RTC Conference Primer: #2 – Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the Big East correspondent for Rush The Court.


Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Villanova (15-3)
  • T2. Pittsburgh (14-4)
  • T2. Syracuse (14-4)
  • 4. Georgetown (12-6)
  • T5. West Virginia (11-7)
  • T5. Marquette (11-7)
  • 7. Seton Hall (10-8)
  • T8. Notre Dame (9-9)
  • T8. St. John’s (9-9)
  • T10. Connecticut (8-10)
  • T10. Louisville (8-10)
  • T12. South Florida (7-11)
  • T12. Cincinnati (7-11)
  • T14. Providence (3-15)
  • T14. Rutgers (3-15)
  • T14. DePaul (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Corey Fisher, Villanova (13.3 ppg, 3.9 apg, 2.8 rpg)
  • G: Kemba Walker, UConn (14.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.3 rpg, 2.1 spg)
  • F: Austin Freeman, Georgetown (16.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 44.4% 3pt)
  • F: Kris Joseph, Syracuse (10.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 spg)
  • F: Kevin Jones, West Virginia (13.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg)

6th Man

Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame (16.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 42.9% 3pt)

Impact Newcomers

  • Fab Melo, Syracuse: Melo should have an immediate impact as the starting center for the Orange. Regarded as one of, if not the, best center in the class, Melo has more polish offensively than most bigs do as freshman, but his size in the middle of the Syracuse 2-3 zone may be more important.
  • Vander Blue, Marquette: Blue should step in and start immediately for the Golden Eagles. He’s everything you imagine when you think of a Marquette wing player. He’s tough, athletic, and can slash to the basket. He’ll remind some of Jerel McNeal.
  • Nate Lubick, Georgetown: With the Hoyas losing Greg Monroe to the NBA, they will have a gaping hole in the middle. Lubick has the skill set to be the high post forward of the future for John Thompson III, and he could immediately slide into the starting lineup.

Jay Wright has Villanova in the driver’s seat, with Pittsburgh nipping at the Wildcats’ heels. (AP/Michael Perez)

What You Need To Know

As much as it pains me to say it, the Big East is going to be down this season, especially near the bottom of the league. The two best players in the conference are probably Austin Freeman and Corey Fisher, and while I don’t want to take anything away from those two — I love the way that both play — they are a long way from being lottery picks. Providence, Rutgers and DePaul are as bad as any three teams at the bottom of the power conferences, which is saying a lot considering what the cellar of the Pac-10 and SEC have to offer. Now think about this: If the Big East wants to get more than six teams into the Big Dance, the teams that will likely be fighting for the last couple of at-large bids this season are Seton Hall, St. John’s, Notre Dame and UConn. And that assumes that Marquette and West Virginia are dancing. Yuck.

Predicted Champion

Villanova (NCAA #2 Seed): I like Villanova a lot more than other people do. I think Corey Fisher has a chance to become a star this season as he steps out of the shadow of Scottie Reynolds. I think Maalik Wayns has a chance to come into his own as well. Corey Stokes and Dominic Cheek should provide some size, athleticism, and versatility on the perimeter, while Jayvaughn Pinkston and Isaiah Armwood provide the same along the front line. The trio of Antonio Pena, Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton is one of the better front lines in the conference. More than anything, however, I think that Jay Wright has answered the biggest questions his team had last season. Without a doubt, Villanova will be better inside with Yarou healthy, Pinkston on the roster, and Armwood and Sutton a year stronger. They should also be better defensively without Reynolds and Fisher sharing the floor. This team has a great mixture of size, athleticism, youth, experience, and versatility. They remind me quite a bit of the Villanova team that made the 2009 Final Four.
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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on January 23rd, 2010

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

Jeremy Hazell can score.

No one has questioned that. Ever.

He’s averaging 22.9 PPG. He put 41 on West Virginia. He’s hit 30 four times.

No, the issue for Hazell isn’t putting up points. Its how he gets his points.

Prior to Thursday night’s game against Louisville, an argument could have been made that Hazell was the most selfish player in the Big East, if not the entire country. Yes, Hazell is an outstanding three-point shooter, but he only makes 32.5% of his attempts from deep.

Why?

Because Hazell has a bit of a problem with shot selection. He has a knack for hitting some incredibly tough shots, but far too often he forces quick shots, challenged shots, early in a possession. There is nothing wrong with taking a tough shot at the end of a shot clock, or the end of the game, or even when you’ve knocked down three or four jumpers in a row – your proverbial heat check.

But there is something wrong with taking the number of forced jumpers that Hazell was taking early in the season. Take a look at some of the shooting performances Hazell has had this season:

  • In a win over Monmouth, Hazell scored 26 points, but was 9-23 from the floor and 5-14 from three.
  • In a loss at Temple, Hazell finished with just 11 points while shooting 4-17 from the field and 1-11 from three.
  • Hazell’s two best scoring outputs of the season came in back-to-back losses against West Virginia and Syracuse, when he went for 41 and 38 points, respectively. But in those two games combined, Hazell was just 26-64 from the floor and 10-34 from three.
  • Hazell scored just 13 points on 5-20 shooting, 2-8 from three, in a loss at UConn.

