Steve Wojciechowski Quietly Rebuilding Marquette With Young Talent

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 7th, 2015

The path to a head coaching position at a high major university is not a beaten one; many of today’s coaches ascended different ladders to get to their current positions. Some coaches got there by taking little-known schools to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament; others took an open position at the same school when their boss moved on; while still others first served as high-profile assistants to established coaches in more prestigious programs. Marquette’s first-year head coach, Steve Wojciechowski, falls into the latter category with a pedigree few others can boast. After a successful four-year playing career at Duke, he spent 15 years apprenticing for one of the best to ever coach the sport, Mike Krzyzewski. But despite the unimpeachable regard everyone holds for his former coach and mentor, success at the highest levels has not been guaranteed for Krzyzewski’s acolytes. Now that Wojciechowski is the leader of one of the most tradition-rich programs in the country, he’s hoping to start a tradition of his own in Milwaukee. On Tuesday night in Washington, DC, he came very close to getting the first truly big win of his young career when Marquette battled the Hoyas to a tight six-point loss.

Steve Wojciechowski's first job as a head coach is to rebuild a proud Marquette program.

Steve Wojciechowski’s first job as a head coach is to rebuild a proud Marquette program (Gary Porter).

When the 38-year old accepted the Marquette job last spring, the program was not in the same shape as it had been when it made eight straight NCAA Tournaments from 2006-13. After a disappointing 17-15 season, former head coach Buzz Williams downgraded to Virginia Tech because of the uncertainty of the athletic director’s position (currently being filled by interim AD, Bill Cords), and a general concern about the new Big East’s visibility in moving from ESPN to Fox Sports 1 as its primary television carrier. Another factor in his departure may have been the stark realization that his current roster simply was not all that competitive. After Shaka Smart and Cuonzo Martin passed on the Marquette job, this opened the door for Wojciechowski to become a first-time head coach at a respected basketball program with an opportunity to rebuild it in his own image.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Previewing the New Big East Tournament

Posted by George Hershey on March 12th, 2014

The Big East Tournament kicks off tonight and it will be the first year without original members Syracuse and Connecticut. Taking their place are new members Creighton, Xavier, and Butler, which are expected to have plenty of fans making the trip to NYC. Listen to RTC’s Big East Tournament Edition podblast featuring Brian Otskey for a great preview.

Big East Bracket

What to Expect: Villanova and Creighton lead the group as the top two seeds, but the 3-7 seeds are looking to make a run that could secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova could secure a #1 seed if they win, while Creighton also is fighting for a top seed. Xavier, St. John’s, Providence, and Georgetown need some wins this week to strengthen there resume, but with several of the bubble teams playing each other early, their hopes of dancing next week will wither. Fans of the Big East are probably hoping that Villanova and Creighton do not win so that the conference gets another team in the tournament, but it will not be easy for any of those bubble teams. Fox Sports 1 will televise every game with  Gus Johnson, Bill Raftery,and Erin Andrews on site to report all the action, which is sure to bring plenty of excitement and drama after a great regular season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Five Things We Learned in the Big East this Weekend

Posted by George Hershey on February 17th, 2014

Another weekend of Big East basketball is in the books, so are five key takeaways as we move into the stretch run of the regular season.

Rysheed Jordan has helped spark St. John's  (Andew Theodorakis/ New York Daily News?

Rysheed Jordan has helped spark St. John’s
(Andew Theodorakis/ New York Daily News?

  1. Creighton is in line to win the regular season title, but it will not come easy: With a half game advantage over Villanova and owning the tie-breaker, the Bluejays are favorites to win the league, but they have a tougher road ahead than Villanova. The Bluejays play three games on the road to finish the year, traveling to Marquette Wednesday, and Xavier and Georgetown the first week of March. Villanova on the other hand only has one road game, at Xavier. Both teams are going to get every team’s best shot, but even though Creighton has owned Villanova this year, don’t be surprised if the Wildcats end as regular season champions.
  2. No reason to worry for Villanova: Even though Villanova was bullied by Creighton both times they played, there shouldn’t be too much concern over it. They have yet to lose to any other team in the conference and have only been beaten by two teams the entire season, Syracuse and Creighton. The Bluejays are simply a tough matchup for Jay Wright’s team as every team struggles against a certain style. Creighton spread the ball out and Wright could not find anybody to defend Doug McDermott to at least hold him somewhat in check. The Wildcats have played remarkably all year and a strong finish should leave them in prime position to make a run to the Final Four. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big East NCAA Bracket Watch

Posted by George Hershey on February 6th, 2014

With a little over five weeks to go until Selection Sunday, most Big East teams have about eight games left before the Big East Tournament to solidify their standing for the NCAA Tournament. Eight teams have somewhat realistic hopes of making it into the 68-team field, but all but two still have plenty of work to do if they want to impress the selection committee. Here we will take a look at each of the 10 teams with a quick snapshot of what they have done, where they are, and what they need to do to hear their name called on March 16.

