Big East Weekend Wrap: Vol. IV

Posted by Justin Kundrat on December 16th, 2014

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

With only two weeks left before conference play gets under way, eight Big East teams remain squarely in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid. While it might be too early to draw any definitive conclusions, it’s something to monitor as the season progresses. Currently both Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm project six Big East teams into their fields, with two others — Creighton and Providence — on the outside of the bubble. Coming off a light weekend of Big East action, below are three key takeaways.

Butler Failed to Close Things Out at Tennessee Over the Weekend (USA Today Sports)

Butler Failed to Close Things Out at Tennessee Over the Weekend (USA Today Sports)

  1. Butler and DePaul both lost their edge in the closing minutes. It was a tough Sunday for two teams in drastically different situations. Butler brought its #15 ranking into Knoxville – a difficult environment for any visiting team – while DePaul tried to prove that its 6-3 start was for real. Butler showcased its defensive stinginess in the first half versus the Vols, only to give away a 12-point lead and crumble in the final minutes. Roosevelt Jones and Alex Barlow struggled as perimeter defenders against Tennessee’s longer, more athletic guards, allowing them access into the lane time and time again. But if Tennessee’s 59.3 percent second half shooting wasn’t enough of an issue, Kellen Dunham’s tendency for poor decision-making made matters worse. The junior took 11 of his 14 field goal attempts from beyond the arc and then proceeded to use the second half to pass up open looks and dribble into traffic. If the Bulldogs can’t generate consistent stops, they turn into a much less effective team too dependent on getting Dunham open looks. On another note, it might be in Chris Holtmann’s interest to give rising freshman Kelan Martin more playing time; the 6’6″ wing is averaging just as many points as Jones (10.8 PPG) but in half the time (16.1 MPG). Meanwhile, DePaul managed to commit enough turnovers in the closing minutes of its game on Sunday to blow a solid lead against Illinois State. To be honest, the Blue Demons’ starting lineup is remarkably competent on the offensive end; Myke Henry has emerged as a true leader, with Jamee Crockett and Tommy Hamilton IV adding wing and inside dimensions. But as with prior years, many of the same issues remain: turnovers and defense. Oliver Purnell will have to find a way to fix at least one of those weaknesses before the program takes another step forward. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Three Up, Three Down in the Big East

Posted by George Hershey on November 21st, 2014

The Big East has gotten off to a strong start this season, having lost only one game among all 10 teams and heading into next week with tests which will help determine how it stacks up against some of the nation’s best. Here are three positives and three negatives from the opening week in Big East basketball.

Three Up

Blueitt has produced from the get go for the Musketeers (Frank Victores/USA Today Sports)

Trevon Blueitt has produced from the get go for the Musketeers
(Frank Victores/USA Today Sports)

  1. Xavier Freshmen – Chris Mack brought in a highly-ranked group of freshmen to restock the Musketeers, and they have produced from the get-go. In Tuesday night’s win over Long Beach State, Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura led the team in scoring, with 20 and 17 points, respectively. Both shot the ball well from three, combining to connect five times, and Bluiett especially had a phenomenal game, stuffing the stat sheet with eight rebounds and five assists to boot. With a strong group of experienced players led by Matt Stainbrook and Myles Davis, Mack does not need his freshmen to lead every night, but their demonstrated ability to score in bunches is helpful for any team over the course of a season.
  2. DePaul Transfers – This DePaul team is not your typical DePaul team. That might be said nearly every preseason, but after a couple of games, it appears that this could be the team that finally breaks through. Oliver Purnell returns two sophomore studs in Billy Garrett Jr. and Tommy Hamilton IV, but he also brought in four transfers to turn the program around. Myke HenryAaron Simpson, and the injured Rashaun Stimage have returned home to Chicago, and Darrick Wood arrives by way of junior college in Kansas. In Tuesday’s win over Drake, Henry contributed 13 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Simpson and Wood both contributed five points each. Stimage and Henry are athletic bigs which will pair nicely with big-bodied Hamilton, while Simpson and Wood can handle the ball and provide a spark off the bench when Garrett needs a break. Purnell needs smart players who buy into the system, and all signs point to his group of newbies doing just that. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big East Weekend Wrap: Vol. I

