Creighton’s Three-Point Barrage Enters The Big East

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on January 2nd, 2014

A lot was “new” at Omaha’s Centurylink Center on Tuesday night: a new conference, new logo, and a new year. Not new, however, was the deluge of three-pointers Creighton hoisted up in beating Marquette in its inaugural Big East game. The Bluejays had taken 17 three-pointers by the eight-minute mark of the first half, and ended up shooting a total of 35 for the game. Greg McDermott’s team made a good percentage of them (13, or 37%), as they have done all season long (43%). The team came into the game with the third best team three-point percentage in the country, which is obscene when you consider the volume that they fire up — around 26 attempts per game (good for 46 percent of their total field goal attempts).

Ethan Wragge is shooting an incredible 50% from three this year. The Jays' Big East hopes depend on continued success from deep.

Ethan Wragge is shooting an incredible 50% from three this year. The Jays’ Big East hopes depend on continued success from deep.

Will Creighton’s reliance on a three-point offense be as sustainable in the Big East? The answer is that its hopes at capturing the conference title in its maiden season completely depend on it. Marquette has been solid in defending the three this season (holding opponents to 33.1%), yet the Bluejays were able to impose their game plan successfully on the defense-first Golden Eagles. Georgetown down the road (January 25 and March 4) will likely be a tough match-up since the Hoyas have held opponents to only 28.5% from three (28th nationally), but the only other Big East teams in the top 100 are Butler (69th, 30.8%), DePaul (93rd, 31.5%) and Xavier (96th, 31.6%). That Creighton isn’t entering a conference full of elite three-point defenses is certainly a positive for them.

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Big East M5: 01.02.14 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 2nd, 2014

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  1. There were definite ups and downs to be found during the marathon that was the first day of Big East play on Tuesday. While those within the conference will admit that the play on the court didn’t often set the basketball world on fire, there is still belief in the future of the league as a basketball power. Commissioner Val Ackerman cites past experience when discussing this topic: “When I was with WNBA, I remember saying it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The same should be said about the Big East. There’s a long history here, but with a new conference, what we do in the first year or two isn’t necessarily going to be indicative.” While Big East fans hope that the league makes a splash here in year one, the 10 programs aren’t going anywhere, and there is plenty of time for this new-look conference to get its legs under it.
  2. Creighton wasn’t great offensively in its first ever Big East game, but the Bluejays’ defense was able to stifle a struggling Marquette offense, leading to a 67-49 win on New Year’s Eve. Creighton only shot 40 percent from the floor, but they were able to known down 13 threes and kept up with a bigger Golden Eagles’ squad in the paint, where they were only outscored by four. While this win was huge for Creighton — its first-ever in a power basketball conference — the performance is perhaps more telling about Marquette, whose well-publicized offensive struggles seem to be getting worse, not better. The Eagles were the preseason favorite to win the league, but without improvement soon, Marquette will struggle to punch a ticket to the Dance come March.
  3. Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery are going to become very familiar voices for Big East fans (if they weren’t already), especially those who watched the entirety of Tuesday’s basketball marathon.  The team called noon’s Xavier-St. John’s game in Cincinnati and then hightailed it to Indianapolis for Butler-Villanova at 7:30. The IndyStar spent time with Fox Sports 1′s top team on the bus between games, allowing the two to reminisce about some of their favorite Big East and NCAA Tournament memories. Spoiler alert: Butler fans are going to appreciate this far more than… say… Syracuse, Kansas State, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Florida, or Wisconsin fans.
  4. In anticipation of Tuesday’s Creighton/Marquette clash, Andy from Anonymous Eagle and Jacob Padilla from The Creightonian got together for an enlightening Q&A discussion. Among the topics covered: Bluejay fans’ excitement for this season and the Big East conference; the importance of the McDermotts to the Creighton program; Marquette’s early season struggles; and the best places to get a beer and a bite to eat in Omaha. Even though it predates the game won by Creighton, both pieces are still fun reads. Check out Jacob’s answers here and Andy’s here.
  5. To round out a very ‘Creighton vs. Marquette’ heavy M5 this morning, we have footage from a raucous CenturyLink Arena crowd.  On one play, the sold out crowd belted out Neil Diamond’s stadium staple “Sweet Caroline” after the arena speakers had already cut off the song, and it seemed to throw off the Golden Eagles, who promptly turned over the ball. You can judge for yourself, but NBC Sports‘ Rob Dauster seems to think the crowd played a part in the play.
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Takeaways from the Big East Opening Day

Posted by George Hershey on January 1st, 2014

What an opener for the new Big East. The league had two overtime thrillers, there was an upset, and all three of the new members impressed. Here are some takeaways from a great day of hoops.

