Thanksgiving Weekend Games Will Test Big East Teams

Posted by George Hershey on November 27th, 2013

The week of Thanksgiving features some of the best non-conference games of the season. Most of the Big East teams will face stiff tests over the next few days as they look to bolster their resumes and get ready for conference play. Here is a look at some of the key questions that those teams will look to answer during the second half of Feast Week.

Wooden Legacy

This tournament features two Big East teams, Marquette and Creighton. Each was already scheduled to play in this tournament before Creighton joined the league, so they were placed on opposite sides of the bracket and will not meet each other until the championship game.

McDermott Has Been Superb So Far This Season (AP)

McDermott Has Been Superb So Far This Season (AP)

Creighton will open against Arizona State on Thursday in its first game against a ranked opponent this season. That game will be a challenge for the Bluejays as the Sun Devils will have an advantage athletically and have a superstar player in Jahii Carson who can go toe to toe against Doug McDermott. Creighton will be tested by Arizona State’s size, speed, and confidence after beating Marquette and UNLV. The key question Creighton will have to answer is whether players other than McDermott can step up against arguably more talented teams. McDermott has proven his ability to score against anybody, but the rest of the team will have to supplement his play with outside shooting and great defense. The Bluejays will then face either Charleston or, more likely, San Diego State, and if they win both games, will probably see Marquette on Sunday. A win against Arizona State and a run in this tournament would give Creighton a lot of confidence going forward.

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DePaul Suffers Alexander Heartbreak But Shouldn’t Lose Faith

Posted by George Hershey on November 16th, 2013

Yesterday DePaul’s basketball program and its fans watched closely as consensus top five class of 2014 recruit Cliff Alexander decided to attend Kansas, turning down his hometown Blue Demons and home state Fighting Illini. The Blue Demons had been in contention as long as anybody in his final grouping and were an appealing team for Alexander because of the proximity to his family. Rumors swirling around in the days leading up to the announcement suggested that he would be deciding between Illinois, Kansas and DePaul, but with top recruits Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones reportedly set to pick Duke over Kansas, there was still plenty of room for Alexander on Bill Self’s team.

Cliff Alexander disappointed a lot of basketball fans in the state of Illinois (The News Gazette)

Cliff Alexander disappointed a lot of basketball fans in the state of Illinois (The News Gazette)

The addition of Alexander would have been the biggest win for DePaul in decades. A player of his caliber is a program-changer for a school like DePaul. The impact goes beyond what he would have brought to the court for his one season, maybe two, in college. The excitement and publicity around the program would have brought spectators and the media out in droves to see him. It also would have helped future recruiting and increased head coach Oliver Purnell’s credibility and stature on the recruiting trail.

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Big East M5: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 15th, 2013