Posted by Justin Kundrat on November 17th, 2014

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

After an 11-game slate of games for the Big East’s 10 teams,  the league remains perfect. While none of those 11 games were against top competition, wins are wins at this point in the season and losses here can really damage a team’s NCAA Tournament resume. Despite the relative talent imbalance between most of the Big East teams and their opponents, some of these games were shockingly close and may have provided wake-up calls for teams and players who were still stuck in preseason mode. For others, it could be a sign of things to come. Below is a list of five key takeaways from the weekend’s Big East action.

Villanova Made Enough Twos to Make Up for a Cold Shooting Night From Three

Villanova Made Enough Twos to Make Up for a Cold Shooting Night From Three

  • Villanova came out flat, shooting 3-of-23 from deep in the first half before finishing 8-of-33 (24.2%) on the night. Those off nights were a major concern for this team last season when the offense sputtered and failed to create easy baskets when the three-point shot wasn’t falling. Starting guards Dylan Ennis and Ryan Arcidiacono combined for 10-of-28 shooting from the floor while senior wing Darrun Hilliard shot just 4-of-18 and 1-of-9 from deep. The Wildcats forced enough turnovers (28) and got enough points in transition to put Lehigh away, but the win was not a comfortable one by any means. The Wildcats’ shooting numbers are worth watching moving forward.
  • Creighton swept its weekend slate, finishing 2-0 against Central Arkansas and Chicago State by a combined 45 points. The biggest question for the Bluejays coming into this season was how the team would respond without its offensive centerpiece, Doug McDermott. While neither of the above teams was strong enough defensively to provide an answer to this question, the offense continued to fire on all cylinders. Creighton hoisted up a whopping 56 three-point shots in the two games, making just 19 of them, which is disappointing for a team that led the country in this category at 41.5%. Yet the offense was the same free-flowing, unselfish and pass-heavy one we saw last season. Senior center Will Artino was highly efficient with his touches in the paint in limited minutes, with sophomore Isaiah Zierden providing strong scoring output off the bench. Look for Toby Hegner to make a name for himself this season: the 6’9 freshman contributed 17 points and seven rebounds, including 3-of-6 shooting from deep.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Xavier on the Cusp of Returning to the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2014