St. John’s vs. Xavier

St. John’s is great in transition, but struggles mightily in the halfcourt:  The Johnnies rushed out to a big lead in the first eight minutes, in large part to their transition offense. They scored their first seven points in transition off of turnovers or running after rebounds. Throughout the game it was evident that the halfcourt offense was not working well and often times ended with a contested jump shot. The Red Storm made a push in the second half by pushing the ball up-court, but ended up settling for tough shots as the game winded down. D’Angelo Harrison, Rysheed Jordan, and Orlando Sanchez all are capable of running the break and Jordan had a great game as he got to the rim, hit some outside shots, and showed a nice pull-up jumper. Many talk about this team’s great talent, but their halfcourt offense is limiting their ability to use their athleticism. If the Johnnies want to win go from an under-achieving team to an NCAA Tournament one, they need to get out in transition, while they improve their offensive sets.

Seton Hall vs. Providence 

Seton Hall can get out of the cellar in the new Big East: What a game! A great double overtime thriller on opening night. Seton Hall showed incredible fight and resolve yesterday as they saw their double digit lead dissolve in the final minutes. Some questionable calls did not help them in the extra sessions, but they made winning plays when it mattered. With starting center Eugene Teague our for the game, Kevin Willard was without his best post player. The Pirates forced the Friars into 14 turnovers, eight in the first half, which helped create  most of the early offense. They limited Bryce Cotton to 1-8 from three and the Friars struggled all night to score. The win should give the team a ton of confidence going forward as Brian Oliver, Brandon Mobley, and Jaren Sina stepped up to make crucial baskets. Sina came off the bench in overtime to hit a three with two minutes left to spark the Pirates. Oliver was the player of the game as his hot shooting provided most of the offense in the second half and Mobley came up time after time, especially with his three free throws with a minute left. This team may have suffered injuries to every significant player thus far, but their win over a high quality opponent while shorthanded is impressive, and there is no reason they cannot build off this win.

Smith Should Be A Bigger Force For Georgetown

DePaul vs. Georgetown:

Joshua Smith needs to produce more offensively: The big fella came in and dominated in his first game against Oregon, but since he was beaten up by Kansas, he has struggled mightily, and yesterday was no difference. Against a smaller and inexperienced front line, he only had five points and one assist, without even recording a rebound. There is no reason why Smith, who has been heralded as an excellent low post scorer since he arrived in UCLA, should not average at least 10 points during conference play. The Hoyas have struggled at times to score so far and Smith is a player who can provide instant offense. He also can create for his teammates by attracting double teams and finding them. Smith needs to get to the line, to get opponents in foul trouble and also get some easy points. The Hoyas have a good team with many pieces that make a winning team, but they could use a player you can dump it down to and let go to work on the block.

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Previewing a Sneaky Good Saturday of Basketball on Tap

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 21st, 2013

This Saturday’s schedule may not shimmer like last week’s did – the face-off between Oklahoma State and Colorado stands as the only game featuring two ranked teams – but dig a little bit and you may like what you find. Or better yet, let us do the digging: Here are four storylines to keep an eye on during this sneaky-good Saturday of college hoops.

Phog Allen Fieldhouse Has Hosted Quite A Few Visitors Over The Years, But Never The Georgetown Hoyas. That Will Change On Saturday.

Phog Allen Fieldhouse Has Hosted Quite A Few Visitors Over The Years, But Never The Georgetown Hoyas. That Will Change On Saturday.

