Morning Five: 12.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 10th, 2014

morning5

  1. Most people think of December as a time to spend with family, but it is also one of the most popular times of the year for players to announce that they will be transferring. This typically happens when players go home for Christmas break and presumably have friends and family telling them how much better they are than the starters. This year, a few players go an early jump on transferring as they aren’t even waiting for the end of the semester. at Marquette, sophomores Deonte Burton and John Dawson will be transferring leaving the Golden Eagles with just eight scholarship players. While Dawson is a seldom-used reserve, Burton was a top-50 recruit in the class of 2013, but has played less than expected and with Marquette’s highly-touted incoming class he probably felt it was best to move on. At Wake Forest, sophomore guard Miles Overton will also be transferring. While Overton, only averaged 3.4 points per game during his time there he did have a 14-point and 8-point game in the past two weeks.
  2. Louisville finally received word from the NCAA about freshman Shaqquan Aaron as it was announced that he will be suspended for nine games (30 percent of the regular season) of which he has already missed eight including last night’s win over Indiana. The NCAA ruled that Aaron’s family had received “extra benefits related to housing” along with other undisclosed things. Aaron, a borderline top-30 recruit last year, will have to sit out Sunday’s game against UNC-Wilmington before making his debut against Western Kentucky on December 20.
  3. Kansas junior forward Jamari Traylor (3.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game) will not play in tonight’s game against Georgetown after being suspended following his arrest early on Sunday morning for interfering with a police officer. The details around the incident are unclear, but Traylor was arrested with a Kansas football player following a fight where someone was assaulted with the police still investigating the matter. Based on Bill Self’s comments it appears that Traylor was a bystander, who was arrested for essentially not complying with a police officer rather than being an active participant in the assault.
  4. One of the common complaints with early-season schedules is the fact that many teams play meaningless games to boost their records presumably to make both coaches (hello, bonus money) and athletic directors look better. Fortunately some programs appreciate the importance of playing big-name programs for the good of both their own program and the sport. So whenever we see schools scheduled is big-time match-ups we appreciate it. As such we have to applaud both Kentucky and UCLA, the two most historically significant programs in the sport, for agreeing to play a home-and-home in 2015 and 2016. The schools, which will play each other this season in the CBS Sports Classic on December 20 in Chicago will play at Pauley Pavilion on December 3, 2015 and Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016. While it is hard to believe, this will be the first time that either program has played at the other’s home arena.
  5. Speaking of Kentucky, one of the remarkable things about the team (outside of how talented they are and their platoon system) is just how dominant their defense has been. As Gary Parrish points out, this Kentucky team has a chance to be one of the best defensive teams in college basketball history. This is certainly high praise, but the numbers, which admittedly don’t go that far back, seem to support the argument. While this Kentucky team might lack the signature defender like previous Kentucky teams had with Anthony Davis or Nerlens Noel or looking even further back Georgetown with Patrick Ewing, they do have much more length (at least in terms of numbers/depth) than almost any team that we can remember. So while it is still very early to be asking the undefeated question, the one thing the Wildcats have in their favor is a defense that will probably require a team getting very hot from beyond the arc to make an upset a realistic possibility.
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Big East Weekend Wrap: Vol. III

Posted by Justin Kundrat on December 8th, 2014

The Big East Weekend Wrap will cover news and notes from the weekend’s games.

Another week of games, another week of wins for the Big East. As we move into the last few weeks of the non-conference schedule, these games gain additional significance; they represent a team’s last few chances to stockpile resume-enhancing wins before the conference gauntlet begins. A number of Big East teams were able to do just that last week. Below is a list of four key takeaways from the past week of action.

St. John's Stunned Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Saturday (credit: Syracuse.com)

St. John’s Stunned Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Saturday (credit: Syracuse.com)

St. John’s steals a win at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse rarely goes down easy at the Carrier Dome, but the Orange’s streak of 55 consecutive non-conference home game victories came to an end on Saturday as D’Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene IV taught the Orange a few things about three-point shooting. In the past, the Johnnies had seemingly always managed to lose these key games down the stretch by way of turnovers or poor shot selection. But this time, the more experienced group played under control and found ways to score over the 2-3 zone inside. While Harrison paced the team throughout the game, hitting timely threes or mid-range shots, it was Greene who helped to close it out, scoring 11 points in the final 4:08 of action. Forwards Chris Obekpa and Sir’Dominic Pointer were largely neutralized on the offensive end, but Harrison and Greene converted with stunning efficiency, combining for a white-hot 8-of-14 shooting night from beyond the arc. After failing to capitalize on their chance to take down Gonzaga, St. John’s made the most of its chance this time around. The historically volatile group of unbelievably athletic guards and forwards seems to be calming down and coming together this season, at long last.

