Big East M5: 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 13th, 2013

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  1. Sports on Earth‘s Will Leitch compiled a list of the 25 ‘best jobs’ in college basketball, and only one Big East team made the cut: Georgetown. In his one sentence recap of the pick, Leitch says “In retrospect, it’s insane that anyone not named John Thompson ever coached this team.” With its academic profile, location in Washington D.C., a strong basketball city, and tradition, it’s hard to argue against the attractiveness of the Hoyas job. While Georgetown is the only team in his top 25, the “just missing the cut” list includes Butler, Creighton, Marquette, Villanova and Xavier. It’s interesting to see the three new members of the Big East on that list, certainly bolstered by the combination of good recent tradition and a boost by the new conference.
  2. One of the major debates about the new Big East is whether the league should be considered a “power conference.” Villanova blog VU Hoops tackled this question, looking at how the league stacks up according to national basketball analysts, including Jeff Sagarin and Joe Lunardi. Sagarin’s most recent rankings place the Big East fourth among power conferences, while Lunardi has six Big East teams in his current NCAA Tournament field. While the conference lacks power at the top — only Villanova is currently ranked in the Top 25 — the top eight teams all look competitive and the league should be well represented come March. Whether that makes it a power conference is probably open to interpretation, but Big East fans have some good basketball ahead of them.
  3. Numerous publications have released “__ most surprising teams in college basketball” lists as we hit the first quarter mark of the season, and Villanova is getting a lot of play in that category. Yahoo! Sports has the Wildcats second on its list, only behind undefeated Wisconsin. Jeff Eisenberg praises Villanova’s strong rebounding despite its smaller lineups, and their tenacious on-ball defense: “Despite often playing four guards and nobody taller than 6’7″, the Wildcats have been effective rebounding the ball and dominant defensively, surrendering a Big East-best 0.89 points per possession and forcing 16.7 turnovers per game.” Coming into the season the Wildcats were generally projected to finish in the top four or five spots in the conference and likely earn an NCAA bid, but expectations are soaring after a surge into the top 10 in the AP poll and all of the big wins that they picked up in the Bahamas.
  4. St. John’s hosts Syracuse at MSG this Sunday, renewing an old Big East rivalry. The game is big for both sides, but thoughts on this game are quite different between the two fan bases. For St. John’s, this game is a chance to avenge a number of bad losses to Syracuse over the last few years and to reclaim the title of “New York’s College Team,” a slogan that Syracuse proudly boasts both in upstate New York and in Midtown Manhattan. St. John’s fans also don’t love the fact that Syracuse’s strong New York City alumni come out in droves for games at Madison Square Garden. On the other side, Syracuse fans covet games in the Garden but don’t look at the Red Storm as a major rival, at least not since the halcyon days of Lou Carnesecca and Chris Mullin in the 1980s. Georgetown and UConn take the top two slots on most Orange fans’ lists of rivals, followed by some combination of Villanova, Pittsburgh, Louisville and the Johnnies, largely depending on when that person began following the Orange. Rumble in the Garden reflected on this upcoming game, and what it means for fans of both sides.
  5. Kris Dunn‘s Providence career has been marred by injury to this point, and he will unfortunately miss the rest of this season after shoulder surgery, the second on his right shoulder during his time at PC. In an article from The Day‘s Gavin Keefe, Dunn’s father John Seldon didn’t seem thrilled by the way his son’s shoulder issues were handled, especially considering that Dunn experienced some discomfort heading into a game against Rhode Island College in early November: “I’m not a doctor and not the coach. I’m just a parent. [Coach Ed Cooley] runs his program the way he runs his program. I’m not mad at the coach… If I’ve got a kid coming off an injury, I’m going to be watching him. The kid came back from a major injury and was healthy. I would try to take care of him.” Dunn hadn’t been putting up huge numbers for the Friars, but he is a major talent and was expected to combine with Bryce Cotton to form one of the better backcourts in the Big East.
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Trick or Treat: The Big East Schedule Edition

Posted by Todd Keryc on October 31st, 2013

In a little more than a week, the 2013-14 college basketball season will begin. Before it does, let’s take a closer look at the Big East schedule using today’s holiday to break it down.

TRICK: Non-Conference Play Will Mean More to Big East Teams This Season: You may have heard by now that a few prominent teams left the Big East this offseason. Of the top 10 teams from last year, six of them have left for other conferences. That includes two Final Four teams and five NCAA Tournament teams, with UConn’s APR issues being the reason for their exclusion, not their performance on the court. The departure of these perennial powerhouses means Big East teams will be missing important opportunities this year to register key wins against highly-ranked opponents. This puts added pressure on them to schedule serious non-conference games and to make those outings count, rather than relying on league play later on. Georgetown took note and did something smart, scheduling Michigan State for a neutral site game on February 1 in New York. They also have big non-conference games early against Oregon in South Korea and on the road at Kansas.

