Big East Notebook: Early Conference Turmoil

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 9th, 2018

Unsurprisingly, cannibalism within the Big East has proven itself very real again this season. With every team having now played a minimum of three conference games, only Seton Hall remains unbeaten, and even the Pirates have narrowly escaped in all three of their victories. The conference boasts four of its teams in the current AP Top 25 and as many as seven NCAA Tournament bids by March is a realistic possibility. Below are three key takeaways from Big East action over the last two weeks.

Raise Your Hands if You Had Seton Hall as the Last Big East Unbeaten Team (USA Today Images)

  • Providence has rebounded sharply. Even at full strength, Ed Cooley‘s group scraped by in home games against Rider, Brown and Stony Brook. The Friars’ backcourt was then significantly hobbled leading into conference play but the root causes — poor shooting to inconsistent defensive rebounding — seem to have corrected themselves over the last few weeks. Having a healthy Kyron Cartwright back in action has helped as the Friars score 1.11 points per possession (PPP) with him versus 0.99 PPP without. But the most important factor to the team’s success has been the emergence of wing Alpha Diallo as a legitimate offensive threat. In addition to his excellent defense, the sophomore has averaged 13.3 PPG in Big East play by using his mid-range jump shot as a reliable weapon. His outside shooting (21.4% 3FG) leaves something to be desired but, judging by his form, is certainly fixable. On the other end of the floor, his play was a big reason the Xavier duo of Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura combined for just 21 points (10.5 below their season average) in a loss to Providence over the weekend.

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Projecting This Season’s Breakout Players

Posted by Will Ezekowitz on November 14th, 2017

After spending the preseason hyping certain guys, some players we don’t expect to steal the spotlight does just that. If history tells us anything, there are a number of players who are flying under the radar right now that will be commanding headlines in February. It is my humble task to give those players some of the love they will eventually deserve right now, before the rest of the nation catches on. I’ll give myself credit for projecting the rises of Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan and Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans last year, but I’ve been honing my craft this offseason and hope to do even better this time around. So let’s get started. Here are five breakout players in college basketball this season.

  • Nick Ward, Sophomore, Michigan State — Nick Ward averaged 8.8 fouls drawn per game last season, becoming the first major conference player to average more than 8.0 since Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins in 2010. He also owned the second highest offensive rebounding rate in the country at 17.5 percent. Sure, he fouls a bit too much and turns the ball over more than head coach Tom Izzo would like, but post players this dominant are very hard to come by. If Ward can play closer to 30 minutes per game this season — which would itself be a feat considering the talent of the Spartans frontcourt — watch out. His tools suggest he could become a First Team All-American. Sophomore forward Miles Bridges gets all the hype, but if the Spartans reach their potential this year, Ward will be a big reason why they did so.

Nick Ward is on his way to possible stardom. (Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Markus Howard, Sophomore, Marquette — America, are you ready to fall in love with a small point guard who puts up ridiculous numbers? Well, the 5’11” Howard is your man. He shot 54.7 percent — FIFTY-FOUR POINT SEVEN PER CENT!!! — from three-point range last year, on almost five shots per game in the Big East! That’s a mind-numbingly good shooting season. More importantly, with Marquette having graduated some ball-dominant seniors, Howard and fellow diminutive scorer Andrew Rowsey will get the keys to Steve Wojciechowski’s uptempo offense. Marquette started the senior Rowsey in the season opener, but I’m betting on Howard and his ridiculous shooting and efficiency forcing his way into the starting lineup in due time. A season scoring average of 20 points per game is not out of the question for the sophomore.

