Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2011

 

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East.

A Look Back

  • Player of the Week: Dwight Hardy, St. John’s: Hardy has caught fire the past two weeks. He’s averaging 24.8 points per game over the past five games, including the 33 points he put on Connecticut on Thursday night. Then on Sunday afternoon, Hardy scored 18 big points as the Johnnies picked up a huge bubble victory at Cincinnati. We already know how good St. John’s is at home. The 17-point win over the Huskies wasn’t even one of their best two wins on their home court. What was impressive was going into Cincinnati and picking up a close win, albeit with the help of a Rashad Bishop lane violation. The Red Storm is not a lock to make the tournament just yet, but as long as they avoid a Georgetonian collapse down the stretch,Steve Lavin‘s crew will be dancing.
  • Team of the Week: Pittsburgh Panthers: The Panthers had one of the more impressive weeks that any team has put together this season. Playing without their leading scorer Ashton Gibbs, Pitt went into West Virginia and won in the Backyard Brawl rivalry game. Then on Saturday night on ESPN’s Gameday, Pitt held on against Villanova in an in-state battle. If it hasn’t been proven to you yet, the Panthers are a team that is greater than their individual parts. They are good enough that they deserve to be in the conversation not just for a No. 1 seed, but as the No. 1 team in the country.

Power Rankings (overall and conference records, and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Pittsburgh (23-2, 11-1) (1)
Last Week: 2/12 @ Villanova 57-54
This Week: 2/16 vs. South Florida, 2/19 @ St. John’s

See the above “Team of the Week” portion.

2. Notre Dame (21-4, 10-3) (3)
Last Week: 2/9 vs. Louisville 89-79 OT, 2/12 @ South Florida 78-55
This Week: 2/19 @ West Virginia

With Kemba Walker‘s continuing struggles, there is a legitimate argument to be made for Ben Hansbrough as the Big East’s player of the year. Notre Dame‘s offense is based around their ball movement, but Hansbrough is the guy who has the ball in his hands at the end of a clock. He’s the best creator that Mike Brey has, their leader in scoring and assists, and the best on-ball defender on the team. He also has all the intangibles you look for in a point guard. I love kids like Austin Freeman and Marshon Brooks and Rick Jackson, but I’m not sure there is a player in the conference that I would take over Hansbrough.

3. Georgetown (20-5, 9-4) (5)
Last Week: 2/9 @ Syracuse 64-56, 2/13 vs. Marquette 69-60
This Week: 2/16 @ UConn, 2/19 @ USF

The Hoyas won two games this week, but what was impressive was how they did it. On the road against Syracuse, the Orange took over down the stretch, keeping Syracuse from getting scoring opportunities while going on a game-ending, 15-3 run. Against Marquette, Georgetown dominated the second half on the defensive end of the floor and on the glass. They allowed the Golden Eagles to score just 25 points, held them to a 36.3% eFG, gave up just 11.1% OR, and forced Marquette into nine turnovers and 0.69 PPP. Not exactly the Georgetown team we have become accustomed to under John Thompson III.

4. Villanova (19-6, 7-5) (2)
Last Week: 2/9 @ Rutgers 76-77, 2/12 vs. Pitt 54-57
This Week: 2/15 @ Seton Hall, 2/19 vs. DePaul

The loss against Pitt is acceptable. Losing by three at home without a starter (Corey Stokes missed this game and the second half against Rutgers with turf toe) to the best team in the league and possibly the best team in the country is far from a bad loss. The Rutgers loss, on the other hand, is another story. The Wildcats blew a 13-point lead with five minutes left and an eight point lead with two minutes left. They turned the ball over, they allowed open threes, and, at the end of the game, Corey Fisher fouled Jonathan Mitchell shooting a three. He made it and made the free throw, and Rutgers picked up a huge win.

5. Louisville (19-6, 8-4) (6)
Last Week: 2/9 @ Notre Dame 79-89 OT, 2/12 vs. Syracuse 73-69
This Week: 2/16 @ Cincinnati, 2/18 vs. UConn

What got into Kyle Kuric this week? The sophomore shooting guard had 28 points against Notre Dame in an overtime loss and followed that up with 23 points in the Cardinals’ win over Syracuse on Saturday. For the week, Kuric was 9-14 from three. He’s shooting 46.9% from deep on the season while averaging 10.0 points per contest. He needs to be a consistent scoring option for the Cardinals, as does Terrence Jennings. Jennings is only averaging 9.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, but over his last five, he’s averaging 14.2 and 7.8.

6. Syracuse (21-6, 8-6) (4)
Last Week: 2/9 vs. Georgetown 56-64, 2/12 @ Louisville 69-73, 2/14 vs. West Virginia 63-52
This Week: 2/19 vs. Rutgers

The Orange picked up a much needed win on Monday night, knocking off West Virginia at home to snap a three-game Carrier Dome losing streak. The biggest problem Syracuse has right now is a complete inability to defend the three point line. Their other issues — poor decision-making from the backcourt, Kris Joseph‘s inconsistency, Fab Melo missing practice — are second in importance to figuring out how to keep teams from hitting 10, 11, and 12 threes against them.

7. Connecticut (19-5, 7-5) (7)
Last Week: 2/10 @ St. John’s 72-89 , 2/13 vs. Providence 75-57
This Week: 2/16 vs. Georgetown, 2/18 @ Louisville

When Kemba Walker is playing like Kemba Walker, as opposed to Super Kemba, UConn is a good team, but they aren’t much more than an upper-half Big East team. Prior to Sunday’s win against Providence, UConn had lost three out of four in league play to fall back into the middle of the pack. This is a big week for he Huskies coming up, with Georgetown and Louisville.

8. St. John’s (15-9, 7-5) (10)
Last Week: 2/10 vs. UConn 89-72, 2/13 @ Cincinnati 59-57
This Week: 2/15 @ St. John’s, 2/19 vs. Marquette

See the above “Player of the Week” portion.

9. Marquette (15-10, 6-6) (8)
Last Week: 2/9 @ South Florida 59-58, 2/13 @ Georgetown 60-69
This Week: 2/15 vs. St. John’s, 2/19 vs. Seton Hall

Sunday’s loss to Georgetown was Marquette’s worst loss of the season. By nine points. Think about that. The Golden Eagles need to start winning some of these close games down the stretch, but is there any team in the country that is more competitive than the Golden Eagles?

10. West Virginia (16-9, 7-6) (9)
Last Week: 2/12 vs. DePaul 72-61, 2/14 @ Syracuse 52-63
This Week: 2/19 vs. Notre Dame

There is something missing from this West Virginia team, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. Kevin Jones is inconsistent, John Flowers is foul-prone, Casey Mitchell is a head case, and no one seems willing to box out.

11. Cincinnati (19-6, 6-6) (11)
Last Week: 2/8 @ DePaul 71-68, 2/13 vs. St. John’s 57-59
This Week: 2/16 vs. Louisville, 2/19 @ Providence

Mick Cronin seems to have finally gotten fed up with Yancy Gates‘ actions and apathy towards playing. The five-star recruit who is no better as a junior than he was as a freshman played just 16 minutes against DePaul and 13 minutes against St. John’s after sitting out against Pitt.

12. Seton Hall (11-14, 5-8) (12)
Last Week: 2/12 vs. Rutgers 69-64
This Week: 2/15 vs. Villanova, 2/19 @ Marquette

Keon Lawrence and Jamel Jackson were kicked off the team on Friday after missing curfew to go to a party. Both were disappointments in their time in Jersey.

13. Rutgers (13-12, 4-9) (13)
Last Week: 2/9 vs. Villanova 77-76, 2/12 vs. Seton Hall 64-69
This Week: 2/19 @ Rutgers

The Scarlet Knights deserved that upset against Villanova. Mike Rice has his team playing so hard every night, they just have come up on the short end of the talent stick. I hope they enjoyed it.

14. Providence (14-11, 3-9) (14)
Last Week: 2/13 @ UConn 57-75
This Week: 2/17 vs. DePaul, 2/19 vs. Cincinnati
You have six more games to get the chance to see Marshon Brooks play as a collegian. It’s worth it.

