Checking in on… the SoCon

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 23rd, 2011

Clark Williams is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference

[Ed. Note – the following piece was written in advance of Saturday’s action.]

A Look Back

As the weather warms, so too does the race for the SoCon conference championship. Andrew Goudelock and the Cougars of College of Charleston still remain the favorite, but four teams are within three games of the Cougars, and with two weeks left, nothing is certain. UNC-Greensboro is continuing its rise out of the cellar, and has boosted their conference win total to five. This wouldn’t be noteworthy, however, if the Spartans hadn’t taken two months to win their first game. While the Spartans are enjoying their rise to mediocrity, Georgia Southern is still waiting for the first conference win.  Standing at 4-24 for the season, only one of the Eagles’ season victories have come against a Division-1 opponent, and it took overtime to decide the outcome. The hottest team in the SoCon right now is the Catamounts of Western Carolina, who have won five straight, and continue to shoot up the standings, led by senior guard Mike Williams.

Power Rankings

1. College of Charleston (20-7, 13-2)- The Cougars have held this spot for about a month now, thanks in large part to their fantastic duo, Andrew Goudelock and Jasper Simmons. I fully expect the Cougars to be the #1 seed in the SoCon Tournament.

A Look Ahead: The Cougars play in the annual ESPN Brackerbusters game against Vermont, and then will host Samford. They finish the season with road games against Appalachian State and Western Carolina.

2. Furman (19-7, 11-4)- The Paladins continue to look up to the Cougars, and down on everybody else. That being said, the Paladins have proved that when do-it-all forward Amu Sakku plays well, they’re one of the toughest teams to beat in the conference.

A Look Ahead: The Paladins travel to Samford and Chattanooga, and will finish the regular season at home against Wofford, in a game that will potentially determine the #2 seed in the SoCon Tournament.

3. Western Carolina (14-13, 10-5)- As mentioned earlier, the Catamounts are the hottest team in the SoCon these days. Mike Williams continues to score (14.9 Points Per Game) and dish out the assists (3.8 per game).

A Look Ahead: Western Carolina will participate in the Bracketbuster games, against Eastern Kentucky. Then the Catamounts will travel to UNC-Greensboro. After that, the Catamounts will finish their season with home games against The Citadel and College of Charleston.

4. Wofford (15-12, 12-4)- The Terriers continue to tread water. They beat all the teams they are supposed to, but when big matchups against teams like College of Charleston and Furman, they Terriers falter. That being said, if the Terriers can win out, they’re looking at being the #2 seed in the conference tournament.

A Look Ahead: The Terriers will participate in the Bracketbuster games, squaring off against Ball State. They finish the regular season with road games against Chattanooga and Furman.

5Chattanooga (14-14, 10-5): If Western Carolina is the hottest team in the league, then the Mocs of Chattanooga are the coldest. Losers of their last four, the Mocs need Omar Wattad to get his scoring touch back; the junior forward has scored just fourteen points combined in his last two conference games.

A Look Ahead: The Mocs host Furman and Wofford, and then finish the season at Samford.

6. Davidson (14-13, 8-8): After four consecutive losses in late January, the Wildcats rattled off five wins in a row, and have won six of their last seven. Davidson has put up impressive rebounding numbers as well; they rank 90 in the nation in rebounds per game.

A Look Ahead: The Wildcats travel to Presbateryian College, then finish the season at home, against Elon and UNC-Greensboro.

7. Appalachian State (12-14, 8-8): The Mountaineers continue to be plagued by their low number of assists per game, 10.5, which ranks 321st in the nation. Donald Sims continues to carry the offensive load, with 21.2 points per game, with healthy contributions from Omar Carter, averaging 16.5 points per game.

A Look Ahead: Appalachian State will participate in Bracketbusters, squaring off against High Point. After that, it’s home games against College of Charleston and The Citadel.

8. UNC-Greensboro (5-20, 5-9): Ok, ok, the Spartans might not deserve this spot, but I’ll give it to them anyway, due to their impressive turnaround. The key to the Spartans recent success? Scoring. Preposterous, I know. The Spartans have score over 85 points in their last three wins.

A Look Ahead: The Spartans travel to Elon, then host Western Carolina. After that, it’s road games against Georgia Southern and Davidson. As crazy as it sounds, the once-winless Spartans have a chance to finish .500 in conference play.

9Elon (11-15, 5-10): Elon finally broke their five-game losing streak with their recent victory over The Citadel. Once considered a dark-horse contender for the conference title, the wheels have seemingly fallen of for the Phoenix.

