The word legend is overused, but college basketball lost a legend on Saturday night as Dean Smith passed away at the age of 83. Smith, who belongs on any Mount Rushmore you want to make for the sport, was a universally loved and respected figure in the game, which is a rarity. Some of that may have to do with the way he comported himself, but it also has do with his off-the-court work including being a vocal advocate of integration not only in the ACC, but also in the state of North Carolina. We won’t rehash all of his accomplishments, but would highly recommend that you read some of the pieces that are being written about him now particularly the ones that talk about his work outside of basketball.
The second biggest news from this weekend happen in Charlottesville where Virginia junior Justin Anderson fractured a bone in his left hand. He underwent surgery yesterday and is expected to miss at least three weeks, but could be out for as long as six weeks. Exactly how long he will be out could be a big factor in determining how far the Cavaliers will go in the NCAA Tournament. Anderson’s emergence as a consistent outside threat makes the Cavaliers a legitimate NCAA title threat. They still could conceivably when the title without him or even with him not at full strength, but the task would be significantly tougher.
Normally the NIT is a forgettable event that we only watch if we happen to accidentally stumble upon it. This year promises to be different (ok, we probably still won’t watch it) as they will be experimenting with various rule changes. The most prominent of these changes is trying a 30-second shot clock that is already proving to be controversial. The other significant move will be to increase the size of the restricted area, which could reduce the number of questionable charges that are called. We will wait after the event is over before passing judgement on either change, but can’t see a downside to increasing the restricted area (within reason). We just hope that the powers that be are paying attention.
Providence coach Ed Cooley was briefly hospitalized at a Cincinnati hospital after feeling ill during their game against Xavier. Very little information regarding the hospitalization was released, but it seems like they observed him for hypertensive urgency although his reported symptoms wouldn’t necessarily fit with that diagnosis. From what we have read this does not appear to be a chronic/recurrent problem for Cooley, which is reassuring. Cooley, who left the team with an 8-point lead that they surrendered immediately with Xavier going on an 18-2 run, is planning on returning for the team’s next game, which is on Wednesday against Villanova.
Mike Krzyzewski has company in the 1000-win club. Less than two weeks after Krzyzewski became the first coach to win 1,000 men’s college basketball games, Philadelphia coach Herb Magee won his 1000th game too. While Magee generated much less attention doing it at the Division II level, it is still a remarkable accomplishment particularly when you realize that Magee did it all at one school. During Magee’s 48 years at the school, he has led them to a national championship (1970) and has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. Regardless of the level of competition, Magee’s longevity and consistent success is remarkable.
Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vtbnblog) on December 15th, 2014
Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.
“…a loveless marriage… [that] began out of a desire that was neither pure nor innocent. They were just trying to make a buck”
— Rich Hofmann (The Big 5-0)
Has Villanova outgrown the Big 5? Like the question about the health of a terminally ill relative, it goes unasked after another big Villanova win over the weekend, but it was always the question behind the question. After Villanova beat his Hawks 74-46 (which followed the 93-63 beating the Wildcats delivered in 2013), Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli couched his answer as a “talent gap” problem. After his Explorers lost 73-52 to Villanova (they were beaten again this season, 84-70) La Salle head coach Dr. John Gianinni challenged his players with (to paraphrase), “Villanova won the game in June, not on the court but in the training room.” It was, he contended, a “dedication gap” problem.
