Big East Morning Five: 02.03.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 3rd, 2012

  1. Noel mania has surpassed the 24-hour mark now and it rages on at a fever pitch.  In case you were distracted by your favorite football team’s signing of a future fourth string tight end and missed it… late Wednesday night news broke that star prep center Nerlens Noel will reclassify to 2012 and plans to sign with one of seven finalists — Syracuse, Connecticut, Providence, Kentucky, Florida, Georgetown and North Carolina — in the April signing period. The frenzy seemingly resonated nationwide but perhaps nowhere more than in Providence when a GoLocalProv.com story anonymously quoted a coach in Noel’s prep school league as saying Noel, “is leaning towards picking PC.” The news sent Friar fans into a delirious state of social networking madness (see #Nerlens4PC on Twitter).  In the great timing for Providence coach Ed Cooley department, Noel and his Tilton School teammates will be playing in Providence College’s back yard on Sunday as part of the National Prep School Invitational which is being held at the city’s Rhode Island College.  CLICK HERE to vote in our poll and log your opinion on Noel’s destination!
  2. Surprised about the possibility of Nerlens Noel heading to Providence? Do not be. Noel’s relationship with and courtship by Providence is nothing new.  Being from nearby Everett, Massachusetts, Noel has attended several Friar home games and has reportedly developed a respect for head coach Ed Cooley and the Providence staff. Furthermore, Noel has been very thoughtful and deliberate about his recruitment, and it appears the idea of teaming up with fellow top tier recruits Ricardo Ledo and Kris Dunn and being part of an upstart program in a community where college basketball is the only game in town appeals to him. Noel participated in an online chat last August where Providence represented a prominent part of the discussion.  In fact, Noel revealed at the time (which was also before Ledo committed to PC) that he and Ledo had spoken about attending Providence together.
  3. Speaking of the National Prep School Invitational, which started yesterday and runs through Sunday, fans do not have to be present at Rhode Island College to get a glimpse of some of the best high school talent in the country, including a couple of Big East signees (Steven Adams, Pittsburgh and Ricardo Ledo, Providence) and a host of Big East recruiting targets. Cox Sports will be streaming a number of the contests live, and via replay, for free.  A full schedule can be viewed at coxsportsonline.com.
  4. In keeping with the recruiting theme this morning, the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic rosters were announced yesterday.  Not surprisingly the Big East was well represented with three selections: Jerami Grant, who will attend Syracuse, along with the aforementioned pair of Providence signees, Ricardo Ledo and Kris Dunn.  The trio will fittingly team up on the East squad.  Also featured on the East’s roster is undecided center Tony Parker who is being pursued by Georgetown and Connecticut, among others. The game will take place on April 14 at 7 PM in Charlotte and will be televised on ESPN.
  5. As conveyed here on Wednesday a report surfaced that Louisville is pursuing an exit from the Big East in favor of a spot in the Big 12 (think Fresca).  Since Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced their intentions to jump ship for the ACC, Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino has been a vocal supporter of staying the course and preserving the future of the Big East. Fittingly, Pitino downplayed the possibility of a move by his school saying, “I doubt it. I think that there was a chance last year but from what I understand some of the members of the [Big 12] conference don’t want to split the revenue and they want to stick at 11, so at least personally I’m hoping we stay put.” Stay tuned on this.

Rick Pitino is Not Swayed by the Power of Fresca (Photo: Fresca.com)

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Four Thoughts: Providence vs. Syracuse Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 16th, 2012

Game recaps are boring. If you want to read them, search your local newspaper or the Associated Press. Four Thoughts is our brand new, not-so creatively titled feature where, in lieu of a game recap, we give you four thoughts about key Big East action. Enjoy!

Council Overruled

It is rare that conference opponents would face each other twice by mid-January, but that was the case on Saturday when Providence and Syracuse met in the Carrier dome.  Syracuse won the first meeting by an 87-73 score that was not indicative of the overall play.  In one of the few challenges Syracuse has faced this year, Providence hung tough at home in a game where both teams played well.  Syracuse led by only two points at the half, and six with just over five minutes to go in the game before making a late run  to log the double-digit victory.  Despite that good home showing by the Friars, coupled with any momentum generated by their 31-point romp over #14 Louisville on Tuesday, Providence (justifiably) remained heavy underdogs on the road versus the #1 Orange.  Long odds became virtually impossible when it was learned publicly just an hour or so before Saturday night’s game that Providence’s best player and leading scorer, point guard Vincent Council (16.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.1 APG) would be held out of the game due unspecified coach’s decision.   Council was coming off a 15-point, 14-assist performance in the Louisville win and had 17 points and five assists in the first meeting with the Orange.  Not only is Council Providence’s leader, he is their only legitimate point guard averaging 37.7 minutes per game as a result.  In the court system that is Providence basketball, the judge, jury and probably even court stenographer is head coach Ed Cooley.  After the game, as reported in the Providence Journal, Cooley termed the reason for sitting Council an “accountability issue,” adding “it could be multiple games but it definitely is my decision.” Council’s suspension represented a bold move by first-year head coach Cooley, who is trying to change the culture of what was an undisciplined program under former coach Keno Davis.

