Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 6th, 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

  • Fab Melo Returns: After missing three games due to an academic issue, Fab Melo returned to the Syracuse lineup Saturday afternoon in New York. Melo scored a career-high 14 points in 21 minutes but, more importantly, changed the dynamic of Syracuse on both ends of the floor. Melo’s return adds some rebounding, opens up the middle for others to drive and score/dish and gives the Orange a defensive anchor in the middle of their zone. Melo doesn’t block every shot, but he alters a very high number. With the Brazilian big man roaming the paint, Syracuse is a legitimate national championship contender, something that was plainly evident on Saturday. Despite a backloaded schedule coming into view over the next few weeks, I’d be surprised if Syracuse loses another regular season game.
  • Pittsburgh Is Back: Oh Jamie Dixon, why did we doubt you? We should have known better. After starting the conference season 0-7, Pittsburgh has won four straight games and is actually in a position to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers’ resurgence has been keyed by the return of Tray Woodall and better play defensively. Woodall scored a career-high 29 points against Villanova on Sunday and the Panthers held the Wildcats to 36% shooting. That’s the Pittsburgh defense we’ve grown accustomed to over the years and if it keeps up, Pittsburgh will go dancing. Pitt faces a crucial week. It must take at least one (preferably both) road game of the two at South Florida and Seton Hall between now and Sunday. If the Panthers can get both, they’ll be 6-7 with three of their final five games at home. I actually feel safe saying something that would have been considered outrageous just two weeks ago: I believe Pittsburgh will be in the NCAA Tournament.

Fab Melo's Importance To The Orange Was On Full Display Last Week

  • Order Being Restored: Pittsburgh has won four straight. Seton Hall has lost six straight. South Florida lost by 30 at Georgetown on Saturday. Louisville has turned it around. All of that tells you something, doesn’t it? The Big East is shuffling back into place as we head into the home stretch of the season. While the Pirates and Bulls were nice early-season surprises and feel-good stories, reality has set in. Seton Hall was ranked in the top 25 as recently as January 9, but hasn’t won a game since a victory over DePaul the following day. The Pirates are anemic offensively and can hardly shoot 30% against any opponent. I wrote a piece last week about what has gone wrong at the Hall, but it shows no signs of stopping this tailspin anytime soon. South Florida remains at 6-4, but four of its final seven games are on the road as the schedule stiffens. The Bulls will play Pittsburgh twice, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Louisville and West Virginia down the stretch. Expect their 6-4 record to turn into something like 8-10 rather quickly. Even if that happens, it has still been a successful season for Stan Heath and his team. Nobody expected them to win even six or seven league games.

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (23-1, 10-1) – What a difference one player makes. Syracuse played only once last week, but Fab Melo’s return sparked the Orange to dunk-filled 95-70 win over hapless St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. The win, Jim Boeheim’s 879th, pulled him into a tie with legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith for third place on the all-time wins list. Boeheim has this team humming right along and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Syracuse scored 53 bench points against the Red Storm, once again showing off its incredible depth and talent. Michael Carter-Williams electrified the Garden crowd with this dunk while C.J. Fair, Dion Waiters and Kris Joseph also played very well for the Orange. Syracuse shot 56% for the game. The schedule gets tougher in February but Syracuse should be favored in every game from here on out. This week: 2/8 vs. #15 Georgetown, 2/11 vs. Connecticut. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 01.25.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 25th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are no Top 25 matchups or truly ‘great’ games on tonight’s schedule, but it is another packed Wednesday of important conference battles so there will be plenty of action worth monitoring.

Villanova at Louisville – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN (***)

Peyton Siva Looks to Get Louisville Back on Track Tonight Against Another Top Point Guard (Getty Images/A. Lyons)