A Look Ahead: Elon hosts UNC-Greensboro, and finish the season with road matches against Davidson and Georgia Southern.

10Samford (12-15, 4-11): The Bulldogs rank in the 300’s in both rebounding and scoring. Honestly, with those numbers, I’m surprised they have won twelve games all season.

A Look Ahead: Samford hosts Furman, then will travel to College of Charleston, and will finish the regular season with a home game against Chattanooga.

11. The Citadel (9-19, 5-10): Losers of their last six, the Bulldogs continue to freefall down the standings. Senior guard Cameron Wells continues to play stellar basketball, but isn’t getting much help from his teammates.

A Look Ahead: The Bulldogs finish the season with three consecutive road games, at Georgia Southern, Western Carolina, and Appalachian State.

12. Georgia Southern (4-24, 0-15): If nothing else, the Eagles are consistent. They have been ranked in the 12th spot just as long as College of Charleston has been ranked in the top spot. They continue to search for that elusive first conference win.

A Look Ahead: Georgia Southern will finish the season with three consecutive home games, against The Citadel, UNC-Greensboro, and Elon.

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Checking in on… the SoCon

Posted by jstevrtc on December 19th, 2009

Justin Glover is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference.

Standings (conference/overall)

NORTH

  1. Western Carolina  2-0 / 10-1
  2. Appalachian State  1-1 / 6-4
  3. Samford  1-1 / 3-7
  4. Elon  1-1 / 3-8
  5. UNC Greensboro  1-1 / 2-6
  6. Chattanooga  0-1 / 5-5

SOUTH

  1. Charleston  3-0 / 5-3
  2. Furman  1-1 / 5-3
  3. Citadel  1-1 / 6-5
  4. Davidson  1-1 / 3-7
  5. Wofford  0-2 / 5-6
  6. Georgia Southern  0-2 / 3-9

Quick Hits. After making a call to my old boss at Western Carolina I made the three-hour trip from Atlanta, GA, to Cullowhee, NC, to see this impressive Western Carolina team in person take on my alma mater, the Campbell Fighting Camels, on December 10th.  Having previously covered both teams I knew this game was going to be a good one.  Western Carolina can really shoot, hitting ten threes including four from its senior point guard Brigham Waginger. The one player who impressed me the most was junior-college transfer Mike Williams who the fans call “And One” because he makes a ton of lay-ups while getting fouled, as you’d guess.  Williams was lightning quick and scored 16 off the bench to key the win for the Catamounts 66-59. Campbell ran a nice half-court trap that forced Western Carolina into 15 turnovers and Jonathan Rodriquez scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds but it wasn’t enough.  Watching the hottest team in the SoCon live gives you a different perspective on how good this team really can be. Two days later they defeated Louisville on the road and ran their win streak to nine straight games thanks to 23 points from Mike Williams.  In the college insider mid-major top 25 rankings the Catamounts are currently ranked 8th and are receiving votes in the national Top 25 poll. Keep a close eye on this team as they head on the road to play Clemson before Christmas.

Other NotesCollege of Charleston is really coming on strong and showing why they are also a favorite to win the Southern Conference crown come March.  Now 5-3 overall and starting 3-0 in conference has put the Cougars right where they want to be.  With the non-conference schedule about to end, the conference season will really start to shape things as a whole proving what teams are looking to make a push come time for March Madness.

Most Disappointing Teams. In recent weeks the two biggest disappointments have been Georgia Southern who is now 3-9 and 0-2 in the conference. The Eagles have lost five straight games and are giving up 76 PPG, which doesn’t help.  Also, Davidson has been hit by a tough opening schedule, as they are 3-7 overall and 1-1 in the conference.  The Wildcats are trying to earn some non-conference wins in the upcoming weeks.

Sizzling players. There are three players who really have stood out this week with Donald Sims from Appalachian State third in the conference in scoring at 16.9 points per game. Andrew Goudelock from College of Charleston averaging 16.8 has really been scoring to help the Cougars open up 3-0 in conference play. Finally junior-college transfer Mike Williams from Western Carolina who is averging 10.7 points per game off the bench but dropped 23 points against Louisville in the upset.