Brian Otskey is reporting from the Big East Tournament all week

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

Xavier Won Its First Big East Tourney Game Last Night

Xavier Won Its First Big East Tourney Game Last Night

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on March 6th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Xavier survived a scare on Monday night when Center Matt Stainbrook went down wailing in pain as his knee buckled. Stainbrook will be out tonight against Villanova, but Chris Mack’s team does not have to play again until next Thursday in the Big East Tournament, giving Stainbrook some time to recover. The team is unsure if he will be ready by then, but Stainbrook is optimistic saying, “I’m feeling a ton better, even small strides from yesterday to today. I’m pedaling the bike saying, ‘There’s no pain today.'” Xavier will probably have trouble without their top interior player and will definitely need him in the NCAA Tournament if they want to advance past their first game. The Musketeers seem to be a lock at this point, giving them some breathing room, and Stainbrook’s injury will allow freshman Jalen Reynolds to slide into his starting spot after playing very well in the past two weeks.
  2. Creighton and Isaiah Zierden were not as lucky as the freshman is out indefinitely. The school sent out a statement saying, “X-rays done today showed no fractures or bone chips in Isaiah’s right knee, but he did suffer a medial collateral ligament injury at the time of his patellar dislocation during Saturday’s game at Xavier. He will undergo an MRI on Monday in Washington, D.C. that will determine if any other possible injuries were suffered and help determine whether or not surgery is needed. He is out indefinitely.” Zierden had started to see more consistent minutes recently and was contributing outside shooting as well as giving a ton of effort defensively. There is still a chance he can come back which would strengthen Greg McDermott’s bench with little rest between tournament games.
  3. Coming into the season, everyone who had seen Doug McDermott play knew he was a rare talent. Even though he had tremendous success up to that point, there were still questions about whether he could continue to put up big numbers in a power conference. Doug has far exceeded what most envisioned him doing this season. He passed the legendary Danny Manning to move into ninth all time for points scored in his career and he has the Bluejays positioned for a run in the NCAA Tournament. McDermott is still humble and taking everything as it comes, telling the Associated Press, “When college is over, I’ll definitely realize how special it was. I’m just living in the moment right now. If I were the national player of the year, that would be really cool, something that has never been in my wildest dreams. Everything is a bonus from here on out.” It is great to see a star not making everything about himself and enjoying his time in college.
  4. McDermott is considered the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award, but Jim Donaldson argues that someone else should win Big East Player of the Year. Donaldson says that Providence senior Bryce Cotton is the most valuable player in the league and possibly the nation. Cotton played incredibly on Tuesday night in a double overtime win against Marquette on his senior night, putting up a line of 25/9/7 in 50 minutes. Fans in Omaha strongly disagree, arguing that McDermott is the easy choice, and most would agree. Donaldson may have an argument because of how many minutes Cotton plays compared to McDermott. After playing 50 on Tuesday, his average rose to 40.2 minutes per game, a truly remarkable stat. He has missed three minutes in 17 conference games including four double overtime games. McDermott “only” averages 33 minutes, but it is pretty easy to see he will win every award he is eligible, including Big East POY.
  5. Markel Starks has had quite the career at Georgetown and he capped it off emphatically on Tuesday night. In his final home game, he led the Hoyas to a much-needed upset of Creighton. Starks and company had to fend off a comeback from the Bluejays after leading by as much as 16, taking each punch and throwing enough back to hold on. Starks finished with 17 points and a career-high 11 assists, making a tough step back jumper to help put Creighton away. The win helped propel the Hoyas NCAA Tournament chances after having little chance. A trip to Philadelphia to play Villanova will give them a big chance to solidify their resume before heading to New York for the Big East Tournament.
Share this story