  • In what would have been billed as a big-time matchup at the beginning of the season, this game now features two unranked teams (Louisville is still #25 in one poll) with a combined 6-9 record in the Big East. But this will still be a fun game to watch, and the away team is playing its best basketball of the season. Nova has won two straight games and lost by only four points at Cincinnati in the game before, as Maalik Wayns has finally taken his game to the next level. His averages over the past three games are an insane 30.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. He’s also gone 30-33 from the free throw line in that stretch. He’s second in the conference in scoring (18.7 PPG) and leads the Big East in free throws made. Nova needs other players to be strong with the ball against Louisville’s high-pressure defense, as the Wildcats average a terrible 17 turnovers in conference games, worst in the Big East. If Jay Wright’s team can take care of the ball and get to the rim instead of settling for outside shots, they have a chance in this game. Jayvaughn Pinkston will play a key role as an emerging threat (18 points, 11.5 rebounds in his last two) at the forward position that can attack the rim.
  • If Louisville wants to get back into consideration as a ranked team, they must win this game at home. The Cardinals continue to deal with injuries but have all of their key cogs healthy in this one, as leading-scorer Kyle Kuric (13.4 PPG) returned from an ankle injury to score 21 points against Pittsburgh in their last game. Louisville has the advantage on the wings with Kuric, Russ Smith (12.5 PPG), and Chris Smith (10.1 PPG) and they will try to swarm Villanova defensively, who only has one true ballhandler in its lineup. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng have tough matchups with Maalik Wayns and Mouphtaou Yarou, respectively, that are worth watching to see who has the edge on the perimeter and in the paint. Overall, Louisville’s depth and defensive pressure should prove too much for the Wildcats.
  • Louisville is a nine-point favorite at home in the KFC Yum! Center and cannot lose this game if it wants to be taken seriously in the Big East. The 10-10 Wildcats come in with some confidence and will look to play the role of spoiler as Wayns tries to prove he’s the best point guard in the conference. Expect the Cardinals to wear out Villlanova in the second half and come out with the win.

#8 Duke at Maryland- 9:00 PM ET on ESPN (***)

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Big East Morning Five: 01.25.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 25th, 2012

