Night Line: Another Year, Another Underrated Georgetown Team

Posted by EJacoby on November 21st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

It didn’t earn the victory in Tuesday night’s Progressive Legends Classic final against #1 Indiana, but Georgetown proved once again that it’s a painfully underrated team this season. The unranked Hoyas took the nation’s top-ranked team to overtime in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center after hanging around all night in an entertaining back-and-forth game that didn’t make John Thompson III’s team seem like the underdog. Riding the clutch performance of do-it-all sophomore star Otto Porter and the hot hand of junior Markel Starks, Georgetown competed with the Hoosiers and nearly converted back-to-back upset victories after defeating #7 UCLA on Monday. In the end it was Indiana with the 82-72 win in a solid performance that saw every Hoosier starter score in double figures, but it took an extra session to put away JTIII’s team. This season’s Hoyas flew under the preseason radar yet again, but they’ll be ranked in the top-25 come next week after an impressive showing in the Legends Classic.

Otto Porter has his Georgetown Hoyas back in the fold as a serious contender (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

Last season, the Hoyas were picked to finish tenth in the Big East’s preseason coaches’ poll before riding a consistent fringe top-10 overall ranking and finishing as an NCAA Tournament #3 overall seed. They at least earned a bit more respect from fellow conference coaches by being selected fifth in the 2012-13 Big East preseason poll, but G’Town once again looks like it has the talent, strategy, and toughness to compete with nearly anyone in the nation after taking top-ranked Indiana to the brink on Tuesday. It’s as if we had all forgotten about last season already, when the Hoyas lost leading scorers Austin Freeman and Chris Wright but didn’t miss a beat as fresh stars emerged with newfound roles. Despite three top dogs Jason Clark, Henry Sims, and Hollis Thompson all now gone this year, these 2012-13 Hoyas have again found former reserves to fill bigger roles and continue the consistent success of the Georgetown zone-heavy defense, Princeton-style offense, and overall winning program.

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Otto Porter’s Head Injury Exposes Georgetown’s Weakness Inside

Posted by IRenko on November 11th, 2012

I. Renko is a DC-based correspondent for Rush the Court. You can follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Exactly seven months ago, rumors ran through the internet that top recruit Nerlens Noel was poised to follow up his tweeted plan to “shock the world” by picking the Georgetown Hoyas over John Calipari’s Kentucky juggernaut. Instead, Noel revealed his decision by unveiling a UK logo that had been cut into his famous flat-top haircut. His spurning of Georgetown dashed the hopes of Hoyas fans who had been fantasizing about adding Noel’s name to a legacy of dominant big men that includes Ewing, Mourning, Mutumbo, and more. More importantly, Noel’s decision left a big question mark on a program that had graduated star center Henry Sims and had no clear successor at the five spot.

Georgetown’s Prospects May Depend on the Development of Mikael Hopkins (AP Photo / Jay LaPrete)

On Sunday night in DC, that question mark was underlined in red. After an ugly 61-55 win against Duquesne, Hoyas fans’ biggest worry was probably the early departure of super sophomore Otto Porter, who, it was later revealed, was kept out as a precaution after he took a blow to the head in the first half.  But a more subtle concern was the uneven play of Sims’ would-be replacement, sophomore Mikael Hopkins. Hopkins struggled to find his way on both ends of the court, often tentative on offense and decidedly unimposing on defense, despite playing an undersized Duquesne team whose tallest starter was just 6’7″.

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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #6 Georgetown

Posted by mlemaire on November 5th, 2012

Georgetown’s three leading scorers from last season – Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson Jr., and Henry Sims – are all gone. But while the trio were excellent college players, none of them were true NBA talents. You know who is a true NBA talent? Hoyas’ sophomore forward Otto Porter (9.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 52.5% FG), who is back on campus and ready to become the star of a young and inexperienced team. Porter is a projected lottery pick expected to make quite a leap this season, and without the precocious forward, John Thompson III would be staring down a very long season. But with Porter in tow and solid complementary pieces like Markel Starks and Nate Lubick, plus freshmen like D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Stephen Domingo, the Hoyas should have enough talent to compete for an NCAA Tournament berth and maybe even a top-six seed.