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  1. Today is the biggest day in DePaul basketball in a very long time. Consensus top five recruit Cliff Alexander will be deciding where he plays possibly his only year of college basketball. Alexander will be picking between Illinois, Kansas, Memphis and the Blue Demons. There has been a lot of speculation during the past few days that he will pick between DePaul and Illinois, but Alexander’s mother has explicitly stated that all four schools are still in play even if he has already decided in his mind. DePaul has as good a shot as anyone to get the Chicago native, as he has expressed a desire to stay home near his family. Recruiting powerhouse Kansas would seem to be the most logical fit for such a talented player, but DePaul and Illinois will allow Alexander to star from the moment he sets foot on campus. If Alexander commits to DePaul, it will be a historic pickup for the program and could work wonders for the future of the team.
  2. The early signing period began Wednesday and many Big East teams reeled in some sensational talent. Leading the way was XavierESPN.com‘s fourth best 2014 class, and Seton Hall, seventh best, two teams who have not had classes like these in many years. Chris Mack brings in four four-star recruits, led by Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Summer. Isaiah Whitehead headlines Seton Hall’s class, along with Angel Delgado. Whitehead, in particular, is a lot of fun to watch. Georgetown is eighth, right behind the Pirates, while Marquette comes in at #15, and Providence rounds out the Big East teams at #20. This is a tremendous year for recruiting in the Big East as some fans around the league were worried that the losses of powerhouses like Syracuse and Louisville would hurt league-wide recruiting, but the coaches have stepped it up regardless. The future of the Big East is certainly bright with so many great players signing on with conference teams.
  3. There are several big games on the docket this weekend for Big East schools, including two of the top teams facing tough challenges. Marquette hosts Ohio State in the first game broadcast on Fox in quite a while. Buzz Williams’ squad will play the Buckeyes after last season’s scheduled game on an aircraft carrier was canceled due to moisture on the court. This year both teams are coming off of Elite Eight appearances but have also lost their best players in Vander Blue and Deshaun Thomas. The game will be a good indicator of how far along the Golden Eagles are at this point in the year. Creighton also visits St. Joseph’s on Saturday after crushing the Hawks in Omaha last year. Creighton should make sure to be ready as St. Joe’s has played very well so far and a tough road game this early in the season will really test Greg McDermott’s squad. The Bluejays will also be without a fully healthy Grant Gibbs, as he hurt his finger two weeks ago and has not been the same ever since.
  4. Marquette play-by-play announcer Steve  “The Homer” True was rushed to a hospital on Wednesday after getting into a car accident. True was hit by a suspected drunk driver and suffered a dangerous head injury. He was upgraded from critical to stable condition yesterday as the Milwaukee area and entire Big East conference wishes him the best. Marquette head coach Buzz Williams has the utmost respect for him, saying, “Homer is one of my all-time favorite people in the world and I sincerely mean that. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.” There has been nothing but positive words said about True and we send our prayers and best wishes to “The Homer” as he recovers.
  5. Some Seton Hall players were upset with a couple of Kent State players after their recent game. The Pirates said that two players were yelling at them as they took free throws and were generally acting disrespectful during the game. Although there is no rule prohibiting this, it is considered a lack of sportsmanship to be yelling “Miss it!” and screaming when another team is shooting, regardless of the score and situation. This was one of many of the chaotic events from Seton Hall’s win on Wednesday night. For example, Brian Oliver received a technical for standing over a Kent State player and taunting him after blocking his shot. It was a particularly boneheaded play as the ball was still in play and could have been grabbed before it went out of bounds.
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Big East M5: 11.13.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 13th, 2013

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  1. As the majority of college hoops fans watched the Champions Classic in Chicago, Marquette won its second game of the season in a dismantling of Grambling State prior to Saturday’s big upcoming match-up with Ohio State. Grambling hasn’t won a game in over a full year so it was interesting to see Marquette schedule such a team with horrible RPI implications. The most impressive player on the night was freshman Deonte Burton. Burton is a physical specimen who got off to a slow start but in the second half came on strong to finish with 14 points and six rebounds. He could play a role coming off the bench to provide defense and rebounding as well as an ability to provide offense from the foul line extended. As Buzz Williams figures out the rotation for the season, Burton will be an interesting case study because of the tools he brings to the lineup.
  2. Some personnel news came through on Tuesday, as Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard announced that freshman Rashed Anthony will redshirt this season, and St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin announced that Felix Balamou and David Lipscomb will also be redshirted. The Pirates and Red Storm have plenty of depth at each of their positions and the players could use the time to develop their bodies and skills through a year of practice. Willard specifically said that Anthony could get become a better player with a year of physical and technical development. The Red Storm’s Balamou would have had difficulty getting minutes this year, but next year will have a great shot to earn significant playing time after several players at his position graduate.
  3. Doug McDermott turned in quite the performance on Monday night against the UMKC. In only 28 minutes of action, he scored 37 points in a variety of ways — hitting threes, runners, post-ups, pull up jumpers — and it was a joy to watch. ESPN.com‘s Myron Medcalf wrote a piece on McDermott and his rising stardom. McDermott is already a bona fide star, but he does not receive much attention because of his humble personality. He certainly is deserving of  the kind of attention that players like Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins receive, but he plays for a Jesuit school in Omaha and was not a particularly big time recruit. Hopefully his final season at Creighton and playing in some of the major media markets of the Big East will help elevate his place in the college basketball world, as pundits and fans realize how special a talent he is.
  4. The John Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 players list was announced yesterday and the Big East is represented by two players, Doug McDermott and Semaj Christon. McDermott is looking to become the first three-time Wooden Award All-American since Tyler Hansbrough. It is Christon’s first time on the list and he is also a candidate for the Bob Cousy Award, recognizing the nation’s top point guard. McDermott is a near-lock to make the 10 player All-American team and will be fighting with several other stars all season to win the National Player of the Year Award. Christon is a player who could sneak up on people and make a run for one of the 10 spots if he has a big season at Xavier, and he already has the Musketeers off to a good 2-0 start.
  5. Xavier pulled out a big win last night over Tennessee at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati. This is an impressive early season win for Chris Mack’s team that has been battling the injury bug and wasn’t completely sure who would be suiting up for the game. Semaj Christon led the way, but two unsung heroes who were pivotal in securing the win were Matt Stainbrook and Erik Stenger. The duo combined for 18 points and 16 rebounds on a night where points came at a premium and the play was sloppy. Stainbrook played great defense in the low post and Stenger brought great energy and hustle throughout the night. It seemed like whenever Stenger was on the court, he was constantly active and making plays. Christon is Xavier’s go-to scorer and the unquestioned leader, but other players like Stainbrook, Stenger, and Myles Davis will determine in the end if Xavier is a contender or a pretender.
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Big East Twitter Must Follows