Steve Lavin and company have lots of work to do if they want to be dancing in March. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

Steve Lavin and company have lots of work to do if they want to be dancing in March.
(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

#6 Villanova, 20-2 (8-1)

  • Key Stats: #4 RPI, #7 Pomeroy, #7 BPI, #14 Strength of Schedule
  • Projections: Lunardi #2 seed; RTC #2 seed; Bracket Matrix #2 seed
  • Good Wins: #8 Kansas, #17 Iowa, Providence, Xavier
  • Bad Losses: None

Villanova is all but a lock at this point. The Wildcats started the season with two huge wins in the Bahamas against Kansas and Iowa and they continued their great play into conference play. Their only two losses are understandable — at Syracuse and against a Creighton team that could have beaten the Knicks that night. They have rolled through conference play and look like they will have no problem the rest of the way. The one game remaining that can help solidify a #2 seed will be at Creighton on February 16. Going 8-1 or even 7-2 with a potential loss to St. John’s or Providence should be enough to finish with no worse than a #3 seed, leaving the Wildcats in a great position for March.

#12 Creighton, 18-3, (8-1)

  • Key Stats: #8 RPI, #3 Pomeroy, #12 BPI, #27 SOS
  • Projections: Lunardi #3 seed; RTC #3 seed; Bracket Matrix #3 seed
  • Good Wins: @ #6 Villanova, California, Arizona State, Xavier
  • Bad Losses: None

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 01.31.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 31st, 2014


  1. Creighton and Villanova have shot up the rankings this season with great guard play and effective outside shooting. ESPN‘s John Gasaway wrote an article recently looking at the teams with the highest percentage of attempts that come from behind the arc. Creighton takes 43.1 percent of its shots from deep, but Gasaway points out how effective they have become at shooting two-pointers (54.8 percent of their twos in conference action) and how their defense is also much improved (surrendering 1.02 points per possession). Villanova has a similar profile in all three aspects. They take 42.7 percent of their shots from three, making 54 percent of their twos and allowing 1.04 points per possession. It’s interesting just how similar the two best teams in the league are and we will probably see a much closer game the second time these teams meet in Omaha. 
  2. Former Ohio State walk-on and current Grantland writer Mark Titus may not have the most accurate power rankings out there, but he definitely has the funniest. Titus likes to make jokes, but he is also very smart about basketball and makes compelling points along the way. This week he has Creighton Doug McDermott in his eighth national spot. Although he jokes about McDermott and his impressive recent play, he has a great quote about Creighton as a team, saying, “The Bluejays have become appointment viewing. If their shooting outburst against Villanova wasn’t enough to convince you of this, McDermott’s heroic effort should cement their status. No matter who they’re playing, you can turn on a Creighton game and be pretty sure you’re going to be thoroughly entertained for two hours.” The team’s ability to go off at any time and McDermott’s NPOY-level play has truly made this team a can’t-miss viewing appointment. 
  3. Buzz Williams must have been listening to all the Marquette writers and fans this week. With articles from Cracked Sidewalks, Anonymous Eagle, and Paint Touches all calling for the underclassmen to get more playing time, Williams put JaJuan Johnson and Deonte Burton into the starting lineup in last night’s impressive win, with John Dawson coming off the bench early. All three played at least 10 minutes while Burton led the trio with nine points and six rebounds. The key with the freshman is to remain aggressive while staying under control and understanding the situation. They showed their confidence attacking the rim and being pesky on defense, but also forced a few unnecessary shots. It seems like Williams likes the energy and production they bring which should help them get more comfortable with the college game in preparation for next season.
  4. Seton Hall has its first McDonald’s All-American since Andre Barrett and Eddie Griffin arrived in 2000. Coney Island native Isaiah Whitehead was named to the team on Wednesday as he finishes up an outstanding high school career. Zach Braziller at the New York Post talked to Whitehead after the announcement, as he follows in the footsteps of Lincoln High School legends Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson. This is a great honor for Whitehead and his arrival next year should excite Seton Hall fans as he leads a stellar class of New York and New Jersey local products.
  5. With the losses of Brandon Austin, Kris Nunn, and Rodney Bullock, Providence guard Josh Fortune has had to consistently play almost the entire game throughout conference play. He has played at least 30 minutes in all but one game, and even played 50 (!) against St. John’s. While Fortune has played a key role for the Friars as Bryce Cotton’s backcourt mate, he has had to focus on basketball while his mother is stationed 6,000 miles away as a colonel in the Army. Kevin McNamara writes about life off the court and how Fortune has to deal with the intermittent communication with his mother. Fortunately for head coach Ed Cooley, Fortune has stepped up and been a consistent producer all season, helping Providence battle for what appeared to be an unlikely NCAA Tournament berth.
Share this story

