Checking In On… The Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 9th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Top Tier Chaos: As you see in the poll question, it’s awfully hard to rank the top half of this league right now. Syracuse is the clear #1 by a wide margin, but the second spot is up for grabs between six teams: Seton Hall and West Virginia are playing the best basketball but Connecticut, Georgetown, Marquette, and Louisville remain threats. Big East teams always beat each other up in conference, play but that usually happens in the middle of the league. This year, it is happening at the top. One thing is for sure: the race for second place will be an up-and-down affair over the next two months.
  • UConn Hates Jersey: Before Tuesday, Connecticut had won 21 combined games in a row against Seton Hall and Rutgers. After Saturday, the Huskies headed back up the New Jersey Turnpike with two losses to Jersey’s Big East teams. Kevin Willard has his team rolling at 14-2 and absolutely crushed the Huskies on Tuesday night in Newark while Mike Rice continued to show signs of improvement in a 67-60 win Saturday night in Piscataway. As Jeff Borzello put it on Twitter, the North Jersey road trip has become a whole lot tougher. If St. John’s can get back to where it was last year and Seton Hall and Rutgers continue to improve, New York City-area basketball could be on the verge of a renaissance.
  • Seton Hall Ranked?: We will see what happens on Monday, but Seton Hall is on the verge of a top 25 ranking for the first time since January 30, 2001. That year, the Pirates were headed in the opposite direction, out of the top 25 after a preseason top ten ranking. Tommy Amaker (now at Harvard) had signed a ballyhooed freshman class highlighted by the late Eddie Griffin, Andre Barrett, and Marcus Toney-El, but it all fell apart for the Pirates as they finished 16-15 and lost in the first round of the NIT to Alabama. Seton Hall came close to a ranking in 2004, but never made it into the poll. This time around, the Pirates are 14-2 (3-1) with wins over VCU and St. Joe’s on a neutral floor and Dayton on the road, in addition to West Virginia and Connecticut at home. The Hall is in position for a terrific seed in the NCAA Tournament if it keeps up this level of play and Kevin Willard, along with John Thompson III and Jim Boeheim, has to be among the top contenders for Big East Coach of the Year. The Pirates were picked 13th in the preseason Big East coaches poll. 

Good Things Come In Threes For Seton Hall (Jim O'Conner/US Presswire)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (17-0, 4-0) – Marquette put a second-half scare into the Orange at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, but Syracuse made the winning plays down the stretch to hang on. Syracuse remains a juggernaut and an easy (by Big East standards) road schedule awaits. Syracuse already went to DePaul and Providence and has trips to Villanova, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, St. John’s, and Rutgers on the schedule. Quite frankly, that sequence is a joke for a team everyone knew would be at or near the top of the league. I realize this team has a target on its back every night, but the only true road tests for the Orange could be at Louisville and Connecticut in February. Syracuse shot 61% for the game at Providence on Wednesday, placing six players in double figures. No Syracuse player took over eight shots, a testament to this team’s depth and balance. Scoop Jardine had 11 assists and only one turnover in the victory. Against Marquette, Syracuse jumped out to a huge lead but let the Golden Eagles climb back in it. Dion Waiters was the spark off the bench yet again, totaling 12 points and seven assists. The Orange shot only 39% at home against MU, but escaped with the win. This week: 1/11 @ Villanova, 1/14 vs. Providence.
  2. Georgetown (13-2, 3-1) – Let the controversy begin. Truth be told, ten different people could very well come up with ten different ways to rank the top seven teams in the Big East. Despite losing at West Virginia and struggling for the balance of the game against Marquette, I’m moving the Hoyas up to the second spot. Why? It has more to do with the performances of Louisville, Connecticut and Marquette rather than Georgetown itself. After all, the Hoyas did beat a good team (Marquette) this week, something none of the aforementioned three teams can say. The Hoyas overcame a 17-point deficit against Marquette, led by Jason Clark‘s 26 points. That 26 could have been 30+ if Clark made his free throws (6-13 from the stripe). Hollis Thompson also added 16 points on 6-7 shooting as Georgetown shot a sizzling 63% against the Golden Eagle defense. Against West Virginia, Georgetown allowed the Mountaineers to shoot 50% but the Hoyas couldn’t convert from deep (2-14 3FG). Thompson led the way with 20 points, but it wasn’t enough on the road. Regardless of what the rankings may have said coming into the game, I’m not going to hammer the Hoyas for losing at West Virginia, an extremely difficult place to play. Believe it or not, I don’t think Georgetown is as good as its resume. That may sound confusing but I’m not sure Georgetown is as good as its record. However, the Hoyas may not lose again until early February if they play to their potential. A relatively soft stretch begins this week. This week: 1/9 vs. Cincinnati, 1/15 @ St. John’s. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 12.30.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2011