Two Storied Programs Meet In Rare Clash

Kansas and Georgetown may have both inhabited the upper reaches of college basketball’s hierarchy for quite some time now, but that doesn’t mean the two programs know each other especially well. Saturday’s meeting at Phog Allen Fieldhouse (12 PM EST, ESPN) will be just the third time the two schools have faced off, although the latest Hoya-Jayhawk matchup was quite recent, coming just two seasons ago at the Maui Invitational. Needless to say, the cast of characters (on both sides) has seen a massive overhaul since that game. While this one is worth watching for the pure novelty of the Hoyas’ maiden voyage to Allen Fieldhouse, there’s more at stake here than just a new twist on history. Kansas seeks to maintain the momentum gained in last weekend’s win over New Mexico, while the Hoyas, firmly off the national radar for the past month, find themselves with a nice opportunity to quell some doubts after a shaky first month. Rock Chalk meets Hoya Saxa – quite a way to kick off the weekend.

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Big East M5: 12.19.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 19th, 2013

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  1. In joining the Big East, Creighton hoped that the better competition and brand-name league would help raise the program’s status, and vault successful Bluejays outfits to more advantageous seeding come March. While the Big East is undoubtedly an upgrade in many regards from Creighton’s old home, the Missouri Valley, the league hasn’t quite panned out as many had hoped thus far. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi only has four teams from the Big East currently in his field, including Marquette, the league’s preseason favorite, in a play-in game. While no Big East team is truly out of the running yet this year, fans would have probably hoped for more from the top of the conference, but today Villanova is really the only squad really making a name for itself on a national scale. 
  2. While Creighton has dropped a few games it would like to have back, the team seems to be building depth behind star Doug McDermottEthan Wragge and Will Artino have swapped positions in the starting five, with Wragge entering the lineup as the Bluejays’ second leading scorer at 12.5 points per game and Artino more effective as a reserve, totaling 27 points in his last three games (after 40 through his first seven). Avery Dingman and Devin Brooks have also stepped up as of late, each filling the scorebook in a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Coach Greg McDermott was effervescent in his praise of the two players, who have made great strides in recent weeks: “Avery Dingman has had three of the best days as a Bluejay as he’s ever had. His last two days of practice and today’s game, he’s shown more confidence and urgency to his play… Devin is getting better every single day. There’s no question from the start of practice until today, he’s our most improved player… I’m really proud of him, and that’s a credit to him.”
  3. Rysheed Jordan was the crown jewel in Steve Lavin’s freshman class at St. John’s, but until the last few games, he had yet to find himself in the college game. Sunday’s match-up with New York rival Syracuse and one of the nation’s top freshman point guards, Tyler Ennis, brought out the best in Jordan, who scored a season-high 13 points. Jordan followed this game up with another strong performance — 10 points and four assists — against San Francisco on Wednesday night. St. John’s is among the most talented teams in the Big East, and if Jordan can break out to go along with established players like JaKarr Sampson, D’Angelo Harrison, and Phil Greene IV, the Johnnies will be quite dangerous in time for postseason play.
  4. Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin has put together an incredibly diverse, eclectic staff with men of all ages and backgrounds, including 77-year old college basketball legend Gene Keady as a special advisor. Keady, who helped launch Lavin’s coaching career by putting him on his staff at Purdue, brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to the group, and players and coaches agree that his basketball acumen has paid off. Forward JaKarr Sampson describes the impact that Keady has on everyone in the program: “Whenever he talks, everybody listens, even Coach Lav. With Coach Lav, I feel like he’s still learning from him. It’d be foolish not to listen to what he’s got to say.”
  5. Providence has been playing this season under a cloud of injuries and suspensions, and it is still uncertain when freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock will be allowed to suit up for the Friars. Without the highly touted Austin, the scoring burden for the Friars has fallen to veteran Bryce Cotton, whose importance to his team grows with every game that his team spends without the freshmen. According to head coach Ed Cooley, he is taking this leadership responsibility in stride: “What everybody has to know is our team has really taken on the heartbeat of Bryce. I have seen him grow unbelievably in the last two, three weeks. Vocally, his spirit, his energy. We knew he’d play well today based on how he prepared. I’m really proud of the man he is becoming. He has grown so much.”
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Otskey’s Observations: Episode VI