Are Marquette’s Two Least Utilized Players Keys to Turning the Corner?

Posted by George Hershey on January 25th, 2014

Most fans around the country know Marquette’s senior frontcourt of Davante Gardner, Jamil Wilson and Chris Otule as they have played in three straight Sweet Sixteens over the last three seasons. This year the Golden Eagles have not lived up to preseason expectations in large part because of a lack of production from their guards — point guard Derrick Wilson, in particular, is averaging only five points per game despite playing starter’s minutes. Wilson is known for his defense and low number of turnovers, but defenses can sag off of him because he rarely attempts a shot outside the paint. This causes the middle to get clogged and hurts the frontcourt’s ability to score in the post.

Steve Taylor Jr. was all over the place Monday against Georgetown. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Steve Taylor Jr. (25) was all over the place Monday against Georgetown.
(Alex Brandon/AP)

All season long, the team has been looking for a spark to get the offense going. There had been some good spurts that showed promise, but time after time, Marquette returned to its inability to shoot and long scoring droughts. In Monday night’s win over Georgetown, two players who had barely played all season were the reason that the Golden Eagles kept their hopes of an eight straight tournament berth on life support. With the highly touted freshman Duane Wilson redshirting this season, the point guard position has looked bleak for Marquette. With Williams putting his trust in Wilson, it did not seem that he would look to his backup, freshman John Dawson, for much playing time. He had averaged just over five minutes in conference play so far and most pundits and fans seemed to think he was a project and four-year backup (the New Mexico native had not had as much exposure in high school and recruiting services did not rank him highly). Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Georgetown in Bad Shape Without Joshua Smith

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 22nd, 2014

Back in December, I wrote how Joshua Smith’s inability to play full starter minutes is an opportunity cost to Georgetown. Now a month later, John Thompson III and the rest of his staff are just wishing they could get those partial minutes back from their big man. The junior center has missed the last five games due to academic issues, which has — in addition to the indefinite loss of Jabril Trawick (broken jaw) — caused the Hoyas to go 1-4 in Big East play including Monday night’s 80-72 overtime loss to Marquette. Without Smith available, Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera are the only viable scoring options for the Hoyas and teams have adjusted by clamping down on both players. To their credit, each has stepped up his efforts by scoring more than half of the team’s points in nearly full-time minutes during this five-game stretch. But it is this over-reliance that has caused Georgetown to give up leads at the end of games and why the Hoyas find themselves in their current troublesome state.

Markel Starks scores a career-high 28 points in a losing effort to Marquette. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Markel Starks scored a career-high 28 points in a losing effort to Marquette. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

First, let’s look at the impact Smith’s absence has had on the Hoyas. Basketball numbers man Dan Hanner has an article at where he splits the advanced metrics of team performance for Georgetown both with and without Smith. (note: these numbers do not take into account Georgetown’s game against Marquette). The numbers are staggering. The team’s Pythagorean Winning Percentage went from 0.899 with Smith to 0.435 without him — in other words, given a middle-of-the-road schedule, the Hoyas with Smith in the lineup would win around 90 percent of their games, while the same schedule played without Smith would win only 44 percent of their games. In my previous post examining Smith’s impact, I believed his contribution was more significant on offense rather than defense. What Hanner’s analysis shows is that the Hoyas have felt the sting of his loss on both ends of the court. Without him, the offense scores 11.4 fewer points per 100 possessions and the defense allows 10.5 more points per 100 possessions. As a result, the Hoyas face a structural deficit where they are allowing 2.3 points per 100 possessions more than they are scoring. Before Smith’s benching, this difference was an offensive advantage of 19.6 points per 100 possessions (a 21.9-point swing). What Hanner’s analysis shows is that the loss of Smith has had a much bigger impact on the outcomes of the Hoyas than I previously thought it would.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 01.15.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 15th, 2014