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Big East Weekend Wrap: Vol. II

Posted by Justin Kundrat on December 1st, 2014

The Big East Weekend Wrap will cover news and notes from the weekend’s games.

After a long week of preseason tournaments, which often featured days of consecutive games for a team, the Big East has just two undefeated teams remaining: Villanova and Seton Hall. The conference at a whole has continued to play competitively and currently stands at 48-12, ranking 4th in Kenpom’s conference rankings. Below is a list of four key takeaways from the past week of Big East action.

JayVaughn Pinkston Came Up With the Defensive Play of the Year in CBB (USA Today Images)

JayVaughn Pinkston Came Up With the Defensive Play of the Year in CBB (USA Today Images)

  • Villanova finally showed up to play. After their first three games, some had already begun to question whether Villanova truly deserved their preseason #12 ranking. The team as a whole struggled mightily with its outside shooting – something they relied upon heavily last season – and up until last week, held unconvincing wins over Lehigh and Bucknell that weren’t decided until the closing minutes. Yet when the national spotlight was on, the Wildcats came through. The team handily defeated #14 VCU with quick, effective ball movement and a penchant for taking care of the ball. Then, following their statement win was a gripping victory over #19 Michigan, in which the Wildcats escaped after several lead changes in the last few minutes. Finally, they capped off the week with a 31 point rout over Delaware. Junior center Daniel Ochefu should be the frontrunner for Most Improved Player in the Big East. The 6’11 center has shown a newly developed array of post moves that have added a frontcourt dimension unseen in previous Villanova teams. In a league without much talent disparity, Villanova has established themselves as the top dog, head and shoulders above the rest. They will be playing with a target on their backs all season as every opponent will be seeking a resume building victory when they step onto the floor to face the Wildcats.

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What’s Trending: Feast Week Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on November 28th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Griffin Wong (@griffwong90) is your weekly host. 

 

#4WhiteGuysAndAnEgyptian

When asked about Louisville’s dominating victory over Savannah St., Rick Pitino dropped this controversial sound bite. Some liked it, some didn’t, but we can all agree that it turned some heads.

 Short Shorts Making a Return?

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Big East Conference Preview: DePaul, Creighton, Marquette & Butler

Posted by Justin Kundrat on November 11th, 2014

The Big East microsite will preview each conference team in tiers in preparation for the season tipoff on Friday night.

#10: DePaul. As a perennial Big East bottom-dweller, it should come as no surprise that DePaul finds itself at the bottom of the preseason list once again. Turnovers and shooting percentages were abysmal last season (#269 and #257, respectively), and the team was too focused on pushing the pace to get crucial stops down the stretch (#326 in opponents’ effective field goal percentage). The loss of three contributors from last season’s 12-21 squad and an underwhelming recruiting class puts DePaul right where they finished last season: dead last. However, that’s not to say things won’t turn around here eventually. The team returns two key sophomores in Billy Garrett Jr., a 6’6 guard with the ball-handling skills of a one and the length of a small forward, and Tommy Hamilton, a 6’10” sophomore whose shooting ability makes him a mismatch for most defenders. To offset the loss of last year’s go-to guy, Brandon Young, DePaul has brought in a recruiting class featuring a transfer from Illinois, Myke Henry, and three junior college players, who, along with lone senior Jamee Crockett, are expected to offer much needed experience. Anyone who has watched the Blue Demons recently knows that there are a handful of talented pieces here that could serve as building blocks for the future, but with every step forward, there are two steps back. Garrett and Hamilton will certainly improve, but these are players who haven’t yet been asked to lead a winning program. With Young and running mate Cleveland Melvin now gone, defenses will turn their attention to Garrett and force other players to score. It appears to be yet another long season for DePaul.

Greg McDermott Needs to Figure Out What to Do Next (Getty Images).

Greg McDermott Needs to Figure Out What to Do Next (Getty Images).

