown defense highlighted by a trio of defensively rock solid guards in Starks, Jabril Trawick and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. With Artis out due to suspension, it will fall to Jonathan Loyd, the senior point and last year’s Pac-12 Tournament MVP, to get some penetration in the halfcourt against the stingy Hoya defense and find open shots for the Ducks’ scorers. Young, in particular, is a highly efficient shooter, a guy who will keep defenses honest by dead-eying from deep, while Dotson is best using his chiseled body in the mid-range game, an area that may be tough to exploit here. But the Ducks will be at their best if they can force turnovers and get out in transition to take advantage of their athletic advantage in the open court. While a relatively thin (not another Josh Smith joke, I promise) Duck frontcourt could get pounded by the physical Georgetown group if this grinds into a halfcourt game, Moser and those talented guards could break this game open if they can get easy hoop in transition. One strike against this line of thinking: The suspended Artis is the Ducks’ best guard at creating defensive havoc in the open court.

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Big East M5: 11.06.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 6th, 2013

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  1. Georgetown is projected to finish around the top of the Big East this season, even after losing its top player from 2012-13 in forward Otto Porter, drafted third overall by the Washington Wizards. Porter is the most recent in a long line of talented forwards who have been the key player in John Thompson’s Princeton offense, following stars like Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe. This year, it is unclear if Georgetown has that type of player at the forward spot. Greg Whittington, the most obvious candidate, tore his ACL over the summer. Nate Lubick will probably get playing time but lacks some of the raw talent and skills that the others have had. Transfer Josh Smith has all the talent a coach could want, but has major question marks after a less-than-stellar two years at UCLA. Instead, this year’s Hoyas may be more focused on guard play with Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a departure from what we usually expect from Thompson’s best teams.
  2. St. John’s has announced that sophomores Felix Balamou and David Lipscomb will take redshirts this season. Balamou was a contributor last year, averaging two points in nine minutes of action per game,and appearing in all but five of the Red Storm’s contests. Lipscomb, a walk-on, appeared in seven games last season but has yet to score in college. The move should allow both guards to develop without burning a year of eligibility during a time when St. John’s already has a crowded backcourt. Players like D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene IV, Rysheed Jordan and Jamal Branch will probably see most of the meaningful minutes in this year’s backcourt, so this is a wise move for these two players’ futures.
  3. It’s hard if not virtually impossible to lose during Midnight Madness, but this year’s event has already proven problematic for Xavier. Guard Dee Davis suffered a concussion during the event and has sat out for more than a week of activities as a result; reports are now that he may not be available for the season opener against Gardner-Webb. Davis is second of all the returning Xavier players in both minutes and points per game, so the Musketeers probably want their guard back as soon as possible. Head coach Chris Mack is taking all necessary precautions: “Until he’s symptom-free we’ll do what’s wise for Dee, and that’s to sit him.”
  4. The injury bug has reared its ugly head in Providence as well. Friars’ guard Kris Dunn suffered a shoulder injury in an exhibition with Rhode Island College and may miss the season opener against Boston College. Dunn’s injury is especially worrisome because it is the same shoulder on which he had labrum surgery before last season, costing him the first nine games of 2012-13. Dunn’s perimeter mate Bryce Cotton is also entering the season hampered by a sore knee, but he is not expected to miss any time. The tandem should be one of the better backcourts in the Big East, and keeping them on the court is key if the Friars want to make a run at the NCAA Tournament this season.
  5. Josh Smith could be the player that swings this season in favor of Georgetown. The UCLA transfer has been with the program roughly a year, and it has allowed him time to grasp the role of playing power forward in John Thompson’s offense. One of the players who he is battling for playing time, Nate Lubick, doesn’t seem too thrilled with going up against the powerful Smith every day in practice: “Ugh. It’s miserable. He backs it down and dunks it on me every time. He’s good. It’s something that’s very hard for another team to prepare.” In Rob Dauster’s article on CollegeBasketballTalk, other teammates commended Smith’s underrated passing ability, which is key for big men in the Georgetown offense. If Smith’s ability in practice translates to the faster pace of real games and his conditioning continues to improve, Smith may be the missing piece for a talented Hoyas team looking to get over the NCAA Tournament hump.
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20 Questions: Why is Georgetown So Incapable of March Success?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on October 23rd, 2013

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Throughout the preseason, RTC national columnists will answer the 20 most compelling questions heading into the 2013-14 season. Previous columns in this year’s series are located here.