Syracuse's Pressure was Too Much for the Council-less Friars (Photo by Frank Ordonez, The Post-Standard)

Under Pressure – The Turning Point

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Big East Morning Five: 01.10.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 10th, 2012

  1. Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch told Alex Kline of TheRecruitScoop.com he will transfer to UNLV.  Birch visited UNLV, Florida and New Mexico State last week before making his choice. “I really like UNLV,“ he told Kline. “It was a very tough decision but UNLV is a good fit for me because of the coaches, players and facilities… I can develop under a great, young coach in Dave Rice.  He and the entire staff made me feel very comfortable in Las Vegas.”  As a transfer, Birch will have to sit out two semesters.  The timing of the decision was critical as he will be able to enroll in school for the spring semester with the intent of becoming eligible in January 2013.  UNLV has two remaining scholarships that could be used to build upon what is already a monster class of newcomers: DaQuan Cook, Katin Reinhardt, Demetris Morant as well as Bryce Jones, who is a transfer from the Southern California, are all headed to Vegas next year.   The buzz surrounding the two open spots involves three more heavyweights in forwards Anthony Bennett (ranked seventh in the class of 2012 by both Rivals.com and ESPN.com), Shabazz Muhammad (the consensus number one rated class of 2012 recruit) and St. John’s decommit Norvel Pelle.
  2. St John’s was involved in the other piece of transfer news yesterday.  Fortunately, this time they found out they were getting one rather than losing one.  Guard Jamal Branch, who left Texas A&M after one semester there, announced he will be suiting up for the Red Storm once he sits out a year under NCAA transfer rules.   Arizona, Marquette and Maryland were also reportedly in the mix.  Branch, a top 100 recruit coming out of Grace Prep in Arlington, Texas, was playing significant minutes (18.6 MPG) for the Aggies as the backup point guard, averaging 4.2 points and 2.5 assists per game.  He cited his relationship with current St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison as contributing to his decision. “The players there are pretty cool and with me knowing D’Angelo helped me make my decision,” Branch said. “That’s like my little brother and we always wanted to play with each other. Me and him click well and are looking forward to doing big things here at St. John’s.”
  3. It will be a banner evening in Providence tonight when Rick Pitino and his Louisville club come to town to take on the Friars.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of Providence’s Final Four run under Pitino and the milestone will be celebrated during a halftime ceremony.  With a band of pressing, three-point shooting unknowns such as current Florida head coach Billy Donovan, Delray Brooks and Ernie “Pop” Lewis, the 1986-87 Friars captivated a region and vaulted Pitino to coaching stardom.  “I have always coached every time out, no matter how much time is left in the game, feeling we could come back, no matter what the level was, or the score was, all because of that Providence College basketball team. Because they set the standard, not only for comebacks, but they set the standard for just making me believe that anything is possible,” Pitino said.  The Friars defeated Georgetown, ironically in Louisville, in the regional final before bowing to another Big East foe, Syracuse, in the national semifinals.  Current Providence head coach Ed Cooley will personally enjoy the moment as well.  A Rhode Islander who group up a fan of the Friars, Cooley was star player at Rhode Island’s Central High School at the time. A number of team members are expected to be in attendance, including Brooks and Lewis.
  4. The Big East’s weekly superlatives have been dished out and West Virginia’s Darryl “Truck” Bryant scooped up his second Player of the Week honor.  Bryant averaged 27 points per game in Mountaineer wins over Rutgers and Georgetown.  Rookie of the Week went to St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison who averaged 21 points and 7.5 rebounds in two games, highlighted by an 18-point, seven-rebound effort in an upset road win over Cincinnati.  Big East Honor Roll recipients this week were: DePaul guard Brandon Young, who averaged 24 points per game including 26 in a win over Pittsburgh; Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley who is starting to become a regular around here;  Rutgers guard Eli Carter, who followed up his Rookie of the Week honor with more strong play; Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore, who averaged a double-double for the week (16.5 PPG, 10.0 APG) and Syracuse guard Brandon Triche who filled up the stat sheet (16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.5 APG) to help keep the Orange unbeaten.
  5. Say what you want about the overall quality of the Big East this year as compared to recent seasons but one thing is for sure, nobody can ever rest on their laurels, lest they find themselves on the short end of an upset loss.  It was another turbulent week in the conference as evidenced by the latest Top 25 poll.  The only constant of course has been Syracuse (17-0), who was pushed at times on the road by Providence and back home against Marquette, but held firm to their undefeated record and #1 ranking.  The Orange have really separated from the back as they now represent the Big East’s only resident of the Top 10.  Connecticut (12-3), behind losses to Seton Hall and Rutgers, plummeted nine spots to #17.  Georgetown (13-2) lost at West Virginia and slipped two notches to #11 as a result.  Louisville’s (13-3) double overtime loss to Notre Dame cost them three spots as the Cardinals slid to #14.  Marquette (12-4) took two losses last week, and therefore did not hold their ranking, falling five spots to #25.  OK, enough of talking about teams that are struggling.  How ‘bout those Pirates!  Yes, Seton Hall (14-2) coming of a 2-0 week that featured wins over then #8 Connecticut and on the road against Providence, broke in at #24 and is ranked for the first time since 2001.
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Four Thoughts: Seton Hall vs. Providence Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on January 9th, 2012