#9: Creighton. Last season’s success marked a coming of age of sorts for Creighton. Four-year star Doug McDermott won the National Player of the Year award and graduated with the honor of ranking fifth all-time in points scored at the Division I level; the team posted its fourth consecutive 20-win season and was invited to its third consecutive NCAA Tournament; and the Bluejays ran one of the most efficient offenses in the country. But gone are the players who got them there. Four of the team’s five starters have since graduated, leaving senior point guard Austin Chatman to fill the void as the lone returning player who averaged more than 17 minutes per game. He will be joined by seniors Devin Brooks and Will Artino along with rising sophomore Isaiah Zierdan in what will without question be called a rebuilding year. Head coach Greg McDermott will likely be more concerned with the cohesion and development of his top recruits, Ronnie Harrell and Leon Gilmore, the first of whom has drawn favorable comparisons to former Creighton star Kyle Korver. Both should fill in nicely for a team that will lack depth at the forward position. Perhaps a projected ninth-place finish in this conference is too harsh given the return of four seniors who have plenty of experience playing in the Creighton system, but there are too many question marks around how they will perform without their All-American scoring machine in the lineup. Although there is enough talent here to finish much higher, such a result will be highly dependent on whether Artino, Brooks and the other former role players who flourished when McDermott drew the attention of defenses can prove themselves as reliable Big East starters. For now, the safe bet is on no.

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One on One: A Big East Preview with Jon Rothstein

Posted by Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) on November 3rd, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the Big East, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with a Big East expert in CBS Sports Network College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein (@jonrothstein)

Rush the Court: Villanova enters the season as the pretty clear favorite to win the league. The Wildcats return four starters from a team that went 29-5 last season. What are some reasonable expectations for Jay Wright’s squad this season?

Expectations are high for Jay Wright and Company. (Getty)

Expectations are High for Jay Wright’s Villanova Team (Getty)

Jon Rothstein: I think reasonable expectations are to win the Big East title, have a chance at winning the Big East Tournament title, and get another high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was terrific last year in close game situations. I think there is a real possibility that Villanova could be a better team this year than it was last year, but have a worse record because its non-conference schedule is that much more difficult. What makes Villanova so good this year is that it does not lose 50/50 balls. Every ball that is being contested seems to go Villanova’s way almost every time. A big reason for that is Josh Hart. Hart is a guy who can go on a tear for Villanova this year, as he will step into a more enhanced role with the departure of James Bell. I think right now if there is one person who epitomizes Villanova’s culture and brand, it is Josh Hart.

RTC: Georgetown had a below average season last year [just 18-15 overall and 8-10 in conference]. There are no two ways around that. Does John Thompson III’s team have enough firepower to ensure a more successful campaign this season?

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Morning Five: 10.21.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 21st, 2014

