Previewing the AAC Season to Come…

Posted by CD Bradley on November 9th, 2013

We may have run out of time to write previews for all of the AAC teams, but that doesn’t mean we can’t e-mail each other about our favorite sport on the first day of its season and use the contents of those e-mails as a de facto conference preview. Let’s tip it off!

Louisville Is Expected to Run Away With Its One-Year AAC Tenure

Louisville Is Expected to Run Away With Its One-Year AAC Tenure

Mike Lemaire: So the conference is brand new, almost all of the teams in the conference have major questions to answer, and you don’t need to be a college basketball fan to see that, barring unforeseen injuries or suspensions, Louisville is going to run away with this league quickly. Did I leave anything out C.D.? Are you delusional enough to believe that anyone in the conference has a shot at toppling the Cardinals?

C.D. Bradley: In short, no. Louisville brings the most back, has the best newcomers, the most depth, and the best coach. And their one potential weakness, a thin frontcourt exacerbated by the suspension of Chane Behanan, cannot be readily exploited by their closest competitors, Memphis and UConn. A much more interesting question to me is which of those teams finishes second. They’re largely mirror images — talented and experienced backcourts, frontcourts full of question marks, and young coaches with something to prove. So who you got? Huskies or Tigers?

ML: Until Josh Pastner can prove to me his team can the make the leap and until his fabulous group of freshman live up to their billing, I am sticking with the Huskies. I think Michael Dixon is going to make a huge impact for the Tigers, and I think they will be a surefire NCAA Tournament team by the time the regular season ends, but Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are the best backcourt duo in the conference and DeAndre Daniels and Omar Calhoun are the type of complementary pieces that would be stars for most other Division I programs. They are obviously thin in the frontcourt, but I don’t think that will affect them much in a conference that lacks any dominant big men. Pastner’s teams always seem to have talent and then they always seem to underachieve and fall apart in big games. The Tigers need to prove they have the discipline to go along with the talent before anyone starts to take them seriously as a conference crown contender. I do believe the Cardinals, the Tigers and the Huskies are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league. Things get a bit murkier from here so try and help me sort it out. Can Cincinnati score more than 20 points per game? Can you even tell me one thing about Temple’s team? Should we be taking Larry Brown and his Mustangs more seriously?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: AAC Preview with Dom Amore and Jason Smith

Posted by Walker Carey on November 8th, 2013

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. To read through the entire 2013-14 preseason interview series, click here. As part of our national preview with the AAC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with two AAC experts in Hartford Courant reporter Dom Amore and Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Jason Smith. (Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)


A Couple of AAC Reporters Share Their Preseason Insights With Us

Rush the Court: Even with the departures of Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng from last season’s national championship team, Louisville is still highly ranked and viewed as a contender for another national title. In the past few weeks, news broke that starting forward Chane Behanan is suspended indefinitely. How will Behanan’s banishment affect Louisville in the conference race and what impact will it have on the team when looking at the national landscape?

Dom Amore: Chane Behanan is obviously one of the best players on the team. Along with Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell, he is one of the reasons that Louisville is ranked as high as it is. With the way that Rick Pitino has recruited, though, there are a lot of great players on that team, so it is going to have some depth. Due to that depth, Louisville is going to be able to handle Behanan’s suspension better than most teams would. Still, experience is going to be a huge factor in this league, and Behanan has a lot of that. Losing a guy as good as Chane Behanan and with the experience of Chane Behanan is going to be a problem, but with Louisville’s depth and amount of talent, it should be able to weather the storm until Behanan is able to return.

Jason Smith: I think it all comes down to how long Rick Pitino decides to hold Chane Behanan out for. It sounds to me that Behanan is going to be back. Everything you read says he is doing the right things to get back on the team. I expect him to be back at least by the time conference play begins. You add Behanan to the group Louisville already has with Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell, and you see why Louisville is so highly ranked. Louisville is also adding Chris Jones, who is the reigning national junior college player of the year. Jones and Russ Smith are going to make quite the formidable backcourt. This team is clearly the favorite in the conference and is definitely among the contenders for the national title. There will still be some challenges. It is going to have to figure out who is going to be the big rebounder. Losing Gorgui Dieng created a hole in the frontcourt, so some things still have to be figured out. Still, top-to-bottom, you can see why Louisville is considered one of the best teams in the country.