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on December 18th, 2013

Battle For Iowa Lived Up To Its Billing

For my money, the best game in recent days was Iowa State’s thrilling win over Iowa on Friday night at Hilton Coliseum. This game was the true essence of what college basketball is all about. It was a heated in-state rivalry between two quality teams in a crazy atmosphere, smack dab in the middle of a basketball-crazed state. It is simple: This was a fun game, period. Although Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones came away victorious, you may be somewhat surprised to find out that my biggest impression taken from this game was just how good Iowa is. I actually thought the Hawkeyes were the better team for most of this contest. Don’t get me wrong, Iowa State played really well. After all, it beat a team I thought was very impressive so that should tell you something about the Cyclones as well. I thought Iowa had a terrific game plan and evidence of top-notch coaching and scouting was present throughout the game.

Devyn Marble

Devyn Marble and his mates were outstanding. But Iowa State was just a little bit better. (AP)

One specific example of great scouting came late in the first half when Roy Devyn Marble got in the middle of a dribble hand-off by Georges Niang and broke it up, leading to two Iowa points on the other end. Marble read the play perfectly and it paid off for his team. Fran McCaffery’s squad excelled in transition and got almost anything it wanted offensively on the low block with Aaron White leading the charge. Iowa ran some beautiful half-court sets that resulted in plenty of clean looks, especially for White and Marble. The Hawkeyes dominated the glass (but did not take full advantage of it) and answered the bell nearly every time Iowa State put together a charge, except for the final minute where it wound up costing them the game. Iowa simply didn’t make the plays it needed to win late, highlighted by Mike Gesell’s two missed free throws. McCaffery and his team can learn a lot from this game but in the end it is on the players to step up and lead down the stretch. Whether that’s Marble (most likely), White, Gesell, or someone else, Iowa needs someone to be “the man” in order to take the next step and contend at the very highest level in the Big Ten.

Michigan Back On Track?

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Big East M5: 12.06.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 6th, 2013

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  1. Marquette is struggling a bit this year, having lost three of six games heading into this weekend’s intrastate rivalry game with Wisconsin. ESPN.com’s Myron Metcalf believes that the Golden Eagles and the Big East as a whole could really use a big non-conference win to boost their bona fides: “Marquette is approaching desperation in its quest for the resume-boosting non-conference victories that will pay off on Selection Sunday… A series of mishaps in holiday tournaments diminished the Big East’s buzz. The conference’s contenders failed in recent non-conference match-ups that would have enhanced their respective NCAA tournament hopes/seeds.” Don’t expect this to be the most beautiful game of hoops that anyone has ever watched — Marquette has struggled to score against quality opponents while undefeated Wisconsin is coming off a match-up where they surrendered only 38 to a solid Virginia squad.
  2. St. John’s and Fordham play almost every year, but is the annual New York City game a true rivalry? Rumble in the Garden examined the series, in which the Johnnies have been victorious in all but two of the last 23 meetings. The last few seasons have seen a number of close games, and interestingly enough Fordham’s last win was in 2010 when they overcame two significant deficits to upset a St. John’s team that ended the year with an NCAA Tournament berth. Fordham looks like it may be a feisty mid-major this year while St. John’s has been up and down so far this season, so Big Apple fans may be in for another close one on Saturday.
  3. The intrastate rivalry theme continues, as Providence managed to hold off nearby URI for a 50-49 win last night. The Rams’ E.C. Matthews had a final shot to win the game, but he was unable to knock it down, giving the Friars the victory. Tensions were reportedly high in the Ryan Center, as head coaches Ed Cooley and Dan Hurley had to be separated at one point after Cooley took exception to Hurley’s position far away from the Rams bench.
  4. Seton Hall must be happy to come away with a win against LIU-Brooklyn last night, but not all was positive in South Orange after the game. The Pirates’ top player Fuquan Edwin left the game with a sprained ankle just two minutes after tip-off, an injury that may sideline him for a few weeks. Without Edwin in the lineup, veterans Brian Oliver and Gene Teague were the obvious players for the Pirates to lean on and they performed well. Oliver went 8-of-17 with all of his shots coming from beyond the arc, finishing with 26 points. Teague added 17 points and 16 rebounds, and was a presence on the interior that LIU-Brooklyn struggled to match. Seton Hall will faces rival Rutgers on Sunday for the first time as a non-conference opponent since the split of the Big East, and without Edwin, the team will need Oliver and Teague to continue their strong recent play.
  5. As previously discussed hereCreighton is going through a rebranding of its program in conjunction with the move to the Big East, and they will take another big step this weekend with the unveiling of the new “Billy Bluejay” before the team’s game with Nebraska.  Details have been scarce, although according to Omaha.com, Creighton has described the new-look Billy as “vibrant,” “more athletic,” and released this photo of the mascot’s new kicks.
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Last Week’s Villanova and Marquette Tournament Runs Spurred by Freshmen