  1. For a freshman who had minimal impact in his one semester on the court Khem Birch is making quite a bit of news. Birch, who decided to transfer from Pittsburgh at the end of the fall semester, has released the list of the schools that he is consideringFlorida, UNLV, Gonzaga, Washington, Xavier, and New Mexico State. Birch also attempted to clear the air on his departure saying that he “didn’t think it was the best place” for him and that his departure was not due to disagreements with Jamie Dixon or what people around him were telling him to do. One school that is noticeably absent from Birch’s list is Missouri after there were rumors circulating that the school had “tampered with” Birch before obtaining a release based on tweets from Jeff Goodman (#1 and #2) earlier in the day. Frank Haith denied these allegations, but it is interesting that Missouri was mentioned as a leader for Birch on December 19 and now they are not even on his list.
  2. Pat Forde published an excellent column yesterday on St. Louis coach Rick Majerus discussing the program he inherited and how he helped build it up into the borderline top 25 team that it is today as well as his difficulties dealing with the declining health of his mother. Surprisingly one thing that Forde did not touch upon was Majerus’ health including the cardiac surgery he had over the summer in Salt Lake City. Outside of that missing element this is a good review on Majerus and the St. Louis program in case you have not been paying close attention to Majerus after his stint at ESPN. If the Billikens continue to perform at the level they have so far this season, this will be the first of many pieces on Majerus that you will be seeing in the coming months.
  3. Those of you who remember the 1994-95 Duke season will remember the name Pete Gaudet. A long-time assistant to Mike Krzyzewski, Gaudet took over midway through the regular season when Krzyzewski took a temporary leave of absence to deal with back issues. Gaudet guided the Blue Devils to a 4-15 record, which included the memorable double overtime loss to North Carolina, during his temporary stint as head coach. Duke eventually had the NCAA assign these wins and losses (mostly the latter) to Gaudet. St. John’s appears to be taking the opposite approach with Mike Dunlap, who is acting as an interim coach while Steve Lavin, as the NCAA and Big East have advised the school to continue adding the victories and losses under Lavin’s name even if Dunlap is coaching. We are not sure how the NCAA will handle this at the end of the season, but we imagine that there are large groups of people in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Lexington, Kentucky, who will not view this favorably even if it is only temporary.
  4. It is a little late for Christmas, but we think that Connecticut will be happy with a belated $4.5 million gift from Peter and Paula Werth towards the construction of a new basketball practice facility. The donation puts the school halfway to its goal of raising $30 million for the new facility. This isn’t the first major donation that the school has received as you may remember the Burton family donating several million dollars to the school then sending a scathing letter to the school demanding their money back before eventually agreeing to let the school keep the previously donated money. The Werths made their family fortune through Chemwerth, which manufactures active pharmaceutical ingredients that are sold to pharmaceutical companies worldwide. Interestingly, neither Peter nor Paula attended UConn, but all three of their children did and the Werths have been season ticket holders for football and both men’s and women’s basketball. We are assuming that they will get their season tickets comped by the school from now on.
  5. Since this is the last Morning Five of 2011 it is a good time to look back at the past calendar year and look forward to the coming year. Luke Winn recaps the past year by ranking the top 10 stories of 2011 and as usual is right on the money. We are sure several people will argue that “Jimmertime!” should be higher on the list, but when we believe that when we look back on this year in 20 years at least three of the four stories above it will definitely be more memorable (perhaps not #3). While Winn is looking back, Seth Davis is looking forward to the new year and offers up 10 bold predictions for 2012. As you would expect these are not as detailed as Winn’s recap stories since they are basically just educated guesses, but Davis does make some predictions that will certainly get a few fan bases worked up.
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Jumping To Conclusions: The Wheels Are Coming Off The St. John’s Rebuilding Bus