Upcoming Important Match-ups:

  • Sat. Dec. 19 College of Charleston @ Clemson 7:30 p.m. – Another chance for a SoCon school to knock-off an ACC opponent.
  • Sat. Dec. 19 Wofford @ South Carolina 7:00 p.m. – Wofford looking for two wins against SEC opponents with Georgia being the first.
  • Tues. Dec. 22 Western Carolina @ Clemson 7:30 p.m. – A chance for the Catamounts to continue its winning streak against an ACC opponent.
  • Tues. Dec. 22 Georgia Southern @ Georgia State 7:30 p.m. – Two mid-majors renew its in-state rivalry.
  • Wed. Dec. 23 College of Charleston @ Hawaii 12:30 a.m. ESPN 2 – Christmas Tournament in Hawaii for CofC hoping to earn some wins for the SoCon.

Team Breakdowns:

  • Appalachian State (6-4). The Mountaineers continue to be a sneaky team with a 1-1 record in the SoCon after a key road win against Wofford, 77-76, with Donald Sims scoring 25 points. Appalachian State followed that up with a 113-91 victory against Milligan on December 17th. Donald Sims led the way with 23 points to run the win streak to two games.
  • Chattanooga (5-5). The Mocs have been in the middle of the pack in the SoCon but have dropped two of their last three games including a 19-point loss to Elon to fall to 0-1 in conference play. They responded with a 22-point win against Mississippi Valley State 82-60 on December 12th. On December 14th the Mocs lost to Georgia Tech 95-64 but Ty Patterson did have 22 points in the defeat.
  • College of Charleston (5-3). The Cougars have hit their stride putting together a 4-game winning streak in December winning three straight conference games to start 3-0. After beating Davidson 67-55 the Cougars followed it up with a tight road win against UNC-Greensboro 67-64 thanks to 28 points from junior Andrew Goudelock.  On December 16th College of Charleston defeated Charleston Southern 87-74 for its fourth straight win.
  • Davidson (3-7). The Wildcats have struggled this season but also have played a strong schedule against some really good teams. Davidson lost to College of Charleston 67-55 to drop to 1-1 in conference play. On December 12th the Wildcats took on mid-major powerhouse Gonzaga on the road losing 103-91. Jake Cohen scored 16 points and has been coming on strong of late. On December 17th Davison defeated New Jersey 90-49 thanks to 23 points from Cohen.
  • Elon (3-8). Elon is sitting at 1-1 in the conference after a key victory against Chattanooga 82-63 on December 5th. The Phoenix traveled to Raleigh, N.C., to take on N.C. State and put a scare in the Wolfpack but fell in the end 79-76 getting 26 points from senior forward Adam Constantine. Elon had a four-point lead with four minutes to play but just couldn’t hold on.
  • Furman (5-3). The Paladins have only had two games in recent weeks both coming as losses with the first a tight 64-57 loss against Western Carolina. Junior Jordan Miller led the team in scoring with 15 points.  Furman then traveled to Clemson on December 13th losing 82-53 with Miller scoring 11 points in the loss. The Paladins sit at 1-1 in conference play.
  • Georgia Southern (3-9). The Eagles have been struggling of late dropping three-straight non-conference games first at N.C. State 75-57 on December 12th and home against Coastal Carolina 69-58 on December 15th.  Georgia Southern lost to Evansville 75-58 on December 17th with Willie Powers scoring 11 points in the loss. The Eagles are also 0-2 on the SoCon hoping to get back on track in the next coming weeks.
  • Samford (3-7). Samford has only played two games, going 1-1 in them. They defeated Spring Hill on December 12th 58-48 with Trey Montgomery scoring 12 points in the victory. Samford then traveled to in-state rival Alabama on December 16th losing 60-45 with Josh Davis scoring 13 points in the loss.
  • The Citadel (6-5). This is a very interesting team that loves to get up a lot of shots.  They defeated Georgia Southern on December 5th 68-43 with Zach Urbanus scoring 20 points. After watching the Michigan State game on ESPNU, you could tell this team could present some problems to other SoCon teams in the future. The Bulldogs lost 69-56 to the Spartans but were within single digits a couple of times in the game as Cameron Wells scored 16 points in the loss.  Also the Citadel hosted Michigan State in that game and really gave the Spartans a scare.
  • UNC-Greensboro (2-6). UNCG has started conference play at 1-1 right in the middle of the pack but has lost two-straight games against College of Charleston 67-64 and Princeton 65-50 on December 13 with Ben Stywall scoring 14 points in the loss.
  • Western Carolina (10-1). The Catamounts are clearly the hottest team in the SoCon and could make the argument for one of the top mid-majors at the moment. They are riding a nine-game winning streak that includes some impressive victories.  First, Western Carolina defeated Furman 64-57 to open up 2-0 in conference play. Then the Catamounts defeated a solid Bradley team on the road, 75-67, on December 7th. On December 10th they kept the winning streak going against Campbell 66-59 thanks to 16 points from Mike Williams.  Western Carolina finished the run by going on the road and stunning Louisville 91-83 thanks to 24 points off the bench from Mike Williams, who earned SoCon player of the week thanks to that performance.
  • Wofford (5-6). The Terriers have lost two of its last three games and started 0-2 in the conference by only a combined six points. The second loss came to Appalachian State 77-76 at home with Noah Dahlman scoring 25 points in the loss. Wofford then lost 73-62 to Navy on December 12th. Dahlman (18.3 ppg) has been unreal this season leading the team in scoring eight out of the first 11 games this year.
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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 02.07.09 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 7th, 2009