2011-12 Record: 24-8, 12-6

2011-12 Postseason: 1-1, Lost 66-63 to North Carolina State in Round of 32.

Otto Porter Was Terrific As A Freshman, But He Will Be Better This Season.

Schedule

Georgetown opens with a stiff test against No. 10 Florida on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Jacksonville and just 10 days later they head to the Legends Classic where they will start with No. 13 UCLA and potentially end with a match-up against No. 1 Indiana if they get past the Bruins. They have two more tough tests, one at home against Tennessee in the SEC/Big East Challenge, and the other in Madison Square Garden less than a week later against Texas. It should be noted that after the season opener against Florida the Hoyas don’t play a true road game until starting conference play after the new year, although it is hard to find fault in that considering how much other traveling the Hoyas will be doing this winter. Their conference schedule doesn’t hold any surprises as they will play Marquette, Syracuse, Rutgers, and St. John’s twice while only facing the rest of the conference once.

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Big East Summer Capsules: Georgetown Hoyas

Posted by mlemaire on August 9th, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Georgetown.

1. The Summer of Otto.

It’s No Secret That Big Things Are In Store For Otto Porter (AP/R. Sutton)

One of the primary reasons Georgetown exceeded expectations last season was the surprisingly mature play of freshman forward Otto Porter, who came into the program from a tiny high school in Missouri with zero experience on the AAU circuit and promptly averaged 9.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in just a shade under 30 minutes. He was one of the more talented role players in the entire country but now, thanks to the departures of Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson, and Henry Sims, he is the team’s leading returning scorer and rebounder and will be counted on heavily on both ends of the floor as the Hoyas look to rebuild around a young but talented core. At 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds, Porter is more than physically and athletically capable of handling his new role as the offensive focal point; the question will be how he handles the increased attention from opposing defenses. He is not a guy who is going to light you up with his shooting, so he will need to rely on his quickness and strength to create open looks. John Thompson III has a very young and inexperienced team, and most experts do not expect much from the Hoyas this season, but Porter made an impression when no one expected much from him, so now maybe he can help his team do the same.

2. Who is going to step up alongside Porter?

The list of breakthrough candidates for the Hoyas is really quite long. The two most likely candidates to step up are junior point guard Markel Starks and sophomore forward Greg Whittington. Starks is going to be the team’s primary ball-handler and is a threat from behind the arc. Whittington can also shoot it from deep some and he has the size and athleticism to be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. But they aren’t the only two to watch. Sophomore center Mikael Hopkins was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school who looked lost as a freshman but has the talent to make an impact. Nate Lubick is the team’s elder statesman and should increase his production as he gets more playing time, and sophomore Jabril Trawick showed flashes of talent in limited minutes last season. Georgetown has been able to achieve sustainable success because it seems like every year there is always one holdover from the team the year before who makes the jump and becomes and All-Big East caliber player. There is no doubt that Porter has the look of that player this season, but he is only going to be a sophomore, so if Thompson wants to ensure his team’s return to the NCAA Tournament, he should hope that one part of his supporting cast steps into a leading role this season.

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Night Line: Sims, Georgetown Becoming a Surprise Force in the Big East

Posted by EJacoby on December 2nd, 2011


Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Amidst all the disappointing results coming out of the Big East Conference so far this year, the Georgetown Hoyas are the league’s most pleasant surprise, quickly developing into an impressive team on both ends of the floor. After playing well in its first six games, John Thompson, III’s team officially confirmed its status as a legitimate Top 25 team with a hard-fought win at Alabama on Thursday night. Thanks to the tremendous improvement of center Henry Sims, the Hoyas look like one of Thompson’s teams of old, running a crisp Princeton offense with a go-to big man in the high post, a la Greg Monroe or Roy Hibbert. A team that was picked to finish 10th in the Big East preseason poll, Georgetown suddenly looks like a legitimate contender in the league.