RTC: Josh Pastner probably has his most talented team since has been the head coach at Memphis. What do you expect from the Tigers in their first season away from Conference USA?

Amore: It is really a great thing for Memphis to be in this conference. There are other teams in this conference – namely, Connecticut and Cincinnati – that might not be too thrilled to be in it. For Memphis, this is a huge and a great step up in class. Memphis won 27 games in a row to finish its tenure in Conference USA. While it really dominated that conference, Memphis has not really been rewarded with high seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Being in this conference where it will play Louisville, Connecticut, and Cincinnati twice will really help with its RPI and those other things that are looked at when determining NCAA Tournament seeding. It is going to be a bigger challenge for Memphis, but it does have a lot of talent and it should be able to do more with that talent in the new league.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

AAC M5: 10.24.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 24th, 2013


  1. It is a bit surprising to see a list of college basketball’s Top 30 freshman and not see any of the players from Memphis‘ fabulous recruiting class make the list. In fact, only three players from the AAC made the list at all; Louisville’s Terry Rozier (#24), SMU’s Keith Frazier (#26) and Cincinnati’s Jermaine Lawrence (#27) are the conference’s only representatives. Judging the country’s best 30 freshmen before the season starts is clearly an exercise done for entertainment and debate purposes, so I will humor them and argue that it’s hard to believe that Austin NicholsKuran Iverson, or Nick King couldn’t make this list, especially given their importance to the Tigers’ frontcourt this season. Josh Pastner lost a lot of production out of his frontcourt and the trio of freshmen are going to be his best bets to replace some or all of that production. Rozier may be more talented and college-ready, but he will have to scratch and claw for minutes in a loaded backcourt. Nichols and Iverson are good candidates to begin the season in the starting lineup and they will have ample opportunities to prove themselves on the court, which is why I believe one or both of those players belong on any list of top freshmen.
  2. At this point, we shouldn’t be surprised when Louisville coach Rick Pitino shows up on a television program that has nothing to do with basketball and says something that makes headlines anyway. But it was still a bit baffling to watch Pitino call the government “totally dysfunctional” while chopping it up about politics with a couple of hosts from CNBC. It’s not that Pitino shouldn’t be allowed to talk about politics in a televised forum as he is a smart guy with plenty of smart things to say about the government. It was just a bit amusing to watch the CNBC hosts do their best to tie basketball into the political questions they were asking and it was even more amusing to watch Pitino effortlessly weave his experience as a basketball coach with what he thinks should be done in Washington, D.C. There is nothing wrong with trying to garner a little publicity by going outside of the usual channels, it was just odd to watch a man who is gearing up to repeat as National Champions explain to CNBC hosts why term limits for congressmen are important.
  3. If you were looking for reasons why the offseason scandal at Rutgers is going to affect the program less than some might think, look no further than juniors Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack. Without trying to compare the actual scandals, one of the primary reasons that Penn State football was able to rebound so quickly was because the majority of the players banded together and decided to stay with the Nittany Lions. A similar situation has unfolded in Piscataway as players were granted a free release after the school fired coach Mike Rice for verbal and physical abuse and some players understandably left for greener pastures. But players like Mack, Jack, Jerome Seagears, and Wally Judge all stuck around to, “finish what I started”, as Jack put it. Not only does the return of these four players mean that new coach Eddie Jordan won’t need to start entirely from scratch, it actually means he has a pretty good nucleus of talent to work with as the team enters a new conference. The Scarlet Knights are still probably not an NCAA Tournament team, which makes the decision of those four players to stay all the more noble. In a sport where leadership is important both on and off the court, Jordan now has a number of mature young men to point to as examples of what leadership looks like.
  4. Everyone already knows about the dynamite backcourt trio of Shabazz NapierRyan Boatright, and Omar Calhoun. They also probably know about multi-talented forward DeAndre Daniels and the expectations on his shoulders. But if the Huskies are going to return to the NCAA Tournament this season, it will be because some of the team’s newcomers stepped up and made impactful contributions. Kevin Ollie‘s first real recruiting class didn’t garner any national attention or win any accolades, but Amida BrimahKentan Facey (assuming he is eligible), and Terrence Samuel will all be expected to play a role on the team this season and their development and early success will be crucial to determining exactly how good this UConn team can be. Brimah and Facey will probably get the most chances to make an early impression because of the team’s stark lack of depth in the frontcourt, but the newcomer most ready to contribute however is George Washington transfer Lasan Kromah. The athletic 6’6″ wing was a double-digit scorer in his career in D.C. and he has all the tools to be a shutdown defender who can guard multiple positions. Ollie has a tough task ahead of him as he tries to find playing time for all of his talented backcourt and wing players without sacrificing too much size, but the added depth and talent are part of the reason why so many expect the Huskies to be back in the NCAA Tournament this season.
  5. Count me among those who aren’t fans of college basketball’s new emphasis on hand-checking. It’s not surprising as every sport is continuously making small tweaks to the rule book that benefit offense in part to make the sport more watchable and exciting, but increased foul calls don’t make college basketball more exciting, they make it more boring. Even the Big 12’s coordinator of officials admitted that players will no longer be able to “guard full-court, man-to-man, in-your-face like we’ve allowed”. Maybe a few years down the road as players get used to the rule and how officials call it, the game will be more exciting and explosive, but I would expect this type of rule to take some time to get adjusted to, which means we will be seeing a lot more ticky-tack fouls called and we will be seeing teams shoot a lot more free throws. Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy astutely pointed out that fans aren’t paying to watch their favorite players foul out of a game and he even brought up Louisville, citing their intense pressure defense as something that will longer be as effective with this new rule. Hooray for the dawn of this new era of offensive basketball…I guess.
Share this story