morning5

  1. The NCAA’s next big fight appears to be drawing near after Chris Christie signed a sports gambling bill essentially legalizing it in New Jersey. That move would enable New Jersey to start offering sports gambling. One location, Monmouth Park, is reportedly looking to start offering it this coming weekend.  It should not come as a surprise that the NCAA and various professional leagues filed a lawsuit yesterday attempting to block such a move and will reportedly file for immediate injunctive relief today. At issue is the 22-year-old Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that barred sports gambling outside of a few select areas in the country. According to some state officials that decision should be up to the individual states and not the federal government (yes, the issue of “states’ rights” does come up outside of the Deep South). Our guess is that the injunction will be granted and this will be dragged out into a long and fairly messy affair.
  2. We have heard about so many investigation in college sports that we had almost forgot about the one involving Syracuse. Unfortunately for them, the NCAA has not and has invited school officials to attend a hearing later this month regarding the findings. While neither Jim Boeheim nor other school officials would speak to the case directly it appears to revolve around Fab Melo’s academic record and presumably others from around that same time period as well as an alleged sexual assault case in 2007. Given the way the NCAA operates (slapping schools on the wrist if at all and crushing student-athletes) we wouldn’t be surprised to see the school leave the investigation unscathed.
  3. On Thursday, ESPN released its Coaches Poll on Thursday and it should not come as much of a surprise that Kentucky came in at #1 followed by Arizona, Duke, Wisconsin, and Kansas. While the order of top five should not be surprising, Kentucky’s margin might be grabbing 24 of 32 first-place votes. As Mike DeCourcy notes despite all of Kentucky’s depth they do have some issues they will need to deal with including four particularly problematic ones. Some of the issues are clearly bigger than others ones, but we are sure Kentucky fans are aware the team will have to deal with these issues once the season starts and hopefully expectations are reasonable in Lexington. Well at least as reasonable as they can be there.
  4. Injuries at this time of year are always a concern, but Maryland might consider itself lucky that Evan Smotrycz will only be out for 4-6 weeks after fracturing the fifth metatarsal on his left foot. Smotrycz, who averaged 11 points and 6 rebounds per game last season, is expected to have surgery later this week.  Based on his estimated return to action he could miss as little as two games, but could potentially miss games against Arizona State, Iowa State, and Virginia if his recovery time is prolonged. Loyola might not be as fortunate as Milton Doyle, who lead the team in basically everything last year–scoring at 14.9 per game, assists at 3.6 per game, steals (38) and blocked shots (23) as a freshman–is out indefinitely with a torn labrum. Doyle, a Kansas transfer, will undergo five to six weeks of rehabilitation at which point he will be evaluated for the possibility of season-ending (7-9 month recovery) shoulder surgery. Southern Methodist doesn’t have an injury issue, but they do have an eligibility one with Markus Kennedy, who according to reports might not be academically eligible at the start of the season. The loss of Kennedy (12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game) would be another massive blow to the Mustangs, who are already dealing with greatly diminished expectations following the departure of Emmanuel Mudiay to China. Losing Kennedy would likely eliminate any hopes of the Mustangs making the NCAA Tournament this season.
  5. We have heard about players getting homesick after leaving high school, but apparently transfers can get homesick too very quickly (or at least it seems that way). Just a few months after transferring from Loyola Marymount to Marquette, Gabe Levin has decided to head back west as he is transferring to Long Beach State. Levin, who averaged 11.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game as freshman last season was going to sit out this season as one of the rare transfers who did not have a waiver. Now with his transfer to Long Beach State we are assuming he will not have to sit out any additional time, but it does raise questions as to his reasons for leaving Marquette so quickly (saw the writing on the wall with the incoming recruiting haul?).

EXTRA: Make sure to check out rushthecourtTV on Youtube for video M5s as well as plenty of other coverage throughout the season. 

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Morning Five: 10.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 10th, 2014

morning5

  1. He has not coached a game yet, but the Steve Wojciechowski era is already off to a great start. Prior to yesterday, he already had three four-star recruits for his 2015 recruiting class and then he topped it off with the commitment of Henry Ellenson to Marquette. We will point out that Wojciechowski had a huge edge in this recruitment–Henry’s brother Wally transferred to Marquette earlier this summer and that they are from Wisconsin–but he still managed to beat out Michigan State and Kentucky for Henry, a top 10 recruit in the class of 2015. There are already some who are criticizing the commitment saying that this is a package deal since Wally, who averaged just 2 points per game at Minnesota, received a scholarship, but package deals are hardly unique in college sports although they typically involve someone getting an assistant coaching job or something along those lines and while Wally is certainly not a star he did play for a legitimate high major program last year.
  2. After having to back out of his transfer to UCLA when he was not accepted into the school, Jon Octeus has found a new home with his decision to transfer to Purdue. Octeus, who averaged 13.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game at Colorado State, had originally attempted to transfer to UCLA as a graduate student, but was denied admission to the school, which was a huge blow to the Bruins and might have been the first time we had heard of a graduate student basketball transfer being denied admission. Although the school’s press release does not officially say that he has been admitted (just says that he is pursuing a “Master’s degree in the school of technology”) we are assuming he would not make the same mistake twice. Operating under the assumption that he got admitted this time, Octeus, who would be eligible to play immediately with a graduate transfer waiver, should provide the Boilermakers with a steady influence to balance out what should be their strength inside with A.J. Hammons, 10.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game last year, returning.
  3. With the way that things appeared to be going for suspended Texas guard Martez Walker the announcement that he had withdrawn from the school should not be that surprising. Walker, who was arrested a month ago for what was described as a domestic violence incident and was arrested again a week later for violating an order not to be in an on-campus residence hall, had been suspended indefinitely and at the time of his first arrest we noted that he probably would not be back any time soon given all of the media attention around athletes and domestic violence in the wake of the Ray Rice video. In the end, Walker, a reserve who averaged 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game and was not expected to see a significantly increased role, opted to leave the school. We have no idea where he will end up next, but we hope he can get his life together.
  4. The commitment of Doral Moore to Wake Forest might not make headlines like Ellenson’s commitment to Marquette, but it was still big for Danny Manning. Moore, a four-star center, committed to Wake Forest after a visit to Winston-Salem this past weekend. He had also been considering Illinois and Kentucky before deciding on Wake Forest. As Jeff Borzello notes Moore has the potential to develop into a much better prospect than he is currently rated and unlike Ellenson and more highly touted prospect he is much more likely to stick around for a few years.
  5. We mentioned the transfer of Jon Octeus earlier and although he is not on Jeff Eisenberg’s list of impact transfers (presumably due to the timing of his announcement) he is just one example of how important these transfers can be. Eisenberg’s list covers many names that you should be familiar with including a few you may have forgotten about (especially if they had to sit out that dreaded one year instead of getting the now ubiquitous exemption). If you  haven’t kept up with transfer movements or just need a little refresher this might be a good place to start before you get caught off guard at the start of the season.
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Morning Five: 04.02.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 2nd, 2014