15. South Florida (8-18, 2-11) (15)
Last Week: 2/9 vs. Marquette 58-59, 2/12 vs. Notre Dame 55-78
This Week: 2/16 @ Pitt, 2/19 vs. Georgetown

Why does USF struggle? Gus Gilchrist uses as many possessions as Marshon Brooks and Kemba Walker, but he has an offensive rating of 89.0.

16. DePaul (6-18, 0-12) (16)
Last Week: 2/8 vs. Cincinnati 68-71, 2/12 @ West Virginia 61-72
This Week: 2/17 @ Providence, 2/19 vs. Villanova

DePaul gets more competitive with every game they play. I think Oliver Purnell can make something out of that program.

A Look Ahead

This is a huge week for the UConn Huskies. Not only are they playing Georgetown on Wednesday, they get a rematch with Louisville on Friday night. Are the Huskies truly a contender in the Big East, or was the start of their season more of a fluke than anything?

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2011

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East.

Team of the Week: Syracuse Orange: The Orange reached a critical point in their season on Wednesday. They had lost four consecutive games, there were all kinds of rumors involving turmoil within the locker room, and the team was heading to Hartford to take on then-No. 7 Connecticut. But the Orange were able to slow down Kemba Walker and knock off the Huskies, regaining some confidence along the way, before going into Tampa and whooping up on South Florida. James Southerland has seen his minutes cut, playing just two minutes in the past three games, while CJ Fair and Baye Moussa Keita — who are more active on the glass and better defenders than Southerland — have taken those minutes. Dion Waiters has also played better since he was benched at Marquette, scoring 19 points the past two games. Syracuse has a big week coming up, as they play Georgetown, Louisville, and West Virginia in the span of six days.

Player of the Week: Corey Fisher, Villanova: Villanova head coach Jay Wright switched around Villanova’s starting lineup, sliding Maalik Wayns to the bench, Corey Fisher over to the point, and moving Dominic Cheek and Isaiah Armwood into the starting lineup at different times. Wright did it for two reasons — he wanted to make Villanova a better defensive team, and he wanted a bigger team on the glass. More importantly, however, he wanted one more player on the floor willing to get the ball into the big guys inside. And believe it or not, this Villanova team is actually at their best when they run from the inside-out. How did Fisher respond? By averaging 16.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per game while shooting 55% from the floor in wins over Marquette and West Virginia.

Power Rankings (overall and conference records, and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Pittsburgh (21-2, 9-1) (1)
Last Week: 2/5 vs. Cincinnati 71-59, 2/7 @ West Virginia 71-66
Next Week: 2/12 @ Villanova

The Panthers win at West Virginia on Monday proved just how good the program is that Jamie Dixon runs. Pitt won at West Virginia, a rivalry game on the road, without their most dangerous offensive weapon (Ashton Gibbs is out for two weeks with a strained MCL) against a team that was tied for second in the league standings. Nothing in the Panthers’ game plan changed. They still ran their same offense and they still crashed the glass, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds. Saturday’s matchup with Villanova should be quite a bit of fun, even if Gibbs is out.

2. Villanova (19-4, 7-3) (3)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Marquette 75-70, 2/5 vs. West Virginia 66-50
Next Week: 2/9 @ Rutgers, 2/12 vs. Pitt

See the “Player of the Week” section for a breakdown on Jay Wright’s tinkering with the starting lineup, and how Corey Fisher in particular has benefited.

3. Notre Dame (19-4, 8-3) (5)
Last Week: 2/3 @ DePaul 83-58, 2/6 vs. Rutgers 76-69
Next Week: 2/9 vs. Louisville, 2/12 @ South Florida

I’m still not sold on Notre Dame being the third-best team in the conference, but they continue to win and own the single most impressive victory in the league, a win at Pitt. Ben Hansbrough was once again sensational this week, averaging 24.5 points per game in two wins that, frankly, didn’t tell us much. The Irish blew out DePaul like they are supposed too before winning a tougher-than-expected game against Rutgers.

4. Syracuse (20-4, 7-4) (4)
Last Week: 2/2 @ UConn 66-58, 2/5 @ South Florida 72-49
Next Week: 2/9 vs. Georgetown, 2/12 @ Louisville

See the “Team of the Week section” for analysis on Syracuse getting back on the right track despite undue stress.

5. Georgetown (18-5, 7-4) (9)
Last Week: 1/31 vs. Louisville 62-59, 2/5 vs. Providence 83-81
Next Week: 1/9 @ Syracuse, 1/13 vs. Marquette

The Hoyas are arguably the hottest team in the Big East right now. With wins over Louisville and Providence, they Hoyas have won six in a row after starting off Big East play 1-4. That winning streak becomes all the more important with a trip to the Carrier Dome coming on Wednesday. Julian Vaughn has played very well of late despite having a bad ankle. He had ten points, including a number of important buckets, and four blocks against Louisville and followed that up with a 14-point, 11-rebound performance against Providence.

6. Louisville (18-5, 7-3) (6)
Last Week: 1/31 @ Georgetown 59-62, 2/5 vs. DePaul 61-57
Next Week: 2/9 @ Notre Dame, 2/12 vs. Syracuse

Right now, Louisville is simply surviving, as Rick Pitino put it after the Cardinal’s four-point win against DePaul. The issue for the Cardinals isn’t their talent level (which is low, given their ranking) or Pitino’s coaching (which has been as impressive as anyone in the country), it’s simply that they cannot get healthy. The latest injury has come to leading scorer Preston Knowles, who sat out the win over the Blue Demons with a hamstring injury.

7. Connecticut (18-4, 6-4) (2)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Syracuse 58-66, 2/5 @ Seton Hall 61-59
Next Week: 2/10 @ Providence, 2/13 vs. St. John’s

The Kemba Walker riddle has been solved — play UConn in a zone. Syracuse did it. So did Seton Hall. It makes it easy to help onto Walker and prevent him from getting one-on-one opportunities, and with the youth and inexperience on the UConn roster, it is very easy to get this team out of an offensive rhythm. Zones are difficult to beat when you don’t have great passing big men, and if you have seen Charles Okwandu or Alex Oriakhi play this season, you know they are not exactly Greg Monroe.

8. Marquette (14-9, 5-5) (7)

Last Week: 2/2 @ Villanova 70-75
Next Week: 2/9 @ South Florida, 2/13 @ Georgetown

Once again, the Golden Eagles suffered a tough loss against a quality opponent. But that doesn’t mean that this team is in any danger whatsoever of missing the NCAA Tournament. They’ve lost five of their last eight games, although in that eight game stretch, Marquette played seven teams (seven!) currently ranked in the top 15 in the country. All five of those losses were to top 15 teams, while the Golden Eagles also boast wins over the likes of Syracuse and Notre Dame. Only two of their last eight games are against ranked teams.

9. West Virginia (15-7, 6-4) (8)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Seton Hall 56-44, 2/5 @ Villanova 50-66, 2/7 vs. Pitt 66-71
Next Week: 2/12 vs. DePaul, 2/14 @ Syracuse

This is not a typical Bob Huggins team. There’s no toughness on this squad, mentally or physically. They are an atrocious 310th in the country on the defensive glass after Monday night’s debacle against Pitt. Kevin Jones and John Flowers are inconsistent and get pushed around inside too easily when they aren’t in foul trouble. Deniz Kilicli can score on the block, but he can’t defend anyone and doesn’t appear to know what a box out is. Cam Thoroughman is a blue-collar player that is tough and physical, but he just doesn’t have the talent to be an impact player. This team, believe it or not, is soft.

10. St. John’s (13-9, 5-5) (11)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. Rutgers 58-56, 2/5 @ UCLA 59-66
Next Week: 2/10 vs. UConn, 2/13 @ Cincinnati

Dwight Hardy went for 32 against UCLA, which was impressive, but the rest of the Red Storm decided to not make the trip to LA. It’s a shame, because the Johnnies really could have used that win. Thanks to their blowout of Duke, all this team needs to do is finish above .500 in the Big East to make the dance.

11. Cincinnati (18-5, 5-5) (10)
Last Week: 2/5 @ Pitt 59-71
Next Week: 2/8 @ DePaul, 2/13 vs. St. John’s

The bubble may be obscenely weak this season, but the Bearcats still look like they could end up being a longshot to make it. They played the 284th-best non-conference schedule, and while their win over Xavier looks better every day, they need to notch a victory over one of the top teams in the Big East. That will be tough if Yancy Gates, who didn’t make the trip to Pittsburgh on Saturday, remains suspended.