AAC M5: 10.15.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on October 15th, 2013


  1. In light of indications that Kevin Ware will dress for Louisville’s first game on November 9, RTC writer C.D. Bradley points out that Ware is poised to contribute the same crucial element he brought to the Cardinals’ backcourt last year: length. With defensive stalwart Peyton Siva out of the picture and 5’10″ JuCo point guard Chris Jones expected to start alongside Russ Smith, the ability to plug a rangy 6’2″ Ware into defensive situations will be an indispensable luxury for coach Rick Pitino. Aside from his familiarity with Pitino’s elaborate defense and the disruptive presence he provided as a sophomore, Bradley observes that Ware’s scoring efficiency belies his reputation as a specialist, as he led the Cardinals with 40.6% three-point shooting on (an admittedly limited) 37 attempts last year.
  2. In addition to his contributions on the court, Ware’s role as a program ambassador has apparently paid dividends for Rick Pitino, as recent acquisition Chris Jones said at media day that Ware’s endorsement was “a big reason” behind his decision to attend Louisville. The two former Tennessee signees have apparently been close friends since middle school, and Jones recalled “when he said he liked Coach [Pitino], the city and the fans, I was like ‘Yeah, I have to come here.” Louisville fans are likely very thankful for Ware’s recruitment efforts, as Jones led all scorers with 24 points and outdueled Russ Smith in his team’s most recent Red-White Scrimmage.
  3. Evaluating the trajectories of AAC teams heading into the 2013-14 season,‘s Chris Johnson characterizes UConn and Temple as the teams with the most obvious positive and negative momentum, respectively. Citing the quality and depth of a frontcourt set to feature Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, Omar Calhoun and productive GW transfer Lasan Kromah, Johnson writes that the Huskies are poised to compete for the inaugural AAC title despite concerns about rebounding. As for Temple, the loss of four of the team’s five leading scorers is expected to pose a significant obstacle to the Owls’ bid to extend their streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament berths to seven. Johnson suggests that Temple is likely to remain competitive but finish outside of the top three in an unfortunately-timed rebuilding year.
  4. Despite accumulating a losing record in his first year at the helm, SMU coach Larry Brown has already notched several watershed recruiting coups in his short time on campus. One of a number of standout newcomers at Brown’s disposal this year is 6’11″ first-team junior college All-American Yanick Moreira, who was recently listed among the nation’s 10 “impact junior college transfers” by NBC Sports. The Angola native averaged 18.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game at South Plains College in Texas, and figures to help complement high-profile freshman Keith Frazier as SMU seeks to establish a foundation to build upon once blue-chip 2014 recruit Emmanuel Mudiay arrives.
  5. In other SMU news, the school is expected to begin allowing beer and wine sales at football and basketball home games beginning in January 2014. The Dallas Morning News reports that SMU administrators plan to debut beer sales at Mustangs basketball games at the January 4 men’s game against UConn, which will coincide with the reopening of Moody Coliseum following some $47 million in renovations. Athletic Director Rick Hart said that the measure was part of strategic efforts to increase attendance, meet the expectations of Mustang fans, and align the school with the policies of some of its new peers in the AAC. Hart conceded that “it’s not a magic bullet… not something that’s going to resolve all our desires to increase attendance,” and said the school was working with its concessions vendor to develop procedures that discourage underage consumption and binge drinking.
Share this story

Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: Washington and Washington State

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 7th, 2013

October is here, and that means we are just weeks away from real, live basketball games. In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’re going to break down all 12 non-conference slates over the next couple of weeks. Up first; the Washington schools.

Teams are listed in order of which they will be played. Last season’s RPI in parenthesis. Potential opponents (one round in advance) are italicized. All times listed are Pacific.


Lorenzo Romar, Washington

Lorenzo Romar’s Program Is on Shaky Ground Right Now (Geoffrey McAllister, AP)

Cream of the Crop: vs Indiana (8), @ San Diego State (30)

Washington has a pair of marquee opponents on its non-conference slate this season. The Huskies will face Indiana in New York City on November 21, in a game to be televised by ESPN2 at 6:00 PM. The Hoosiers finished 2012-13 with a 29-7 record and lost to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. Replacing their two leading scorers (and lottery picks) from last year will be of top importance heading into the season, and Washington will be IU’s first test. Equally as tough will be the trip to Viejas Arena to open the month of December. Senior guard Chase Tapley, and of course, the raucous student section known as The Show, will be waiting for the Dawgs. The game will be televised by CBS Sports Network at 12:05 PM on December 8.

Solid Names: UC Irvine (126), vs Boston College (113), Montana (74), Long Beach State (115), @ Tulane (178), Connecticut (49)

Connecticut headlines the second tier, and Washington could actually face the other Huskies twice this season, depending on how the 2KSports Classic shakes out. The scheduled match-up will be the final game before Christmas break, tipping off at 12:30 PM on ESPNU. When the two teams met last season in Hartford, freshman Omar Calhoun picked apart UW in UConn’s eight-point win. Now that Lorenzo Romar and company will get them in front of their own Dawg Pound, it says here that Washington gets a big revenge victory heading into the holiday. Northwest rival Montana could present a challenge. The Huskies always seem to drop a head-scratching home game or two (South Dakota State two years back, Albany and Nevada last season), and the Grizzlies are a likely candidate to continue the tradition. Seniors Mathias Ward and Kareem Jamar, both who averaged over 14 PPG last season, will lead a balanced Montana attack on the offensive end of the floor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Season In Review: Connecticut Huskies

Posted by mlemaire on May 1st, 2013

Despite the fact that there was no postseason at the end of the tunnel thanks to the academic sins of those who came before them, UConn put together quite a remarkable season that should have Huskies’ fans excited about the future of their program. The year started with question marks on everything from who would play in the frontcourt to whether interim coach Kevin Ollie would become Jim Calhoun’s permanent successor. It ended with Ollie as the team’s head coach for the future and the squad winning a mildly surprising 20 games, including a 10-8 mark in Big East play, en route to somewhat of a feel-good story for coach and program. Let’s go deeper inside UConn’s season:

Preseason Expectations

The Huskies were one of the easier teams in the conference to predict but our scribes at the microsite proved at least slightly more accurate than the coaches as we pegged the Huskies to finish 8th, which is where they finished (the coaches pegged them 9th). The expectations were easy once it became clear that the team was going to play hard all season for Ollie. Many figured that their issues in the frontcourt and no prospect of the postseason would put the Huskies near the bottom of the conference. But they also understood that in Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, and DeAndre Daniels, there was enough talent in place for UConn to compete with most every team if things went well — which is pretty much exactly what they did.