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Marquette’s Offense Drives the Golden Eagles Into March

Posted by Mike Knapp on February 25th, 2017

Marquette has had an up-and-down season to this point. The Golden Eagles are 17-10 (8-7 Big East) with a resume that includes nice wins over Villanova and Creighton as well as head-scratching losses to St. John’s and Georgetown. Their most glaring flaws are on the defensive end of the floor (where they rank 138th nationally, per KenPom), but their inconsistency can also be attributed to a lack of an offensive go-to option. Marquette’s top players — who, it should be noted, are clearly buying into the team concept — cannot individually match the output provided by First Team All-Big East contenders such as Josh Hart (Villanova), Marcus Foster (Creighton) or even Trevon Bluiett (Xavier). What head coach Steve Wojciechowski lacks in star power, however, he has in depth, which makes the Golden Eagles a dangerous squad to face in March.

Marquette is Going to Create Some Problems in March (USA Today Images)

Marquette currently has six players averaging between 10.1 and 12.5 points per game, five of whom stand between 5’10” and 6’6” and are virtually interchangeable in the Golden Eagles’ up-tempo, three-point happy offense. That offense is the team’s driver, ranking first nationally in three-point shooting at 41.9 percent and among the top quarter of the sport in adjusted tempo. Four of Wojchiechowski’s rotation players – Katin Reinhardt, Andrew Rowsey, Markus Howard and Sam Hauser – are shooting at least 38 percent from beyond the arc, making an average of two or more per contest. The Golden Eagles’ pronounced ability to spread the floor with multiple shooters makes them nearly impossible to guard in the half-court, but what really rounds out the Marquette offense is its anchor in the post. Senior big man Luke Fischer leads the team in player efficiency, rebounding and blocked shots, and his offensive game is as diverse as it is proficient. The 6’11” center can play with his back to the basket, possessing great touch around the rim, but he is also capable of acting as the roll man off screens. He may not be the most athletic big man in the Big East, but he makes up for it with his meticulous shot selection and skill set – Fischer currently ranks 21st nationally in effective field goal percentage.

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Marquette’s Katin Reinhardt Seeks Greater Consistency

Posted by Eugene Rapay on December 15th, 2016

Although Marquette lost to rival Wisconsin last weekend, one of the bright spots in the defeat was the play of graduate transfer Katin Reinhardt. He scored 13 of his 16 points in the first half and finished the day with a 4-of-6 shooting performance from long-range. Reinhardt, who transferred east after semi-successful stints at USC and UNLV, was brought in to be a perimeter threat on the wing. In his three previous seasons, he averaged 11.3 points per game and shot 36.9 percent from long range. There has not been a single season in which the 6’6″ forward failed to average double figures in scoring.

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Katin Reinhardt Needs to Excel For Marquette to Reach Its Goals (USA Today Images)

Maybe it just took the senior 10 games to find his groove in Milwaukee, but he hasn’t delivered the goods for Steve Wojciechowski thus far. Per KenPom, he holds the lowest Offensive Rating of the 10 players in Marquette’s current rotation — in fact, he is the team’s only key contributor below 100.0. He has taken 45 three-point attempts on the season (tied for the team-high) but has converted on a chilly 31.1 percent of those shots, nearly six percentage points under his career mark. Strangely, he’s even been worse from inside the arc, sinking only 28.6 percent of his two-point shots on the season. He’s the only Marquette player in the rotation who is shooting so poorly, as all other Golden Eagles are shooting above the 40.0 percent mark. What good is a space creator on the wing if he cannot make jumpers or finish on his occasional drives?

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Monster Class in Durham? Commitments, More…

Posted by Sean Moran on September 9th, 2015

7sweetscoops

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week throughout the season he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

The summer recruiting season of 2015 is in the books. No more AAU tournaments, camps or all-star events. Beginning in April, the nation’s top high school players spent much of the last five months traveling throughout the United States and, in some unique cases, internationally, to show their skills. Many used this time to significantly boost their stock, while others just endeavored to keep their reputations intact. College coaches were allowed five separate viewing periods during the offseason, and now that the new scholarships are available, it’s time for campus visits and commitments.  So, what happened over the summer?

1. 40-0 Talk in Durham?