So far this season, it’s business as usual for Jay Wright and crew. (Getty)
After losing 85-63 on Sunday, that universal question, “Why’d you lose?” was posed to Temple‘s senior guard, Will Cummings. He replied, “[Villanova’s] got a lot of weapons. So we really have to be conscious of every player on the court. You can’t leave somebody or they’re going to step up and make a play. That really tested our defense. We had some lapses and that was the tale.” When Temple headcoach Fran Dunphy was handed the “talent/dedication/effort” question, he gave a nod to his players’ sense of responsibility but did not take the bait, “Well, [Villanova] has a very talented team. And I thought they played hard, We can play harder, we can do a better job. I appreciate those guys (Will Cummings and Obi Enechionyia) saying that [they lacked effort]. Maybe it was a loose ball here and there that we needed to get to. We didn’t. They did. They are a talented group, a really good basketball team.” That far and no further. Talent, effort or commitment gaps aside, the evidence suggests something is going on in the Big 5. In the 13 seasons Jay Wright has coached on the Main Line, Villanova has shared (two) or won outright (five) the Big 5 title seven times. Historically, Villanova has won or shared 22 Big 5 titles, second only to Temple (28) and gaining fast. Read the rest of this entry »
Cincinnati came into the year as one of the favorites for a top four finish in the Big East, and that looked like a good bet through non-conference play. However, the Bearcats were totally inconsistent all season once the Big East schedule began, and after an injury to guard Cashmere Wright in January, Cincinnati has struggled to put points on the board. Wins over Iowa State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Villanova were enough to get the Bearcats into the tournament, but Cincinnati was probably a game or two from being in serious bubble talks.
Mick Cronin and Cincinnati came into the season as a favorite to win the Big East. Now, they get to prove that all over again. (Getty)
Region: Midwest Seed: No. 10 Record: 22-11 (9-9 Big East) Matchup: v. Creighton in Philadelphia, PA
Key Player: Sean Kilpatrick is far and away the most important Bearcat. He is the team’s leader in minutes, points, and is just .6 rebounds off of Titus Rubles pace for the team lead in that category, and he’s doing it from the guard position. On a team that often struggles to find the bottom of the net, Kilpatrick is the only consistent option, and the opposition knows it, which helps explain the low shooting percentages for the Yonkers native. Read the rest of this entry »
Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
Will the number one team in the land survive a rivalry road test? Can Missouri bounce back from its recent beatdown to win an away game? Here’s what to expect from two Top 10 teams in tough spots tonight:
#1 Syracuse at Villanova – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (***)
Can Villanova Save Its Season Tonight by Beating #1 Syracuse? (AP Photo)
Undefeated Syracuse comes into this game playing as well as any team in the country, but their toughest away games of the season have been at NC State and Providence, so they’re not exactly road tested. The Orange will certainly have the advantage in this one, as their 2-3 zone defense has been incredibly effective this season at forcing turnovers and limiting paint opportunities. Nova’s a team that struggles in these two areas to begin with, and also a team that fires up a lot of threes (over 20 per game) at a low conversion rate (30%, ranked in the bottom 50 nationally). If Syracuse simply executes defensively and forces the Wildcats into a three-point barrage, they’ll have a huge advantage. Jim Boeheim’s team will come at Villanova with their deep array of weapons, where Kris Joseph (14.1 PPG) and Dion Waiters (12.5 PPG) should have opportunities to score in transition and on the wings against Villanova’s poor perimeter defense.
Villanova is in the midst of a year to forget, but they can change the outlook of the entire season with a win tonight. The Wildcats are dying for a victory of this caliber, and fans must be fired up in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for this rivalry home game against the number one team in the land. If the Wildcats are going to have a chance to win, they need to stop chucking up threes, especially in this game against a zone defense that will encourage them to shoot from the outside. Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek each attempt over four three-pointers per game and both are shooting under 30% from deep! Instead, these talented guards need to play off of each other. Wayns (17.4 PPG, 4.75 APG) is one of the quickest guards in America and can penetrate the teeth of a zone defense, and from there he must make good decisions and find teammates moving amongst the trees for good shot opportunities. Jay Wright’s team also must stay out of foul trouble and defend the perimeter if they want to have a chance.
This seems like an uneven matchup on paper, but it could be a serious trap game for Syracuse. They haven’t yet played a good conference team on the road, and Villanova is a rival who will be fired up for this one. If Nova can find early success against the Syracuse zone, then they could have a chance in this one.
Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. 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.