  1. Suspended Connecticut freshman Ryan Boatright’s case continues to garner a lot of attention and for good reason.  The bottom line is that the NCAA needs to make some rule changes to keep kids out of purgatory while its investigators take their sweet time trolling for violations. UConn has been forced to sit Boatright for nine games and counting over two different stretches this season while it waits for the NCAA to rule on an improper benefits issue that allegedly occurred before Boatright enrolled there.  As Joe Nocera astutely pointed out in a two-part New York Times editorial on Boatright’s plight, this case highlights three major flaws in NCAA policy.  First, the NCAA has yet to make a ruling but as a precaution Connecticut has to sit Boatright out while the decision is pending.  Otherwise they risk the possibility of forfeiting games if Boatright plays and the NCAA ultimately finds against him.  The NCAA should not be allowed to penalize retroactively unless there is a direct correlation between the school and any player involved with the offense.  Second, Boatright is being penalized for something he had no direct involvement in.  In fact, the NCAA is not investigating Boatrigh; they are investigating his mother to see if she was given money by a family friend who has no link to UConn to buy a plane ticket so she could accompany her son on an official on-campus visit.  Third, rules mandate that when schools welcome a recruit for an official visit, they can only pay the way of the player and no one else.  If someone like the player’s mother wants to accompany her child on the visit she has to foot her own expenses.  There are many problems with the recruiting process.  Perhaps if the NCAA spent its time and resources pursuing some of them, a little progress would be made.
  2. After attending the Marquette vs. Providence game on Saturday I wrote about the overall team concept the Golden Eagles portray when they play and highlighted the contributions of their senior leaders, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder (GRATUITOUS SELF-LINK ALERT!!!) Well, it appears the veteran tandem is as effective in their roles off the court as they are on it. “Jae and D.J. have been outstanding in their leadership thus far this year,” said Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, who added, “Our leadership has come from our two seniors and the bulk of their leadership has transpired off the floor and that is evident when you watch our team on the floor. I think they have been superlative in their actions off the floor and the example they have set for the other 10 guys on our team away from [the practice gym].”
  3. All you have to do is watch an Oregon or Maryland football game to know that the gear factors in to the overall business plan of a program. These are not your father’s college athletics where teams had just one home and one away uniform.  Student-athletes are young but they all seem to be going gray these days as the new uniform color-ish of choice is looking to put Just for Men out of business.  This is happening because “alternate” uniforms represent great marketing tools. They lead to additional revenue streams as fans look to gobble up the latest and greatest merchandise that their favorite teams have to offer.  The other boon for schools in the fancy pants race is on the recruiting trail, as new unis are the equivalent of recruiting bling.  Georgetown must be ahead of the curve because they have sported various shades of gray for years.  But then again the Hoyas reside in Washington, D.C., land of the gray area.  While the overall color scheme is not yet known, it appears Syracuse and Connecticut will be getting into the act as Nike is reported to be making an announcement on what is in store (or Storrs) as early as this morning.
  4. The Big East announced yesterday that Navy will join the conference as a football playing member in 2015, confirming numerous reports that surfaced on Monday.  “When people look back, they will mark this as a truly historic day for the Big East Conference,” said Big East Commissioner John Marinatto before adding, “That Navy would give up 100 years of football independence speaks to the long-term viability of the Big East.” Navy has enjoyed success on the gridiron, making a bowl game in eight of the last nine seasons.  Upon joining the Big East, Navy will continue its traditional rivalry games with non-Big East football schools Army, Air Force and Notre Dame, as well as retain the television contracts that go along with those contests.  “Stability in the Big East was a very important aspect in our discussions with the commissioner,” said Vice Admiral Michael Miller, superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy. “What we see is a very bright future for the conference.” A notable byproduct of its membership announcement is that it kicks in a previously agreed-upon increase of the Big East exit fee to $10 million (from $5 million) should any member school depart from this point forward.
  5. It has definitely been somewhat of an upside down year in the Big East with traditional powers such as Villanova and Pittsburgh at or near the bottom of the league to this point.  Entering the season, Villanova fans knew that the Wildcats were young and that they had absolutely no momentum to latch onto from last season.  It was a season where Villanova lost its final six games, including first-round exits from both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. That lack of a foundation certainly translated to this year as the Wildcats (10-10, 3-5 Big East) went just 7-5 in non-conference play that did, however, include losses to quality teams such as Missouri and Temple (I think I just heard ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes say Temple could be in the Final Four).  As a certain work in progress Villanova head coach Jay Wright hopes his team is turning the corner now that his team has won two straight games.  Wright understands that with teams like this, he needs potential breakout players such as 6’6” junior guard Dominic Cheek (12.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and 6’10 junior forward/center Mouphtaou Yarou (11.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG) to shed the potential moniker, step it up a level and join emerging star Maalik Wayns who is averaging 30.7 points per game over the last three.   Wright’s assessment is that “Mouph and Cheek are not where we thought they’d be,” but he did go on to say, “I like this group. I do think we’re getting better. It’s slow, but we’ve got to find a way to enjoy this process.”  Villanova is on the road at Louisville this evening.
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Checking In On… The Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 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

  • Syracuse A Cut Above: With wins over Villanova and Providence this week, Syracuse has moved its record to 19-0 (6-0), equaling the best start in school history (1999-2000). On Monday night, the Orange will try to move to 20-0 for the first time ever when they host Pittsburgh, a team they have lost to five straight times. With 12 games remaining, people are starting to wonder if Syracuse can run the table. It would be a surprise if Jim Boeheim’s team lost at home to anyone, despite visits by Georgetown and Connecticut to the Dome in February. On the road, possible tough trips to Cincinnati, Connecticut, and Louisville appear to be the only obstacles standing in the way of an undefeated season. Syracuse has a 13.7% chance of going 31-0, according to the Pomeroy ratings, but I would put it higher. I think the Orange have a 40% chance to go all the way and those odds are getting better each and every day.
  • Connecticut Back On Track: After consecutive losses to Seton Hall and Rutgers almost two weeks ago, some had wondered if this Connecticut team would ever live up to its preseason billing as a top-five team. While I doubt that is true, the Huskies responded in a big way this past week by defeating West Virginia and Notre Dame. UConn used a 17-3 second half run, sparked by a Jim Calhoun technical, to overcome a ten-point deficit against the Mountaineers before going on the road and snapping Notre Dame’s 29-game home court winning streak. Andre Drummond had a terrific week, but the bigger story might be Alex Oriakhi showing signs of improvement. The junior forward had been in a season-long slump but managed to score 20 points this week, including a 12/7 performance in the win against the Fighting Irish.  However, there was some bad news mixed in for UConn last week. Ryan Boatright was suspended by the NCAA on Friday night for the second time over eligibility concerns.
  • Pittsburgh and Louisville Embarrassed: Raise your hand if you predicted these scores at the beginning of the year: Providence 90, Louisville 59. Rutgers 62, Pittsburgh 39 (at Pitt). Two of the power programs in the conference were waxed by two perennial bottom-feeders, all part of what has been an unpredictable season in the Big East. Louisville has lost four of six while Pitt is in more dire straits having lost six consecutive games. That could easily be seven in a row after the Panthers return from Syracuse tomorrow night. The good news for both teams? They bounced back and played fairly well in games on Saturday with the Cardinals disposing of DePaul and the Panthers nearly stealing an impressive road win at Marquette. Pitt lost the game, but Jamie Dixon had to have picked up some encouraging vibes from that performance. Pittsburgh and Louisville will get together this Saturday in the Steel City.