Thompson Got the Memo on Non-Conference Scheduling This Year

Thompson Got the Memo on Non-Conference Scheduling This Year

TREAT: A Chance to See A Couple of Old School Big East Rivalries: While most Big East fans were heartbroken when some of the league’s biggest names walked away, there is still the chance to see a couple of old match-ups unfold in non-conference play. Next week, Boston College visits Providence in their annual New England meeting, a rivalry that continued even when BC left for the ACC in 2005. On December 8, fans of New Jersey basketball will see their two premiere programs meet again as Seton Hall heads to Rutgers. The two biggest match-ups for Big East fans both involve old friend Syracuse. The Orange returns to its downstate home, Madison Square Garden, to take on longtime rival St. John’s on December 15. Then, on December 28, Syracuse is at home and will take on familiar foe Villanova.

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Big East M5: 10.21.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 21st, 2013

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  1. New York Times writer Zach Schonbrun experienced a sense of relief among the various schools at last week’s Big East Media Day in Manhattan. After many seasons played under the shroud of conference realignment, culminating with the awkwardness of last season’s farewell tour for Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, the Big East is now a settled, basketball-driven league focused on private schools in metropolitan markets. While the conference’s new members — Butler, Creighton, and Xavier — are all located in the Midwest, they fit into the league quite well culturally. St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin actually thinks the new schools fit in better than some of the public universities that have moved on to the American Athletic Conference, and the schools who left for the ACC for largely football-based reasons: “It’s not like a ‘Sesame Street’ deal — which one doesn’t belong… You’ve got a tree, a bush, some seaweed and then a truck. It just didn’t fit. I think now we have a league that’s more similar.”
  2. Georgetown lost an excellent player to the NBA Draft in standout forward Otto Porter, but guard Markel Starks thinks that the Hoyas are more than just one player and that his team will look to prove that this season: “We play as a unit… We play as a group. Obviously, we just lost a great player. Even still, with or without him, we play as a unit. … I think we can still be a very dangerous team.” Starks, now a senior, will probably bear much of the weight of Porter’s absence in the scoring column, after averaging 12.8 points per game last season. He will be joined in the backcourt by D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who proved capable of exploding for big point totals last season. Smith-Rivera scored at least 14 points in three of his last four regular season games last season, and dropped 33 in 34 minutes against DePaul on February 20.
  3. One of the major changes fans will notice in the conference this year is a lack of legendary coaches on the sidelines, although the Big East will not be hurting for talent in that spot. Gone are Hall of Famers like Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino, but rising stars like Marquette’s Buzz Williams and Georgetown’s John Thompson III are poised to lead the conference into this new era. Thompson agrees that the coaching talent in the league is very high: “If you look around the room, the quality of coaching is outstanding. Yes, we lost some Hall of Fame coaches, but I don’t think too many teams want to go up against the guys in this room. Every game is going to be a battle. That was true last year; that’s going to be true this year.” Williams also believes in the overall quality of the league, and thinks it stands up with the best conferences in college basketball: “Every coach is going to say they play in the best league, but if you objectively study the numbers, I think what this league has done the last five years speaks for itself. I think this year that will hold firm, too.”
  4. Even without the likes of Syracuse, Louisville, and UConn, many are excited about the prospects of the Big East, especially those at the league’s three new schools: Butler, Creighton, and Xavier. Between the television contract with Fox Sports 1 and the ability to play at Madison Square Garden, the Big East provides a great increase in exposure for the former Horizon League, Missouri Valley Conference, and Atlantic 10 teams. Rumble in the Garden‘s Chris Ronca caught up with Xavier’s Chris Mack and Creighton’s Greg McDermott, who were both very excited about these new possibilities. Mack says his players are excited about playing at MSG:  ”Playing for your conference championship in the Mecca is an amazing opportunity for Xavier fans and players.” McDermott talked about the league’s TV contract and it’s impact on the Creighton program: ”[Creighton's] fans have longed for this for awhile.” McDermott went on to say that “with Fox [Sports] 1, it’s very exciting for the program… there’ll be a lot of new ideas with how [Creighton's] product is shown nationally.”
  5. Sports Illustrated‘s [and RTC's] Chris Johnson’s “Stock Watch” series sets its gaze on the Big East, and he’s quite bullish on Villanova, while throwing a bit of shade on Butler. Johnson cites Villanova’s surge in the middle of last season, where the Wildcats knocked off top five Louisville and Syracuse outfits in a a five-day stretch, as evidence that Jay Wright’s club is very dangerous. He likes the combination of Ryan Arcidiacono, JayVaughn Pinkston, and Daniel Ochefu, and believes that if the team continues to get to the free throw line and play stingy defense, it can push for the top of the league standings. As for Butler, Johnson believes that the loss of Brad Stevens in conjunction with an increase in the difficulty of conference play will hurt the Bulldogs, as will the departures of Rotnei Clark and Andrew Smith as well as the injury to Roosevelt Jones.
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The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