morning5

  1. The biggest name on the coaching carousel (or at least the longest) is off the market as Marquette hired longtime Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski to be its next head coach. It is pointless to go in-depth about Wojciehowski because he was possibly the most well-known college basketball assistant coach in the country, but he will have a tough task in front of him in replacing Buzz Williams at Marquette. We hesitate to put too much stock into the Krzyzewski coaching tree just because of Chris Collins’ (relative) success in his first season at Northwestern, but it would appear that Wojciehowski would have a good chance of being successful at Marquette given his experience.
  2. With the Marquette vacancy filled, the most prominent remaining opening is at Wake Forest. Yesterday, the school met with Tulsa coach Danny Manning to discuss the opening. Even without Manning’s background in the state of North Carolina, this would be a tremendous hire for Wake Forest and the position is certainly a step-up for Manning assuming that he is confident that he can make the team a winner in the ACC, which would be much harder to do than build a consistent winner at Tulsa. Given the difficulty of winning at Wake Forest and Manning’s name recognition, the smart move would probably be to parlay Wake Forest’s interest into a better contract at Tulsa and then try to move on to a much bigger job when Tulsa makes a NCAA Tournament run.
  3. We usually don’t discuss women’s college basketball on this site (particularly at this time of the year), but we are intrigued by the decision of Louisiana Tech to hire Tyler Summitt as its next women’s basketball coach. Tyler, is of course the son of the legendary Pat Summitt (the all-time NCAA Division I wins leader), so the fact that he followed in his mother’s footsteps should not be that shocking. What is surprising is that Tyler is only 23 years-old and Louisiana Tech has one of the more storied traditions in women’s college basketball so it is hardly the typical starting job although the team has fallen on tough times recently. Tyler will be replacing Teresa Weatherspoon, another women’s college basketball legend, at Louisiana Tech.
  4. Along with the coaching carousel the next few weeks will be full of NBA Draft decisions. Yesterday, Johnny O’Bryant announced that he would be entering the NBA Draft. O’Bryant, who averaged 15.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this season, is predicted to be a mid-second round pick. Two other significant players–Gary Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie (and his glorious mustache)–are reportedly still deciding although rumors indicate that they are leaning towards entering the NBA Draft. For Harris the decision would appear to make sense as he is expected to be a borderline lottery pick. Dinwiddie is a more questionable case as he is coming off a season-ending knee injury and is most likely a second-round pick.
  5. Matt Carlino, who stepped in for Kyle Collinsowrth in the NCAA Tournament, is transferring from BYU with one more year of eligibility left. Carlino averaged 13.7 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game this season and will be eligible play immediately as he is scheduled to graduate from BYU this summer so he would appear to be an almost ideal transfer target. This will be Carlino’s second transfer as he left midway through his freshman year at UCLA.
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Virginia Tech Earns Instant Credibility With Hire of Buzz Williams

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 25th, 2014

When Virginia Tech announced on Friday that it had poached head coach Buzz Williams from Marquette to replace the recently-fired James Johnson, the immediate reaction was that of general astonishment. Why on Earth would Williams leave a team he’d taken to the postseason in five out of six years on the bench to a program that had only reached the Big Dance once since 1996 and has finished last in the ACC three years running? While the reasons, thoroughly outlined here, became more apparent in the ensuing days, the real story is the amazing acquisition made by new Virginia Tech athletic director, Whit Babcock. The hiring of Williams and the way it managed to circle all of the major media outlets during the opening weekend of NCAA Tournament play, gave the Hokies basketball program something it hasn’t experienced in years: instant credibility.