 

Ask The Never-Satisfied Jim Boeheim What He Thinks Of His Team's Chances At An Undefeated Season, And This Will Likely Be His Reaction. (Frank Ordoñez / The Post-Standard)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (19-0, 6-0) – This team just keeps on chugging along and nobody has really threatened the Orange in a big way this season. There have been close calls here and there (Stanford, Florida, and Marquette), but Syracuse is a cut above every other team in this conference. As I mentioned above, I believe there is a good chance this team runs the table in conference play. Dion Waiters scored 20 points at Villanova, part of 47 bench points for the Orange, compared to 32 for the starters. Syracuse held the Wildcats to 33% shooting on their home floor at the Wells Fargo Center. Against Providence, it was all Orange from the start. Syracuse had 12 steals and forced 22 Friar turnovers. Scoop Jardine played like a quality point guard, scoring ten points but dishing out nine assists. The Orange blocked ten Providence shots and shot 73% in the second stanza. Syracuse continues to rank in the top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency, but the Achilles heel for this team seems to be rebounding specifically on the defensive end. The Orange rank #307 in defensive rebounding percentage, but I don’t anticipate that being a major problem until tournament time. This week: 1/16 vs. Pittsburgh, 1/21 @ Notre Dame. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 01.11.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 11th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Will the number one team in the land survive a rivalry road test? Can Missouri bounce back from its recent beatdown to win an away game? Here’s what to expect from two Top 10 teams in tough spots tonight:

#1 Syracuse at Villanova – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (***)

Can Villanova Save Its Season Tonight by Beating #1 Syracuse? (AP Photo)

  • Undefeated Syracuse comes into this game playing as well as any team in the country, but their toughest away games of the season have been at NC State and Providence, so they’re not exactly road tested. The Orange will certainly have the advantage in this one, as their 2-3 zone defense has been incredibly effective this season at forcing turnovers and limiting paint opportunities. Nova’s a team that struggles in these two areas to begin with, and also a team that fires up a lot of threes (over 20 per game) at a low conversion rate (30%, ranked in the bottom 50 nationally). If Syracuse simply executes defensively and forces the Wildcats into a three-point barrage, they’ll have a huge advantage. Jim Boeheim’s team will come at Villanova with their deep array of weapons, where Kris Joseph (14.1 PPG) and Dion Waiters (12.5 PPG) should have opportunities to score in transition and on the wings against Villanova’s poor perimeter defense.
  • Villanova is in the midst of a year to forget, but they can change the outlook of the entire season with a win tonight. The Wildcats are dying for a victory of this caliber, and fans must be fired up in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for this rivalry home game against the number one team in the land. If the Wildcats are going to have a chance to win, they need to stop chucking up threes, especially in this game against a zone defense that will encourage them to shoot from the outside. Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek each attempt over four three-pointers per game and both are shooting under 30% from deep! Instead, these talented guards need to play off of each other. Wayns (17.4 PPG, 4.75 APG) is one of the quickest guards in America and can penetrate the teeth of a zone defense, and from there he must make good decisions and find teammates moving amongst the trees for good shot opportunities. Jay Wright’s team also must stay out of foul trouble and defend the perimeter if they want to have a chance.
  • This seems like an uneven matchup on paper, but it could be a serious trap game for Syracuse. They haven’t yet played a good conference team on the road, and Villanova is a rival who will be fired up for this one. If Nova can find early success against the Syracuse zone, then they could have a chance in this one.
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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 19th, 2011