Posted by George Hershey on December 4th, 2013

The college basketball world was amazed by Villanova’s surprising run to the Battle 4 Atlantis championship last weekend. After having a relatively easy start to the season, the Wildcats landed in the Bahamas and beat USC prior to a match-up with the #2 ranked team in the nation, Kansas, followed by a battle against #23 Iowa in the title game. Seasoned veterans James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Arcidiacono helped lead the team on its stunning run, but the play of freshmen Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, especially in the championship game, was instrumental and a major reason the Wildcats came out on top.

Josh Hart helped secure the Battle 4 Atlantis Championship (Tim Aylen/AP)

Josh Hart helped secure the Battle 4 Atlantis Championship
(Tim Aylen/AP)

Marquette also made a run to the championship game of the Wooden Legacy tournament in California. Although the Golden Eagles lost to San Diego State in a tight championship game on Sunday night, leading scorer Davante Gardner played with the flu and Derrick Wilson looked to have hurt his groin, rendering him mostly incapable of playing in the second half. Despite those problems, Buzz Williams’ team was able to make it a close game and had a chance to win at the end because of the remarkable play of freshman Deonte Burton. Fellow freshman JaJuan Johnson also was instrumental in beating Cal State Fullerton and played well against Arizona State in the other two games.

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Big East M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 4th, 2013

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  1. What was supposed to be a promising season for a young, talented Providence team has gone off the rails a bit as suspensions and injuries have reared their ugly heads. Ed Cooley lost Kris Dunn to injury for Sunday night’s showdown with national power Kentucky, while freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock remain suspended indefinitely. All three players, especially Dunn and Austin, were expected to be major contributors for a Friars squad looking for an NCAA berth, but for now Cooley has to dance with the players that brought him: “I’m going to coach the team that’s on the bus.”
  2. So Feast Week was fun, right? Well next year’s slate of exotic star-studded tournaments should also be a good one. Georgetown and Butler have signed on to play in next year’s Battle 4 Atlantis, where they will have a chance to face North Carolina, UCLA, Florida, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and UAB.  This is the second straight year where there will be some potential for all-Big East tournament match-ups, after Creighton and Marquette nearly faced off in the finals of this year’s Wooden Legacy. Conference realignment is the gift that keeps on giving, it appears. While UNC, Florida, UCLA and the like are tough potential opponents, one Casual Hoya commenter looked on the bright side of this slate:gtown NE atlantis
  3. God’sgift Achiuwa hasn’t made a huge impact for St. John’s on the court this season — the forward is averaging 1.4 points in 7.7 minutes per game for the Red Storm — but he’s doing great things off the court in his community. ‘Gift’ is among 201 nominees for the 2014 Allstate NABC and WBCA Good Works Teams. A St. John’s release further details all of the great things that Achiuwa and the rest of the Red Storm are involved in around New York City:”In 2012-13 Achiuwa and members of the men’s basketball team participated in more than 131 hours of community service, volunteering their time at the St. John’s Bread and Life Soup Kitchen, the San Francisco Food Bank, the annual Red Storm Dribble For The Cure benefiting the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Men’s Shelter and in the Community Mayor program. The 2013 Dribble For The Cure raised $70,000 for pediatric cancer research in the New York area bringing its three-year total to $120,000.”

    While basketball is why we’re all here at Rush the Court, it’s always great to hear about the human stories and incredible acts of charity that so many of these players are involved with.