Posted by mlemaire on December 9th, 2011

In 2010, after six lackluster seasons — including zero NCAA Tournament appearances — under head coach Norm Roberts, St. John’s basketball needed to make a switch. But the program didn’t just need a coach who could develop players and win games. They needed a walking, talking defibrillator. Someone who could inject some life and enthusiasm back into one of the country’s most storied programs. What they got was Steve Lavin, an affable former television personality with plenty of coaching pedigree and the desire to talk to everybody he ran into.

Steve Lavin Was Hired To Rebuild At St. John's Because Of His Infectious Personality.

It didn’t matter that Lavin hadn’t coached college basketball since he was relieved of his duties by UCLA in 2003, the buzz was back. Red Storm Athletic Director Chris Monasch said, with Lavin, “St. John’s is poised to recapture its legacy as New York’s college team.” Lavin wasted no time, hitting the recruiting trail running and accepting every interview that came his way. He assembled an experienced and energetic staff and recruits took interest.

Last season, coaching a roster that boasted nine seniors, including the team’s top six scorers, Lavin earned plenty of praise and accolades as he led the Red Storm to a 21-12 record and its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2002. Everyone knew the team would take a step back this season due to the mass graduation but most figured it was merely a bump in the road. After all, Lavin was bringing in the nation’s third-ranked recruiting class, a nine-man behemoth that had a player or two at almost every position. And thanks to Lavin’s effusive personality and charm, high-ranked recruiting classes were expected to become the status quo at St. John’s in short order. Then, rather quickly, the bus started to break down.

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Morning Five: 11.28.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 28th, 2011

SPONSORED: Rush the Court is pleased to bring you a second installment of a one-day fantasy college basketball league courtesy of The league, which is completely free to enter, will play on Tuesday night (November 29) involving several high-profile teams — Duke, Ohio State, Michigan, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Maryland, Clemson — and features $150 in prizes. Even better, if you beat our trained monkey that we’ve assigned to make our picks (username: RTCmonkey), you’ll win even more money. Test your college hoops knowledge to win! Click here to enter.

  1. This Bernie Fine/Syracuse story deserves more space than what we typically include here so we will keep it simple. Yesterday morning news surfaced of an audio tape recording a conversation between Bobby Davis, Fine’s initial accuser, and Fine’s wife in 2002 in which his Fine’s wife admits to knowing that Fine molested Davis, but there was nothing to do about it, as well as an indication that Fine gave Davis money to pay for student loans that he used as leverage for sexual favors. Fine’s wife also reportedly became sexually involved with Davis when he was older. The tape was turned over to ESPN in 2002, but they did nothing with it including turning it over to authorities at the time, because they could not corroborate the information. Meanwhile, another person, a man from Maine, has come forward claiming to be the third Fine victim, although the man’s father claims that the man never even met Fine and in fact is being charged with sexually abusing a child himself. Late last night, Syracuse decided to fire Fine with a short statement. Jim Boeheim, who had initially defended Fine and accused the alleged victims of chasing money, issued a much less aggressive statement that appears to have been run through a PR agency before being released. We will have more on this subject later when we find the time and can wrap our head around what is becoming an increasingly bizarre case.
  2. Black Friday was not a good one for Notre Dame as they lost Tim Abromaitis for the season after he tore his right ACL in practice. Not only did the Irish lose their best player, but they also lost one of their two seniors on the roster (Scott Martin is the other). Abromaitis had only played in two of Notre Dame’s six games this season as the result of a suspension by the NCAA resulting from a misinterpretation of NCAA rules by Notre Dame. While the Fighting Irish lost both games that Abromaitis played it would be foolish to read too much into that. Their four games without Abromaitis (all wins) were against weak competition. Their two games with Abromaitis (both losses) were against solid competition. This injury should move Notre Dame from a potential middle-of-the-pack Big East team to one that will be hanging out near the bottom of the conference standings.
  3. Minnesota may similarly devastating news coming their way as Trevor Mbakwe injured his right knee last night during a loss to Dayton in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic. While the extent of the injury will not be known until later today when Mbakwe has an MRI, initial reports from the scene and Mbakwe’s tweet (“Lord please get me through this”) do not appear promising. Mbawke, who came into the game averaging 14.8 PPG and 10 RPG, is the key to the Gophers this season and without him they may struggle to stay out of the Big Ten cellar.
  4. Steve Lavin missed Saturday night’s loss to Northeastern for what is being reported as management of his stamina andenergy. So far this season Lavin has missed three of the team’s seven regular season games (the season-opener, which happened more than a month after his surgery, and the last two games). As we said before we are not going to get into the medical stuff that Lavin is going through (PSA test results, post-operative complications, etc), but we will get into the basketball stuff. Right now St. John’s is not a very good team. They are young and missing a lot of what they expected to have on the court this season after the NCAA ruled that many of their incoming freshmen were academically ineligible. Now they have a game at Kentucky coming up on Thursday. Unless Lavin thinks he is going to get his energy and stamina back very quickly he might want to think about taking a longer leave of absence rather than making decisions on a game-by-game basis. For a team this young the change between Lavin and interim coach Mike Dunlap along with the uncertainty of who will be coaching will adversely affect the team’s development. For Lavin’s sake and that of his team, he should make a longer term decision about how he wants this team to be run.
  5. President Obama caught his second college basketball of the season as he took some time off from a variety of pressing issues to watch his brother-in-law Craig Robinson coach Oregon State against Towson in a game that the Beavers won easily. Interestingly, the President was not the only well-known person in attendance as Bill Murray was also there rooting for his son Luke Murray, an assistant coach at Towson. We are guessing that President Obama will not get the chance to see many more college basketball games this season with all the other things that he has to attend to, but with the way the Beavers are playing he may have to schedule some time during March to catch them in the NCAA Tournament.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits – 03.17.2011