Over the past month, Duke had won five straight games and quietly risen to #3 in the AP Poll and #2 in the RPI without skipping a beat. But home victories over the likes of Western Michigan and UNC Greensboro won’t make fans forget about the Devils’ embarrassing 22-point loss at Ohio State earlier in the year, and it would take a strong road performance to erase those memories. Wednesday night showed the Blue Devils get thoroughly outplayed by unranked Temple in downtown Philadelphia, confirming the suspicion that Mike Krzyzewski’s team could be vulnerable both defensively and on the road heading into conference play. Coach K will need to refine his rotation and strengthen his team’s defensive intensity if they want to realistically compete with North Carolina for another ACC title.
Duke Had Major Trouble Defending Temple on Wednesday Night (AP/T. Mihalek)
Perhaps no team played as difficult a non-conference schedule as Duke, which would suggest that they are well prepared for their old familiar foes when conference play begins this weekend. The Blue Devils played Michigan State, Ohio State, Belmont, Michigan, Kansas, Davidson, Tennessee, and Washington as part of one of the most challenging schedules in the country. But Wednesday’s game against Temple was just their second road game (although it was played on one of Villanova’s two home courts, not Temple’s), and they were dominated in both. At Ohio State on November 29, Duke allowed the Buckeyes to shoot 60% on two-pointers and 57% on threes, amounting to a horrendous 130.8 efficiency rating for the Buckeyes. On Wednesday night, Temple shot 58% on twos and 50% on threes for a 114.7 efficiency. Considering that Missouri’s 126.5 offensive efficiency is the best in the country, it goes without saying that Duke is allowing its opponents to score way too easily in hostile environments.
Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
Huge games in the Big East and Big 12 highlight tonight’s action, along with Duke’s final non-conference test. Here’s your schedule for tonight:
#8 Duke at Temple – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (***)
Will Dunphy Have His Owls Ready To Upset K's Devils? (Getty)
The Blue Devils have shockingly stayed out of the spotlight for the past few weeks, quietly handling their business in the non-conference. Perhaps the shellacking that Mike Krzyzewski’s team took in Ohio State in November was the wake-up call that this team needed, as Duke has won five straight in impressive fashion since that game. Coach K’s team is ranked 4th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive rankings, boasting the nation’s third-best true shooting percentage (60.6%) and eighth-best points per possession statistic (1.16 PPP), amongst many other impressive offensive numbers. As Austin Rivers continues to improve his decision-making and efficiency offensively, Duke gets harder to defend. The freshman is now up to a team-leading 15.4 points per game while shooting 46% from the field and 41% from three. If Rivers can penetrate the Owls’ defense to create good looks for the other Duke guards and himself, Duke will be in good shape.
Temple is an elite perimeter defensive team, where the Owls hold opponents to shoot 25.6% from three-point range, the fourth-best percentage in the country. Against a Duke team that loves to shoot the three, guarding the perimeter will again be priority number one in this game. In addition, Temple is strong with the ball and their 1.28 assist-to-turnover ratio is a top-30 national number, far better than Duke’s 1.02 ratio. By limiting their opponent’s long-range makes and winning the turnover battle, Temple will seek to gain an advantage at home. Their trio of guards Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez, and Khalif Wyatt, all at 13.3 PPG or better, will look to neutralize Duke’s own trio in the scoring department. However, their best big man Michael Eric remains out with a knee injury, which could spell trouble against Duke’s 6’10” Plumlee brothers.
Duke is a seven-point favorite in this game and will be well-prepared in their final non-conference game. But the Blue Devils haven’t played a road game since their blowout loss at OSU, and Temple has the guards to match Duke. With Eric missing down low, Temple is without a key defensive cog, but they’ve been playing without him for over a month. Expect a hard fought game in Philly.
#17 Marquette at #9 Georgetown- 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (****)
Joe Dzuback is an RTC correspondent. He filed this column after Villanova’s win over Pennsylvania Saturday, reflecting on the history and importance of Big 5 basketball in Philadelphia.