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

  • Khem Birch Leaves Pittsburgh: In what was certainly a surprising development, Pittsburgh announced that highly-touted freshman Khem Birch would be leaving the program for personal reasons. No future destination for Birch was announced. The 6’9” freshman averaged 4.4 PPG and 5.0 RPG in 15 minutes per game for Jamie Dixon, including a season-high 15 points at Pennsylvania on November 25. Birch, a Canadian, was a five-star prospect out of Notre Dame Prep. Birch’s departure will be felt by a Panthers team still trying to find its identity. Pittsburgh remains a very deep team but has to get its defense in order to be able to win consistently once conference play begins.

Khem Birch Left Pittsburgh, Which Shocked No One Familiar With The Commitment Issues Of Well-Traveled Young Phenoms

  • Cincinnati Responds In Impressive Fashion: After losing a bunch of guys to suspensions (including Yancy Gates) stemming from the brawl with Xavier, Cincinnati somehow put together its two best offensive performances of the season. The Bearcats scored 78 in a win at Wright State before throttling Radford with 101 points on Saturday. Maybe the suspensions were just what Mick Cronin needed to get his team focused. While the competition wasn’t great, Cincinnati all of a sudden looks like an improving team after this week.

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (11-0) — The Orange passed their first road test of the season, winning comfortably at NC State on Saturday. Dion Waiters led the way off the bench yet again with 22 points on 9-14 shooting while Kris Joseph added 21. Now that Syracuse has gotten by NC State without any trouble, the Orange could hold onto the top spot in the national rankings for quite some time. Jim Boeheim has some tricky games coming up against upstart Seton Hall, conference title contender Marquette and still-dangerous Villanova, but those are three games Syracuse should not lose. One area for the Orange to focus on in practice this week is defense. NC State shot 57.7% from the floor on Saturday. This week: 12/20 vs. Bucknell, 12/22 vs. Tulane.  Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Checkpoint: Buy, Sell, Hold

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 14th, 2011

Midway through December and it has already been an eventful college basketball season.  Teams have logged a fair sampling of games as they head into final exams and finish up the non-conference portion of their schedules, so we thought it would be a good time to assess the state of the Big East by comparing each team to… itself.  Below is the Preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll by projected order of finish.  We are going a little Jim Cramer on you (BooYah Skee-Daddy!), placing a Buy, Sell or Hold rating based on the team’s play to date versus preseason expectations.

1 (tie). Connecticut (8-1): I am no stock market expert but when I see a team as loaded as UConn sitting at No. 9 in the most recent poll, buying stock in the Huskies is a no-brainer. Jim Calhoun has feuded with center Alex Oriakhi and questioned his team’s drive early in the season, but this team is too deep and too talented to be ranked that low in national polls. And when you consider how much freshmen Ryan Boatright and Andre Drummond will improve over the next few months, I am already starting to look for a new luxury sedan to buy with the money from my winning. Rating: BUY

Boatright Has Given the Huskies a Lift (John Wolke, Hartford Courant)

1 (tie). Syracuse (10-0): There is no way we can buy right now and that is good news for Syracuse fans, because the ‘Cuse is on top and can rise no higher at the moment. If this were a quick trade we’d sell and look to buy back after their first loss because it is hard to envision the #1 ranked team in the country staying there all year, but we are in this for the long haul and so are the Orange. Rating: HOLD

3. Louisville (9-0): It’s impossible not to be impressed with the job Rick Pitino has done at Louisville this season given the team’s rash of injuries and lack of top-flight scorers, but I am still selling the Cardinals. For starters, their early season schedule has been very soft and their only difficult opponent was Vanderbilt, whom they needed overtime to outlast. There is no doubt that their defense and depth makes them a top-10 team, but it’s hard to put them ahead of teams like UConn and North Carolina because  they just don’t have the scoring punch or the go-to player in crunch-time.  If you are determined to hold Louisville stock, you probably won’t lose much, but now is the time to sell high. Rating: SELL

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Big East Morning Five: 12.14.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 14th, 2011