Posted by George Hershey on November 11th, 2013

The college basketball season has begun and Big East teams are ready to battle it out for another exciting season. Here at the RTC Big East microsite, we attempt to get to all the news in the league, but with 10 teams and so much going on, it’s impossible to report and analyze everything. Here is a list of relevant websites and Twitter follows that will keep Big East fans up to date on all the happenings on the Big East this season.

big east conf teams

Big East

Marquette Golden Eagles

Bloggers,Beat Writers & Fan Sites

Georgetown Hoyas

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Big East M5: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 1st, 2013

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  1. The AP Top 25 preseason poll was released yesterday and Marquette was the only Big East team included. They came in at #17, the same as the USA Today Coaches Poll. Creighton had the 27th most votes and Villanova, Georgetown and St. John’s also received some votes. Many pundits believe Creighton should have been included. ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman tweeted “Three teams that didn’t make the cut in the Preseason Top 25 that should have: Creighton, Harvard and Colorado.” The Bluejays finished last season ranked #22 and return four starters, including stud Doug McDermott. Voters may have decided against ranking them because of their move into the Big East and some expected growing pains. It’s also surprising to see Villanova receive more votes than Georgetown even though the Hoyas have been picked by many to win the league whereas Villanova was chosen fourth in the Big East preseason poll.
  2. Two Big East schools picked up commitments from recruits this week. Class of 2014 guard Jon Davis committed to DePaul. Davis plays at a fast pace and liked the fact that he will have a chance to contribute as a freshman. He saw his stock rise this past summer when he played very well against top five recruit Emmanuel Mudiay and saw his offers increase, but he ultimately decided to play for Oliver Purnell. Providence also received good news when 2015 forward Ryan Fazekas committed to the Friars on Tuesday. Fazekas is a tall shooter who could pose match-up problems for opposing bigs.  He is not a highly ranked player by the recruiting services, but his ability to shoot and his size attracted many brand-name programs to offer him a scholarship. He is Ed Cooley’s first recruit in the class and Cooley has some momentum on the recruiting scene, signing several big recruits the past few seasons. DePaul also received some good news about Cliff Alexander’s recruitment. The consensus top five recruit in the 2014 class said that he has eliminated Michigan State from contention; he is down to Illinois, Kansas, Memphis and DePaul. Alexander would be a program changer for Purnell and could instantly propel the program to success unseen in decades.
  3. The NCAA is instituting new hand-check rules this season and Xavier coach Chris Mack is not a fan. There will be fouls called for keeping a hand or forearm on an opponent, putting two hands on an opponent, continually jabbing an opponent by extending an arm, or placing a hand or forearm on the opponent and using an arm bar to impede the progress of a dribbler. When Mack was asked about the changes, he bluntly responded “They stink. I don’t think fans… want to see one team shoot 50 free throws and the other team shoot 46 free throws. Usually at some point… you hear fans yelling out, ‘Let them play!’ And I think that’s going to be a real problem.” Mack makes a good point. The change was made to help offenses move more freely and ultimately score more points. This could result in a more exciting game and make it more similar to the NBA, but there are downsides like more players in foul trouble, longer games, and many more free throws. Marquette’s Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker tweeted his thoughts after Marquette’s scrimmage last week, “Concessions sales go up thanks to new rules emphasis. Games will be 3 hours #doublebonus #lotsoffouls.” It will take time for players and coaches to adjust, but free throws and team depth will play a huge role this season, and will decide many games.
  4. Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News wrote a great piece about five potential additions to the Big East if it ultimately decides to expand. The five teams he included were St. Louis, Richmond, Dayton, VCU and Gonzaga. He makes the point that it would be best if they stayed at 10 teams, but in today’s environment, every conference becomes infatuated with expansion. Every team playing each other twice is great for the programs and the fans. If all goes well in the first few years, moving to 12 teams would be a good decision. St. Louis and VCU seem like the best potential additions, as they are very good teams on the rise with strong fan bases. They also would help the league grow in new markets and bring in two great current coaches in Shaka Smart and Jim Crews.
  5. Happy Halloween! The Sporting News put together a slideshow of college basketball players dressed up for Halloween. St. John’s D’Angelo Harrison is the only Big East player included and looks great as Spiderman and Robin. Todd Keryc also wrote a nice Halloween piece, Trick or Treat: The Big East Schedule Edition, highlighting some of the exciting non-conference match-ups for the upcoming season.
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Breaking Down Dan Hanner’s Big East Projections