The moment came long before the seismic final flourish. Chase Fieler may have slammed the door shut on Georgetown’s March dreams when he pumped through that Brett Comer lob, but the sniff of NCAA Tournament doom – a sensation that is fast becoming a Georgetown supporter’s sixth sense – surely set in far sooner. These days it doesn’t take much to elicit that sense of fear in Georgetown circles come March, as double-digit seeds have sent the Hoyas home before the Sweet Sixteen in each of their last five NCAA Tournaments. The futility has been so profound that Hoya fans can likely find a bit of retroactive appreciation for the most underachieving Georgetown team of the last decade: a 2009 squad littered with talent (Greg Monroe, DaJuan Summers, Chris Wright and Austin Freeman, among others) that bottomed out in the first round of a tournament that lacks the power to break hearts – the NIT. With the halcyon days of a 2007 Final Four run now firmly in the rear view mirror and a confused hysteria building with every March failure, “Hoya Paranoia” has taken on an entirely different meaning. So naturally, we ask the question: Why is Georgetown so incapable of March success?

To Say March Success Has Eluded John Thompson III And Georgetown Lately Would Be An Understatement

To Say March Success Has Eluded John Thompson III And Georgetown Lately Would Be An Understatement (AP images)

At this point, even the most forgiving of Georgetown supporters would have to admit that some part of the Hoyas’ problem comes from within. Five straight March disappointments is plenty large enough a sample size to sound the alarms. John Thompson III’s system, highlighted by a slow-tempo offense that rarely deviates from Princeton sets, is also unique enough stylistically to raise concerns that the program may be resting on a fundamentally damaged foundation. Nobody should be willing to take that theory all the way, as slow-tempo teams have found plenty of March success over the years (75 percent of the 2013 Final Four ranked in the bottom 40 percent in possessions per game), but limiting possessions is an easy way to give a team with decidedly inferior talent a chance to win. It’s the same reason why underdogs will find winning one game easier than taking down a seven-game series, and just last season we saw Georgetown keep plenty of bad teams hanging around into the final minutes. Duquesne, Liberty, and Towson all ended the season outside the top 170 teams in the country (according to KenPom), but each lost by single figures to a Hoya team that would finish 301st in the country in possessions per game. That slow tempo is par for the course for Thompson-coached Hoya outfits; after finishing 70th nationally in possessions per game in Craig Esherick’s final year in 2004, the Hoyas have not ranked higher than 188th since. Let’s be real: This preference for a snail’s pace is not a sufficient answer to the question as a stand-alone, but the Hoyas rarely blow teams out (relative to other highly-seeded teams) and struggle to come back when they fall behind early – see 2010 (Ohio), 2011 (VCU), 2013 (FGCU) for some recent examples.

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CBS Sports’ Top 100 Players: Big East Breakdown

Posted by George Hershey on October 21st, 2013

Jeff Borzello, Matt Norlander and Gary Parrish published a list of their top 100 college basketball players in America this past week. The Big East has six players on the list, led by Doug McDermott at #3. The other players picked, respectively, are Xavier guard Semaj Christon (#19), Providence guard Bryce Cotton (#66), Georgetown point guard Markel Starks (#75), St. John’s forward JaKarr Sampson (#85), and Marquette forward Davante Gardner (#96). McDermott comes in behind two of the top candidates for next year’s #1 draft pick in Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins and Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart. McDermott has been named a first team All-American the past two seasons, and is the most decorated individual in college basketball.

Georgetown's Markel Starks is one of six players that made the CBS Top 100. (Getty)

Georgetown’s Markel Starks is one of six players that made the CBS Top 100. (Getty)

With six players, the new Big East has the least of any of the power conferences. These rankings do not necessarily show each conference’s overall talent and quality of players, but it gives fans a sense of a league’s star power and professional prospects. Having said that, the Big East has lost considerable star power through conference realignment. Last year’s Big East teams would have totaled 16 players on the list this year. Louisville, Syracuse, and Notre Dame each contributes multiple players while new members Butler, Creighton, and Xavier only add McDermott and Christon. The ACC has 15 players on the list, leading all conferences, with several teams having multiple selections. Closely behind that league is the SEC with 14 players and the Big Ten with 13 selections. The SEC is powered by Kentucky, with an astounding seven picks, while Michigan and Michigan State account for more than half of the Big Ten’s spots — seven between the two teams. The Pac-12 has excellent balance with 11 players on seven different teams. The other two power conferences, the Big 12 and AAC, each has 10 players. With only six choices, the Big East is considerably behind the other power conferences. The Mountain West also had six players chosen and the top mid-major leagues such as the Atlantic 10 and WCC, have four each. By this measure, the Big East is profiling more like a high-level mid-major this season than it is one of the seven power conferences.