dynamite1

We’re back with another thrilling edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite where we try to cover every single game on TV. Since we have only two people working on BGTD, we appreciate any reader tips on what games everyone should be watching since there are so many on TV and the Internet. For a rundown of the games today, check out today’s Set Your Tivos.

11:40 AM: ESPN GameDay is live from Spokane site of the Memphis-Gonzaga game tongiht at 9 PM. The crowd is fairly small, but I’ll give the Bulldog fans a break since it started at 8 AM local time on a Saturday morning at a school with just 4,515 undergraduates. I’m still waiting for a basketball GameDay to match a college football GameDay in terms of attendance and crazy fans. Looking at the schedule, I’m going to have go with February 21st when Oklahoma plays Texas in Austin, TX as the ESPN GameDay where the fans actually show up.

Noon: Some great work by the ESPN camera crew making Philadelphia look like something other a dump. The Syracuse-Villanova game should be one of the better ones today with both teams being in the 2nd tier in the Big East after UConn, Pittsburgh, and Louisville. The jury is still out on Marquette after last night’s debacle. Like we said watch the Jonny Flynn versus Scottie Reynolds match-up. The Arinze Onuaku injury could be big particularly with Dante Cunningham on the inside.

12:40 PM: Sorry for the delay in posting, but we’re having some problems with WordPress. Anyways, Villanova is absolutely destroying Syracuse right now. A basket by Cunningham stretches the lead to 21 at 36-15. It might be a while before we have another update on this game unless the Orange make a run. If the game continues like this, Jim Boeheim‘s squad will fall out of the top 25 leaving just 5 Big East teams in the rankings.

1:00 PM: The ESPN announcers just said that Donovan McNabb played some basketball when he was at Syracuse. Either he had some ridiculous intramural basketball career that I’m not aware of or they just assume that every mobile black QB was a two-sports star. I’m guessing it is the latter.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2008

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

The Big East is proving why it is the best conference in basketball, as the 16 teams in the conference have lost a grand total of five games. I mean, Seton Hall barely sneaks into the top 10 in the conference and they are 4-1 with wins over USC and Virginia Tech early on. To be fair, most of the games that have been played at this point in the season have come against cupcakes, but a Big East team has already knocked off a marquee team in every other major conference (UConn has beaten Wisconsin and Miami (FL), Syracuse beat Florida and Kansas, Notre Dame beat Texas, and Seton Hall beat USC).

Power Rankings (AP, Coaches):

CONTENDERS

1. UConn 5-0 (#2, #2) – It is pretty tough to argue with UConn atop the BIAH Big East Power Rankings. They are 5-0 and coming off of a victory in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. More on the Huskies in a bit.

2. Notre Dame 4-0 (#8, #8) – Notre Dame gets the nod at #2 because of their win over Texas in Maui. Now that Kyle McAlarney has found his stroke (13-23 from the floor, 11-20 from deep in his last two games after starting the season 2-13), it is clear that the Irish are going be able to put up points with anyone. Their biggest question mark right now is defense and rebounding. Against Texas, Notre Dame was out-rebounded 45-33 and gave up 15 on the offensive glass.

I know that the Irish have two first-team all-conference players on their roster, but PG Tory Jackson is just as, if not more, valuable than both McAlarney and Luke Harangody. He is the guy that makes the potent Irish offense run. He is as quick as they come and can get into the lane against just about anyone, but he plays under control and rarely picks up a charge. When he gets into the paint, he is just as good at finishing as he is at drawing a defender and finding an open man (he’s led the Big East in dimes the last two years). To top it off, he has been knocking down his perimeter shot this season.