  1. Georgetown will be playing undermanned tonight when the Hoyas travel to Cincinnati to play Xavier. Joshua Smith is still battling academic issues and Jabril Trawick will miss his second straight game after he broke his jaw against Providence last week. The Hoyas were impressive in their overtime victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, but Xavier poses a tougher test as they are 8-1 in their last nine games after a loss to Creighton on Sunday. Xavier has a very good frontcourt and will likely look to exploit Georgetown’s relative lack of size. Moses Ayegba and Reggie Cameron will have to step up and play more than the 10 minutes they have averaged so far this season. Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera must continue their own exceptional play, but not having their big men to help space the floor will make finding open shots more difficult.  
  2. Xavier lost its first game after an eight-game winning streak, but the Musketeers are ready to face Georgetown after taking away several positives from their close loss to Creighton. They had trouble guarding Doug McDermott and didn’t shoot their free throws well (59%), but the team was happy about the perseverance they showed throughout. Center Matt Stainbrook said, “it [showed] a ton of resiliency and the fact that we can all have short-term memories. You learn from your mistakes, but when it comes to misses or stuff that’s not favorable for us, we have a really short-term memory.” Going forward in conference action, Xavier will need that short memory to keep fighting when momentum is not on their side, like they experienced on Sunday when Creighton was simply unconscious from deep.
  3. Luke Fischer‘s transfer was officially announced on Monday when he began classes at Marquette; yesterday he spoke to the media. He has already begun practicing and assistant coach Jerry Wainwright sounded excited about working with the new big man. Fischer has 11 months until he can suit up, but Wainwright says he will have an instant impact on the Golden Eagles. Fischer will match up against Davante Gardner and Chris Otule in practice, giving the centers a break from each other and a new challenge on both ends. The league has several centers similar to Fischer, but few like Gardner and Otule, so they will have a player to practice against that will more closely replicate games. In other Marquette news, Paint Touches takes a look at the freshmen so far, discussing those who are coming into their own and becoming significant contributors. Cracked Sidewalks has five charts that show why Marquette should be better than it has shown this season. The Golden Eagles seem to be rounding the corner every other game, but have yet to beat a team ranked higher than themselves.
  4. The Big East may not be as strong at the top this season with only two teams currently in the Top 25, but the league has tremendous depth. While Villanova and Creighton have moved up to #6 and #20 in the latest AP poll, the rest of the league may not be ranked but there are no really bad teams this year. In years past, teams like Syracuse and Louisville were national title contenders, but the league also suffered South Florida, DePaul, Rutgers, and Providence perennially struggling to win more than a few games. As of last night, seven of the 10 conference teams were ranked in the top 70 in Ken Pomeroy’s latest rankings, and DePaul was the lowest at #130, a number likely to rise after beating St. John’s. So far, the league has only had six blowout wins, showing the relative parity among all of the teams. This had led to a ton of excitement on numerous Big East campuses this season.
  5. ESPN had a series of posts on the best venues in college basketball, and not surprisingly, Hinkle Fieldhouse, home to the Butler Bulldogs, was included. Eamonn Brennan wrote about the history of the building, including most famously being where the “Milan Miracle,” the game that inspired the making of the movie, Hoosiers, occurred, and the incredible atmosphere in the building. He gives a great description, “You ascend the same blue-tinged concrete concourse to find your seat. You see the same afternoon sunlight shine down at the same angle through the same windows on the same, original wooden floor, the oldest in college basketball.” Hinkle seems to be a magical place as there constantly outstanding games there, including five overtime periods already this season. The Big East has some great venues with the Cintas Center, Bradley Center, and CenturyLink Arena among them drawing some of the largest crowds in the nation.
Share this story