Posted by George Hershey on October 28th, 2013

Economist and college hoops writer Dan Hanner posted  his annual projections for ESPN Insider on Friday. It is a very interesting article and a recommended read for any college basketball stats junkie. He puts a unique spin on his projections by starting at the player level instead of the team level. The advantage, as he puts it, “is that not all additions have the same impact everywhere. For example, transfer Trae Golden is expected to have a huge impact on Georgia Tech because the Yellow Jackets had a big hole at PG. But if he had been added to a team like Duke, with multiple quality ball-handlers, his impact would have been much smaller. The player-level model can account for these kind of differences.” His rankings take into account player upside as well as downside and he gives a best-case and worst-case position for each team.

Grant Gibbs and Creighton need to shore up their defense to reach their full potential this season.

Grant Gibbs and Creighton need to shore up their defense to reach their full potential this season.

The Big East is well-considered by Hanner. The league’s 10-team average is 53.9, slightly behind the Big Ten at 49.2 and well ahead of the AAC at 79.9. Last year’s Big East would have scored considerably higher with Louisville in the second spot as well as Syracuse and Connecticut in the top 25. This year, the Big East does not have as many teams at the top with Marquette leading the way at #17, but there is great balance with DePaul the only team lower than #100. It does not look like any teams will be battling for #1 seeds this season, but there could be seven or eight squads fighting for spots in the NCAA Tournament come February and March.

The following are the 10 Big East teams in descending order:

  • POFF - Projected offense, median prediction for points scored per 100 possessions
  • PDEF - Projected defense, median prediction for points allowed per 100 possessions

1. Marquette Golden Eagles

17. POFF: 116.1 | PDEF: 92.5 Best case: 7th | Worst case: 29th

Hanner ranks the Golden Eagles in the same spot as the USA Today poll. Buzz Williams’ squad is ranked highly in both offense and defense, but neither is extraordinarily high. For Marquette to reach its best case scenario, they would need their three new starting guards to come close to last year’s production from the trio of Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue and Trent Lockett, a very difficult task. The frontcourt returns everyone, but Jamil Wilson and Davante Gardner will have to become the go-to scorers and also rebound well while Chris Otule locks down the paint defensively. With Williams’ track record, it seems unlikely that his team would drop out of the top 25 unless the guards are unable to step up and contribute at a high level.

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A Marquette Transfer and Injury Has Short and Long-Term Impacts

Posted by George Hershey on October 25th, 2013

In the past week, Marquette fans have received quite a bit of bad news via social media. Last Thursday, incoming junior college transfer Jameel McKay went to Twitter to announce his departure from the school before even playing a game. The next day, freshman point guard Duane Wilson sent out a picture of himself on crutches on his Instagram account. It was not announced officially until Monday when the Marquette men’s basketball Twitter account noted that he would miss the start of the season with a stress fracture in his left leg.