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 17th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.


  • When Jay Wright speaks, his Wildcat squad listens. The veteran coach knows how to communicate with his players and that is one of the reasons he has had such a successful tenure.
  • A key for West Virginia‘s resurgence this season has been the turnaround of senior guard Casey Mitchell. Mitchell, who was thought to be a consistent player for the Mountaineers, battled inconsistency and conduct problems throughout the early part of the season.
  • UNC head coach Roy Williams revealed guard Dexter Strickland has been battling a knee injury for a few weeks. Strickland’s health will be a key to Carolina’s chances of making a deep run.
  • Marquette has struggled with defensive inconsistencies all season, but they have had great success getting to the hoop and drawing fouls. Look for Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom to exploit the Musketeers in an attempt to get easy hoops.
  • #13 seed Princeton is seeking a monumental upset as they prep to face Kentucky. The Tigers do have a history of pulling huge shockers in March, as they stunned defending champion UCLA in the first round in 1996.


  • Kansas State standout guard Jacob Pullen is battling the flu, but is expected to be a full participant in tonight’s tilt with Utah State. If Pullen is not 100%, one can assume Utah State’s chances for an upset get significantly stronger.
  • The fresh infusion of talent provided to Gonzaga by the emergence of Marquise Carter, David Stockton, and Sam Dower have been key to the Zags’ late season run. The play of all three will undoubtedly dictate if Mark Few‘s squad will make any noise.
  • Tom Izzo knows this season did not go exactly the way he wanted it to, but an experienced squad can be a huge factor if the Spartans make a run. Izzo is a great veteran coach, who has Final Four experience, so a big run may not be that surprising.
  • St. John’s associate head coach Mike Dunlaphas interest in the opening at Wyoming. Dunlap has a great track record as an assistant and a lower-level head coach and could thrive as the head man at Wyoming.
  • An interesting story has emerged about how Old Dominion head coach Blaine Taylor has endured bouts with alcoholism. His road to redemption is quite inspiring, as he did not let his demons put an end to his career.

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Tim Floyd to Arizona

Posted by nvr1983 on April 1st, 2009

Update: Apparently, the mainstream media is no more reliable than blogs as ESPN was completely wrong about Floyd accepting the Arizona job. Instead, he has decided to stay at USC perhaps comforted by the fact that he has Mike Dunleavy coaching in the same city to make him look like a coaching genius.