Five schools all within a 12-mile radius of center city Philadelphia square off each season to play a 10-game, round-robin series that decides who has the bragging rights to the city’s collegiate basketball scene. There is a Crosstown Shootout, an Iron Bowl (for both basketball and football), Oaken Buckets, Backyard Brawls and Border Wars, but no single city has five schools willing to set aside so much of their 29-game allotted schedule to settle a local rivalry. The Big 5 is not an informal agreement (this is Philadelphia we are talking about, everything is in writing), as the first agreement, a five-year deal that ran from the 1955-56 season through the 1959-60 season has been renegotiated (and modified) and re-signed at regular intervals since.
The Big 5 Has Captured Philadelphia's College Hoops Hearts for Over 50 Years
Over the last 56 years, from the first game played under the joint agreement on December 14, 1955 (Saint Joseph’s beat Villanova, 83-70) to the last game last season (on March 5, Temple defeated La Salle, 90-82), the five Philadelphia schools played 520 games using the original round-robin format, except for the years between 1992 and 2000 when each school’s four-game slate was reduced to two. What is the tie that binds one of America’s most prestigious private colleges, founded by one of the country’s Founding Fathers (Penn), to three Catholic universities founded nearly a hundred years later (St. Joe’s, Villanova and La Salle), and a public university with an alumni base of 270,000 (Temple)? “It began… as a loveless marriage,” wrote Rich Hoffman in his introduction to The Big 5-0, a commerative to the 50th anniversary of the Big 5 published in 2005. “Everybody walked to the altar while trying to figure out exactly what angle the other guys were working.”
The sports world gave up another one of its landmark venues to the way of progress today as The Philadelphia Spectrum felt the crash of the wrecking ball while several of the men who filled it with memories, including Julius Erving and Bernie Parent, watched the destruction from a safe distance. This 47-year old warhorse ends a distinguished career as one of the most versatile sports and music arenas ever built.
Living up to its name, The Spectrum was home to numerous Philadelphia sports franchises including the 76ers and Flyers. The Flyers won their first Stanley Cup in 1974 on the Spectrum’s ice, playing in the Stanley Cup Finals a total of six time while tenants of the place. The 76ers brought the NBA Finals there four times and won it in 1983.
Not Even Rocky Balboa Could Save The Spectrum Today
The Spectrum’s contributions to college basketball were enormous. The Spectrum served as the site for countless games between Philly’s Big Five teams, hosted several conference tournaments (usually the Atlantic 10), NCAA regionals, and even a couple of Final Fours. Indiana backers should feel especially mournful today, since the two F4’s that were held there were won by Hoosier squads coached by Bobby Knight. Kent Benson led the 1976 IU squad to a defeat of conference rivals Michigan in the national title game in the arena, cementing that Hoosier team’s place as the last college hoops team to finish a season unbeaten. Isiah Thomas was the MOP of the 1981 Indiana side that locked up the school’s fourth championship by beating North Carolina.
But if you’re talking about college basketball at the Spectrum, the conversation begins and ends with the game that requires no introduction. Kentucky fans, look away. Duke supporters, start caressing that 1992 championship trophy…
While we have no documentation of it, we would not be surprised to hear later that a small group of Kentucky fans who didn’t go to Maui this week were seen partying in a nearby cordoned area, toasting with champagne and bourbon and even bidding for the right to hit the switch that dropped the wrecking ball.
There’s one final note about the building that our fellow album rock fans will find interesting. On June 29th, 1977, Pink Floyd played a show there in which lead singer and bassist Roger Waters was suffering from terrible stomach cramps and had to have a injection of medicine — “just a little pin prick,” if you will — to keep him going through the show (it didn’t work, by the way). Waters eventually told Rolling Stone it was “the longest two hours of my life.” Later, he would use the memory of performing while sick and with the injected medicine on board to inspire a popular little tune called “Comfortably Numb.”
In that spirit, we hope the demolishers looked inside and asked “Is there anybody in there? Is there anyone home?” before they fired up the wrecking ball today. To The Spectrum, thank you for all you did for us — we’ll never forget you.