Buzz Williams has his work cut out for him. (US Presswire)

Buzz Williams has his work cut out for him. (US Presswire)

McKay was supposed to be next in a growing line of successful junior college recruits for Buzz Williams. Since coming to Marquette, Williams has had five junior college players and four of them have gone on to the NBA, most recently the pair of Dwight Buycks and Jae Crowder. McKay came to the program after starring in the Milwaukee public school league and then went on to Indian Hills Community College, where he was a two-time All-American. He is an athletic forward with great energy and rebounding skills. Popular Marquette basketball website PaintTouches.com recently spoke with McKay about his departure, where he revealed that he was unhappy with his role on the team and is looking for a better situation. A fellow Milwaukee native, Wilson is a high scoring point guard who can get to the rim at will and shoot a high percentage. Marquette fans were pulling for him to win the starting job out of the gate over junior Derrick Wilson. With Duane looking like he will be out eight to 12 weeks, there is little hope that he will crack the starting lineup this season.

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Big Ten Non-Conference Schedule Analysis: Ohio State Buckeyes

Posted by KTrahan on November 1st, 2012

The Big Ten microsite will be analyzing the non-conference schedules for some of the Big Ten teams in the coming weeks. Today, we continue with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Check out their full schedule here.

Where we left off: Ohio State sure isn’t afraid to play anyone, and the Buckeyes proved that with last year’s non-conference schedule. OSU played Florida in the second game of the season, drew Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and played at Kansas. The Buckeyes won the first two but lost in Lawrence without top forward Jared Sullinger. Even the rest of the non-conference slate wasn’t a slouch, as OSU also visited South Carolina. That kind of schedule helped prepare the Buckeyes for a tough Big Ten slate, and they’ll be tested again this year before conference play begins.

Matta’s Team Will Be Challenged By the Buckeyes’ Non-Conference Schedule

Major tournaments: Ohio State will play some top-tier teams this non-conference season, so there’s little to nitpick, but the one criticism of the Buckeyes’ schedule is that they’re playing in a lackluster tournament. OSU will compete in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff, matching up with Rhode Island followed by either Washington or Seton Hall. Those games will be played in Uncasville, Connecticut, and games against Albany and Missouri-Kansas City — one before and one after the Uncasville games — will be played in Columbus. Washington would be a decent opponent, but considering the other tournaments around the country, this isn’t the most exciting set of match-ups around.

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Big East Morning Five: 01.13.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 13th, 2012