Big East M5: 03.04.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on March 4th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Xavier got a huge win on Saturday against Creighton, leading some pundits to say they were safely into the NCAA Tournament. Things were looking good until last night when they visited the Prudential Center to play Seton Hall. Within 10 minutes, Matt Stainbrook went down in a heap screaming and was  unable to return the rest of the game. Chris Mack did not know what the prognosis is for Stainbrook, telling the media, “I won’t know for sure until he sees our doctor. We’re hopeful that it’s maybe just an MCL strain.” That would be a crucial blow to the Musketeers as they were rising and were in the 7/8 seed range if they finished the year well. They struggled the rest of the night and fell to the Pirates. They host Villanova on Thursday to close the year before heading to New York. They will likely need to win at least one more game this year to be safe, but if Stainbrook misses the rest of the year, the team is going to struggle to adapt so quickly.
  2. Steve Lavin’s squad has been short-handed lately. Orlando Sanchez missed a game to be with his wife for the birth of their child two weeks ago and Chris Obekpa missed time at the end of February with an ankle injury. On Sunday the team was without freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan as he mourned the loss of his aunt. This is a crucial time for St. John’s as they sit as the third team out according to Joe Lunardi’s bracketology. They survived a scare from DePaul on Sunday and close the regular season against Marquette, on the Golden Eagles senior day. This team has had an epic turn around, but still has work to be done if they want to be dancing.
  3. Georgetown will break ground on construction for a new athletic facility this summer. The facility will be named after famed coach John Thompson Jr. and is scheduled to be completed in 2016, costing $60 million. Georgetown Athletic Director said in a statement, “We’re very excited to be able to have the opportunity to recognize the career of John Thompson Jr. in this way. Coach Thompson’s legacy as a leader, a teacher and a coach are unparalleled in college athletics. Having his name on this building is a fitting honor.” Hopefully this helps the coaching staff lure some big recruits and give the players more resources to develop.
  4. Two sixth-year seniors were in some great articles recently. Chris Otule, Marquette’s singing big man, talked to Eric Prisbell of USA Today about his long career, full of injuries and hardships. It has been well-publicized that Otule was born with glaucoma and has had to live with a prosthetic eye. He has played in three straight sweet sixteens with vision in only one eye, a feat most of us cannot even imagine. After coming to Marquette, he broke his right foot and the next year broke his left foot, missing both seasons. Two years ago as the Golden Eagles got out to a 10-0 start, Otule’s leg buckled at Madison Square Garden, leading to a torn ACL and another missed season. What separates him is his personality, leading to being awarded Marquette’s first lifetime achievement award, before he even left. Grant Gibbs is also in his sixth season and spoke with Sean Brennan. He transferred from Gonzaga after suffering a shoulder and knee injury in his first two years. Then he struggled with his knee as he waited to play for the Bluejays. He eventually got healthy and the rest is history as he has led the team alongside Doug McDermott. Both players struggled, but displayed great perseverance to continue their careers.
  5. Seton Hall senior Fuquan Edwin almost did not get to play in his final home game last night against Xavier after hurting his thumb last week. After sitting out the team’s last game, he was fortunately able to suit up and help lead the team to a nice upset. Brendan Prunty of The Star Ledger sat down with Edwin and talked to him about his journey to Seton Hall and his legacy. Edwin has some great quotes including speaking about his childhood, growing up in a rough neighborhood and deciding to go to Paterson Catholic to stay out of trouble and  staying with current Cincinnati player Shaquille Thomas. When talking about his legacy Edwin said, “I think my legacy is going hard out there, 100 percent. I think what I’ll be remembered for is playing hard. I didn’t think about that when I came here, but I came here and wanted to do something special.” Edwin hopes to make it onto an NBA roster after he finishes a great career in South Orange.
Share this story

Big East M5: 02.05.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 5th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. After dislocating his right kneecap, Grant Gibbs has not played in a game for Creighton in nearly a month and is still unsure when he will return. After taking three weeks to rest, he has started to do some light exercise in an effort to get ready to play again. Based on the initial prognosis that he would be out for four weeks, he should be ready to go shortly. In his absence, the team has played excellent basketball, going 5-1 and gaining significant national exposure as a member of the new Big East. Jahenns Manigat and Devin Brooks have helped pick up the load in the interim, but the team is obviously awaiting its sixth-year senior’s return to the lineup. Gibbs knows the Bluejays’ offense as well as anybody and brings the requisite leadership and experience that is crucial in March.
  2. Providence head coach Ed Cooley was selected as an assistant coach for the upcoming Team USA U-18 team next summer. He joins head coach Billy Donovan and fellow assistant Sean Miller on the bench. After hearing the news, Cooley said, “This is special to be able to work with two future Hall of Fame coaches. I feel blessed to have this opportunity to work with and learn from Billy and Sean, not to mention we get to represent our country. It is very inspiring.” Cooley will make his debut as a coach for a national team, but he was a training camp coach last year for Team USA’s U-19 team.
  3. Xavier came into February as one of the hottest teams in the Big East. The Musketeers were bordering on the Top 25 and seemed like a likely NCAA Tournament team. In the past week-plus, though, things have gone downhill as they have lost three straight games. Banners on the Parkway takes a look at some of the problems plaguing the team and some possible solutions. Semaj Christon and Matt Stainbrook are noted as players providing great effort, but Justin Martin and Dee Davis are starters who maybe should come off the bench. Pressing is another suggestion because the half-court defense has been ineffective and it could help increase the tempo and force turnovers. Obviously this Xavier team is pretty good, but it has fallen into a lull and some lineup and strategic changes could help re-energize the team down the stretch.
  4. Georgetown is one of the most historic and prestigious basketball schools in the nation. Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Roy Hibbert are some of the big man greats who went to school in DC. This year, though, the team doesn’t have any start players and thus has had to fight through adversity as it tries to find itself. Reid Forgrave at FoxSports writes about the battle the Hoyas have faced with this unfamiliar situation. After losing star Otto Porter to the NBA and Joshua Smith to academic suspension, the offense sputtered through a five-game losing streak. Forgrave concludes that this team doesn’t have the firepower to make a big run to win the Big East Tournament, but it won’t lose it’s morale either, and will continue to fight all season.
  5. St. John’s continued its torrid stretch last night with a big win on the road at Providence. If you watched the Johnnies’ last five games, you would assume it was a team that would be playing well into March. They may be playing great in early February, but they dug themselves a giant hole from November to January. Roger Rubin wrote about the work Steve Lavin’s team has cut out for it to earn a bid to March Madness. They have eight games left and a few good opportunities for big wins. They welcome Creighton to the Garden on Sunday night and visit Villanova on February 22. Besides those two games, nearly everything else is a must-win. They only have three games on the road, with one of those at DePaul, so if they can clean up at home they should be in good position. It would be quite the turnaround for St. John’s to go from 0-5 Big East cellar-dweller to NCAA Tournament team.
Share this story