Georgetown Outlasted Alabama, Adding to Its Impressive Early Season Record (AP/R. Sutton)

Thursday’s road win at No. 11 Alabama should open plenty of eyes across the country, in case they weren’t focused on the Hoyas during their solid run last week in the Maui Invitational. With his team down by one, Hollis Thompson sank a game-winning three-point shot with two seconds to play for the win. In the process, Georgetown snapped the nation’s fourth-longest home winning streak, 24 wins in a row for the Tide in Tuscaloosa. The Hoyas are now 6-1 with two wins over top-15 opponents away from home, the other coming against Memphis in Maui. Their only loss was a slim defeat to Kansas in that same Maui tournament. Georgetown’s resume is shaping up nicely, and Hoya Paranoia is most definitely back in action.

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RTC Summer Updates: Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 11th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our Big East update comes from frequent RTC contributor Brian Otskey, co-author of Get to the Point.

Readers’ Take

Summer Storylines

  • Connecticut Revels In National Championship Glory: Connecticut’s storybook year continued on into the offseason as the Huskies were invited to the White House for an event with President Obama on May 16. The team presented the president with a #1 UConn jersey and posed for photographs after being lauded for their remarkable accomplishment. Connecticut made one of the most improbable runs ever en route to the third national championship in school history, all coming since 1999, going 23-0 outside of Big East regular season play. Nobody could have predicted the way last season unfolded and the NCAA Tournament as a whole was a microcosm of that. Connecticut’s national title made up for a lackluster performance by many of the record 11 Big East teams participating in the tournament. Only one other Big East team (Marquette) managed to make it to the second weekend’s Sweet 16. Life without Kemba Walker has begun in Storrs and while the Huskies will be among the 2011-12 Big East favorites, it’ll be very interesting to see who steps up and how the team performs without its warrior. Jeremy Lamb appears to be ready to take over but the way Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi handle their larger roles will be the difference between a team contending for a Big East title and one that finishes fourth or fifth.

Kemba & Co. Celebrated in Style (H-C/B.Hansen)