  1. Dude, did you eat a bad pierogi at halftime or something? Pittsburgh is down and Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette is not about to let anyone forget it with his ‘piece’ yesterday. One that featured gems like, “Really. Practice some more. Or maybe less.” He also referenced one of Pitt’s players (yes, an amateur, college player) as being “awful.”  Yes, it was written fresh of an embarrassing 62-39 home loss to Rutgers.  Yes, it was the Panthers’ fifth straight defeat.  Yes, it was a game where Pittsburgh had just four baskets in the first half, a stat Collier pounced on. “Pitt made four field goals in the first half. Let me dive on the floor for some perspective on that. If you selected five Pitt students at random, subjected them to zero coaching, let them practice by themselves once a week, kicked each of them in the shins as they walked onto the court, they might get four baskets in 20 minutes.” OK, Gene we will take you up on that and do you one better. Grab four of your buddies, if you can find four, and roll over to The Pete. Try not to kick too many dogs along the way. The clock is set at 20:00.  Let’s see if you can get four buckets against the Panther team you are ripping. They’ll be waiting, as will Jamie Dixon and his 227-66 (.774) overall and 98-42 (.700) Big East record. I just hope I can be there to write about it.
  2. Many tout Syracuse as the deepest team in the country.  Well, Jim Boeheim added to his team in preparation to face a different bench as he has hired an attorney to defend him in the slander lawsuit brought by the alleged Bernie Fine sexual abuse victims.  C. James Zeszutek, a managing partner with Pittsburgh’s Dinsmore & Shohl law firm who holds three degrees from Syracuse (including his law degree), will represent Boeheim.  The plaintiffs, Bobby Davis and Mike Lang, brought the defamation suit against Boeheim in indicating that they had ulterior motives in their molestation accusations against Fine.  Zeszutek has expansive experience defending a number of college coaches, including the likes of Jim O’Brien and John Calipari when they were accused of NCAA violations at Ohio State and Memphis, respectively.
  3. Speaking of Syracuse’s depth, for how many teams would Dion Waiters start?  Um, most of them?  One of the few exceptions happens to be the team he’s currently on.  After something of an adjustment to a reserve role, the scoring, stealing, sophomore guard is excelling and feeling just fine about his role off the bench.  Waiters confessed, “It used to mess with me a little… I was one of the top 15 players in the country coming out of high school.  I expected to start as soon as I got here.”  Well, he did not, playing in 34 games as a freshman and starting none (6.6 PPG, 16.3 MPG).  Further, in his second year, he still does not.  Waiters has come off the bench in all of the undefeated Orange’s 18 victories to the tune of 22.3 minutes, 12.9 points and 2.9 assists per contest.  He is clearly comfortable with his role, as it has not deterred from his production.  His averages in points and assists are good for second on the team, while his 2.2 steals per game lead the way.
  4. We talk a lot about unheralded players here at RTC Big East, and it is finally Davante Gardner’s turn.  Before going further however, an apology is in order.  How could we have missed this guy?  He’s 6’8”, 280 pounds! In all seriousness, Gardner, in fact, has been on the radar.  We have touched upon the aspects of his assuming a bigger role in the absence of injured teammate Chris Otule.  Well, after after career-highs in points (22) and rebounds (15) in Wednesday’s win over St. John’s, Gardner now commands our full attention.  In some ways Gardner (9.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG) is a microcosm of his program and his coach.  Who gushes about #25 Marquette (13-4, 2-2) and Buzz Williams?  Yet, all they do is beat you time and time again. As Williams very appropriately stated on Gardner and his team, “His [Gardner’s] energy level on a daily basis and our team’s energy level on a daily basis determines a lot for us. Energy and attitude say a lot in life and say a lot in basketball.”  Gardner, who came off the bench in the Golden Eagles’ first eight games, has started seven of the last nine for the Golden Eagles, averaging 11.6 points and seven rebounds per game.
  5. It is Friday the 13th and, as luck would have it, a slow news day at time of writing so let’s have fun with numbers and take a look at ESPN’s latest power rankings from a Big East perspective.  Guess what?  Syracuse (18-0, 5-0) tops the list.  The Orange certainly sit head and shoulders above the rest of the Big East, and they seem to be inching away from the national pack as well.  Similar to the national polls, ESPN’s Top 10 consists of no other Big East teams.  Georgetown (13-3, 3-2) checks in next at #13. The Hoyas have been bitten of late, and are riding a two-game losing streak. Connecticut (13-3, 3-2) is sitting right behind Georgetown at #14.  The Huskies were rolling before back-to-back Garden State spoilings by Seton Hall and Rutgers before getting back on track with a victory over West Virginia.  At #24, Marquette (13-4, 2-2) rounds out the Big East power ranking presence.  The Golden Eagles, who are treading water with a 3-4 record over their last seven, have what could be perceived as a softer stretch coming up.  Their next five opponents consist of Pittsburgh, Louisville, at Providence, South Florida and at Villanova.
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Big East Morning Five: 01.10.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 10th, 2012