Big East M5: 01.15.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 15th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

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

New Big East Members Proving Doubters Wrong

Posted by George Hershey on December 31st, 2013

Before the season began, many pundits thought that the carry-over members of the Big East would do the heavy lifting as the new league got its feet wet. CBSSports.com, for example, predicted Creighton to finish third, Xavier sixth, and Butler eighth. ESPN.com picked Creighton to finish atop the league, but had Butler sixth and Xavier eighth. As just one example, one writer said about the Bulldogs: “New head coach Brandon Miller is left with a depleted roster in a new conference… the roster as a whole certainly does not reflect an NCAA Tournament team.” It was an understandable position — after losing its fantastic head coach, two best players to graduation, and top returning player to injury, Butler had major question marks. As for Creighton, the Bluejays brought back one of the best players in the nation in Doug McDermott, but there were doubts about their step up in competition from the Missouri Valley Conference, especially on the defensive end. Xavier too returned a great player in Semaj Christon, but the rest of the team was a major unknown and coming off a disappointing 17-14 season by Musketeers’ standards.

Xavier heads into conference play after an impressive start (Frank Victores/USA Today)

Xavier heads into conference play after an impressive start
(Frank Victores/USA Today)

Even though there were doubts and concerns from many of the experts, all three teams are making a case for an NCAA Tournament spot come March. Heading into the start of conference play on New Year’s Even, Creighton has only lost two games, back-to-back defeats to San Diego State and George Washington while at the Wooden Classic in Southern California. They have been very impressive otherwise, with the second-best adjusted offense according to Ken Pomeroy, and an improved, if not elite, defense (ranking 16 spots higher than last season at #64). McDermott, as expected, has been a strong NPOY candidate, and the rest of the team has shot the ball very well, making 44 percent of their threes (the third-best mark in the nation).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Tennessee Blows Golden Opportunity For Resume Enhancers in Loss to UTEP

Posted by David Changas on November 29th, 2013

For Tennessee, the causes for concern following Thursday night’s loss to UTEP are numerous. The Vols showed no ability to run any semblance of an offense against Tim Floyd’s triangle-and-two and box-in-one defense, hitting only 34.9 percent of their shots, including 3-for-21 from three-point range. They allowed the Miners to shoot 58.0 percent on the other end, and played a wholly uninspired game against a Miners team that previously had given no indication it would be able to compete with the team many expect to finish behind Kentucky and Florida in the SEC race. And while Tennessee has a long way to go at this point to even be mentioned in the same breath as the NCAA Tournament, it’s still November, and what may be the most troubling aspect of losing in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis is that it created missed opportunities for two more games against teams certain to be part of the Big Dance.