3. Louisville 2-0 (#3, #3) – It is tough to gauge the Cardinals at this point in the season. They have played just two games, both cupcakes and both blow outs, and they won’t really be tested until mid-December. What we do know thus far is that freshman Samardo Samuels looks as good as advertised – he’s averaging 21 ppg and 5 rpg through two games. The ‘Ville also got good news when Terrence Williams was healthy enough to play in their first two games (he underwent minor surgery after tearing the meniscus in his knee). He’s not there yet offensively (6-17 from the floor, 14 points in two games), but he has been filling up the stat sheet as usual (9.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 3.5 spg, 1.5 bpg).

4. Pitt 5-0 (#4, #4) – The Panthers, like the Cardinals, are undefeated but have yet to really play anyone. They have, however, been getting phenomenal play out of their big three of DeJuan Blair (17.5 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 71%, but he missed the Belmont game on Tuesday with swelling in his knee), Sam Young (19.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 60% FG), and Levance Fields (13.6 ppg, 7.3 apg, 1.0 t/o’s). While Pitt lost Blair for the Belmont game, they got some good news with the return of wing Gilbert Brown.

The key to the season for this Pitt team is going to be their wing play, which is a big reason why Sam Young, the Panthers best perimeter shooter, is playing on the wing this year. It is still early, but the early indication is that after Fields (10-19) and Young (5-16). If someone can step up and knock down shots (back up PG Ashton Gibbs is trying to, he’s 5-11 from deep), they will see a lot of the court.

5. Syracuse 5-0 – The ‘Cuse are for real this year. They are 5-0 with wins against Florida and Kansas (in what was essentially a road game) and have looked unstoppable on offense at times. But they have also looked disinterested and lackadaisical at times as well, especially defensively. The Orange start and end with the play of Jonny Flynn, who has reinforced the notion that he is one of the best PGs in the country. Flynn is one of the most exciting players in the country to watch (and I am a UConn fan saying that). While Flynn may be the best player on Syracuse, he is far from all that they have. Paul Harris is just as tough as always, but has added a 15-17 foot jumper that you must defend. Arinze Onuaku has gone from a 275 lb fat boy to 275 lb of muscle (seriously, he looks like he should be on World’s Strongest Man). Kristoff Ongenaet, Rick Jackson and freshman Kris Joseph all are going to be able to provide hustle, rebounds, and defense inside. And they’ve gotten back the two things they were missing last year – perimeter shooting from the wings (Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins) and another guy that can penetrate and score or create shots for others (Devendorf). But the biggest change I see in this year’s team is that Jim Boeheim has them playing a lot of man-to-man, which makes it all-the-more difficult for a team to prepare for the Orange. Boeheim has himself a tough team that is going to make some noise this year. Read the rest of this entry »

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #1 – Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2008

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

Predicted Order of Finish (from the coach’s pre-season poll, released at Big East media day):

  1. Connecticut (9)
  2. Louisville (3)
  3. Pitt (3)
  4. Notre Dame (1)
  5. Villanova
  6. Marquette
  7. Georgetown
  8. Syracuse
  9. West Virginia
  10. Providence
  11. Cincinnati
  12. Rutgers
  13. Seton Hall
  14. St john’s
  15. DePaul
  16. South Florida

big-east-logo

WYN2K. You hear that? You know what that is? That’s the sound of RTC stealing my thunder.  I’m not much of a statistician myself, but just by looking at that pre-season poll I can tell you this – the Big East is loaded.  If you live outside of Big East country, then you are probably sick of hearing about how good the conference is, year in and year out. But facts are facts. Four teams are legitimate Final Four threats. Another six teams are, depending on who you ask, expected to be a part of the 65 team field. Three more teams have an outside shot at punching a ticket to the dance if they can catch a few breaks (transfers getting cleared, freshman getting eligible, etc.).  So in this day and age of college basketball, where “early entry,” “parity,” and “mid-major” have become household terms, how did one conference manage to stockpile so many good teams? Well, as you can see, the Big East is HUGE. There are sixteen teams spanning from Rhode Island to Wisconsin to Florida and everywhere in between. When you have that many teams in one conference, there are bound to be years where there are a lot of good teams, especially when so many of the schools have a rich basketball tradition.  This just happens to be one of those years where the Big East got lucky. Last season, 32 players were named to an All-Big East team (1st, 2nd, honorable mention, all-rookie), and only two of those players (WVU’s Joe Alexander and Syracuse’s Donte Greene) declared for the draft with eligibility remaining. Would Pittsburgh be as good as expected if Sam Young left? What about UConn without Hasheem Thabeet? Those two, and a number of other players, probably would be on NBA rosters right now if they left, but for whatever reason (a loaded draft class last year, smarts enough to know they weren’t ready, boosters offered them more than what they would get paid on a rookie’s salary) they decided to head back to campus.