And while he has had his economic scoring performances, those are, for the most part, few and far between.

Now fast forward to Thursday’s game against Louisville. Seton Hall picked up a win in a do-or-die game for the Pirates at-large hopes as they played arguably their best basketball of the season.

While there were some line-up changes – most notably using Keon Lawrence strictly off of the ball – the biggest difference was Hazell and his shot selection. The 6’5 junior finished the game with 25 points, but he only needed 12 shots to do so, hitting nine and making 3-6 from deep. He played 39 minutes, and in those 39 minutes, Hazell took just a single bad shot.

And it was an awful shot. With just four minutes left on the clock and the Hall up 12, Hazell airballed a deep three with a good 30 seconds on the shot clock after the Pirates had broken the Louisville press.

Doris Burke, who was doing the color for the game, ripped him. The twitterati ripped him. No doubt Bobby Gonzalez ripped him.

(Side note: Burke is a very underrated commentator. She really knows the game, she breaks it down in an insightful manner, and she does it in a way that makes what she is explaining seem very basic. Bill Simmons may disagree, but Burke should be spending more time away from the sideline.)

But while ripping him for taking a poor shot with a big lead late in the game, you must also commend him. Hazell’s mindset is “shoot, shoot, shoot, score, score, score”. He has always looked for his best shot first, and the best shot for the team second. But tonight, it was different. Louisville chased Hazell around all night, for the most part having a defender in his jock everytime he caught the ball.

What happened as a result is that driving lanes opened up. Post up opportunites became available. And for maybe the first time in a game I’ve seen Hazell play, he didn’t take it as a personal challenge. He didn’t try to prove that he could score despite an opponent’s game plan centering around slowing him down. If he didn’t have a shot or a lane to drive on the catch, he moved the ball. This meant that guys like Jordan Theodore, who played a fantastic game, going for 17 points and 4 assists on a season-high 11 shots, and Keon Lawrence and Eugene Harvey had an opportunity to take advantage of those driving lanes.

Seton Hall has a lot of talent on their roster. How much? Well, that’s tough to say, but I think I’m far from the only person that believes this team is much better than their 11-6 (2-4 in the Big East) record would indicate.

Tonight, the Hall played their best game of the season and picked up arguably their biggest win of the season. The reason why is that Jeremy Hazell, the most talented player on a talented roster, gave his teammates the opportunity to show how good they are.

Hopefully, he will learn from that.

Other news and notes:

  • Believe it or not, but Greg Monroe is currently the third leading scorer for Georgetown. Why? Because Austin Freeman is averaging 19.6 PPG over the last eight games while Chris Wright is posting 18.8 PPG over that stretch. That’s not to say Monroe isn’t important. In fact, it is pretty tough to argue against Monroe being their most valuable player. He’s their best rebounder, their best post defender, and without a doubt the player that the Hoyas run their offense through. Watching him work out of the high post – find cutters, putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim – is a thing of beauty. But what Georgetown didn’t have last season was potency on the offensive end, and both Freeman and Wright and developed into guys that can go for 20 on a given night. More importantly, they have become players that can create their own shots in the half court. Hell, Pitt is one of the best defensive teams in the country, and Wright was getting to the rim at will on Wednesday night. I know Georgetown runs a system, and I know JT3′s goal is to get the best shot for the team, but there are times when, as a coach, you need to say “f*** it, here’s the ball, go get me a basket”. Right now, the Hoyas have two guys that can do that.
  • The Big East is being touted as a very good conference again this season, but the teams in the middle of the pack have quite a bit of work to do to guarantee themselves a bid to the tournament. The top five – Villanova, Syracuse, Pitt, West Virginia, and Georgetown – can be considered all but locks at this points. But after that, who is a tournament team? Notre Dame? Cincinnati? UConn? Louisville? Seton Hall? Marquette? Granted, .500 in the Big East, as long as there are a couple of good wins sprinkled in, should be enough to garner a bid this season with the Pac-10 down, and outside of Seton Hall and Marquette, every team listed is at least .500 in the league. But for the fans of the teams on the bubble, don’t sleep easy just yet. Combined, those six teams have amassed just four tournament quality wins (excluding games between two of the listed teams): Cincinnati’s win over Maryland, UConn’s win over William & Mary, and Marquette’s wins over Xavier and Georgetown. That’s shaky ground to stand on.
  • Congratulations must be given to DePaul, who got five points from Mike Stovall in the final 9.7 seconds of the game, including a fadeaway jumper with 0.7 seconds left for the win, as they picked up their first regular season Big East win since the 2008 season. As for Marquette, this is just another in a season’s worth of tough losses. Their four losses in Big East play have come by a total of six points, and their three losses in the non-conference were by a total of 14 points.
  • “I feel like during the game, we gave up. And we can’t get better, we can’t improve, if we give up on games. The high school I went to, no matter what the score is you gotta play till the game’s over and I felt like we just gave up at the end.” That quote is from Rutgers freshman Dane Miller, who had 26 points, 8 boards, and 6 assists in a 94-68 loss to Villanova. That’s not a good thing to hear.