After unsuccessfully trying to woo Rick Pitino and reportedly going after Mark Few and Jeff Capel, Arizona is set to name Tim Floyd as its new head coach according to reports. In the wake of the Lute Olson fiasco last off-season, the Wildcats turned to Russ Pennell to lead the team as an interim head coach. Along with Mike Dunlap, who acted as a co-coach, Pennell guided the Wildcats to their nation-leading 25th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (if you ignore trips that were later vacated). The Wildcats, who in the eyes of many had underachieved all year long with one of the nation’s most talented trios (Nic Wise, Chase Budinger, and Jordan Hill), managed to get to the Sweet 16 with victories over Utah and Cleveland State before getting crushed by Louisville by 39 points to end the season.


Floyd built his coaching reputation at Iowa State where he is the only coach in the program’s history to lead them to 3 consecutive 20-win seasons as he finished his 4 years there with a 81-49 record. However he is most well-known nationally for picking up the scraps of the Chicago Bulls team following the departure of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson, has only been moderately successful at USC making it to the NCAA tournament his past 3 years including a trip to the Sweet 16 two years ago.

Floyd’s first order of business when he takes over in Tucson will be to try to convince his 3 stars to come back next year. If he is able to do that, the Wildcats should be able to make the NCAA tournament. Once he does that he will need to start recruiting again as the Wildcats’ recruiting has fallen off considerably with all the uncertainty regarding their coaching situation the last 2 years.

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10.30.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2008

What are you going as for Halloween this year?  We hear the Kelvin Sampson costumes are boss in Bloomington…

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10.27.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2008

Ok, we’ve got the Midnight Madness nonsense past us, and now we’re officially two weeks away from the first game… 

  • Somewhat surprising turn of events in Tucson in the wake of Lute Olson’s retirement.  The presumptive next coach, Mike Dunlap, reportedly turned down the interim coaching offer, and instead Russ Pennell (a longtime assistant at Arizona St., of all places) will take over the (interim) reins at Arizona.
  • Didn’t see this coming…  UNC was picked #1 in the ACC by, um, everyone.   Over in the WCC, Gonzaga was picked first also, but only slightly ahead of St. Mary’s. 
  • Injury Update.  Cincy’s frosh PG, Cashmere Mafia Wright, tore his ACL in practice and will be out for the season.   He was expected to play a big role for the Bearcats this season.  Marshall’s starting PF, Tyler Wilkerson, broke his hand and will miss about three weeks.
  • Central Michigan’s top rebounder, Marcus Van, was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules.   
  • Here’s Parrish’s Top 30 wings for this season.
  • Cleveland St. head coach Gary Waters inked a five-year extension today after making the NIT last year. 
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Sources: Lute Olson to Retire?

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2008

A mere two days after making comments to the media that he was “fired up” to be back for a new season, the Lute Olson Soap Opera continued in earnest today.  ESPN (through Rays megafan Dick Vitale) is reporting that Olson is retiring from Arizona after 24 seasons at the school.  (h/t The Big Lead)

Arizona’s Lute Olson is stepping down as the school’s men’s basketball coach, a source has told ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale.  Associate coach Mike Dunlap will take over the head coaching duties on an interim basis, the source told Vitale.

As of mid-morning Pacific time, Arizona officials are vehemently denying these reports.  From the Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA sports information director Tom Duddleston said the news is not true.  “Dick Vitale is wrong right now,” Duddleston said in a phone interview with the Daily Wildcat.  When asked if there is any indication that any of the reports may be true, Duddleston said no.

(photo credit: Flickr)

This comes on the heels of a report that Olson missed practice and his annual Rotary Club Luncheon yesterday because he was sick.  Sick as in, a cold sick, not something more serious, according to Arizona sources. 

The reports further claim that Mike Dunlap, a current assistant coach for Olson, will take over the reins as the head man.  Dunlap’s previous head coaching experience was at D2 Metro State in Denver, where he was an astonishing 248-50 (.832) with two national titles at that level (2000 and 2002).

We’ll see how this shakes down as the day matures, but it has all the earmarks of a solid scoop.  Olson’s recent history of mania notwithstanding, we do hope that his medical condition is treatable and something that will allow him to continue to enjoy a happy, fulfilling life. 

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