12. Seton Hall (10-14, 4-8) (14)
Last Week: 2/2 @ West Virginia 44-56, 2/5 vs. UConn 59-61
Next Week: 2/12 vs. Rutgers

Seeton Hall is playing well, but they cannot close out games. Unfortunately, after digging themselves a hole early in the season, the Pirates cannot afford losing close games.

13. Rutgers (12-11, 3-8) (12)
Last Week: 2/2 @ St. John’s 56-58, 2/6 @ Notre Dame 69-76
Next Week: 2/9 vs. Villanova, 2/12 vs. Seton Hall

The Scarlet Knights have now played three straight tournament teams down to the wire. Mike Rice has this team playing the right way. Once he gets some better talent into the program, Rutgers will be alright.

14. Providence (14-10, 3-8) (13)
Last Week: 2/2 vs. South Florida 68-63, 2/5 @ Georgetown 81-83
Next Week: 2/13 @ UConn

Marshon Brooks is now the leading scorer in the Big East at 24.1 points per game after dropping 43 on Georgetown in a losing effort.

15. South Florida (8-16, 2-9) (15)
Last Week: 2/2 @ Providence 63-68, 2/5 vs. Syracuse 49-72
Next Week: 2/9 vs. Marquette. 2/12 vs. Notre Dame

On Saturday, South Florida was outnumbered by Syracuse fans 3:1 in their own arena. Shameful.

16. DePaul (6-16, 0-10) (16)
Last Week: 2/3 vs. Notre 58-83, 2/5 @ Louisville 57-61
Next Week: 2/8 vs. Cincinnati, 2/12 @ WVU
The Blue Demons nearly got one against injury-depleted Louisville.

Looking Ahead
We have four terrific Big East matchups this week. On Wednesday, Georgetown heads to Syracuse in the first of their two games this season, while Louisville makes the trip to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. On Saturday, Syracuse and Louisville do battle while arguably the two best teams in the conference tip off in ESPN’s Gameday game as Pitt travels to Villanova.

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The Week That Was: Feb. 1-Feb. 7

Posted by jstevrtc on February 8th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

You know how ESPN loves doing college basketball marathons? The network put on 24 straight hours of hoops at the beginning of the season, and then ESPN aired four-straight games on MLK Day for your viewing pleasure. Well, why stop with those two days? Monday would have been the perfect day to sit on your coach all afternoon and watch some roundball. TWTW can’t think of a better way to nurse your Super Bowl hangover. Make it happen, ESPN. 

What We Learned

North Carolina’s 20-point loss at Georgia Tech over MLK Weekend might have been the best thing to happen to the Tar Heels this season. Since that embarrassing loss, the ’Heels have ripped off five straight wins in ACC play, outscoring opponents by at least 20 points in the last three. A lot of people will choose to single out Kendall Marshall’s insertion into the starting lineup as the turning point of the season, but it’s been Harrison Barnes’ improved play that’s catapulted UNC into the ranks of NCAA dark horse. Barnes has scored at least 17 points in three consecutive games for the first time in his career, and it’s no coincidence that UNC cruised in all three games. The Tar Heels already boast one of the better post duos with Tyler Zeller and John Henson, now they have the electric scorer they’ve missed since the 2009 title season. 

Is It Too Late For the Wildcats? (AP/N. Majamdar)

Baylor, Butler and Kansas State all went on the road Saturday and came away with mega wins as they attempt to remain in the discussion for NCAA Tournament bids. Baylor landed the most impressive W, riding Perry Jones III to an overtime win at Texas A&M. Butler got a boost with its 12-point win at Horizon League leader Cleveland State, and Kansas State avoided a crippling loss when it eked past Iowa State. It remains to be seen what these wins will do for them in the long run, though, as all three are firmly entrenched on the bubble. The Wildcats have the best RPI of the bunch, checking in at #31, and according to Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology, they appear to be in the best standing with the selection committee as an 11 seed, compared to Baylor (the last team in) and Butler (NIT bound). But anyone who feels secure in trusting Frank Martin’s team hasn’t watched any hoops this year.

Read the rest of this entry »

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BGTD: Early Games Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on February 5th, 2011

It’s college basketball Saturday, and we’re back in action with this week’s Boom Goes the Dynamite.  We’ll be periodically briefing you throughout the day on the goings-on with various games, players and happenings throughout the nation.  The schedule doesn’t appear to be all that great on paper, but we’ve found through a number of years of watching this sport that it will always surprise you just when you think you’ve got it all figured out.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy…

  • Marshon Brooks Nearly Beats Georgetown By Himself.  Only in the Big East would you find a player averaging nearly 24 PPG that nobody talks about, but that’s generally been the case with Providence’s Marshon Brooks this season.  He’s having a spectacular individual year but PC has been brutalized by the ridiculous conference schedule, and even though he’s very likely a first-team all-conference guy, he gets no press.  Well, maybe he’ll get something after today’s 43-point performance where he nearly beat Georgetown all by his lonesome.  Using a variety of drives, jumpers and aggressive plays resulting in trips to the line, Brooks took over the game with about eleven minutes to go, scoring 19 points down the stretch and putting a big-time scare in the Hoyas who had been comfortably ahead.  On the last play of the game, Brooks was stripped by Chris Wright as he came upcourt, but it doesn’t take away from the scintillating day he had that represents just another weekend afternoon in the rugged Big East.
  • Who Decided a 10 AM Local Start is a Good Idea? We’re not idiots and we certainly understand that television drives scheduling, but who decided that playing a west coast game at 10 AM local time was a stellar idea?  The St. John’s-UCLA game tipped off in the mid-morning hours in Westwood and we’re trying to remember a non-gimmick game that started so early locally.  The question is why?  The players are used to practicing early, but the fans in Pauley Pavilion were clearly still shaking off the effects of Friday night, and it took until the last five minutes of action for them to wake up.  CBS could have easily shown Illinois-Northwestern in the 1 PM slot, and UCLA-St. John’s in the 3 PM slot instead of putting them opposite each other — why didn’t they?
  • CBS Needs to Make Other Options Available.  Which brings us to our other complaint…  if you’re going to split national coverage between two games, how about providing the rest of the country in non-blackout areas an alternative channel through which to watch the other game?  It’s not like this is the NFL and the only way to see the AFC or the NFC is through a single channel.  College basketball games are on fifteen different networks, and outside of say, NYC and LA, the interest in those two schools is relatively low.  CBS recognizes this viewing problem and provides an alternative during March Madness; we think it would make sense for them to do so for regular season games as well.
  • Lavin Bowl: UCLA and St. John’s are Both Dangerous March Teams.  All of that said about the television coverage, and we certainly don’t want to overstate this, but if we’re a #5-#7 seed and we see either UCLA or St. John’s opposite us in our first round matchup, we’re not very happy about that slotting.  Both teams are capable of causing significant problems to a favorite in a single-game matchup.  UCLA, with its bruising front line, and St. John’s, with its long athletes and pressure defense, are not easy teams to prepare for (ask Kansas and Duke).  Neither team is a threat to make the Sweet Sixteen, but to win a single game over a “better” team is entirely possible.
  • The Middle of the ACC Is a Steaming Pile of Doo Doo.  With Clemson’s road win over Georgia Tech, Maryland’s home win over Wake Forest, and BC’s win over Virginia Tech this early afternoon, there are now four teams tied at 5-4 in the conference race.  And we’re not sure any of the Tigers, Terps, Hokies or Eagles are worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid.  We’re sure that the tiresome ACC defenders will tell us that all seven deserve to be invited, but other than beating each other, can you find a quality win on any of these four team’s resumes?  A single one?  Can one of them at least beat North Carolina or Duke once?
  • Rashad McCants’ Dad Lashes Out.  A lot of folks have had differing opinions as to how demoted point guard Larry Drew II handled his exit from the UNC program last week.  James McCants, former Carolina star Rashad McCants’ father, wasted no breath in voicing his opinion of the matter on a Facebook post recently.  This is particularly interesting because, of course, it’s not like McCants the Younger had a bad career in Chapel Hill — he was one of three stars who led the Heels to the 2005 national championship, and arguably it was the arrival of Roy Williams that allowed that team to flourish.  Interesting stuff from within the Carolina family.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2011

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East.