Game recaps are boring. If you want to read them, search your local newspaper or the Associated Press. Four Thoughts is our brand new, not-so creatively titled feature where, in lieu of a game recap, we give you four thoughts about key Big East action. Enjoy!

Theodore and Council live up to the hype they don’t get.

I am not sure where Seton Hall’s Jordan Theodore and Providence’s Vincent Council currently sit on the Q Rating list but Saturday’s match-up between the Pirates and the Friars was a microcosm not only of their individual skills, but also of how their abilities translate to the composition of their respective teams.  Presumably neither player is content with his below-the-radar stature, but rather than grousing they let their play do the talking. No histrionics. No chest thumping. Just solid, focused basketball.

Theodore is a chameleon. He can score or defer depending on the need. Tasked with getting a Pirate team that tends to flirt a bit too much with defeat over the top, Theodore is a winner who plays his best in the clutch. True to form, he assisted on two three-pointers in the first minute of the second half versus Providence to open up a three-point halftime lead to nine and scored 10 of his 14 points in that decisive second stanza.

Meanwhile Council, whose game is best suited to creating, has been forced to take on more of a scorer’s role with a young team that lacks experience, and proven Big East offensive prowess. Council played all 40 minutes against Seton Hall and kept his team in the game throughout with 23 points, and nine assists. The Friars will need Council to develop a killer instinct similar to that of Theodore if they want to get out of the Big East basement.

Theodore Steps It Up In The Clutch (Credit: Stew Milne, US Presswire)

Third wheel helps keep the Pirate’s ship afloat.

In the NBA everyone talks about needing a “big three” to be successful. While that phrase is not as prominent in the college game, it certainly means a lot to have a third scoring option, and 6’6” sophomore wing Fuquan Edwin is aptly filling that role for Seton Hall. Edwin was a highly regarded recruit who had a solid freshman campaign, starting 26 games, averaging 7.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest. The nation’s leader in steals this season with 51, he has already made a reputation as a dogged defender as well as solid rebounder (6.4 RPG). In addition to his excellence preventing points, Edwin is in the midst of a breakout year offensively, supporting senior leaders Herb Pope (17.9 PPG) and the afore mentioned Theodore (15.9 PPG) with his 14.1 points per game. Edwin has displayed consistency with his output, hitting double-figures in 13 of Seton Hall’s 16 games this year, highlighted by a career-best 24 points (5-8 3PT) in Saturday’s win over Providence in a game where both Pope and Theodore scored below their averages.

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Voices of the Big East: Volume IV

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 31st, 2011

Voices of the Big East is an ongoing feature intended to capture the essence of the conference through the words of those involved and those impacted. This will come in the form of quotes, tweets, videos and anything else we feel like sticking in here. It’s perfect for you multitasking short attention-spanners. If you find something you think is a candidate for this feature send it to us and we might even give you credit!

Happy New Year!

The voices of Rush the Court would like to wish you a happy and safe New Year.  Thank you for reading.  We hope you have enjoyed what you have seen so far.  Of course there is one ball drop we will always be watching. 

We Will Forego the Crystal for This

Khem-ical Reaction

Khem Birch left Pittsburgh two weeks ago after one semester at the school.  This his has led to a variety of commentary, including from himself.