  4. Butler wasn’t picked by many to finish very high in the Big East this season, but the Bulldogs have done a great job managing a tough schedule thus far. Indy Star took a look at how each of the Big East teams have fared so far this season, and how the Bulldogs stack up, relatively speaking. At 5-2 with the ’2′ being a two-point overtime loss to LSU and a near take-down of a star-laden Oklahoma State team, Butler has impressed: “Butler accomplished something in Orlando, even if it won’t show up in their season record: They proved they can play with anyone in the country. Simply put, they looked like an NCAA Tournament team, and that’s something few expected to hear about this Bulldog team.”
  5. Villanova is the talk of the conference right now coming off an impressive Battle 4 Atlantis win over a possible national championship contender in Kansas and another ranked team in Iowa. The Wildcats have a deep group of talented perimeter players, headlined by Kansas-game hero Ryan Arcidiacono and swingman James Bell, who is having a breakout season, but Jay Wright believes it is Rice transfer Dylan Ennis who has made all the difference for his club: “He shocked me. He played with great composure. He didn’t force shots. He was really impressive.” Ennis averaged 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists at Atlantis — his first three games of the season — and was especially effective from long range, knocking down eight of his 12 three point attempts.  Nova’s schedule now becomes very Philly-centric, with games against Penn, Saint Joseph’s, and La Salle over the next few weeks, but the biggest match-up for Ennis comes on December 28 when he travels to the Carrier Dome for a showdown with his little brother Tyler, who has been excellent so far this season as the starting point guard for the Orange.
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College Basketball By The Tweets: Upsets and Titles Abound Over Holiday Weekend

Posted by David Harten on December 2nd, 2013

bythetweets

The word of the weekend is upset: U-P-S-E-T. That pretty much sums up the last few days in college basketball, where there seemed to be a lesser-team (at least on paper) beating a seemingly better team (again, at least on paper) in every time slot. If your team had a ranking next to it, chances are they were threatened at one point or another in their latest game or two. Along with those upsets came titles. This weekend marked the unofficial end of the early-season tournaments until a handful of Christmas tourneys come around, with winners being crowned in the Old Spice Classic, the Wooden Legacy and the Battle 4 Atlantis. Even when there wasn’t a trophy up for grabs, the games were just as compelling. Just ask North Carolina (making “upset Sunday” a regularity) or Creighton (which lost in a third-place game). Their losses weren’t softened by knowing that hardware wasn’t on the line.

First, it was Villanova having arguably the best time anyone had in the Caribbean. Initially, the Wildcats pulled off an upset of #2 Kansas 63-59 in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday night. The Jayhawks shot just 18.9 percent from three-point range.

That’s good, but how do you validate it? Go out and beat no. 23 Iowa in the finals, winning the whole thing on Saturday, 88-83 in overtime. James Bell had 20 in the win.

Jay Wright may submit his application for consideration of a team’s best weekend in college basketball at any time.

On Sunday, the first eye-opener came when pupil beat student as Jarod Haase and UAB welcomed Roy Williams and North Carolina, and sent them packing with a 63-59 loss. Chad Frazier might be the best junior college newcomer in all of college basketball, finishing with 26 points in the win and averaging 18.4 points in his first eight games on campus. Read the rest of this entry »

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Four Thoughts on Marquette, Creighton, SDSU & GW at the Wooden Legacy

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 30th, 2013

The Wooden Legacy created a lot of buzz on Friday night during its action. Here are four thoughts on what happened last night in Fullerton.

  1. As of today, more than three months from the NCAA Tournament, it remains to be seen just how good Marquette really is. There are some serious question marks about this team, mostly offensively, including just exactly who on this team, aside from specialist Jake Thomas, is going to hit some outside shots. But, we could probably think back to last year about this time and come up with some similar questions. And the year before. And the year before that. But still, Buzz Williams’ teams have wound up experiencing plenty of success in each of those years (just to remind you, they’ve been in at least the Sweet Sixteen for three years running), despite those weaknesses never getting fully resolved. Why? A lot of it is because his teams have taken on the personality of their coach: humble, intense, blue collar, and hard-working. A great example of the fire that Williams brings out and celebrates in his team came with under a minute to go Friday afternoon in the waning moments of a Marquette blowout. With George Washington refusing to give up the ghost despite a 16-point deficit, the Golden Eagles did the same, fighting to the final buzzer. And there was that aforementioned specialist Thomas, diving on the floor for a loose ball, thinking of calling for a timeout on an otherwise meaningless possession, but then, from the seat of his pants, finding his bulldog point guard Derrick Wilson for a breakaway layup. It was a play that caused the entire Marquette bench, Williams included, to erupt with a passion normally reserved for a tight game. Distill that play, bottle it and you’ve got the very essence of “Marquette basketball” under Williams. Williams on that play: “That’s a Marquette play. You can argue as a fan that maybe it wasn’t a meaningful possession. You can argue that mathematically the game was over. But for Jake to dive on the floor with both feet and both hands and come up with the loose ball, and then to pitch it ahead to Derrick for a layup, I hope that that’s a reflection not only of him and of our current team, but also our program.”