A Look Back

Generally, at this point in the season — late January — I have a pretty good feel for the college hoops landscape. This season? Bleh. It seems like every time I expect a team to begin their turnaround, they start to slump. Every time I expect a collapse, I get a winning streak.  The Big East is no exception. Louisville looked great last week, then lost to ProvidenceWest Virginia beat Purdue, then had two players get suspended. Notre Dame, who struggles on the road, went to Pitt and won on Big Monday.  Yeah. I got nothing.

Player of the Week: Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame: You know you had a good week when you go for 28 points, six assists, and five boards against a team like Marquette and it’s not your best performance. Notre Dame paid a visit to the Petersen Events Center on Monday night and played their the ‘burn’ — as in burn the clock, and possibly your eyeballs — offense, slowing the game to a crawl. For the first 25 minutes, it was somewhat effective, but for the final 15 minutes of the game, Mike Brey did nothing but put the ball into Hansbrough’s hands. Seemingly every possession, the Irish ran him off of a high screen, and Hansbrough took advantage of the resulting mismatches, scoring 15 of his 19 points and handing out three of his seven assists over that stretch. The Irish would go on to beat Pitt 56-51 and pick up a huge road win, their first of the season.

Team of the Week: UConn Huskies - The Huskies won two big games this week, knocking off Villanova last Monday before upending Tennessee at home in the Vols’ first game with Bruce Pearl in two weeks. Kemba Walker has come back to earth in the past few weeks — which was expected — but it has been the emergence of UConn’s role players, most recently Jeremy Lamb, who have kept the Huskies notching wins. How crazy has this season been? No one had UConn in the NCAA Tournament in the preseason. Now? They are getting slotted into a No. 1 seed on a lot of bracket projections.

Power Rankings (overall and conference records, and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Pittsburgh (19-2, 7-1) (1)

Last Week: 1/22 @ DePaul 80-50, 1/24 vs. Notre Dame 51-56

Next Week: 1/29 @ Rutgers

Despite what the box score might look like, Pitt was not terrible offensively in their 56-51 loss to Notre Dame. When there are only 48 possessions in the game, 51 points actually isn’t too bad. The issue is on the defensive end of the floor. The Panthers were absolutely shredded by Ben Hansbrough coming off of a high ball screen. Their help side defense was terrible, as were their defensive rotations, and it resulted in layups and wide opens threes. That said, Pitt was playing much better on the defensive end. Chalk this one up to a great performance by the Irish?

2. Connecticut (15-2, 4-2) (3)

Last Week: 1/17 vs. Villanova 61-59, 1/22 vs. Tennessee

Next Week: 1/25 @ Marquette, 1/29 vs. Louisville

See the above “Team of the Week” feature to see why UConn keeps winning despite the regression of Kemba Walker.

3. Villanova (17-3, 5-2) (4)

Last Week: 1/17 @ UConn 59-61, 1/22 @ Syracuse 83-72

Next Week: 1/26 @ Providence, 1/29 vs. Georgetown

When you split road games at UConn and Syracuse, you have to consider the week a win. It finally seems as if the Wildcats’ three backcourt stars are all clicking. Corey Fisher had 28 points against UConn; Maalik Wayns led the way against Syracuse, scoring 17 of his 21 points in the first half and finding (albeit briefly) his stroke from deep. Corey Stokes found his stroke as well after slumping for the past ten days or so. The most underrated aspect of this team, however, is Antonio Pena. He’s always been a tough defender and rebounder, but now he is knocking down jumpers as well.

4. Syracuse (18-2, 5-2) (2)

Last Week: 1/17 @ Pitt 66-74, 1/22 vs. Villanova 72-83

Next Week: 1/25 vs. Seton Hall, 1/29 @ Marquette

The Orange have now lost two games in a row after starting the season off with 18 straight wins, and both teams did it by slicing up the Syracuse zone. Well, Pitt sliced up their zone, Villanova simply bombed away from deep and hung on late. Should Orange fans be concerned? Not in the least. There is no shame in losing at Pitt without Kris Joseph (though Notre Dame may disagree) or at home to Villanova when their backcourt players get it going. Speaking of Joseph, he had 23 points against Villanova in his return from a concussion. Another item of note — Scoop Jardine is now 8-30 from the floor in his last three games.

5. Notre Dame (15-4, 6-3) (9)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Cincinnati 66-58, 1/22 vs. Marquette 80-75, 1/24 vs. Notre Dame 56-51

Next Week: None

See above.

6. Louisville (15-4, 4-2) (5)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. St. John’s 88-63, 1/22 @ Providence 67-72

Next Week: 1/26 vs. West Virginia, 1/29 @ UConn

Just three days after smoking St. John’s and playing one of their most complete games of the season, the Cardinals went into Providence and lost to the fired up Friars. Marshon Brooks had 20 of his 27 points in the second half as Louisville ended up shooting just 4-23 from three. I’ve said it since day one with this team — they are going to win games they shouldn’t win and lose games they shouldn’t lose. Live by the three…

7. Marquette (13-7, 4-3) (7)

Last Week: 1/18 vs. DePaul , 1/22 @ Notre Dame 75-80

Next Week: 1/25 vs. UConn, 1/29 vs. Syracuse

Another game, another tough loss for the Golden Eagles. With the way this team has competed against some very tough competition, it is difficult to believe that they are not good enough to be in the NCAA Tournament. Now they just have to prove it. With home games against UConn and Syracuse on tap this week, now is as good of a time as any to start.

8. West Virginia (13-5, 4-2) (6)

Last Week: 1/19 vs. Marshall 71-75, 1/23 vs. South Florida 56-46

Next Week: 1/26 @ Louisville, 1/29 @ Cincinnati

Since I named West Virginia the team of the week when they knocked off Purdue, the ‘Eers have proceeded to lose to Marshall after being down by 24 points, have a player (Dan Jennings) get kicked off the team for leaving the bench during the South Florida game, and saw their leading scorer (Casey Mitchell) suspended indefinitely for the second time this year.

9. Georgetown (13-5, 3-4) (10)

Last Week: 1/18 @ Seton Hall 80-75

Next Week: 1/26 vs. St. John’s, 1/29 @ Villanova

The Hoyas picked up a nice little come-from-behind win against Seton Hall on the road. The bad news is that while Austin Freeman looks like he’s back in his groove shooting from three, the Hoyas still did not play all that well. Georgetown has a chance to avenge a loss to St. John’s on Wednesday at the Verizon Center before heading to Philly for a showdown with Villanova. Of note: Julian Vaughn was seen walking about campus in a boot this week, although reports are that it was precautionary.

10. Cincinnati (17-3, 4-3) (11)

Last Week: 1/19 @ Notre Dame 58-66, 1/22 @ St. John’s 53-51

Next Week: 1/26 vs. Rutgers, 1/29 1/29 vs. West Virginia

The Bearcats got a must-win game on the road against the Johnnies on Saturday thanks to a Yancy Gates three-point play with eight seconds left. If Cincy really wants a shot at making the dance, they are going to have to put themselves into good position heading into the end of February. Five of their last seven games come against ranked opponents with Marquette in that mix as well.

11. St. John’s (11-7, 4-4) (8)

Last Week: 1/19 @ Louisville 63-88, 1/22 vs. Cincinnati 51-53

Next Week: 1/26 @ Georgetown, 1/30 vs. Duke

Not only did St. John’s get embarrassed on the road by Louisville, they lost an important game at home to Cincinnati when they couldn’t hit their free throws late. With Georgetown and Duke coming up this week, the Johnnies seem to be running out of chances.

12. Rutgers (12-7, 3-4) (13)

Last Week: 1/20 vs. South Florida 71-62, 1/22 @ Seton Hall 66-60

Next Week: 1/26 @ Cincinnati, 1/29 vs. Pitt

This group plays hard, they just don’t have the talent in the program to beat the big boys yet. That said, Mike Rice is doing a good job with this group. Don’t be surprised if he builds a tournament-worthy team in the next two to three years.