  • The Ed Cooley Era Begins In Friartown: After Keno Davis stumbled to an 18-36 Big East record over three seasons in Providence, the Friars desperately needed someone to revive their moribund program. Providence has made only two NCAA Tournaments since its 1997 appearance and the last one was eight seasons ago in 2003-04. Enter Ed Cooley, a Providence-born 41-year-old with the fire in his belly needed to succeed in arguably the toughest job in the Big East Conference. Cooley will instill a system of discipline and fundamentals with a special attention to defense, three attributes of successful programs that were sorely lacking under Davis. Cooley’s Fairfield team ranked #22 in the nation in defensive efficiency last season and he improved the Stags’ record each and every year he was there. Providence, a small Catholic school with hardly any recruiting base along with limited facilities and resources, is an incredibly difficult job even before you have to go up against bigger schools like Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh along with tradition-rich programs such as Georgetown, Villanova and Marquette. Cooley must spend his first season laying the foundation for longer term success. He won’t turn this program around overnight but more discipline on and off the court and hard work on the recruiting trail can turn Providence into a solid Big East competitor. We can’t think of many people better suited than Cooley to get the job done at Providence. While it will be a long and difficult process, brighter days are ahead for the Providence program with Ed Cooley at the helm.
  • Signs Of Life In The New York Area: New coach Steve Lavin and St. John’s brought the buzz back to the Big Apple last winter as the Red Storm earned its first NCAA bid in nine seasons. “Lavinwood” has moved east, but St. John’s now enters a year full of mixed feelings. Cautious optimism as well as uncertainty rules the day with nine new faces, part of the nation’s second-ranked recruiting class, making their way to Queens in 2011-12. Malik Stith is the only returnee of note after Dwayne Polee, II, decided to transfer closer to home at San Diego State. St. John’s may be the most unpredictable team in the Big East entering this season. The potential exists for a terrific year if Lavin can mold all this raw talent into a cohesive unit capable of playing with any team in the conference. However, issues with young players, commonly involving playing time and egos, are also very possible and it takes only one incident to destroy the locker room and wreck the season. The Johnnies have enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament again, but Lavin will have to totally adjust his approach to make that happen. With hardly any experience on the roster, he can’t simply roll the ball out and hope for the best. This season will be the biggest test of Lavin’s coaching career on the court, but he faced an even more difficult challenge last year, coaching the entire season with prostate cancer while keeping it a secret until this spring. Turning St. John’s around with that constantly in the back of his mind is an a commendable achievement and we obviously wish Coach Lavin the best of luck fighting this awful disease.
  • Across the Hudson River in New Jersey, Mike Rice and Rutgers appear to be building a program to be reckoned with down the road. The Scarlet Knights have been a dormant program for 20 years, never once enjoying a winning season in any of its 16 years as a Big East member. That may be about to change, although it appears unlikely that Rutgers will crack the .500 mark in league play this season. The fiery Rice reeled in a top 25 recruiting class and now must build on a season of close calls and what-ifs. Rutgers was competitive last year, but could only manage five Big East victories. It’ll take time for the new players to adjust to the collegiate level but bigger and better things should be expected from Rutgers in the years to come. Rutgers, a large state school, has the capability of becoming a pretty good program. All it needs is a commitment from the administration, facility upgrades and great recruiting. Rice is taking care of the latter, now it’s time for the Rutgers brass to provide him with the resources needed to build a top flight program. Rutgers needs major facility upgrades (a RAC renovation has been talked about for over a year), but fundraising has been a major problem. With New Jersey Governor Chris Christie trying to get the state’s financial house in order, there is going to be a lot of resistance to an ambitious project such as this one at the state’s flagship university.

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ATB: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 3rd, 2011

The Lede.  Here’s hoping everyone had a very safe and happy New Year’s 2011.  Just typing those numbers makes it hard for us to believe that there are ten-year olds who never experienced the awesomeness of the 1990s.  Speaking of irrelevant references to timing, with the calendar change we’re now heading into the heart of the season.  Frankly, the first two months in some ways seemed interminable, with far too many mismatches merely acting as a prelude for the conference season where the contenders and pretenders will be inevitably ferreted out.  As a case in point, take a look at last year’s AP Top 10 from one year ago today.  Texas, a first-round NCAA loser, was #2; Kansas and Villanova, both second round losers, were #1 and #6, respectively; the #9 team, North Carolina, ended up in the NIT.  The lesson here is that there are no finished products yet — many teams have barely tested themselves, and it wouldn’t be the first time that a school with a lofty pre-conference record collapses after seeing its own blood on the road.  Who will those teams be?  We have some ideas but it’ll have to wait until later this week.

Your Watercooler MomentMemphis Fan Ejected From Game.  This is a no-brainer.  There weren’t all that many great games this weekend, but an incident that took place near the end of Memphis’ 91-86 win over Tennessee State on Sunday is what will be talked about on Monday morning.  After an on-court scrum where a prominent donor’s wife (is she really the spouse of the Lenny’s Sub Shop guy? — someone please confirm) got agitated from the front row and allegedly yelled at one of the TSU players to “choke on” his mouthpiece, the nearby referee Mark Whitehead threw her out of the game.  Yes, you read that correctly, a fan!  And not just any fan, but a middle-aged female fan who quite obviously presented a clear and present danger to the players on the floor, especially considering the way that she was pumping and waving around those blue pom-pons.  (h/t Chris Littman for the video)