  1. News from the Bernie Fine saga has slowed to a trickle in recent weeks but that doesn’t mean it is done causing Syracuse headaches. Today brought word that accusers Mike Lang and Bobby Davis have retained noted publicity hound Gloria Allred to sue the university and Jim Boeheim for defamation. It is difficult to feel for Boeheim in this situation because he brought it upon himself with his strong comments in the wake of the initial news. If you thought Boeheim and his team were going to face distractions before, things are probably going to get a lot worse now that Allred will have microphones in front of her face. The most intriguing dynamic in all of this is that the Orange are good enough and deep enough to overcome these serious obstacles, but we will have to wait to see how they handle the microscope.
  2. Seton Hall is off to a great start at 8-1 this season and they should be getting more help in the frontcourt when talented freshman Brandon Mobley returnsafter he was cleared to play Sunday against Mercer. Mobley is a skilled offensive player but Pirates’ fans should temper their expectations as it will take time for him to adjust to live game-action. At the same time, Kevin Willard’s team is thin at the forward position and adding a player like Mobley will give him some flexibility.
  3. After Temple students taunted Villanova with eight roll-out signs and beat the Wildcats in their latest annual matchup, maybe Villanova should start letting its students bring signs into the games from now on. It can’t hurt. The Wildcats are off to a lackluster start and even needed to come back from a halftime deficit to beat Boston University last night. It certainly doesn’t look like much has changed for Jay Wright and his team after last season’s late meltdown. Mouphtao Yarou is quickly becoming a solid two-way big man but Maalik Wayns reminds many of Corey Fisher, and it is because of his shot selection and penchant for turnovers rather than his star qualities. The team can still make the NCAA Tournament but they are young and it may be another year or two before they are true contenders again.
  4. I love Andy Glockner from Sports Illustrated and there is nothing wrong with his latest article, but I was hoping for a theme less obvious than  ”Connecticut is getting really good again.” As always, Glockner excellently analyzes UConn’s first nine games and highlights the emergence of Ryan Boatright and Andre Drummond as big reasons for the team’s recent success. But I am not buying the take that this team isn’t generating a lot of buzz, especially considering they had a preseason first-team All-American, another preseason Freshman of the Year favorite, and a preseason Top 5 ranking. They haven’t really surprised anybody, as they remain a very good team and a national title contender.
  5. The DePaul Blue Demons don’t spend much time in the focus of Big East basketball fans, but Oliver Purnell is starting to get the resurrection of the program going, beginning with recruiting. Freshman Jamee Crockett is an excellent example of Purnell’s early work. Now a starter, Crockett is becoming a consistent scorer for the Blue Demons and his athleticism is a welcome spark for a team trying to compete in one of the nation’s most difficult conferences. He probably won’t make a big difference this season, but it is still a good sign for Purnell and his ongoing rebuilding effort.
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Set Your TiVo: The Jimmy V Classic Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 6th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The V Foundation has been able to give over $90 million to more than 100 cancer research facilities nationwide since the organization was founded in 1993. Tonight means way more than college basketball. So while you are watching the games tonight at home, take a minute to remember what these folks are doing for our friends and family. Let’s take a look at the hoops action this evening at the Jimmy V Classic in NYC.

Marcus Denmon And The Tigers Kick Off the Jimmy V Classic in NYC (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

#10 Missouri vs Villanova – 7 PM EST on ESPN HD (***)

  • Missouri is deadly accurate from the floor. Through seven games, the Tigers are shooting 58.2% from two and 43% from three. Look for Mizzou guards Marcus Denmon and Kim English to continue their hot shooting against a Villanova team that ranks 108th in effective field goal defense. Nova was recently beat-up by another excellent shooting team in the St. Louis Billikens. If Jay Wright does not address his team’s field goal defense quickly, Missouri is going to blow out the Wildcats just like they have every other opponent this season.
  • Villanova has a distinct height advantage against Missouri. If Wright’s club is to have any chance in this game, they are going to have to use that height and grab all the offensive rebounds they possibly can. Missouri’s speed and accuracy on offense puts pressure on the opposing offense to not have any empty possessions. Keep an eye Wildcats’ 6’10” forward Mouphtaou Yarou on the inside. Yarou needs to own the offensive boards. If Villanova is missing shots against an aggressive Tiger defense and not grabbing offensive boards, the game will be over quickly for Wright’s team.
  • Missouri’s speed, accuracy, and experience will prove to be the difference in this game. Thus far, Villanova has not proven they have a defense to stop a team that shoots as well as Mizzou. If Yarou and the rest of the Wildcats can grab offensive boards, they will have a chance but ultimately the pressure Denmon and English put on the team will be too much.