13. Providence (12-8, 1-6) (15)

Last Week: 1/22 vs. Louisville 72-67

Next Week: 1/26 vs. Villanova, 1/30 @ Seton Hall

The Friars picked up a nice win at Louisville. Its really a shame that no one gets to see Marshon Brooks play, because he’s the real deal.

14. Seton Hall (8-12, 2-6) (12)

Last Week: 1/18 vs. Georgetown 75-80, 1/22 vs. Rutgers 60-66

Next Week: 1/25 @ Syracuse, 1/30 vs. Providence

This season has been an absolute disaster. The Pirates lost two more tough ones this week. I really do feel for those guys. They have been through a lot, with Bobby Gonzalez’s firing, Robert Mitchell‘s arrest, Herb Pope‘s heart problems, and Jeremy Hazell‘s wrist injury and shooting.

15. South Florida (7-14, 1-7) (14)

Last Week: 1/20 Rutgers 62-71, 1/23 @ West Virginia 46-56

Next Week: 1/27 vs. DePaul

If you don’t have anything nice to say…

16. DePaul (6-13, 0-7) (16)

Last Week: 1/18 @ Marquette 64-94, 1/22 vs. Pitt 50-80

Next Week: 1/27 @ South Florida

Looks like we’re headed for a showdown on the 27th…

A Look Ahead

Louisville takes on UConn and Georgetown heads to Villanova on Saturday, both at noon, but beyond that, it’s a rare quiet week in the Big East in terms of marquee matchups.

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ATB: Big Ten Battles in December

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2010

The Lede.  There were a good number of games across the college basketball landscape tonight, but few of them held much interest to the casual observer.  The most important aspect of tonight (and really, this week) is that some of the power conferences are gearing up.  We have a fundamental aversion to pre-New Years conference games, but the honchos tend to not listen to us, so we take the smattering of Big East, Big Ten and Pac-10 games dropping this week as yet another sign that the apocalypse is just around the bend and bearing down on us.

Al Nolen Meets the Wisconsin Defense (WSJ/C. Schreiner)

Your Watercooler MomentWisconsin & Purdue — Still Pretty Good.  Tonight’s marquee games were both Big Ten battles, and notwithstanding the fact that it’s still 2010 and these games shouldn’t be happening so early, that won’t erase the fact that they did in fact occur and two teams that are always pretty good are still pretty good.  The bigger game was Minnesota visiting Wisconsin, and even though many of the news outlets looked at the rankings (#13 visiting #24) and subsequently called a Wisconsin eight-point win an “upset,” anyone reading this site knows better.  In fact, the Badgers were a heavy favorite in Vegas (eight points, a-ha!), and few teams go into the Kohl Center and defeat Bo Ryan.  Despite getting dominated on the boards (-13), Ryan’s team played just enough sticky possession-defense  and took the care of the ball (only two TOs) to stymie a Gopher attack that is as diversified as it has been in Tubby Smith’s era in Minneapolis.  Meanwhile, across Lake Michigan in Ann Arbor, Purdue rode its two all-Americans JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore to a nice road win over a surprising UM team in convincing fashion.  The dynamic duo went for 43/17 combined, and contributed as they always do to one of the nation’s most effective defenses in tandem.  Many people wrote off Purdue as a national title contender and Final Four threat when Robbie Hummel went down with a knee injury in October, including us, but the Boilermakers are playing such impressive defense right now that we could be convinced that Matt Painter’s team could make a run to Houston after all.  Mind you, we’re not talking about cutting down the nets, but if the Boilermakers can continue to get offensive production beyond Johnson and Moore — and several players have stepped up at various times as a third option — then with the right matchups, Purdue could still be a darkhorse F4 contender.  Matt Painter’s defense and his two seniors are that good.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Mike Montgomery, Really? The California coach earned his 600th career victory tonight against Hartford, which puts him in a group of seven active coaches to have done so.  Without a doubt, he would be the last one you’d think of — the top six are: 1) Mike Krzyzewski; 2) Jim Boeheim; 3) Jim Calhoun; 4) Bob Huggins; 5) Gary Williams; 6) Roy Williams.  Pretty selective company there, as all but Huggz has won a national title.
  • 30 at the Cintas.  With tonight’s easy win over Albany, Xavier continued its second-longest homecourt winning streak in the nation to 30 games.  This is particularly amazing considering that, well, XU isn’t all that good this year.  The Musketeers have hosted six games at the Cintas Center so far this year, and already four of them have gone down to the last possession — a three-point win over Western Michigan, an overtime over IUPU-Fort Wayne, a triple-overtime win over Wofford and a two-point nailbiter over Butler.  The Muskies go for #31 on New Year’s Eve against Florida, a team with a definite upgrade in talent than most of the teams they’ve played so far this season.
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RTC Top 25: NPOY Edition

Posted by zhayes9 on December 28th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Every week here at Rush the Court, the powers-that-be provide our RTC Top 25, unanimously labeled as the most accurate college basketball poll in the nation by a team of Harvard scientists. Rather than focusing on the teams, here’s my take on the top 25 players in the nation as it stands now. Don’t think of it as 25 candidates to win national player of the year. There are only a handful of players that have a realistic shot to take home that award barring some unforeseen breakthrough. Instead, consider it a power ranking of the cream of the crop in college hoops. Exceptional efficiency, consistent production and value relative to their team are just a few of the traits these 25 players have brought to the hardwood thus far in 2010-11.

No surprise who the frontrunner for NPOY is

1. Kemba Walker, Connecticut- Change the wording from “national player of the year” to “most valuable player” and Walker’s stock only rises. The Bronx native made an early mark in Maui, notching 31 against Wichita State, 30 against Michigan State and finishing off the superhuman performance with 29 in the championship game vs. Kentucky. Walker is averaging nearly 27 PPG and shooting 50% with opposing defenses centering their game plan on his offensive capabilities. He’s a jet in the full court, a crafty scorer in the lane and has improved his outside jump shot tremendously.

2. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State- When Evan Turner suggested over the summer than Sullinger was going to win Big Ten POY, many didn’t take his prediction seriously. Sullinger’s play this year has silenced even the most fervent doubters. The local hero is averaging a double-double at 17.5 PPG and 10.2 RPG while shooting 59% and already posted a 26/10 at Florida, a 40/13 against IUPUI and 30/19 vs. South Carolina. Sullinger is also the fifth best defensive rebounder in the nation while playing for a team that appears destined for a Final Four.

3. Derrick Williams, Arizona- This sensational sophomore truly does it all for Sean Miller and is one of the most versatile forwards the nation has to offer. The proof is in the pudding: Williams is shooting 13 for 19 from deep and hauling down seven rebounds per contest. Williams is also averaging 19.3 PPG on an incredible 63% from the floor and ranks 15th nationally in offensive rating, 11th in efficient FG% and seventh in true shooting percentage. His ability to step away from the basket at 6’8 makes Williams nearly impossible to lock up.

4. Jon Leuer, Wisconsin- Leuer has been the prototypical player under Bo Ryan that improves substantially each season until he’s one of the top players in the Big Ten come senior season. Leuer can operate in the paint at 6’10, but like most Wisconsin forwards, is comfortable around the perimeter with a dependable mid-range game that extends out beyond the arc. Leuer is averaging almost 20 PPG and 7.3 RPG while making 79% of his free throws and 50% of his treys.  Leuer’s numbers have increased every season in Madison.

5. Kyrie Irving, Duke- When Irving was directing the Duke offense, the Blue Devils operated like a well-oiled machine. The New Jersey native possesses incredible court vision, a smooth jump shot and maturity beyond his years. An ankle injury has temporarily derailed his season, but Irving’s impact is still worth mentioning. He’s averaging 17.4 PPG and 5.1 APG while making 53% of his twos, 90% of his free throws and 45% of his threes as a true freshman in the pressure cooker position that is Duke point guard.

6. Austin Freeman, Georgetown- Freeman has been a darling of the efficiency geeks for a few years now and his senior campaign is changing none of that. The DeMatha graduate is top 25 in the nation in offensive rating, efficient FG% and true shooting percentage, a surprise to nobody that’s watched Freeman pour in the points this season for the Hoyas. He’s a sneaky capable athlete with a quick release that can nail any shot past the halfcourt stripe. Freeman is pouring in 18.9 PPG and draining 49% of his threes.