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Morning Five: 09.26.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 26th, 2012

  1. Yesterday, the college basketball world received some excellent news when North Carolina announced that the biopsy from the surgical procedure on Roy Williams‘ right kidney came back as an oncocytoma, a relatively rare but benign tumor. Of course, there still is the issue of the unknown mass on his left kidney, which the surgical team now plans to biopsy next week. As many media outlets have reported (presumably regurgitating the UNC press release) there is a “good chance” that it will also be benign, but it is worth noting that the literature on the subject cites a 10% risk of the other kidney biopsy coming back as renal cell carcinoma, a type of malignant tumor. So while we were glad to hear the great news about Williams’ initial biopsy, we remain cautiously optimistic about next week’s procedure as well as concerned about the medical ailment that initiated the work-up that led to the discovery of his renal masses. Everyone around the college basketball community is assuredly crossing fingers for more good news out of the UNC camp next week.
  2. Despite recent news to the contrary, it’s an Apple world and the rest of us are merely technology enablers. The company well on its way to a market capitalization of a trillion dollars has invented and led the wave of iPhones, iPads, and other forms of mobile computing over the past decade. As organizations of all shapes and sizes have jumped on the user-friendly platforms to update their business models, improve outreach, and foster efficiencies, it was only a matter of time before they made their way into sports. Following the recent lead of several NFL and college football teams, Duke has now equipped all of its players with new iPads for the purposes of scheduling, statistic tracking, scouting reports and film work. Given that these are still college students who sometimes get distracted and lose things, each iPad will be equipped with tracking software that will allow those sensitive Duke game plans and evaluations of opponent tendencies to be remotely wiped clean.
  3. We don’t mean to make this an all-ACC M5 today, but it seems to be heading that way with yesterday’s news that neither the venerable old Madison Square Garden nor the spanking new Barclays Center apply to host a future ACC Tournament in the next eight years. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reported that bids for the 2016-21 ACC Tournaments came and went with no bids from a New York City venue, raising the much bigger question as to why not? We’ll delve deeper into this topic later today, but a conference tournament with Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and a host of others wouldn’t make for a viable viewing experience in the Big Apple? Do the Barclays Center owners mean to tell us that the Atlantic 10 Tournament is a stronger draw than the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament? Something is very much off about these decisions, and we’re not sure what.
  4. It’s been enough time now since Jim Calhoun‘s retirement at Connecticut for folks to take a step back and carefully evaluate whether the way in which the legendary coach “handed” the program to assistant Kevin Ollie just a month before practice begins was the right move. It’s impossible to predict the future now any more than it was when Dean Smith pulled a similar maneuver in 1997 by leaving his bosses no choice but to hire top assistant Bill Guthridge (for all his recruiting troubles, Gut did get two teams to the Final Four in three seasons, including a 2000 squad that had no business being there). Mike DeCourcy writes that despite what Calhoun is saying about the program’s strength — all true things — Ollie is still “deficient” in coaching experience (two years as a UConn assistant) and, in the worst of all possible scenarios, could find himself in way over his head very quickly. It will certainly be an interesting season up in Storrs.
  5. It’s always preseason here in the blogosphere, and so it’s time for the myriad lists of top players, teams, coaches, and so on to begin leaking out in earnest. SBNation‘s Mike Rutherford has put together a list of the top 100 players in college basketball for the 2012-13 season, and some of his results might surprise you. Early NPOY candidate Cody Zeller is his top overall player, but a North Carolina forward who didn’t get a chance to show terribly much last year makes his top five. From a team perspective, Kentucky, Louisville, Missouri and Florida ended up with four players each on his list, with the Cards grabbing a quartet of the top 46 chosen (full disclosure: Rutherford is a Louisville guy). He writes up the top 50 and even if you don’t agree with some of his selections, just perusing through the list will no doubt get your juices flowing. Enjoy.
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