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Big East M5: 10.21.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 21st, 2013

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  1. New York Times writer Zach Schonbrun experienced a sense of relief among the various schools at last week’s Big East Media Day in Manhattan. After many seasons played under the shroud of conference realignment, culminating with the awkwardness of last season’s farewell tour for Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, the Big East is now a settled, basketball-driven league focused on private schools in metropolitan markets. While the conference’s new members — Butler, Creighton, and Xavier — are all located in the Midwest, they fit into the league quite well culturally. St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin actually thinks the new schools fit in better than some of the public universities that have moved on to the American Athletic Conference, and the schools who left for the ACC for largely football-based reasons: “It’s not like a ‘Sesame Street’ deal — which one doesn’t belong… You’ve got a tree, a bush, some seaweed and then a truck. It just didn’t fit. I think now we have a league that’s more similar.”
  2. Georgetown lost an excellent player to the NBA Draft in standout forward Otto Porter, but guard Markel Starks thinks that the Hoyas are more than just one player and that his team will look to prove that this season: “We play as a unit… We play as a group. Obviously, we just lost a great player. Even still, with or without him, we play as a unit. … I think we can still be a very dangerous team.” Starks, now a senior, will probably bear much of the weight of Porter’s absence in the scoring column, after averaging 12.8 points per game last season. He will be joined in the backcourt by D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who proved capable of exploding for big point totals last season. Smith-Rivera scored at least 14 points in three of his last four regular season games last season, and dropped 33 in 34 minutes against DePaul on February 20.
  3. One of the major changes fans will notice in the conference this year is a lack of legendary coaches on the sidelines, although the Big East will not be hurting for talent in that spot. Gone are Hall of Famers like Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino, but rising stars like Marquette’s Buzz Williams and Georgetown’s John Thompson III are poised to lead the conference into this new era. Thompson agrees that the coaching talent in the league is very high: “If you look around the room, the quality of coaching is outstanding. Yes, we lost some Hall of Fame coaches, but I don’t think too many teams want to go up against the guys in this room. Every game is going to be a battle. That was true last year; that’s going to be true this year.” Williams also believes in the overall quality of the league, and thinks it stands up with the best conferences in college basketball: “Every coach is going to say they play in the best league, but if you objectively study the numbers, I think what this league has done the last five years speaks for itself. I think this year that will hold firm, too.”
  4. Even without the likes of Syracuse, Louisville, and UConn, many are excited about the prospects of the Big East, especially those at the league’s three new schools: Butler, Creighton, and Xavier. Between the television contract with Fox Sports 1 and the ability to play at Madison Square Garden, the Big East provides a great increase in exposure for the former Horizon League, Missouri Valley Conference, and Atlantic 10 teams. Rumble in the Garden‘s Chris Ronca caught up with Xavier’s Chris Mack and Creighton’s Greg McDermott, who were both very excited about these new possibilities. Mack says his players are excited about playing at MSG:  “Playing for your conference championship in the Mecca is an amazing opportunity for Xavier fans and players.” McDermott talked about the league’s TV contract and it’s impact on the Creighton program: “[Creighton's] fans have longed for this for awhile.” McDermott went on to say that “with Fox [Sports] 1, it’s very exciting for the program… there’ll be a lot of new ideas with how [Creighton's] product is shown nationally.”
  5. Sports Illustrated‘s [and RTC's] Chris Johnson’s “Stock Watch” series sets its gaze on the Big East, and he’s quite bullish on Villanova, while throwing a bit of shade on Butler. Johnson cites Villanova’s surge in the middle of last season, where the Wildcats knocked off top five Louisville and Syracuse outfits in a a five-day stretch, as evidence that Jay Wright’s club is very dangerous. He likes the combination of Ryan Arcidiacono, JayVaughn Pinkston, and Daniel Ochefu, and believes that if the team continues to get to the free throw line and play stingy defense, it can push for the top of the league standings. As for Butler, Johnson believes that the loss of Brad Stevens in conjunction with an increase in the difficulty of conference play will hurt the Bulldogs, as will the departures of Rotnei Clark and Andrew Smith as well as the injury to Roosevelt Jones.
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Big East M5: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 16th, 2013