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Big East Morning Five: 12.27.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 27th, 2011

  1. We ate.  We drank.  We were merry.  We took some TUMS and are back.  Hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday weekend.
  2. While we are not necessarily looking at marquee matchups, Big East conference play kicks off tonight and that is a good thing!  There are two games on the docket this evening to get things started and despite a lack of glitter, there is intrigue.  #22 Pittsburgh (11-2) heads to South Bend, Indiana, to take on Notre Dame (8-5).  The Tim Abromaitis-less Irish would love a signature victory to get things rolling but this one may end up occurring game late as the Panthers will not be in letdown mode after getting beaten by Wagner at home last Friday.   The other contest features two squads looking to answer questions as St. John’s (6-5) hosts Providence (11-2).  The Red Storm have battled on and off the court from the sudden departure of guard Nurideen Lindsey to head coach Steve Lavin’s recovery from prostate cancer.  They are a young team and hope the second semester addition of talented freshman Amir Garrett gives them a boost in conference play.  The Friars are feeling good at 11-2 under first-year head coach Ed Cooley, but know the competition is going to increase dramatically as league action begins. Although Cooley was not around Providence the last couple of years, it is a virtual certainty he will be reminding his crew of their back-to-back four win Big East campaigns often as this year progresses. The new tag for Friar point guard Vincent Council is “underrated.”  Maybe if enough people call him underrated he will get sufficient attention so as to not be any longer.  There is no predicting the result of this game, but one thing you can bet on is that the Red Storm will not be sleeping on ‘VC’, and that the growing chip on Council’s shoulder does not bode well for opposing defenders.
  3. As noted above, Big East play begins tonight but this week also brings some notable non-conference matchups involving Big East teams.  #10 Florida heads north to battle Rutgers at the RAC in a game that features a couple of notable Big East connections.  Florida’s Mike Rosario is a 1,000 point scorer… at Rutgers.  Rosario transferred to the Gators and it was certainly understandable he would be looking forward to facing his old team, but it appears he will not be able to play due to a nagging back injury.  Florida head coach Billy Donovan has tremendous Big East memories as he led Providence to the 1987 Final Four while playing for Rick Pitino.  Cincinnati, who has taken out their aggression on soft assortment of cream pies since brawling with cross-town rival Xavier a couple of weeks ago, will face a test when they host Oklahoma.   Marquette faces an SEC rubber match when they host Vanderbilt on Friday.  The Golden Eagles beat Mississippi in the Big East – SEC challenge in November and then lost to Louisiana State last week.  Finally, in the main event, #4 Louisville will travel to Lexington to take on bitter in-state rival and #3 ranked Kentucky on Saturday.  Both teams play on Wednesday but while Kentucky fattens up against Lamar, Louisville will have to stay focused against #12 Georgetown.
  4. The Big East is back with its weekly honors and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones has earned last week’s Player of the Week award.  Jones, who now leads the Big East in scoring (21.0 PPG) and rebounding (11.9 RPG), put up beastly numbers (23.0 PPG, 14.7 RPG) in a 2-1 week for the Mountaineers including a career-high 28 points to go with 17 boards in a loss to Baylor.  Once again, Connecticut’s Andre Drummond is the Big East Rookie of the Week.  Drummond had 16 points, nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks in UConn’s lone game, a 79-71 victory over in-state foe Fairfield.  This is Drummond’s second consecutive Rookie of the Week honor, and third for the season.  Weekly Honor Roll recipients: Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley on the merits of his 19-point, eight-rebound performance in a drubbing of Sacred Heart; Providence guard Vincent Council who averaged 16 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in Friar victories over New Hampshire and in-state rival Rhode Island; Louisville forward Kyle Kuric who averaged 16.0 points and five assists in two wins, including 17 points and eight rebounds in the Cardinals’ seven-point win over the College of Charleston; Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier who netted 24 points to go with five assists and six rebounds in the Fairfield win and Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore who averaged 20.0 points and seven assists in a 2-0 week for the Pirates, including a season-high 26 points versus Longwood. In related news, Seton Hall’s Herb Pope was not among the honorees for the first time this season.
  5. The polls are out this week and as expected Marquette and Pittsburgh slipped in the rankings due to losses suffered last week.  Marquette (11-1) dropped four spots to #14 as it lost for the first time this year, a 67-59 defeat on the road against Louisiana State.  Pittsburgh (11-2) plummeted from #15 to #22 on the heels of its 59-54 upset loss at home to Wagner.  Syracuse (13-0) kept it rolling and remained the nation’s top team.  Georgetown (10-1) showed some upward mobility as it beat Memphis for the second time this year and leaped four spots to #12.  Louisville (12-0) is still undefeated and #4 as it gets ready for the previously mentioned home showdown against Georgetown on Wednesday.  It should also be noted that the Cardinals garnered two first place votes this week. Connecticut (10-1) held off a second half surge from Fairfield that the pollsters apparently did not like as the Huskies slipped a notch to #9.
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