So without further ado, here is your conference breakdown:

Cellar Dwellars.  DePaul, St. John’s, South Florida, Rutgers

  • There are some talented players on these teams. Sophomore Dar Tucker of DePaul is a poster waiting to happen. South Florida’s Dominique Jones scored 17.1 ppg as a freshman. St. John’s has senior Anthony Mason Jr. and sophomore Justin Burrell to carry the load. But with the depth of the Big East this year combined with the loss of some talented seniors, none of these three teams really look like they have a shot at doing much. Rutgers might have the best shot of the group to make some noise, as Fred Hill has landed back-to-back talented freshman classes. Don’t be surprised if you hear the names Gregory Echenique and Mike Rosario (RU’s first Mickey D’s all-american) quite often during the season.

We Should Have Bribed The NCAA.  Cincinnati (NIT), Seton Hall (NIT)

  • Both the Pirates and the Bearcats are awaiting the NCAA’s word on whether or not they will have some key players in their rotation. After struggling with the remnants of the Cincy program in the wake of Bob Huggins, Mick Cronin finally has the program heading in the right direction. He brings back Deonta Vaughn, who is one of the most explosive scorers in the country, and gets former Texas forward Mike Williams back from an Achilles injury. Adding two talented freshman in Yancy Gates and Cashmere Wright only helped matters. But Wright tore up his knee in the first week of practice, meaning that Vaughn is, once again, their only real backcourt threat and that they must rely heavily on their front line, which could be bolstered by the addition of 7’2” center John Riek. The Sudanese refugee, who was considered one of the best prospects in the country two years ago but has battled knee problems, is dealing with eligibility issues but could be in uniform by December. 
  • Seton Hall’s situation is a little different. The Pirates lose leading scorer Brian Laing (18.6 ppg) but return a solid nucleus of Eugene Harvey, Jeremy Hazell and John Garcia. Bobby Gonzalez had also hoped to add transfers Herb Pope (New Mexico St.) and Keon Lawrence (Missouri) without having to wait the mandatory one year for a transfer by having each kid apply for the NCAA’s hardship waiver. Pope’s been denied, Lawrence’s application will wait until after the first semester, and freshman Melvyn Oliver is still waiting to be cleared academically, meaning the Pirates currently have only eight scholarship players.

Pretenders or Contenders?  Providence (NIT), West Virginia (NCAA #7)

  • I know what you’re thinking. Providence? Really, Rob? They haven’t been good since the days of Ryan Gomes and Donnie MacGrath (and even then, good might have been pushing it). But the Friars have the horses to sneak up on some people this year. They were as balanced as any team in the Big East last year, with six guys (five returners) that averaged at least 8.7 ppg.  PG Sharaud Curry, arguably their best player, is back from a stress fracture in his foot and they have added Keno Davis, last year’s national COY at Drake, as the head coach. Davis should have some success in his first year with the Friars if they follow the same spread floor style that was so successful at Drake. One key reason for that is big man Geoff McDermott, who is adept at playing on the perimeter and is a stat stuffer (10 ppg, 8 rpg, 5 apg, 1 spg, and 1.5 bpg). Remember, this Providence team, who battled the injury bug all year, swept UConn and beat Temple and Arkansas last seaso. The talent’s there, but consistency and healthy players will be the key to their season.
  • The Mountaineers are a different story. They really came on towards the end of the season, thanks in (very) large part to the emergence of Joe Alexander, who was probably the best player in the conference (maybe the country) for the last month-plus of the season and is now a forward with the Bucks. Left are a bunch of very good role players that fit into Huggy Bear’s system and play hard. Guys like Joe Mazzula, Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler. There are two major questions for the Mountaineers – who is going to play in the post and who is going to fill to void of “go-to guy” with Alexander gone. Freshman Devin Ebanks may be able to fill Alexander’s shoes with time, but the rest of the Mountaineers front line will be small (especially for the Big East) and inexperienced.