Shabazz Napier Was A Big Reason UConn Stayed Competitive This Season

Shabazz Napier Was A Big Reason UConn Stayed Competitive This Season

The Good

First things first, this season could have just as easily gone off the rails if the Huskies couldn’t stay motivated, so head coach Kevin Ollie deserves major kudos for the job he did with his new team and apparently the school agreed because midway through the season UConn removed the interim tag from his position. Not only did Ollie keep the team motivated (they only lost two games by more than 10 points and one was to that Louisville buzzsaw), but he helped the squad become an above-average team on both ends that was truly only hampered by its inability to rebound and defend the post. He has also already proven his recruiting chops and should continue to be a more-than-capable replacement for Calhoun. Napier (17.1 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.4 RPG, 44.1 FG%) became a more judicious shot-taker, an excellent free throw shooter and one of the best floor generals in the conference, setting the stage for what should be a tremendous senior season. Boatright (15.1 PPG, 4.4 APG, 42.9 FG%) also saw an uptick in his numbers, although that had something to do with his more prominent role in the offense and an increase in shots attempted. If he can cut down on turnovers and improve his three-point shooting a bit, there will be little doubt which team has the best backcourt in the conference next season. But the man who showed the most improvement was sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels. A non-factor in limited minutes as a freshman (3.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 34.1 FG%), the Huskies were counting on the uber-talented sophomore to make a leap and he didn’t disappoint, averaging 12.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG while shooting better than 46 percent from the field and turning into one of the better shot-blockers in the conference. Without Daniels, the Huskies would have been lucky to win 15 games this season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Night Line: UConn Takes Last Act of Memorable Big East Rivalry

Posted by BHayes on February 14th, 2013


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

The Big East is larger than two programs, but for the better part of the last three decades, it’s been next to impossible to think of Big East basketball without Syracuse or UConn coming to mind. They have proven worthy flag-bearers for one of the best and proudest basketball conferences in America, but with Syracuse flying the coop after this season and UConn ineligible for Big East tournament play, Wednesday night would be the final time the two programs would meet as league rivals. A nostalgic night indeed, but brace yourself — as the Big East (at least as we have known it) splinters apart over the next 13 months, there will be many more nights of sifting through the memories. But on this first night of bracing for life after the (old) Big East, it was a young team, led by a rookie coach who stole the show.

Jim Boeheim And Syracuse's Final Big East Trip To UConn May Have Stirred Memories, But Did Not Net The Orange A Win

Jim Boeheim And Syracuse’s Final Big East Trip To UConn May Have Stirred Memories, But Did Not Net the Orange a Win

A failing APR score will cost UConn a berth in the NCAA Tournament this season, but give the Huskies credit: Once the talent exodus from Storrs was complete, few thought the ban would actually cost UConn anything. The Huskies have instead proved themselves Tournament-worthy over and over again in this resilient campaign, and the once-doubted Kevin Ollie has secured a long-term future in the Nutmeg State.

The two biggest reasons for UConn’s success were as important as ever on Wednesday night. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright combined to efficiently pick apart the Syracuse zone, totaling 27 points (on 16 shots) and 11 assists between them. The two lead guards have flourished under the 40-year old Ollie, who has entrusted his pair of play-makers with a freedom and confidence that Jim Calhoun (bless his heart, and his three National Championships) never did. No longer must Boatright and Napier fear a quick pull, or a (screaming, maniacal) voice in their ear after a bad shot or turnover. The result has been the formation of a backcourt that is as cocksure as it gets. UConn may be a team with nothing else to play for, but Kevin Ollie has twisted that fact into a different reality – the Huskies are simply playing with house money, and the riches are growing every week.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Freshman 10: The Best and Worst of Big East Newcomers