Big East M5: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 10th, 2014


  1. Creighton let out a huge sigh of relief on Wednesday. First, Doug McDermott‘s shoulder injury turned out to be a shoulder sprain. He is expected to play on Saturday and downplayed the injury, a good sign for the stud. Later, fellow senior Grant Gibbs received good news as his scary knee injury was revealed to be a dislocated kneecap. The worst case scenario some were fearing was a torn ACL, but luckily the sixth year senior will be able to play in his final year. Gibbs is expected to be out about a month, returning in time for the final month of the Big East season and postseason tournaments. The Creighton offense has been playing spectacularly and the team will feel the loss of Gibbs, but should survive without him, as several players like Jahenns Manigat, Austin Chatman, and Devin Brooks have stepped up their games this year. Each is averaging at least seven points, three rebounds and two assists per game. 
  2. Georgetown center Joshua Smith did not travel with the team to Providence due to academic reasons. The Hoyas ended up getting run out of the gym against a Friars team that started 0-2 in the Big East. The Hoyas had their worst offensive performance of the season, shooting 39.6% from the floor while committing 15 turnovers. This situation looks similar to the suspension Greg Whittington was dealt after the first semester because of grades, and he ended up not playing the rest of the year. Hopefully Smith resolves the academic issue and returns back to the lineup because the Hoyas need his offensive presence down low to open up the floor for Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who is having a breakout year. 
  3. Doug McDermott is gaining traction as a leading candidate for National Player of the Year honors. With all the early season buzz about the top freshman across the country, McDermott is earning more recognition from the press for his remarkable season. Seth Davis wrote a great piece highlighting him as the top senior and‘s Brian Hamilton wrote about the star bucking the one-and-done trend to continue to hone his game,  and his relationship with his coach, who is also his father.‘s Gary Parrish gave Doug a ton of attention this week by looking at whether he will win his first scoring title as well as putting him at the top of his list for NPOY, pointing out the last player to have the numbers he is putting up was Kevin Durant.
  4. The world’s most famous bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, published his latest bracketology yesterday. He has four Big East teams in the field, with Villanova leading the way with a #2 seed. Creighton improved to a six seed and Xavier moved up to an eight seed. Georgetown regressed down to the 10 line after their loss to Providence. Butler was the eighth team out before they lost to DePaul, likely setting them back farther. Creighton and Xavier have impressed and should continue rising if their recent play continues. Seth Davis thinks the league will end up receiving five bids, but the rest of the league’s teams have not been helping their case. As unlikely as it seems now, don’t be surprised if Marquette and Providence make serious runs for berths as both have seemed to turn a corner and have the talent to win big resume boosting games.
  5. Seton Hall solidified their 2014 recruiting class with the addition of Northwestern transfer Chier Ajou. The Sudan native is 7’2″, but failed to see the court often while in Evanston. Ajou has a great story, coming to the United States after being held hostage in his home country. He will be eligible after the first semester next season and joins one of the nations top recruiting classes. The one missing piece for Kevin Willard’s team was at the center position, and he now will have a player in conference play to battle in the post. He has great size and physical tools, and will have the next year to get to know Willard’s system and improve his game. Ajou has the genes as his cousin is Luol Deng, but it will take more than that for him to play big minutes next year.
Share this story

Is the Big East Really Only a Three-Bid League Right Now?

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 9th, 2014

The Big East survived conference realignment to become the No. 3 league in terms of conference RPI and at this point of the season. Despite those lofty rankings, the league really only has three teams that sit comfortably on the right side of the bubble as of today. How is this possible? The short answer is that while it is true that the Big East failed to pick up a bunch of notable wins, it also avoided the awful resume-killing losses which weigh down a league’s RPI rating. As a matter of fact, the Big East has just five losses against teams outside the RPI top 100 teams. Let’s take a look at where all 10 teams stand in terms of NCAA Tournament chances with two months remaining in the regular season. From first to worst:

Jay Wright Has Lost His Magic Touch at Villanova (Photo credit: H. Rumph Jr/AP Photo).

Jay Wright and Villanova has bounced back nicely this season. (AP)

Villanova: 14-1, 3-0 Big East

  • Projected Postseason: Villanova is a lock to make the NCAA Tournament after an 11-1 non-conference run which featured wins against Kansas and Iowa on a neutral court. Right now, the Wildcats project to be a No. 2 seed.
  • Best Case Scenario: Jay Wright’s team gets through Big East play with no more than three losses and wins the Big East Tournament. A record of roughly 26-4 would put Villanova in contention for a N0. 1 seed. The Wildcats would need Syracuse to falter in order to earn the No. 1 seed in the East Regional hosted in New York City.
  • Worst Case Scenario: It turns out Villanova isn’t as good as its non-conference performance suggested. Villanova loses six to eight games in the Big East and winds up a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story