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RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • The Realignment Circus Continues: The latest blow to the Big East came just recently as West Virginia was accepted into the Big 12. That leaves the Big East with 13 basketball schools remaining and a handful of others (football schools) desperately trying to flee the sinking ship. Commissioner John Marinatto has said he is committed to holding Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia to the 27-month notice provision in the conference’s bylaws but one has to wonder if a financial settlement will be worked out in order to expedite the transition and move the conference into rebuilding mode. It’s going to be quite awkward if these three schools remain in the league until 2014. All of the current Big East members should eventually find a stable home in one form or another, but the days of Big East basketball as we know it will soon come to an end. Enjoy the 2011-12 season because it just might be the last year of this remarkable 16-team behemoth.
  • How Many Bids This Year?: After sending a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament last year, can the Big East reach that mark again? That seems unlikely but you never know how things will truly play out. I’d say there are ten contenders for NCAA bids and to make 11 you would need all of those teams plus one of the three New York City-area schools to have a wildly successful year and snatch a bid. The Big East is quite possibly the best conference in the land yet again but 11 NCAA teams is far-fetched. Eight or nine bids this season would seem to be much more realistic.
  • Can Connecticut Repeat?: The technical answer is yes but it will be extremely tough to do. There’s a reason only two teams have gone back-to-back in the last 20 years. College basketball is as deep as ever in terms of talent and quality teams, plus there’s someone missing from last year’s Connecticut team. Kemba Walker is now in the NBA and, despite Jim Calhoun’s impressive recruiting haul, there is a major leadership void to be filled. This team is stocked with talent but Walker was a one-of-a-kind leader who took complete control in Maui and parlayed that into a way of life for the rest of the season. Jeremy Lamb figures to take control but remember how young this group is. They’ll get better as the season progresses and may even win the Big East but when the chips are down in the NCAA Tournament, they won’t be able to call on Kemba and that’s why I feel they will not repeat.

Calhoun Won't Have His Mr. Everything Around This Season

  • Cautious Optimism at Georgetown, Villanova and West Virginia: These traditional powers lose a lot of talent and figure to be lodged in the middle of the conference. All three programs return key cogs but the departures of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, Casey Mitchell, John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla leave more questions than answers. These teams all need someone to step up and become a deep shooting threat while maintaining a low post presence. Guards win in college basketball but you also have to be able to rebound and score inside occasionally. Hollis Thompson, Mouphtaou Yarou and Deniz Kilicli must become better all-around post men if their respective teams hope to make the NCAA Tournament. At 6’7”, 205 lbs., Thompson isn’t one to bang with the big guys but he’s going to have to score in the paint at times. Each team has a nice recruiting class coming in, but it’s up to the returning players to make the ultimate difference.
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Around The Blogosphere: August 22, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on August 22nd, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