    Marquette Basketball Has Come To Embody Many Of The Same Characteristics As Their Head Coach, Buzz Williams (MJS/R. Wood)

    Marquette Basketball Has Come To Embody Many Of The Same Characteristics As Their Head Coach, Buzz Williams (MJS/R. Wood)

  2. George Washington did not play particularly well on Friday afternoon, and head coach Mike Lonergan was the first to admit it. But, this is a team that, again, as Lonergan admitted, probably didn’t expect to be playing for a championship on Sunday anyway. They knew they were going to be in for a battle every game this tournament, and the fact that they have a chance to be playing for third place on Sunday is a boon for them. Meanwhile, for Creighton, it is a disappointment. If Creighton isn’t careful, they’re liable to suffer a letdown on Sunday, especially playing in the cavernous Honda Center in front of a sparse crowd rather than the band box Titan Gym where the first two rounds were played. And if that happens, a GW team with shooters on the wing like Maurice Creek and Nemanja Mikic, grinders in the middle and nothing to lose, could make the Bluejays earn their lunch on Sunday, something Greg McDermott alluded to in his postgame press conference: “I’m not looking too much down the road, because I think George Washington is a heck of a basketball team and we’re going to need to be ready to play on Sunday or we’re going to be in big trouble.” Read the rest of this entry »
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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Arizona State in the Wooden Legacy

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: Don’t look now, but Arizona State may have, to date, the best resume in the Pac-12. They’ve taken care of business against the dregs of their schedule; they scored a solid road win over an underachieving UNLV team; and they grabbed a good win over Marquette earlier this week. With Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall making for a great one-two punch in the backcourt and with nearly everybody else on the roster performing better than average thus far, this is one fearsome offensive team.

Jahii Carson And Arizona State Should Have A Wildly Entertaining Thanksgiving Night (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

Jahii Carson And Arizona State Should Have A Wildly Entertaining Thanksgiving Night (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

First Round Preview: Fittingly, the Sun Devils kick off play in Fullerton on Thanksgiving Day against arguably the most fearsome offensive team in the nation, Doug McDermott’s Creighton squad. Now in his senior year and even with opponents going out of their way to game plan for him, McDermott just keeps marching along — knocking down threes, scoring in the paint, getting to the line and just generally making buckets — he’s scored more than 30 points in half of his games this season and is averaging 27.5 PPG on the season. But while McDermott is clearly the straw the stirs the Bluejays’ drink, there are plenty of other options to keep opponents honest. Fellow senior Ethan Wragge has drilled 14 of his 25 (56%) attempts from behind the arc. Junior point guard Austin Chatman has knocked down 58.3 percent of his threes and is third on the team in scoring with an 11.0 PPG average despite mostly looking to get teammates involved. And senior Grant Gibbs is once again the glue guy for this squad, averaging just four points a game but handing out almost six assists per night and providing the best individual defense on the team. However, we’ve seen this story from Creighton before: great O, poor D. For the Bluejays to really be considered a threat on the national stage, they’ve got to step it up defensively, and in this area the Sun Devils will give them quite a test. Ideally, as a college basketball fan, you’d want to see this game turn into a second half shootout, with McDermott and Carson trading blows on opposite ends of the floor. But from a coaching perspective, both Greg McDermott and Herb Sendek will be more interested in how their respective defenses compete against elite offensive competition. Either way, avoid the turkey hangover to tune in for the nightcap on Thursday evening.

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