Worst of the Rest.  Syracuse (NCAA #7), Georgetown (NCAA #7), Marquette (NCAA #6), Villanova (NCAA #5)

  • I’ll be completely honest with you. I’m a UConn fan. I hate Syracuse. Despise them. I even hate the color orange. I didn’t even rank them in my top 25. Call it being biased, call it homerism, call it what you like. But I’ve had an epiphany – this team is really talented. Jonny Flynn is one of the best point guards in the country. Eric Devendorf is a very talented combo guard. Andy Rautins can flat out stroke the three. Paul Harris is a linebacker playing basketball. Arinze Onuake is a beast on the block. And this year, they actually have a deep bench filled with role players and hustle guys. They’re not quite in the top four, but Boeheim has himself his most talented team since Melo.
  • Georgetown lost a lot of very important players to graduation (Roy Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace, Patrick Ewing Jr) and transfers (Jeremiah Rivers, Vernon Macklin). They are left with just four guys who were in their rotation last year – guards Chris Wright, Jessie Sapp, Austin Freeman and forward DaJuan Summers. They do add a great recruiting class, headlined by big men Greg Monroe and Henry Sims, but it will still be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Hoyas. Part of the reason is that John Thompson III may have to change up his style of play from the Princeton Offense. Hibbert, Wallace, and Ewing were perfectly suited to a slowed down game, where as Sapp and Wright are quick guards that can make plays in the open floor.
  • Marquette has a new coach, but they will be the same team. By now, you must know about their three great guards – Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews – who, when combined with Maurice Acker and David Cubillan, make up one of the deepest, most explosive backcourts in the country. But, much like Villanova and West Virginia, Marquette needs someone to step up inside. It’s great when you have a bunch of guards that can score and make plays, but will Dominic James 40” vert help him against the likes of Luke Harangody or DeJuan Blair? Dwight Burke is going to have to make some big strides as a senior, or else the Golden Eagles will have to rely on a freshman and two JuCo transfers inside.
  • Remember that Villanova team from a few years back? The one with Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Mike Nardi? Well this ‘Nova team is going to be similar to that squad. Led by scoring machine Scottie Reynolds, ‘Nova has one of the best backcourts in the conference. But the key to their success this year will be the front court. Dante Cunningham, an athletic, 6’9 PF, has proven himself as a capable frontcourt player in the Big East, but the rest of the Wildcats frontline will need to step up if Jay Wright’s club wants to crack the top four.

Crème de la Crème.  Notre Dame (NCAA #5), Pittsburgh (NCAA #3), Louisville (NCAA #2), UConn (NCAA #1)

  • Notre Dame returns basically the entire team that finished tied for second in the Big East, including reigning Big East player of the year Luke Harangody. While I can’t help but comment on his resemblance to a pot-bellied pig, you can’t argue with his production last year (23 ppg and 11 rpg in conference). While he is built like one of Charlie Weis’ lineman, he is actually incredibly nimble and has great feet and balance, which is one of the reasons he is able to scorer against bigger, more athletic defenders. Surrounding him will be shooters Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney (who was a 1st team all-conference performer), as well as Tory Jackson, who is one of the more underrated PGs in the league. Notre Dame is going to be a fun team to watch if you like games with a lot of scoring and a lot of threes.
  • Pitt is going to be a typical Pitt team, with a lot of big, strong, tough kids that are going to play rugged, in your face defense. Sam Young, who developed a deadly jumper out to around the three point line, and DeJuan Blair, a 6’7 270-lb mammoth inside, provide one of the toughest frontcourts to match up with in the country. The biggest questions for Pitt surround their backcourt. When will Levance Fields return from foot surgery, and will he be healthy? Can anyone on this team replace the three point shooting of Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin?
  • Louisville, along with Pitt, is probably going to be the toughest defensive team in the conference. It starts with their backcourt, where they have five guys (Edgar Sosa, Andre McGee, Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles, Reginald Delk) that will really get after you on the perimeter. Earl Clark and Terrence Williams (who is coming off a torn meniscus and should be out another month or so) are both athletic, versatile players. T-Wills is more of a perimeter player and is the Cardinals best creator offensively, averaging more than 4.5 apg last year. Clark is more of a combo forward that will get his points off of fast breaks and cutting to the basket. Louisville loses their entire front line from last year, but they bring in a solid recruiting class, the star of which is Samardo Samuels, probably the best post recruit in America this year.
  • Last, but certainly not least, is UConn. The Huskies probably won’t be at full strength until December, as AJ Price is coming off of a torn ACL and freshman Ater Majok and junior Stanley Robinson (who was last seen on a poster) are both going to be made eligible (hopefully) after the first semester ends. Regardless, UConn is loaded with talent. 7’3” junior and shot blocking machine Hasheem Thabeet returns, as does Jeff Adrien, the Huskies leading scorer and rebounder. Price will be joined in the backcourt by talented but troubled junior Jerome Dyson and Mickey D’s all-american Kemba Walker. UConn’s biggest question mark right now – can they win a big game? They were 8-8 on the road or on a neutral court last year, and are 0-3 in the Big East and NCAA tournaments the last two years.