Posted by mlemaire on December 6th, 2012

The season is only a month and some change old but it is never too early to check in on the progress of some of the conference’s most heralded and surprising freshmen. While young bloods like Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and Nik Stauskas of Michigan have made an instant splash on the college scene, the Big East’s crop of rookies have made a more muted impact.  There was no methodology when it came to selecting which freshmen to analyze, so we just chose 10 of the most interesting freshmen to follow. Of course, conference play hasn’t even begun yet, so evaluating their body of work is somewhat of a trivial venture. But don’t you worry, we will be back later in the year to check in on some of these players again.

DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse)

The Learning Curve For Prized Freshman DaJuan Coleman Has Been Steeper Than Some Expected

It is still far too early to make a judgment call on what type of player DaJuan Coleman can become this season. But those who expected the highly touted forward to come in and immediately start anchoring the paint for the Orange probably need to adjust their expectations. To his credit, he seems to be getting better each game. But in six games against subpar competition, Coleman hasn’t seen much playing time and has shown only promise and inconsistency when he does play.

Anyone with eyes can see the wide-bodied forward is going to be an excellent rebounder and considering he is averaging 5.3 rebounds per game in just 16.3 minutes of playing time, he is already on his way to validating that obvious observation. But he isn’t a shot-blocker which is fine so long as he is an efficient scorer in the post and an elite rebounder. He has an impressive skill set and nimble feet for a man his size, but the ball rarely makes it back out to the perimeter if it goes to Coleman in the post, and he will need to take better care of it and make smarter decisions if he wants to continue to receive looks in the paint. His downfall offensively may be his sketchy free-throw shooting (55 FT%) as he is the type of strong interior player destined to draw a lot of fouls, and if he can even make his free throws at a 66 percent clip, he will be a much more productive scorer.

Jakarr Sampson (St. John’s)

It should come as no surprise that Sampson has adjusted to college basketball quickly because the Akron native was supposed to be suiting up for the Red Storm last season before lackluster academics forced him to return to prep school. But now that he is on the roster, he has wasted little time making his mark on both ends of the floor and is the clear front-runner for conference rookie of the year honors. The lanky 6’8″ forward already had a well-deserved reputation as a sensational dunker, but his game is more nuanced than that. Sampson has thus far started all nine of the team’s games, averaging 30.8 minutes per game, and he ranks second on the team in scoring (13.8 PPG), first in rebounding (6.6 RPG), and second in blocks (1.6 BPG).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Previewing Michigan State-UConn in the Armed Forces Classic

Posted by jnowak on November 9th, 2012

What a way to kick off the college basketball season. For the second year in a row, Michigan State will represent the Big Ten on a national stage to open the season while also paying tribute to our country’s armed forces. After playing in front of a national television audience (that included President Barack Obama onsite in attendance) against North Carolina on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson last year, the Spartans open the 2012-13 on Friday against Connecticut at Ramstein Air Base in southwest Germany (5:30 PM ET, ESPN).

Michigan State will wear these uniforms Friday night as they honor the U.S. troops for the second consecutive year in the Spartans’ season opener against UConn. (Photo courtesy @MSU_Basketball)

The No. 6 Spartans are coming off a season in which they overachieved by most standards, winning a share of the Big Ten regular season title, the Big Ten Tournament, and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen as one of the NCAA Tournament’s four No. 1 seeds. UConn’s 2011-12 season took a step in the opposite direction. While the Spartans weren’t figured by many to contend on a national scale, the Huskies were. And they disappointed in a huge way, sputtering to a 20-14 record and a first-round exit at the hands of Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament the year after they won it all. “We’re playing a team that’s not ranked but you’re going to see is awfully good,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said, according to “This team will compete in that league (the Big East), no problem. Don’t look for there to be great falloff here.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on November 2nd, 2012