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  1. Welcome back to Rush the Court’s Big East Microsite, fans old and new. Basketball season is nearly upon us, which means we are officially in “long, somewhat arbitrary list” season, and there’s no longer list to obsess over for the next few days than CBS Sports‘ top 100 college hoops players in 2013-14. Six Big East players from six different programs made the group. As one would expect, Creighton’s Doug McDermott headlined the sextet, coming in at the #3 spot, only behind anointed Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart. Matt Norlander calls McDermott “the premier scorer in college basketball.” Xavier guard Semaj Christon comes in at #19, Providence guard Bryce Cotton at #66, Georgetown’s Markel Starks at #75, St. John’s forward Jakarr Sampson at #85, and Marquette’s forward/free throw assassin Devante Gardner rounds out the league’s top players at #96. A few commenters argued that the Big East is underrepresented on the list, citing Seton Hall’s Fuquan Edwin and Butler’s Kellen Dunham as possible snubs, but ultimately, these lists in early October mean very little.
  2. NBC SportsCollegeBasketballTalk is working through its team-by-team season preview, and yesterday was all about Marquette. Rob Dauster calls the Golden Eagles the favorite to win the Big East this year, citing a frontcourt which he expects to be “one of the best in the country.”  The big question marks for Buzz Williams’ team lie in the backcourt, where he will have to rely on fairly untested junior Derrick Wilson (13.1 MPG, 1.1 PPG in 2012-13), and streaky senior Todd Mayo in the starting lineup.  However, Marquette’s greatest strength, Dauster argues, is Williams’ ability to manage his teams to fit their individual strengths and talents on a year to year basis, and there’s no reason to disagree with that.
  3. The “best names” lists are not the only places where you can find St. John’s guard Sir’Dominic Pointer. CBS Sports‘ Jon Rothstein included the junior in his recent “Ten Glue Guys to Watch” post along with Creighton’s Grant Gibbs and Georgetown’s Nate Lubick. In discussing Pointer, Rothstein talks about coach Steve Lavin’s nickname for his guard (who, honestly, does not need a nickname): “Costco,” which refers to his ability to give the Red Storm “a little of everything” on the stat sheet. Rothstein also praises Gibbs’ maturity as a sixth-year senior and his clutch passing ability, as well as Lubick’s ability to facilitate from the high post — a key attribute for a Georgetown forward in coach John Thompson III’s Princeton offense.
  4. Normally, Big East teams don’t want to hear from John Cahill any earlier than they have to, but his presence at practice was welcomed by Creighton earlier this week. As the newly named supervisor of officials in the Big East, Cahill traveled to Omaha to discuss the conference, new NCAA mandates, and how the Bluejays can expect the rules of the game to be enforced in their new league. According to Cahill, this season will see far more fouls called for hand-checking contact on the perimeter in an effort to increase overall scoring. However, he does not expect the Big East to lose it’s hard-earned identity as a physical, defense-oriented conference: “The thing that I found in my officiating career is that in the Big East, every possession is defended and challenged.”
  5. Providence fans are pretty bullish on head coach Ed Cooley, and rightfully so. Since stepping on campus a couple of years ago, Cooley has taken the Friars’ recruiting to another level, as GoLocalProv‘s Kevin Farrahar rightfully points out. Where the Friars landed just four RSCI top-100 players from 1998-2010, Cooley has brought eight to campus since taking the job in 2011.  The class of 2014 is shaping up especially nicely for Providence, as it already includes seven-footer Paschal Chukwu from Cooley’s old stomping grounds of Fairfield, Connecticut, as well as highly-rated forward Jalen Lindsay and Delaware product Ben Bentil. This increased recruiting prowess, as well as a more manageable schedule in the “new Big East,” may help rejuvenate the Providence program as it looks to make its first NCAA Tournament since 2004.
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