RPI Boosters.  The Big East RPI is going to be high enough, but here are some of the must-see non-conference match-ups (ignoring the possible match-ups in pre-season tournaments):

  • Wisconsin @ Marquette  (12.06.08)
  • Villanova vs. Texas and Davidson vs. West Virginia in NYC at Jimmy V  (12.09.08)
  • Cincinnati vs. Xavier  (12.13.08)
  • Memphis @ Georgetown  (12.13.08)
  • Marquette @ Tennessee  (12.16.08)
  • Gonzaga vs. UConn in Seattle  (12.20.08)
  • Syracuse @ Memphis  (12.20.08)
  • Kentucky @ Louisville  (01.04.09)
  • Georgetown @ Duke  (01.17.09)
  • Notre Dame @ UCLA  (02.07.09)

65 Team Era.  The Big East earned its chops as a basketball conference in the 80s, and that tradition persists to this very day despite the expansion of the league to it’s current sixteen-team iteration.  Last year the league earned eight bids to the NCAAs, and it’s difficult to envision a future scenario where the conference would ever get less than six bids again.  This obviously will skew their future numbers on a whole scale, but their stats to date are nothing to sneeze at (206-126, .620, 11 F4s, 4 titles).  With the power at the top of this year’s league, we could potentially see another 1985 F4 on the horizon (3/4 of the F4 were Big East teams – Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s). 

Final Thought.  The Big East is wide open this year. Every night is going to be a dog fight. One thing you can be sure of, however, is that any team from this league that makes it to the postseason is going to be battle-tested.

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10.07.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 7th, 2007

We’ve let the news accumulate for a while, so without any further delay…

  • Tom Izzo porked the media by putting them through a “typical” 2-hr MSU practice last week.
  • Ben Howland got a hefty raise and an extension through 2014 coaching his self-professed dream job.
  • If you haven’t heard, Jim Jones’ grandson Rob Jones will be playing for the University of San Diego this year. There have been multiple takes on this, but we like Extra P.’s at STF best.
  • Hoops Weiss has a scathing analysis of the Jim Calhoun / Holy Cross Coaches vs. Cancer situation.
  • Kyle Whelliston contributed a really insightful article on espn.com about high majors playing road games at mid-major schools this year.
  • Hard luck- former McD’s all-american Mike Williams ruptured his achilles tendon in a workout at Cincinnati last week and will the entire season (he sat out last year as a transfer from Texas). USC’s Daniel Hackett broke his jaw (on OJ Mayo’s elbow) last week and will miss up to six weeks. Vandy’s JeJuan Brown has withdrawn from school for personal reasons.
  • Speaking of OJ, this video of him playing in summer league is making the rounds.
  • AOL Fanhouse is continuing its analysis of all the Big East schedules.
  • NCAA Hoops Today continued its analysis of last spring’s HS all-star games with the Roundball Classic and the Jordan Classic.
  • The Big Ten Network’s twelve viewers will get to see several Midnight Madnesses next Friday, including Illini Madness, Hoosier Hysteria, Midnight Madness (MSU), Tubby’s Tipoff and Night of the Grateful Red.
  • Gary Parrish lists his top points and combo guards (Derrick RoseMemphis), top shooters and wings (Chris Lofton – Tennessee), and top bigs (Tyler Hansbrough – UNC) in the nation. He really likes freshmen.
  • DeCourcy lists his top players the more traditional way – centers (Hansbrough), power forwards (Darrell Arthur – Kansas), small forwards (Chase Budinger – Arizona), shooting guards (Lofton), and point guards (DJ Augustin – Texas).
  • And continuing our edification of various offensive and defensive schemes, here’s an explanation of Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin swing offense and a John Beilein-esque 1-3-1 trap.
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