Jayson Tatum's Commitment to Duke Makes the Conversation Possible

Jayson Tatum’s Commitment to Duke Makes This Conversation Possible

When will 40-0 talk begin at Duke for the 2016-17 basketball season? Just a short while ago it was John Calipari who had the recruiting swagger with his one-and-done pipeline of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and others, and while things have not slowed down in Lexington, they have certainly picked up in Durham. With the 2015 National Championship and recent NBA Draft success of Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones under its belt, Duke again appears to be the school to beat for elite prep talent. In the Class of 2016, the Blue Devils already have commitments from five-stars Jayson Tatum (No. 3) and 6’3” point guard Frank Jackson (No. 17). On top of that, Duke is in extremely strong position for the top player in the country, 6’10” Harry Giles — who is also best friends with Tatum — as well as 6’10” five-star center Marques Bolden (No. 12) and Wenyen Gabriel (No. 10). When it’s all said and done in this year’s class, Duke could wind up with four or five of the top 15 prospects in the country. Queue the unbeaten season talk a year ahead of time.

2. The Rise of Wenyen Gabriel

Every year there is a player or two who comes out of nowhere and takes the recruiting world by storm. This summer’s edition is Wenyen Gabriel. Hailing from Manchester (NH), the 6’9”, rail-thin Gabriel began his prep career at Trinity before transferring to New England prep power Wilbraham & Monson for his junior season. Gabriel was named to the NESPAC Honorable Mention team last year, but his meteoric rise did not begin until the AAU season. Playing on the Adidas circuit, Gabriel dazzled college coaches with his size, skill and a motor that’s always running. Combined with a unique blend of shooting and ball-handling skills, Gabriel began to get looks from almost every top basketball school in the country. During a sizzling July in particular, Gabriel led his team to the championship game in the Adidas Uprising tournament while averaging 17.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. More recently, he turned in another stellar effort at the Adidas Nations tournament in front of a plethora of NBA scouts. After cracking various Top 100 rankings in the early summer, Gabriel quickly shot up to five-star status and is currently ranked No. 10 in the country heading into the fall. Gabriel has already narrowed his list of college suitors to five: UConn, Duke, Kentucky, Providence, and Maryland.

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Sweet Seven Scoops: Bright Lights LoVett, Fultz Rising Up, & More…

Posted by Sean Moran on January 24th, 2015

http://rushthecourt.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/7sweetscoops.png

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Bright Lights Hits Chicago

Chicago basketball fans have been spoiled over the last few years from watching Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander, and Tyler Ulis play in the area. While there aren’t any future top five NBA Draft picks currently in the Windy City, senior guard Marcus LoVett has seized the opening and is becoming the big city’s hottest act. The 5’11” four-star guard has bounced around the past few years in both high school and AAU, averaging around 30 points per game as a freshman for Providence of Burbanks (CA) and becoming a YouTube sensation. Now a senior, LoVett is the point guard at Morgan Park, the back-to-back 3A state champion. He’s hit buzzer-beaters and scored 20+ points numerous times. Kansas offered him a scholarship in the fall when the buzz around him was starting to build, but other schools are showing interest as well. On Tuesday night, LoVett hit a game-winning jump shot in front of assistants from Florida State, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh. He also took in an Illinois game over the weekend. Right now LoVett is ranked at just No. 91 overall, but with the buzz that is slowly building around him, it would not be a surprise to see him catapult up the rankings after his senior year.

2. Stock Riser: Markelle Fultz

Dematha Catholic (MD) High School sports one of the most prestigious basketball programs in the country, so it’s no surprise that the junior varsity team has a bunch of talented players. Last year, 6’4” guard Markelle Fultz was a sophomore playing on the JV team; one year later he is the star for the No. 1 team in the Washington D.C. area. The previously unranked Fultz jumped into ESPN’s top 60 for the junior class (No. 55 overall) and is now considered a four-star prospect who college coaches are extremely interested in. He scored a total of 53 points in two games at the famed Hoop Hall classic last weekend and has received scholarships from schools such as Arizona, Wake Forest, Georgetown, Maryland, and Washington, among others. It didn’t take long for Fultz to make a name for himself, but he has shown how quickly things can change.

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