7. Marcus Morris, Kansas- Morris is another ultra-versatile forward who is comfortable utilizing drop steps in the paint or facing up to hit a three in a defender’s grill. Morris takes less than ten shots per game and is averaging 15.5 PPG. Along with a 60% mark from the field and 46% from three, Morris is an elite rebounder. There’s a reason why Bill Self reminded the masses that the Kansas offense would still revolve around Morris when Josh Selby put on a Jayhawk uniform.

8. Demetri McCamey, Illinois- The fact McCamey led the nation in assist rate as a junior and currently ranks 12th as a senior with a 2.5 A/T ratio would be enough to justify consideration for this list. But McCamey is also one of the best scorers in the country, using his strong frame and unlimited range to spark the Illini offensive attack. He’s averaging 15.7 PPG and 7.1 APG on 50% shooting and 49% from deep. McCamey may be the best passing point guard in the nation.

9. Klay Thompson, Washington State- Thompson has overcome a late-season shooting slump last season to emerge as one of the top pure gunners in the nation. He’s vitally important to the Cougars, averaging 22.3 PPG, grabbing over four boards and dishing out over four assists all while shooting an efficient 50% from the floor and 42% from three. Thompson has already scored 35 against Portland, 24 in the win over Gonzaga, 28 against Mississippi State and 31 vs. Butler and is even an asset for Ken Bone on the defensive end.

10. Jimmer Fredette, BYU- Here’s a dire warning for upcoming Mountain West foes: The Jimmer is fifth in the nation in scoring (24.2 PPG) even while shooting 7% lower from three this season than last. When Fredette reclaims his stroke from downtown, watch out. He’s simply the most gifted scorer the college game has to offer. Fredette is confident from long range, but also has an uncanny way of penetrating the lane for floaters, short jumpers or scoop shots. His array of offensive moves is second to none.

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Surprise! Assessing Early Signs of Life at Providence, Oregon & Iowa State

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is an RTC contributor.

Last week we spent some time praising the work of two of the most familiar faces in the college basketball coaching world, Rick Pitino and Bruce Pearl, in getting their teams off to sparkling starts in the aftermath of some rough off-court patches. Today, I’d like to recognize some perhaps less well-known coaches who have turned awful offseasons of a different sort into solid starts for their respective teams. At Providence, Oregon and Iowa State, the basketball programs all went through turbulent summers full of personnel changes and uncertainty, but thus far the coaches at each of those programs has fought through the adversity to earn a combined 29-9 record for the three schools, albeit against maybe some lesser competition. None of the three schools are necessarily expected to be major contenders for NCAA Tournament berths, but at least they’ve got their programs headed in the right directions after rough offseasons.

Marshon Brooks Has Been a Revelation This Season

For Keno Davis and the Providence Friars, the offseason was an absolute nightmare – not that 2009-10 was all that great to begin with. The Friars lost their last 11 games of last season on the way to a 12-19 record, during which time junior guard Kyle Wright abruptly left the program. After the season was over, a new rash of bad news hit the Friars. First, it was announced that point guard Johnnie Lacy and center Russ Permenter would be transferring out of the program. Then, a couple days later, Lacy and freshman center James Still were charged with felony assault, leading to Still’s eventual dismissal. A month later, the bright spot in the Friar program was extinguished when leading scorer and rebounder Jamine “Greedy” Peterson was kicked off the team. About a week later, assistant coach Pat Skerry left to head to Big East rival Pitt, and in the process, severely hurt Providence’s recruiting with incoming 2010 recruit Joseph Young announcing that he would be staying closer to his Houston home for college. After Davis lost some face in refusing to allow Young out of his scholarship for a time, he was eventually released and allowed to enroll at the University of Houston. Next, 2011 commit Naadir Tharpe announced that he was withdrawing his commitment to the Friars and opening back up his recruitment. And finally, for good measure, Kadeem Batts suffered a disorderly conduct charge in July. In short, it was a miserable offseason.

But, in the face of all of that turmoil, the Friars are off to an 11-2 start to this season. Yes, they’ve dropped games to La Salle and Boston College, and for every win over a Rhode Island and an Alabama, there’s a win over Central Connecticut and Prairie View A&M, but at least Coach Davis has not allowed the negative momentum of the offseason to boil over into a disastrous 2010-11 campaign. Senior wing Marshon Brooks has developed into a versatile threat (22.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 2.0 3PG) and a team leader, while sophomores Vincent Council and Bilal Dixon are each developing into serious Big East-level talents. Council is among the top ten point guards in the nation in assists, with seven per game (he had 16 in a game against Brown), while Dixon has been killing the boards on both ends, to the tune of 9.7 rebounds per night (more than three of those on the offensive glass), and adding almost three blocked shots a night. While much more serious competition awaits the Friars come Big East play, Davis has focused on tightening things up on the defensive end where PC ranked in the bottom 100 teams in Division I last year in defensive efficiency; now PC ranks in the top 100. There is certainly a ways to go for this Friar team, and the talent level  is still such that any dream of a run to an upper-division Big East finish should be tempered with, you know, sanity, but Davis has taken what was a disastrous offseason and settled things down in Providence to the point where the program is no longer in freefall and is playing up to their talent level. There are sure to be plenty of losses (and losing streaks) in conference play, but expect the Friars to beat a team or two that they have no business beating, and to be competitive on a regular basis.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference.

A Look Back

  • So the Big East came back down to earth this past week. It was bound to happen. The conference wasn’t going to boast seven undefeated teams all season long. While Syracuse, Louisville, and Notre Dame won marquee matchups, Georgetown, Pitt, Marquette, Providence, and Notre Dame (again) got knocked off this past week, and Villanova and West Virginia struggled against inferior opponents.
  • Player of the Week: Marshon Brooks, Providence: I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of people around the country that haven’t heard the name Marshon Brooks before because, you know, he plays for Providence. But it’s about time you start noticing this young man. In the past two weeks, there may not be a player in the country in more of a groove that Brooks. Since a 3-12 performance in a win over Wyoming on November 24, Brooks has been on fire, averaging 28.9 PPG and 8.2 RPG, collecting 11 steals and ten blocks, and shooting 55%/83%/46% over a six-game stretch. In the last week alone, Brooks averaged 31.3 PPG and 8.3 RPG as the Friars went 2-1, their lone loss a two-point decision on the road against Boston College.
  • Team of the Week: Syracuse Orange – The Orange’s win over Michigan State last Tuesday has been written about and discussed at length already, but it deserves mention once again. Granted, the Spartans are playing some poor basketball right now, but Syracuse still dominated them in the paint and completely flummoxed them with their zone. The Orange are just as good defensively as they were last season and may have an even better front line than last year’s team, headlined by the emergence of Rick Jackson as a double-double machine. They are still waiting on Kris Joseph to become a consistent scoring threat, and Scoop Jardine still has a tendency to make bad decisions, but the biggest issue standing between Syracuse and greatness appears to be their lack of perimeter shooting. Regardless, no team in the Big East is playing better basketball that the Orange right now.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

1. Syracuse (10-0) (5)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Michigan State 72-58, 12/11 vs. Colgate 100-43
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Iona, 12/20 vs. Morgan State

See above.

2. Pitt (10-1) (1)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Delaware State 70-42, 12/11 vs. Tennessee 76-83
Next Week: 12/18 vs. UM Eastern Shore

The Panthers took a pretty solid whooping at the hands of Tennessee last Saturday. Ashton Gibbs was completely taken out of the game by Melvin Goins, Pitt had no answer to Scotty Hopson defensively, and the Panthers were ineffective in finishing their second chance opportunities. To make matters worse, the game was in Pittsburgh. The tendency is to overreact to a beatdown like this, but I caution fans against doing that. I was able to watch the entirety of that game, and trust me, it had much more to do with how well Tennessee played than what Pitt was unable to do.