Your Watercooler Moment, Vol. II. Dear Ron: Don’t Eff With Jeannine Edwards — Signed, Billy Gillispie.  This has absolutely nothing to do with college basketball per se, but it involves two media personalities who regularly cover the game and it’s hilarious nevertheless.  SportsByBrooks reported over the weekend that ESPN commentator Ron Franklin (he of the Big Twelve games, mostly) condescendingly called reporter Jeannine Edwards “sweetcakes” and “a-hole” during a production meeting prior to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve.  Franklin was allowed to work that game but he was then pulled from the Fiesta Bowl radio broadcast on Saturday night.  We’re not sure if this is a much more common occurrence with female reporters or what, but people seem to enjoy talking down to Jeannine Edwards.  Former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie of course was widely ridiculed for his treatment of the sideline reporter during an Ole Miss game in 2009, and many people in Wildcat country believe strongly that particular embarrassment was the straw that broke his back as the UK coach.  It’s undetermined what will happen to Franklin as a result of his latest comments, but it should be noted that he had a similar incident five years ago with Holly Rowe and he still remained with the company.  Will Jeannine go two-for-two in her latest battle of the sexes?  Let’s hope so.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

  • Kansas: Best Team in America. So says Miami (OH) forward Antonio Ballard, whose team has had the privilege to play the top three teams in the polls so far this season.  The Red Hawks lost to Duke by 34, Ohio State by 21, and Kansas by 27, but it was the athleticism of the Morris twins who combined for 38/15 coming off the bench that seemed to make the biggest impression.
  • Illinois Starts off Big Ten 2-0.  The Illini got a key home win on Sunday with its victory over Wisconsin in Champaign.  Combined with a win at Iowa last week, and Bruce Weber’s team crystallizes just how important scheduling is in conference races.  A winnable road game followed by a home game against a team they’ll likely battle all year in the second tier of the conference race.  Contrast this with Minnesota who currently sits at 0-2 as a result of road games to Wisconsin and Michigan State.
  • Syracuse, Cincinnati & St. John’s Do Likewise.  With respect to SU and UC, again, scheduling.  Syracuse feasted on two more home meals with Seton Hall and Notre Dame visiting the Carrier Dome, while Cincy got DePaul and the Hall to visit the Queen City.  The anomaly of this group is Steve Lavin’s Johnnies.  Somehow the same team that lost to Fordham and St. Bonnie managed to get Big East road wins at WVU and Providence last week.  If his team is turning a corner, we’ll find out on Big Monday as they host Georgetown at MSG.
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One Man’s Opinion: Contenders After One Month

Posted by zhayes9 on December 6th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

After engulfing myself in a nightly binge of college basketball over the first month of the season- taking in games from the Big Apple to the Little Apple and from Cancun to Maui- here is one man’s evaluation on some of the top teams in the country and where they stand heading into the final weeks of non-conference play:

Kyrie Irving has surpassed expectations thus far

Duke- It’s going to take a near perfect effort to beat Duke this season. Being able to lure Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler back to campus coinciding with a severe down year in the ACC was truly the perfect storm of circumstance. One chance a team may have to dethrone Duke is if they lure Mason Plumlee into two early fouls, keep them in the halfcourt and the Blue Devils become three-happy, but Duke does have five players who can catch fire from deep at any time. Kyrie Irving has surpassed any and all expectations during the first month of the season. His court awareness is reminiscent of a 10-year NBA veteran rather than an 18-year old college freshman. His use of the hesitation dribble, ability to split screens, explode to the basket and display innate court awareness has vaulted Irving to stardom. What makes Duke so lethal is that they have a plethora of options that can explode for 25 points on any given night, just as Plumlee did against Marquette or Singler against Oregon or Irving against Michigan State.  There’s three potential lottery picks on this team, but selfishness is never an issue and they flow together seamlessly on the court. I have a hard time pointing out exactly where Duke slips up this season; after all, they don’t face a currently ranked team the rest of the slate.