Cuonzo Martin Missed a Good Opportunity This Weekend (AP/Adam Brimer)

Cuonzo Martin Missed a Good Opportunity This Weekend (AP/Adam Brimer)

With the loss, the Vols fall into the tournament’s losers’ bracket, and Friday will seek to exact revenge against a Xavier team that dealt them a 67-63 loss in the season opener. While Tennessee appeared to be the more talented team in that game, it got virtually no offensive production from forwards Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon (11 combined points), and shot a paltry 7-of-19 from the free throw line. The Vols also let Matt Stainbrook, who led the Musketeers with 15 points and nine rebounds, control the game. Xavier is expected to finish in bottom half of the revamped Big East, and it is coming off a performance in which it blew a 15-point second half lead and lost 77-74 to Iowa in overtime Thursday. The Musketeers could turn out to be a quality opponent Tennessee will now have on its resume twice, but a win against UTEP would have given the Vols games against the Hawkeyes and either Kansas or Villanova, each of which appears to be sure-fire NCAA Tournament teams. Now, after playing the Musketeers, Tennessee will draw either USC or Wake Forest, neither of which is expected to compete for a bid to the Big Dance.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 11.13.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 13th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

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

RTC Conference Primers: #18 – Mid-American Conference

Posted by nvr1983 on October 18th, 2011

This conference primer was prepared by the RTC staff. If you are knowledgeable about the MAC and have an interest in becoming the correspondent for this league, please e-mail us at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • The Freshman Grow Up. After having 15 freshman start for MAC teams last year, this year promises a more balanced, less chaotic version of basketball as many of those freshmen will have matured (although we know that is not always the case). With increased experience, the MAC promises to offer a higher quality of basketball with less inconsistency across its teams. It also bodes well for the conference’s futures as many of these players are expected to be four-year players so even if the conference is not loaded this year it has the potential to be very strong in another year or two.
  • Three Team Battle at the Top. While the MAC has traditionally been a wild conference, there appears to be three teams this year — Akron, Kent State, and Western Michigan – as the class of the conference. While the Zips and Golden Flashes return quite a bit of experience and waged a hard-fought game in the conference tournament finals that was decided on a last second block, the Broncos field a young team with plenty of potential. They are probably a step below the other two teams, but this trio is most likely several levels above the rest of the conference.

Can Akron Do It Again? (AP/M. Duncan)

  • Can the MAC Get an At-Large? As mentioned earlier, the conference has traditionally been a wild one, which means that the team that wins the regular season will not necessarily win the conference tournament (Kent State the past two years). The question is whether a team from the MAC can establish a strong enough regular season resume to earn an NCAA at-large bid. The truth is that we aren’t sure, but at least the three teams already highlighted are trying to play good non-conference schedules, which should boost their strength of schedule come Selection Sunday. Western Michigan has the toughest schedule with a home game against Temple (November 17), at Purdue (November 23), at Gonzaga (November 26 listed as a “neutral site” game in Spokane), at Detroit (December 8), at Oakland (December 23), and at Duke (December 30). Akron has games at Mississippi State (November 9), home against Detroit (November 26), at West Virginia (November 28), and at home against Virginia Commonwealth (December 29). Kent State isn’t quite as impressive, but still has games at West Virginia (November 15) and at Utah State (November 22).
  • How Bad Will Toledo Be? We usually don’t like kicking a team when it is down, but the Rockets might end up having one of the worst teams in Division I this year. Last year they were 4-28 overall and 1-15 in the conference while finishing 344th in Division I in scoring and that was before they had their scholarships cut from 13 to 10 due to poor APR scores and they lost their top returning scorer Malcolm Griffin and Hayden Humes to transfer and Justin Moss retired after being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart). So basically this team is going to be really, really bad.
Share this story