General News

  • Jeff Hathaway is out at UConn: After a long power battle Hathaway is out and Paul Pendergast is replacing him as the interim athletic director. (The UConn Blog: Part 1 and Part 2)
  • Lithuania 76, USA 74: “For the second time in less than two months a Lithuanian team eliminated an American team from medal consideration in an international tournament, as the Americans dropped a two point decision, 74-76, to that Baltic Republic in the World University Games held at Shenzhen University.” (Villanova by the Numbers and Kentucky Sports Radio)
  • USA 94, Romania 73: “A change in the starting five brought a change of fortunes at Shenzhen University Sunday as Team USA posted a 21 point win over fellow quarter final loser Team Romania, and advanced to a showdown with Team Germany for fifth place at the World University Games.” (Villanova by the Numbers)
  • Georgetown Hoyas Defeat Liaoning Dinosaurs 91-69 in Shanghai: “In their first game since the infamous game ending brawl with the Bayi Rockets, the Georgetown Hoyas got another win against a professional Chinese team, defeating the Dinosaurs of Liaoning by a score of 91-69.” (Casual Hoya)
  • Cal Men’s Basketball Beats Danes, 81-73: The Bears defeated the Danish National Team behind 21 points from Robert Thurman. (California Golden Blogs)
  • Cal Men’s Basketball Has Room for Seconds, Polishes off Danish 95-78: “For the weekend re-match against the Danish national team, the Golden Bears would have to get it done without starting big men Harper Kamp (knee) and Richard Solomon (eye). Although both players could probably have made a go of it for a regular season game, it was a great experience for the youngsters to step up.” (California Golden Blogs)
  • Gonzaga Conference Schedule: A look at the current schedule with times and TV appearances. (The Slipper Still Fits)
  • Blackshear and Ware good to go, Swop nearing 100%: Rick Pitino offers some updates on the eligibility of several players. (Card Chronicle)
  • Pac-12 Basketball Tournament May Be Moving: “Larry Scott talked to ESPN.com earlier this week about some of the changes that have come to the conference since he bacame commissioner two years ago. While the conference’s expansion and the two massive media deals were the lead topics of the discussion, Scott teased that he is rethinking how the Pac-12 basketball tournament is organized, including its current home in LA.” (Bruins Nation)
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Conference Report Card: Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 19th, 2011

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • College basketball has never witnessed a season like this year’s Big East. The conference destroyed its own record of eight NCAA bids by placing 11 clubs in the Big Dance this year and also claimed the national champion with Connecticut, which spent most of the season in the middle of the pack in the Big East. The Huskies also gave the conference its first title since the Huskies last did the trick in 2004. While there was not a truly great team in the Big East (including Connecticut), the league was better than any other from top to bottom. Of the five teams that failed to make the NCAA Tournament, only South Florida and DePaul were truly uncompetitive. Rutgers showed signs of improvement while Seton Hall managed to win seven league games and gave some good teams a major scare in the process. Even Providence, which finished 4-14, knocked off Louisville and Villanova in consecutive games back in January. Despite the lackluster NCAA showing by most Big East members, it says here the conference boasted the best player in the nation (sorry, Jimmer) and a deserving national champion. Additionally, ten Big East teams were ranked in the AP Top 25 at some point this season. Say what you want about its postseason performance (it’s certainly fair to bash the league in that regard), but this was by far the best conference in the nation this year.

Jim Calhoun (left) and Kemba Walker will be inextricably linked to UConn's memorable NCAA Tournament run. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

Team-by-Team (teams are in order of finish, but grades are based on performance vs. expectations):

  1. Pittsburgh (28-6, 15-3): The regular season was terrific once again for Jamie Dixon and the Panthers but, as has become common over the years, they fell short of their goal–getting to the Final Four. Pittsburgh lost four of their final eight games after starting the season 24-2. A mid-season injury to Ashton Gibbs was thought to bring them down a peg, but Pitt responded with wins at West Virginia and Villanova without him to quiet any doubters. That turned out to be their peak. Dixon did not really test his team out of conference except for two games at Madison Square Garden against Maryland and Texas back in November as part of the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer event and a “home” game (in Pittsburgh) against Tennessee, which they lost. Looking back, one theory could be that an average non-conference schedule did not adequately prepare this team for the NCAA Tournament which is all about match-ups and teams you haven’t seen before from other leagues. While Big East coaches love to use the strength of the league as a crutch when questioned about a lack of non-conference heft to their schedule, I think this is a theory that has to be taken into consideration. Big East play is obviously rough and tumble every night but that can actually be a detriment come tournament time when games are officiated tighter and you don’t have as much time to prepare for an opponent who you likely don’t know very well, if at all. Pitt will lose Gilbert Brown, Brad Wanamaker, and Gary McGhee to graduation while Gibbs tests the NBA waters. I expect Gibbs to come back to join a very good recruiting class led by five-star forward Khem Birch. Despite the loss of three senior leaders, look for Pitt to be in the thick of the Big East race yet again next season. Dixon has established a culture of winning and I have learned never to doubt him after witnessing the 2009-10 campaign, a season that certified Dixon as one of the best basketball minds in the country. While this year was a great success during the regular season, Pitt’s inability to get to the Sweet Sixteen and eventually the Final Four renders this year a disappointment. GRADE: B- Read the rest of this entry »
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