Buzz Williams Virginia Tech PR campaign included a TNT appearance during the NCAA's (cbssports.com)

Buzz Williams’ Virginia Tech PR campaign included a TNT appearance during the NCAA Tournament (cbssports.com)

Williams oversaw a very successful Marquette program in the Big East, going an impressive 139-69 in his six years at the helm and taking the school to two Sweet Sixteen appearances and an Elite Eight run. No doubt his ability to navigate a difficult conference schedule (prior to realignment) and enjoy postseason success was extremely attractive to a Hokies program just trying to get noticed. Williams obviously looked around the ravaged Big East — a conference that the ACC raided to bring in Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh — and saw a chance to jump to the premier basketball conference in the land to match wits with four Hall of Fame coaches in Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, and Mike Krzyzewski. Some may have originally seen the move as a bizarre one (especially Williams’ pay cut from $3 million to $2.3 million annually) , but coupling the chance to compete in the new-look ACC with the uncertainty in the Marquette administration as well as the state of the weakened Big East, the decision began to make more sense.

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Coaching Carousel a Thrill Ride for AAC Programs

Posted by CD Bradley on March 25th, 2014

While 16 teams remain alive in the chase for a championship – including AAC members UConn and Louisville – several other teams are chasing the new coaches that they hope might get them to the Sweet Sixteen some day. USF and Houston have now found their way onto this year’s coaching carousel, and their candidate pools say a lot about where the conference stands and where it’s going. USF fired Stan Heath after the AAC Tournament, and Houston announced Monday that James Dickey had stepped down to deal with a family matter. Reports on Tuesday morning indicate that Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello, fresh off a competitive round of 64 loss to Louisville and his mentor, Rick Pitino, has accepted the South Florida position.

Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello has emerged as a leading candidate for the USF job. (NY Daily News)

Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello has taken the USF job. (NY Daily News)

The USF job quickly was initially linked to some major names, including Buzz Williams (more on him in a moment), but Masiello appears to be the guy. The loss to Louisville was a particularly emotional one for Masiello, who was once a 12-year-old ballboy for Pitino with the Knicks, played for him as a walk-on at Kentucky, and served as an assistant at Louisville for six years before taking the Manhattan job. After the game, his old boss recommended he take the USF job, as he told the Tampa Tribune: “For you, it’s a grand slam.”

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Xavier on the Cusp of Returning to the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2014

Brian Otskey is reporting from the Big East Tournament all week

After missing the NCAA Tournament last year for only the second time since 2000, Xavier head coach Chris Mack made it clear to his team what the goal was this season. “Every time we play a game from day one, from game one up until tonight, we always wrote the four letters in the top right of the white board [in the locker room] that said NCAA’ because deep down that’s been a goal of these guys,” said the fifth year Musketeers coach. On a day that saw more dramatics reminding us of moments from years gone by in this event, Xavier was all business in taking care of Marquette and solidifying itsNCAA Tournament hopes. Xavier’s 68-65 win over Marquette was number 21 on the year for Mack’s squad and should be enough to ensure the Musketeers return to the NCAA Tournament next week. Xavier was out-shot and out-rebounded by the pesky Golden Eagles but it was able to get to the free throw line regularly and surprisingly won the turnover battle, two things Marquette head coach Buzz Williams said were key reasons why his team failed to advance to Friday night’s semifinal round. “We turned the ball over too many times in a lower than normal possession game,” said Williams. He was absolutely right as his team failed to take advantage of a Xavier club that ranks near the bottom of the Big East in both offensive and defensive turnover percentage.

Xavier Won Its First Big East Tourney Game Last Night

Xavier Won Its First Big East Tourney Game Last Night

In particular it was Justin Martin who provided a spark for Xavier in the win. He shot the ball very well en route to a 19-point performance and did not turn the ball over once. This was a physical game contested heavily in the paint, your typical grind it out Big East style of game that didn’t feature many transition opportunities. Xavier was buoyed by the return of Matt Stainbrook, who suffered a sprained MCL in the team’s loss at Seton Hall on March 3. Stainbrook only played 15 minutes but contributed eight points and gave the Musketeers a much-needed presence in the paint on both ends of the floor. Marquette tried to mount a charge at the end but a questionable shot by Todd Mayo sealed the deal. After the game, Williams actually asked the assembled media how the NIT selection process works, claiming he was not familiar with it.

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