Ohio State- Here’s the one team I feel would have a good shot at knocking off Duke on a neutral floor right now. They can come close to matching the Blue Devils at every position on the floor if William Buford runs the point. Jared Sullinger has been overrated a bit in the early going. Most of his production has come off easy dunks and layups and I haven’t seen an array of post moves quite yet, although I trust that they exist in his arsenal. It’s his fellow freshmen that should be receiving more attention. DeShaun Thomas is scoring 13 PPG in just over 17 MPG of play and shooting 56% from the floor. I’ve also been wildly impressed with the headiness and intelligence of Aaron Craft at the point. He’s compiled a near 2/1 assist/turnover ratio in the early going and has done a fantastic job finding shooters Diebler and Lighty off screens or Sullinger in low post position. David Lighty is this team’s MVP. He’s a lockdown defender and has really improved his outside jumper, while Buford may have the best mid-range game in the Big Ten. One should always anticipate Tom Izzo’s team to improve as the season wears on, but the Buckeyes have to be the odds-on favorite to win this conference as of now.

Pittsburgh- I know it’s horribly cliché when talking about Pittsburgh, but “tough” is the first word that comes to mind. Jamie Dixon’s teams are never outworked and currently lead all of college basketball is offensive rebounding percentage. Pitt seemingly has an assembly line of big men they can trot off the bench to give Gary McGhee, Nasir Robinson and Talib Zanna breathers. Dixon loves to run Ashton Gibbs off screens for open looks and the junior sharpshooter is connecting better than ever, although he still lacks true point guard skills. Although the rotation will eventually be trimmed down, Dixon has the luxury of digging 10-deep into his bench that Big East rivals like Georgetown and Connecticut simply do not have. McGhee is the type of bruiser inside that every team would love to throw out there for 20 MPG. He gives Pitt’s offense extra shot opportunities and shuts down opposing big men inside. Pitt doesn’t necessarily have the star power of other Final Four contenders, but their toughness and execution as a unit may be enough to carry them to Houston.

Kansas- I think we all need to take a moment to applaud the job Bill Self has done in Lawrence. This program lost two lottery picks and an All-American and have taken maybe one step back. This is a credit to the tremendous depth Self has compiled at Kansas and his staff’s ability to develop players. When Josh Selby is eligible on December 18, this team becomes Final Four good. He could be lumped into the same category as Irving, Walker and McCamey come March. I’ve been wildly impressed with how well the Jayhawks know their roles. The Morris brothers complement each other with Marcus as the inside-outside scoring threat (18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 65% FG, 9/15 from deep) and Markieff perfectly content with doing the dirty work on the boards and in the paint. In and out of Self’s doghouse during his tenure at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor has done a quietly solid job filling in for Selby at the point distributing the basketball.  A player who also flies under the radar is Brady Morningstar. Most just view him as a spot-up shooter, but he’s a valuable cog for Self ushering the fast break and setting up teammates for open looks.

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Ten Opening Night Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 13th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

It would be foolish to draw too many sweeping conclusions after one rust-filled outing against inferior competition, but there are certain elements within a game that can provide a glimpse into what to expect during the season ahead.  After watching a handful of games last night and tracking each and every box score this morning, these ten things caught my eye:

Tinsley is now the full time point guard at Vandy

1. As is often the case in the SEC, Vanderbilt flew under the radar in the preseason. Kentucky’s ballyhooed freshmen class received the buzz, Florida was crowned the prohibitive favorite due to the return of five starters, Bruce Pearl’s recruiting indiscretions vaulted Tennessee into the spotlight for the wrong reasons and Mississippi State could certainly be dangerous when Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney return nine games into the campaign. The Commodores, coming off a 24-9 season and a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, didn’t receive the same publicity as their SEC brethren. But that’s just how Kevin Stallings, one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the business, prefers it. The loss of senior point guard Jermaine Beal (and the premature departure of A.J. Ogilvy inside) was a big reason why many pegged Vanderbilt to take a step back from a season ago, even with returnees John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor oozing with talent and potential. The question was how junior point guard Brad Tinsley would step in for the grizzled veteran Beal and run the Commodores offense with the same aplomb, finding Jenkins off curls and screens for open threes or big man Festus Ezeli in scoring position on the block. Tinsley showed he’s up for the task in a 41-point romp of Presbyterian at Memorial Gymnasium on Friday, notching Vandy’s first triple-double in school history with 11 points and a career high 10 assists and 10 rebounds (not too shabby for a 6’3 guard). Tinsley also collected three steals and only turned the ball over twice. If Tinsley provides playmaking and stability at the point, Taylor lives up to his future lottery pick billing as an impact wing, Jenkins continues his proficiency from deep and Ezeli gives Vandy a presence inside, the Commodores will win 24 games again.

2. Two wins on Friday night may fly under the radar a bit, but are absolutely worth highlighting. The first is Minnesota’s convincing home victory over Wofford. I expected the Terriers to give Tubby Smith’s squad all kinds of trouble and possibly even win this game straight up. Wofford returns four starters, including potential SoCon POY Noah Dahlman, from a stout defensive team that gave Wisconsin a scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Heck, I even pegged them as my Cinderella last week. Throw in yet another Minnesota suspension on Thursday (this time off-guard Devoe Joseph) and this had all the makings of a super competitive test for the Gophers. Instead, Minnesota controlled the game throughout, leading by ten at half and winning 69-55 behind 20/13 from Ralph Sampson and 14/10 in Trevor Mbakwe’s debut in maroon and gold. The Gopher bigs also contained Dahlman to 15 points and the Wofford guards couldn’t find their stroke from deep. Don’t be surprised if this is an RPI top-100 win for Minnesota by season’s end. A second win that stood out is West Virginia’s romp of Oakland, another squad favored to win their conference behind potential first round pick Keith Benson. Benson did his thing with 22/15 but received no help as the Mountaineers utilized a balanced attack- Joe Mazzulla, Dalton Pepper, John Flowers, Deniz Kilicli, Casey Mitchell and Darryl Bryant all scored in double figures- to romp the Golden Grizzlies 95-71. Without an all-Big East perimeter threat like Da’Sean Butler at their disposal, this type of team effort is imperative if the Mountaineers want to vault themselves into the upper echelon of the Big East this season.

3. It’s painfully obvious that Georgetown is going to live and die with their backcourt this season. Their frontcourt pieces- Julian Vaughn, Nate Lubick, Jerelle Benimon and Henry Sims- are unspectacular, role players that can crash the boards, provide versatility and dish from the top of the key in the Georgetown halfcourt offense, but simply cannot be relied upon as consistent scoring threats. The Hoyas opener at reigning CAA champion and preseason favorite Old Dominion exposed this weakness inside. The Monarchs out-rebounded Georgetown by 11, blocked nine more shots and the Hoya forwards only scored eight of the team’s 62 points. Yet Georgetown eked out an enormous road victory on the heels of their experienced and savvy backcourt trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. The threesome led Georgetown back from a second-half deficit with clutch threes and free throws down the stretch, including one from Wright on a crosscourt Hollis Thompson feed where the 6’1 senior wasn’t even able to even land as the shot clocked expired. Given the Monarchs defensive prowess and the return of four starters from a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, this is in all likelihood a top-50 RPI win for Georgetown in the first week of the campaign. If more of those marquee wins are to come, Wright, Freeman and Clark will be the reasons.

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RTC Conference Primer: #2 – Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 5th, 2010

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


Predicted Order of Finish

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

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

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

6th Man

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

Impact Newcomers

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

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

What You Need To Know

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

Predicted Champion

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