3. Georgetown (9-1) (2)
Last Week: 12/9 @ Temple 65-68, 12/12 vs. Appalachian State 89-60
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola MD

Like Pitt’s loss to Tennessee, I caution Hoya fans against getting too worried about Georgetown’s first loss of the season. For starters, it came on the road against a Temple team that is top-25 material, played as well as they have all season on the defensive end, and got a career performance out of Ramone Moore, who went for 30. Georgetown still has a terrific backcourt and still has one of the most impressive non-conference resumes in the country. With the schedule they are playing, they were bound to be tripped up. If anything, that game proved that even Georgetown is susceptible to being taken out of their game by Temple’s defense.

4. Connecticut (8-0) (3)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. FDU 78-54
Next Week: 12/20 vs. Coppin State

The Huskies have slowly dropped in the Power Rankings, as they were second two weeks ago. This may look even more ridiculous considering that UConn has risen to #4 in both of the polls. My defense? Well, it’s the same thing that has been written every time someone has written anything about UConn this season — do they have enough outside of Kemba WalkerRoscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb have been better the last two games, while Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi have come back to earth a little bit. The addition of 7’1 German import Enosch Wolf may help shore up UConn’s woes on the defensive glass, but I’m still not sold on this team.

5. Villanova (8-1) (4)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Penn 65-53, 12/12 @ La Salle 84-81
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Delaware

It’s a good thing that Corey Stokes decided to show up this week, as he was the Wildcats’ best player in both games this week, scoring 34 of Nova’s 65 against Penn before dropping 16 against La Salle. Corey Fisher seems like he is struggling with the pressure of replacing Scottie Reynolds. The skills are still there, as he’s still finding assists and getting to the foul line. His shots just aren’t dropping. He’s too good for that not to change.

7. Notre Dame 9-1 (6)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Kentucky 58-72, 12/11 vs. Gonzaga 83-79
Next Week: 12/19 vs. Stony Brook

Notre Dame’s past week has me confused. Ben Hansbrough carried the Irish to a 38-27 lead late in the first half against Kentucky, but he had just two of his 21 points the rest of the way and the Irish looked completely lost on the offensive end of the floor, going for 13 minutes of game time without a field goal. They did, however, look solid on the defensive end until Terrence Jones took over in the final five minutes. Against Gonzaga, the Irish led by double digits for much of the second half, but allowed the Zags to score 14 points in the final minute and cut a ten-point lead to just two.

7. Louisville (8-1) (7)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. San Francisco 61-35, 12/11 vs. UNLV 77-69, 12/14 vs. Drexel 46-52
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Gardner-Webb

While finals generally signal a slowdown in college basketball, there was plenty going on in Louisville. All in the span of a week, the Cardinals received a verbal commitment from Rodney Purvis, the nation’s #1 point guard in the class of 2012, scored a big win over UNLV, and lost to Drexel amongst reports that Rick Pitino will coach the Puerto Rican  national team. As for the Cardinals as they stand right now, nothing has changed about my opinion of Louisville since they beat Butler to open the season. When this team gets it going — when they are knocking down threes and forcing turnovers defensively — they can play with just about anyone in the country. When they don’t hit shots, as shown against Drexel, they will struggle. The biggest issue for Louisville right now? Their three-point shooters just aren’t all that good. As a team, they shoot 32.1% from deep (219th in the country) but 42.8% of their field goals are three balls (17th most in the country). Their top three in terms of attempts — Mike Marra (27.3%), Preston Knowles (34.7%), Peyton Siva (25%) — don’t shoot it well. Their best three point shooter, Kyle Kuric (42.1%), only takes a little over two per game. Think about this stat — in beating San Francisco, Louisville took more threes (36) than USF had points (35). They missed the same number of threes (26) as points they won by (26). I don’t know what that means, but it is kind of insane. (Note: The shooting stats were taken from KenPom before the Cardinals’ December 14 game against Drexel.)

8. Cincinnati (9-0) (8)
Last Week: 12/11 vs. Utah Valley 92-72, 12/14 vs. Georgia Southern 99-54
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Oklahoma

Will the Bearcats play somebody already? They are 9-0 on the season, but they haven’t beaten anyone in the top 100 according to KenPom, and their only wins against teams rated better than 199th are against Dayton and Wright State. I’m reserving judgment on this team until they get a real test, and that may not be for another month.

9. Marquette 7-3 (9)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Texas A&M-CC 86-50, 12/11 vs. Wisconsin 64-69
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Centenary

Typical Marquette. Their three losses are by a combined 13 points. The same thing happened last season. The Golden Eagles played every good opponent tough, and once they figured out how to win and execute down the stretch, they started knocking off those tough opponents. I’m not worried about this team just yet.

10. West Virginia 7-2 (6)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Robert Morris 82-49, 12/12 @ Duquesne 64-61
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Cleveland State

Did something happen between Bob Huggins and Casey Mitchell? It appears so, because the Mountaineers’ leading scorer managed just 35 minutes combined the past two games. He played only one second in the second half against Duquesne.

11. Providence 10-2 (12)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Boston College 86-88, 12/11 vs. Alabama 82-70
Next Week: None

It’s too early to say that PC is a potential NCAA Tournament team, not with their lack of quality wins. But with Marshon Brooks playing the way he has and Vincent Council and Bilal Dixon looking like they can be impact players in the Big East, this team has to be considered a sleeper to make a run in league play. The Friars open conference play at Syracuse and then with home dates against St. John’s and Pitt. I’ll reserve judgment on them until after those three games.

12. Seton Hall 5-4 (13)
Last Week: 12/11 @ UMass 78-51
Next Week: 12/19 vs. NJIT

Have the Pirates finally figured out how to play without Jeremy Hazell? The last two games, they have won by a combined 52 points and scored an average of 91.0 PPG. This team is playing defense this season. If the offense comes around, they’ll be climbing these power rankings. Seton Hall has talent.

13. Rutgers 7-2 (15)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Marist 64-48, 12/11 vs. Auburn 63-54, 12/14 v. FDU 79-65
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Monmouth

The Scarlet Knights aren’t terrible this season, or at least is appears that way early on. They have a win over Miami FL and knocked off Auburn in a game that wasn’t nearly as close that the 63-54 final would indicate.

14. St. John’s 5-3 (11)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. St. Bonaventure 66-67, 12/11 @ Fordham 81-84
Next Week: 12/20 vs. Davidson

15. South Florida 5-5 (14)
Last Week: 12/12 @ Kent State 51-56
Next Week: 12/15 vs. Auburn, 12/18 vs. James Madison

16. DePaul 4-6 (16)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Indiana State 51-73, 12/11 vs. Ball State 77-79 OT, 12/14 vs. Milwaukee 61-47
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola IL

The bottom of the Big East was awful this past week. St. John’s completely destroyed any kind of hope for this season by losing at home to St. Bonaventure and dropping a game on the road against Fordham (who won two games last season) after holding a 21-point lead. South Florida followed up a loss to Florida Atlantic where they scored 42 points with a loss to Kent State where they scored 51 points. DePaul was drubbed by Indiana State by 22 points (and had just 18 points at the under 16 timeout of the second half) and lost to Ball State. Yuck.

A Look Ahead

Aside from Drexel’s major upset to give Louisville its first loss at home, there are no interesting games played by Big East teams this week. None. The only game that comes close is when West Virginia hosts undefeated Cleveland State, and that is in very large part due to the finish those two had last year. Good luck on your finals, and enjoy your Christmas break, fellas.

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ATB: Tennessee Dominates Pitt Behind Scotty Hopson

Posted by rtmsf on December 13th, 2010

The Lede.  It was a relatively quiet weekend in college basketball, as most schools scheduled lightly because they are either already taking or heading into exams.  There was only one matchup between ranked teams, and most everybody else in the Top 25 rolled (17-2 this weekend).  In the two losses — UNLV and Washington — both squads played good teams in their own right in Louisville and Texas A&M on the road.  As we head into the holiday season, the next three weeks will be hit-and-miss (mostly miss) in terms of quality games, with the majority of the pre-conference tournaments finished and schools preferring to not kill themselves immediately before conference play.  Keep this in mind over the next few weeks, though.  With the onset of winter break, teams will have a couple of things going for them.  First, if they’re waiting on a key player who might have been a transfer or academically ineligible, guys such as New Mexico’s Drew Gordon or USC’s Jio Fontan or even Missouri’s Tony Mitchell, there’s a good chance that player will be back and ready to help his team soon.  Second, with classes over and NCAA hours restrictions lifted during the break, coaches can practice as much as they want.  It shouldn’t surprise you in the least if some teams that looked shaky during the first month of the season come back much more polished and stronger after the break.