  1. The hardest part is over for Kevin Ollie, who escaped Gampel Pavilion with a win in his first game –– however unofficial –– as UConn’s head coach. The Huskies rallied to beat American International College 78-63 on Thursday, but the final score doesn’t reflect how uncertain the game was for the first 20 minutes. Ollie’s team missed 10 of its first 11 shot attempts and AIC quickly opened up a 12-2 lead, to the dismay of the 5,349 fans on hand. “When you go 1-for-[11], I’m like, ‘Man, this might be my only time out here,’” Ollie joked afterward to the New Haven Register. UConn never led before halftime, but prodigal freshman guard Omar Calhoun keyed a furious comeback after intermission with his 24 points on 8-14 shooting (including 3-6 from beyond the arc). Ryan Boatright woke up in the second half, finishing with 14 points, and Shabazz Napier added 11 from the two-guard spot. The Huskies have an opportunity to regroup and work out some kinks on Sunday against UMass-Lowell, before an abrupt uptick in competition when they face Michigan State in Germany on November 9.
  2. Louisville enjoyed a more emphatic win in its first exhibition of 2012, thumping Pikeville 93-57 in the KFC Yum! Center after hanging the university’s ninth Final Four banner from the rafters. Before the game, former point guard Elisha Justice received a warm welcome from the crowd of 20,277 on hand when Pitino presented him with his Final Four ring. Once things got underway, the ceremonies didn’t seem to pose a distraction for the Cardinals. Sophomores Chane Behanan and Kevin Ware were glued to the bench after being suspended for the game by Rick Pitino, but their absence was undetectable, thanks in part to a breakout debut from freshman forward Montrezl Harrell. Harrell ended with a team-high 19 points and game-high 13 rebounds, and made a variety of unrelentingly energetic plays. His performance was impressive enough that he’ll have an opportunity to compete for the starting power forward position once Behanan returns for the official opener against Manhattan.
  3. Syracuse handled its business by an eerily identical 36-point margin, dismantling an overwhelmed Pace squad, 99-63. It was a concerted effort for the Orange, as eight players logged 17 minutes or more and five ended up scoring double figures. Everything went according to plan for Jim Boeheim, who acknowledged after the game, “I’m not experimenting. We’re going to play nine guys.” Pace’s undersized frontcourt (whose tallest player is 6’6″) was no match for the freakish length of Boeheim’s big men, and it manifested in a Space Jam-esque block fest: the Orange logged six blocks in the first 10 minutes, and finished with 14. Freshman big man Dajuan Coleman got the start at center, and began his college career with 11 points and three blocks. But it was steady anchor James Southerland (18 points) and promising returner Michael Carter-Williams (16 points, seven assists) who keyed the offensive effort. The Orange open the season on the road at San Diego State on November 9, where they’ll get a chance to test their nine-man rotation against stiffer competition.
  4. Friarblog digs up an awesome New York Times piece by Pete Thamel from 2004, which recounts a late-night gas station rendezvous between Ed Cooley, at the time an assistant coach at Boston College, and former Providence assistant Bob Walsh, as their respective teams prepared for the NCAA tournament. While it “looked like a scene from a bad crime movie,” the coaches were exchanging game film on each other’s first round opponents. The PC staff was acutely aware of the difficulty of finding tape for opponents with few televised games: a recording blunder caused Walsh to accidently tape “Body by Jake” on public access in lieu of the Big West championship game. What makes this kind of story so compelling is that it humanizes the two coaches and gives fans a rare glimpse into the more mundane experiences of their profession. Walsh and Cooley will have an opportunity to catch up on Saturday when Walsh’s Rhode Island College squad visits the Dunk for an exhibition game.
  5. Lastly, South Florida blog Voodoo Five put together a very nuanced appraisal of the Bulls’ chances to succeed playing a smaller lineup this year after the departure of Gus Gilchrist and Ron Anderson Jr. Writer Collin Sherwin points out that Stan Heath’s roster lacks the outside shooting to space the floor with three point shooting: USF finished last year ranked 280th in the country in three-point shooting percentage, and facilitator Anthony Collins shot a dreadful 7-24 on the season. It will be interesting to see how Heath tailors his offense to his team’s strengths. We’ll get our first real glimpse on November 10, when USF hosts its I-4 rival, UCF.
Share this story