  1. Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch told Alex Kline of TheRecruitScoop.com he will transfer to UNLV.  Birch visited UNLV, Florida and New Mexico State last week before making his choice. “I really like UNLV,“ he told Kline. “It was a very tough decision but UNLV is a good fit for me because of the coaches, players and facilities… I can develop under a great, young coach in Dave Rice.  He and the entire staff made me feel very comfortable in Las Vegas.”  As a transfer, Birch will have to sit out two semesters.  The timing of the decision was critical as he will be able to enroll in school for the spring semester with the intent of becoming eligible in January 2013.  UNLV has two remaining scholarships that could be used to build upon what is already a monster class of newcomers: DaQuan Cook, Katin Reinhardt, Demetris Morant as well as Bryce Jones, who is a transfer from the Southern California, are all headed to Vegas next year.   The buzz surrounding the two open spots involves three more heavyweights in forwards Anthony Bennett (ranked seventh in the class of 2012 by both Rivals.com and ESPN.com), Shabazz Muhammad (the consensus number one rated class of 2012 recruit) and St. John’s decommit Norvel Pelle.
  2. St John’s was involved in the other piece of transfer news yesterday.  Fortunately, this time they found out they were getting one rather than losing one.  Guard Jamal Branch, who left Texas A&M after one semester there, announced he will be suiting up for the Red Storm once he sits out a year under NCAA transfer rules.   Arizona, Marquette and Maryland were also reportedly in the mix.  Branch, a top 100 recruit coming out of Grace Prep in Arlington, Texas, was playing significant minutes (18.6 MPG) for the Aggies as the backup point guard, averaging 4.2 points and 2.5 assists per game.  He cited his relationship with current St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison as contributing to his decision. “The players there are pretty cool and with me knowing D’Angelo helped me make my decision,” Branch said. “That’s like my little brother and we always wanted to play with each other. Me and him click well and are looking forward to doing big things here at St. John’s.”
  3. It will be a banner evening in Providence tonight when Rick Pitino and his Louisville club come to town to take on the Friars.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of Providence’s Final Four run under Pitino and the milestone will be celebrated during a halftime ceremony.  With a band of pressing, three-point shooting unknowns such as current Florida head coach Billy Donovan, Delray Brooks and Ernie “Pop” Lewis, the 1986-87 Friars captivated a region and vaulted Pitino to coaching stardom.  “I have always coached every time out, no matter how much time is left in the game, feeling we could come back, no matter what the level was, or the score was, all because of that Providence College basketball team. Because they set the standard, not only for comebacks, but they set the standard for just making me believe that anything is possible,” Pitino said.  The Friars defeated Georgetown, ironically in Louisville, in the regional final before bowing to another Big East foe, Syracuse, in the national semifinals.  Current Providence head coach Ed Cooley will personally enjoy the moment as well.  A Rhode Islander who group up a fan of the Friars, Cooley was star player at Rhode Island’s Central High School at the time. A number of team members are expected to be in attendance, including Brooks and Lewis.
  4. The Big East’s weekly superlatives have been dished out and West Virginia’s Darryl “Truck” Bryant scooped up his second Player of the Week honor.  Bryant averaged 27 points per game in Mountaineer wins over Rutgers and Georgetown.  Rookie of the Week went to St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison who averaged 21 points and 7.5 rebounds in two games, highlighted by an 18-point, seven-rebound effort in an upset road win over Cincinnati.  Big East Honor Roll recipients this week were: DePaul guard Brandon Young, who averaged 24 points per game including 26 in a win over Pittsburgh; Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley who is starting to become a regular around here;  Rutgers guard Eli Carter, who followed up his Rookie of the Week honor with more strong play; Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore, who averaged a double-double for the week (16.5 PPG, 10.0 APG) and Syracuse guard Brandon Triche who filled up the stat sheet (16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.5 APG) to help keep the Orange unbeaten.
  5. Say what you want about the overall quality of the Big East this year as compared to recent seasons but one thing is for sure, nobody can ever rest on their laurels, lest they find themselves on the short end of an upset loss.  It was another turbulent week in the conference as evidenced by the latest Top 25 poll.  The only constant of course has been Syracuse (17-0), who was pushed at times on the road by Providence and back home against Marquette, but held firm to their undefeated record and #1 ranking.  The Orange have really separated from the back as they now represent the Big East’s only resident of the Top 10.  Connecticut (12-3), behind losses to Seton Hall and Rutgers, plummeted nine spots to #17.  Georgetown (13-2) lost at West Virginia and slipped two notches to #11 as a result.  Louisville’s (13-3) double overtime loss to Notre Dame cost them three spots as the Cardinals slid to #14.  Marquette (12-4) took two losses last week, and therefore did not hold their ranking, falling five spots to #25.  OK, enough of talking about teams that are struggling.  How ‘bout those Pirates!  Yes, Seton Hall (14-2) coming of a 2-0 week that featured wins over then #8 Connecticut and on the road against Providence, broke in at #24 and is ranked for the first time since 2001.
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