The UT Defense Outdid Pitt's on Saturday (P-S/M. Freed)

Your Watercooler MomentTennessee Throttles Pitt on the Road.  You have to give it to Bruce Pearl.  When he perceives that his back is against the wall, he comes out with guns blazing, repeatedly doing things considered nearly impossible by those of us who remember how the Vols collapse when the burden of expectations is placed upon them.  Who can forget, for example, the victories over #1 Kansas and #2 Kentucky last season; or, the win at #1 Memphis in 2008; or, the victories over the back-to-back Florida teams in 2006 and 2007?  The man gets it done when he’s playing the role of woebegone underdog, and Saturday’s 83-76 victory over Pitt in their own backyard is just the latest example of this trend.  With Pearl set to miss the first eight games of the SEC season and still-untold penalties looming from the NCAA masters, he has his team believing in one another and they’re once again shocking the basketball world in the process.  So how are the Vols doing it this year?  Try defense and a junior who has finally reached his potential.  Pitt learned quickly on Saturday that this Tennessee team wasn’t just another soft SEC squad more interested in scoring than getting back and moving their feet on the other end — these Vols actually play defense.  With athletic size and length across the front line in the form of Brian Williams, Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson, the Pitt bigs had trouble finding openings, but it was the specific work that Melvin Goins put in on Pitt’s star Ashton Gibbs that made the biggest difference, holding the guard to 4-13 shooting.  On the other side, no Panther seemed to have a clue as to how to defend the lithe Hopson, who for the first time in his career on a national stage looked like the top ten recruit in the Class of 2008 he once was.  He was 10-13 from the field, hitting all three of his bombs and slicing and dunking his way to a 27-point performance befitting a significantly improved and more efficient player this season.  Sometimes it just takes certain players longer to figure out how to play this game at a high level, and Hopson’s better understanding of what a great shot is has been one of the primary reasons that UT sits at 7-0 and presumably in the top five at this point in the season.  With a light home-heavy schedule until the SEC season starts, Pearl has his team poised to remain unbeaten and near the top of the rankings when he goes on hiatus.

Quit Calling It a Court Storm!!!! Hehe, regardless of the chosen nomenclature, we had another RTC over the weekend as Fordham came back from 21 down in the second half to beat crosstown rival St. John’s.  The Johnnies suffered not one, but two separate 16-0 runs by Fordham (who, remember, only won five games the last two seasons) before succumbing down the stretch.  It was Fordham’s first win over a Big East team since the first Reagan administration (1982) and clearly a massive win for Tom Pecora’s program looking for some traction in a crowded NYC sports market.  Somewhere on the left coast, UCLA fans knowingly nodded in quiet unison…  (h/t to The East Coast Bias for sending along the clip)

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RTC Live: Providence @ Boston College

Posted by zhayes9 on December 8th, 2010

Game #66.  RTC Live is back in Chestnut Hill for what has become a very interesting matchup as the early season has worn on.

This year’s edition of New England’s finest hoops rivalry gets underway tonight at 7 PM ET when Providence travels north to face Boston College at Conte Forum. While both teams were considered long shots to make the NCAA Tournament before the season, the Friars (9-1) and Eagles (6-2) are off to surprising starts. Providence’s #99 ranking in defensive efficiency is a dramatic improvement from last year’s squad and the Friars have early wins against Wyoming, Northeastern and in-state foe Rhode Island to show for it. The versatile duo of Marshon Brooks (21.4 PPG) and emerging star Vincent Council (17.1 PPG) lead the scoring attack in a crucial season for Keno Davis. Despite a shocking loss to Yale, Boston College has rebounded to beat both Texas A&M and California on a neutral floor and defeated Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Junior Reggie Jackson (18.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG) is one of the most gifted and exciting players in the ACC while first-year coach Steve Donahue also has senior cogs Joe Trapani and Corey Raji at his disposal. Join me tonight from Conte Forum for RTC Live to see if Providence can notch their first quality win of the campaign or if the Eagles protect their home turf and continue to build their own NCAA Tournament resume.

Ed. Note: We had some technical difficulties at Conte Forum tonight. We will have a full write-up tomorrow.

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ATB: Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up…

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2010

The Lede.  Monday night was one of the lightest weekday nights you’ll see this season, with only a handful of games on the docket and only a couple that seemed to have any potential (they didn’t, as it turned out).  So we’ll use this opportunity to prep for Tuesday night’s Jimmy V Classic, featuring four ranked teams: #4 Kansas, #6 Michigan State, #14 Syracuse and #18 Memphis.  It’s an exceptional group of teams that should make for a double-header that will have the Garden rocking.  But if you want breakdowns on the games, we encourage you to read tomorrow’s Set Your Tivo feature, where both contests will get their proper analytical treatment.  No, in this space, we’d like to take a moment to remember the reason for the Classic in the first place: the V Foundation’s ongoing battle against the most insidious of diseases, cancer.  In the eighteen years since its founding, the organization has raised over $100M for cancer research and funded grants throughout the nation.  When we watched the original ESPY speech by Jim Valvano in 1993, we were moved by his courage, poise and humor in the face of a horrific personal situation.  But given our youth, we were also somewhat inured to the harsh realities of life and the cruel punishments of the disease of which he was afflicted.  Now that we’ve gotten older and had the painful experience of living through close family members and friends suffering at the hands of this disease, we understand even more the need for continued dollars for research and exploratory treatments.  ESPN and Dick Vitale will hammer you over the head with commercials asking for donations throughout tomorrow night’s broadcast, but if you can take a moment to reflect on someone you know with the disease, or someone you hope won’t get cancer, then it becomes much easier to make the call (1-800-4JimmyV) or click the button.  Every dollar counts.

“Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.” — Jim Valvano, 1993

Your Watercooler Moment.  Your watercooler moment from Monday was that after seemingly thirty consecutive days of basketball worth watching, Monday night was a brief respite in the schedule.  Things will pick back up on Tuesday with the Jimmy V Classic, but the truth is that as teams gear up for exams and the bowl season kicks off, the next few weeks will generally be filled with cupcakes and time off.

Tonight Quick Hits...

  • Luke Sikma.  The Portland Pilot and son of former NBA great Jack, is putting together a nice senior season.  After a 14-point, 16-rebound effort at Washington tonight in a loss, he’s now averaging a double-double with 12.3 PPG and 12.1 RPG and is among the very best rebounders on both ends of the floor according to KenPom.  The Pilots have lost badly to each of the power conference teams they’ve faced — Kentucky, Washington State and Washington — but they’ve won all the others (7-3) and could ultimately play a nagging role in the WCC as both Gonzaga and St. Mary’s appear to be somewhat rebuilding this year.
  • Marshon Brooks.  There are so many good players in the Big East in any given year that it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of them all, especially on the worse teams.  As PC has roared to a 9-1 start, though, Brooks has exploded onto the scene as the primary reason.  Last night against Brown he dropped 33 points, pulled eight rebounds and ripped four steals, and his progression from run-of-the-mill guard to Big East star appears complete.  He’s shooting the ball at a ridiculous 61% from inside the arc and contributing 21/9/2 SPG this year, considerable increases over his 14/4 averages from last season.  An interesting game at BC on Wednesday may tell us whether Providence is for real this year.

… and Misses.

  • K-State From the Line.  Kansas State went 23-40 from the line it it easy win over Alcorn State tonight, but this is a season-long problem (54%).  Only one other team in America throws up fewer bricks from the line, and they play in the SWAC (Alabama State).  Depending on whom you ask, K-State is either extremely overrated or just working through some things before putting it together.  We know one thing, though — Jacob Pullen dropping 24/5 against Alcorn is one thing, but he needs to find his game against real competition soon (19-61 FG against five other D1 opponents).

Tweet of the Night.  Hoop Nerd Christmas Festivus came three weeks early for most of us, as Ken Pomeroy announced his player statistics are now active on his site.

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