TEAM OF THE WEEK:  Syracuse Orange

The Orange solidified their status as one of the Big East elite as they beat both West Virginia and Notre Dame on the road this week, improving to 5-1 in the conference and 18-1 on the season, with their only loss coming to Pitt. The guy that impressed me the most this week was Brandon Triche. Triche had a terrible start to the game against West Virginia, but made a number of crucial plays during the game-deciding run. For a player that wasn’t ranked in many top 100 lists coming out of high school, Triche is now averaging 10.4 PPG and 3.2 APG, starting at the point for the #5 team in the country.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:  Scottie Reynolds, Villanova

Is there a conference that has more player of the year candidates? Wes Johnson, Luke Harangody, Jerome Dyson, Da’Sean Butler, Ashton Gibbs, Lazar Hayward, Greg Monroe. But the favorite right now hasto be Scottie Reynolds. If the numbers he’s posted this season – 18.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.4 APG – aren’t enough, the plays he made down the stretch at Marquette, against Louisville, and against Georgetown (among other) may change your mind. For the week, Reynolds averaged 18.0 PPG, but it was his 27 point performance, on 8-15 shooting, and tiebreaking basket against a Georgetown team that had overcome a 17 point lead that earned him the nod.

POWER RANKINGS:

(Side note about the power rankings: Yes, I know that Pitt beat Syracuse, and I know that Georgetown beat Pitt, which should mean that Georgetown is ranked above Pitt and Pitt above Syracuse. But, for that to happen, Syracuse would then be the fourth best team in the Big East. They aren’t the fourth best team in the Big East, in fact I think they are the best team in the Big East. So instead of ranking the teams – at least 2-4 – based on head-to-head wins, I’m sticking with putting them in order of who I think is the best.)

1. Villanova: 17-1, 6-0

Last Week: 1/17 vs. Georgetown 82-77, 1/20 vs. Rutgers 94-68

Next Week: 1/23 @ St. John’s, 1/27 vs. Notre Dame

2. Syracuse: 18-1, 5-1

Last Week: 1/16 @ West Virginia 72-71, 1/18 @ Notre Dame 84-71

Next Week: 1/23 vs. Marquette, 1/25 vs. Georgetown

3. Georgetown: 14-3, 5-2

Last Week: 1/17 @ Villanova 77-82, 1/20 @ Pitt 74-66

Next Week: 1/23 vs Rutgers, 1/25 @ Syracuse

4. Pitt: 15-3, 5-1

Last Week: 1/16 vs. Louisville 82-77 OT, 1/20 vs. Georgetown 66-74

Next Week: 1/24 @ Seton Hall, 1/28 vs. St. John’s

5. West Virginia: 14-3, 5-2

Last Week: 1/16 vs. Syracuse 71-72, 1/20 @ Marshall 68-60

Next Week: 1/23 vs. Ohio State, 1/26 @ DePaul

6. Cincinnati: 13-6, 4-3

Last Week: 1/16 vs. Notre Dame 60-58, 1/20 vs. South Florida 78-70

Next Week: 1/24 @ Louisville

7. Connecticut: 12-6, 3-3

Last Week: 1/17 @ Michigan 63-68, 1/20 @ St. John’s 75-59

Next Week: 1/23 vs. Texas

8. Notre Dame: 14-5, 3-3

Last Week: 1/16 @ Cincinnati 58-60, 1/18 vs. Syracuse 71-84

Next Week: 1/23 vs. DePaul

9. Louisville: 12-7, 3-3

Last Week: 1/16 @ Pitt 77-82 OT, 1/21 @ Seton Hall 77-80

Next Week: 1/24 vs. Cincinnati

10. Marquette: 11-7, 2-4

Last Week: 1/17 vs. Providence 93-63, 1/20 @ DePaul 50-51

Next Week: 1/23 @ Syracuse, 1/26 vs. Rutgers

11. Seton Hall: 11-6, 2-4

Last Week: 1/21 vs. Louisville 80-77

Next Week: 1/24 vs. Pitt

12. Providence: 11-7, 3-3

Last Week: 1/17 @ Marquette 93-63

Next Week: 1/23 vs. South Florida

13. St. John’s: 12-6, 2-4

Last Week: 1/17 vs. DePaul 67-47, 1/20 @ UConn 59-75

Next Week: 1/23 vs. Villanova

14. South Florida: 11-7, 1-5

Last Week: 1/16 vs. Rutgers 73-64, 1/20 @ Cincinnati 70-78

Next Week: 1/23 @ Providence

15. DePaul: 8-10, 1-5

Last Week: 1/17 @ St. John’s 47-67, 1/20 vs. Marquette 51-50

Next Week: 1/23 @ Notre Dame, 1/26 vs. West Virginia

16. Rutgers: 9-9, 0-6

Last Week: 1/16 @ South Florida 64-73, 1/20 vs. Villanova 68-94

Next Week: 1/23 @ Georgetown, 1/26 @ Marquette

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