Draft Deadline Winners and Losers: Big East Edition

Posted by mlemaire on May 3rd, 2013

The deadline to declare early entry for the NBA Draft has passed and as is apt to be the case with a league as good as the Big East, there were a number of teams in the conference that were waiting down to the wire to see who they would lose to the professional ranks and who they would get to keep on campus for one more season. 45 players officially announced they were declaring for the NBA Draft and six of those players came from the Big East. Here is some brief on analysis on which teams are feeling good about who they got back, and which teams were left wishing for just one more year. And yes, we do realize some of these teams won’t be in the Big East next season, but we are nostalgic and are looking into the past for as long as we can.

Winners:

Louisville

Russ Smith's Return Makes The Cardinals A Trendy Repeat Candidate (AP Photo).

Smith’s Return Makes The Cardinals A Candidate To Repeat (AP Photo)

Gorgui Dieng knew his stock wasn’t going to get any higher and so he headed off to the NBA, but Louisville expected that. What they likely didn’t expect was that All-Big East guard Russ Smith would announce his return to school, especially after his father was quoted as saying his son was as good as gone. Smith immediately becomes an early favorite for Big East Player of the Year honors and his play-making and shot-creating ability will be even more important to the Cardinals’ success now that Peyton Siva has graduated. The Cardinals defense will undoubtedly take a step back without Dieng, but Montrezl Harrell is ready to be a starter and don’t sleep on Stephan Van Treese, who showed signs in the NCAA Tournament of becoming more than just a serviceable backup.

Providence

There is no doubt that Ricardo Ledo could help the Friars next season and you could easily make the argument Ledo would be the most talented player on the team from the first day of practice but it is still good news that Ledo declared for the NBA Draft and is leaving the program without having played a single minute. It’s nothing against Ledo, who was only forced on to a college campus because the NBA barred their gates and has clearly had the NBA on his mind since he graduated high school, but in order to rebuild Providence for the long haul, coach Ed Cooley needs to build a foundation and one-and-done players like Ledo don’t help. The Friars have a chance to plant their flag near the top of the new Big East, and if Ledo came back, he would absolutely make the Friars better, but there is no guarantee  there would be enough shots to go around with chucker Bryce Cotton as his backcourt mate. There is also no chance that Ledo would be back for his junior season, which means a year of development for Ledo would be a wasted opportunity to get valuable experience for another guard. Ledo has always had his eye on the NBA and good for him, he shouldn’t have been dropped onto a college campus in the first place, now the program and fans can let him go and focus on the improvement of his classmates who will be back – Joshua Fortune or Kris Dunn.

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Providence Shows Its Growth With Recent Big East Wins

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 7th, 2013

Dan Lyons is an RTC Big East microsite contributor who also writes for the Syracuse blog, “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.”  You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.  He filed this report after Wednesday night’s match-up between Cincinnati and Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

Providence has played this entire season teetering on the edge.  On one side, losses to the likes of Penn State, UMass, Brown, and DePaul don’t inspire much confidence for Ed Cooley‘s squad going forward.  On the other hand, the only game this season that really got away from the Friars was the January 2nd 80-62 loss to then #4 Louisville.  Every other Friar loss has been within ten points, with two having gone to overtime – the games against Penn State and UConn.  Since the loss to UConn, however, Providence’s luck has seemed to turn a bit.  They went to Villanova, a team that had just logged back to back home wins against the conference’s two big dogs Louisville and Syracuse, and knocked off the Wildcats, and then followed that up with last night’s close win at home against #17 Cincinnati.

Kadeem Batts' 25 points and nine rebounds were essential in Providence's upset of #17 Cincinnati.

Kadeem Batts’ 25 points and nine rebounds were essential in Providence’s upset of #17 Cincinnati.

Providence’s road to relevance under Cooley has been a treacherous one, but there has been reason for hope.  Cooley has been recruiting well above the expectations laid forth by Providence’s 42-53 record over the last three seasons.  Last season Cooley reeled in five-star prospects Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo and he currently has 2013 commitment from four-star small forward prospect Brandon Austin.  He also inherited a team with capable players like Kadeem BattsBryce Cotton, and Vincent Council.  However, in a college basketball landscape where inexperience is no longer an excuse for poor performance, Providence’s turnaround hasn’t translated to on-the-court success as quickly as some fans probably hoped.

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Big East M5: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 6th, 2013

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  1. Providence hasn’t been relevant in basketball in a long time and this season has been no exception. The popular argument seems to be that in order for Ed Cooley to turn the program around, he needs the entire team to buy in to his plan. The point is a good one as the Friars have arguably as much pure talent on their roster as any other team in the conference yet still can’t put anything together. The evidence of such issues is pretty damning actually. Transfer Sidiki Johnson took a voluntary leave of absence from the team recently and two of the program’s best players, LaDontae Henton and Vincent Council, both sat to start the Connecticut game because of issues with Cooley — and you know Ricardo Ledo doesn’t care about the long-term success of the program given his recent comments about considering the NBA. Ledo is the only one with a decent excuse since it isn’t his fault he has to sit out this season, but Johnson has set new records for using up good will wherever he goes and this is hardly the first issue Council has created because of his cavalier attitude. The article is right. Cooley can stockpile the most impressive collection of basketball talent on the Eastern Seaboard and it won’t matter unless he can get the whole team to buy in to what he is selling. Until then, Providence is going to be a program that produces a few NBA players without ever winning many college games.
  2. Yes, it is just the ranting of an angry fan, but there was already plenty of buzz around the topic of whether DePaul should fire head coach Oliver Purnell and that buzz has only grown louder after the Blue Demons were embarrassed on their home court last night by a mediocre Villanova team. The loss came on the heels of two hard-fought overtime losses last week but it was also the seventh-straight defeat for Purnell’s club, which really hasn’t shown much improvement now in his third year at the helm. The school paid Purnell handsomely to spurn Clemson in the hopes that he would come in and rebuild a once proud program. Instead, his lack of ties to Chicago have hurt him in recruiting and, never one to be mistaken for a strategy whiz, Purnell’s team consistently blows winnable games and is often obviously outplayed. No matter how the team finishes this season, Purnell probably deserves to watch his first recruiting class graduate and if the team’s best players, Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, don’t do something silly like enter the NBA Draft, it could be the best and deepest club Purnell has coached in Chicago. But if he can’t make it work next season with a solid recruiting class and a host of returning talent, I wouldn’t bet on him making it through another full season unscathed.
  3. With questions swirling about whether super-sub James Southerland‘s season is done, the good folks at Troy Nunes Is A Magician took a quick look at why the program’s fans hate freshman guard Trevor Cooney so much. The article does a fine job of examining the issue on its own so there is no need to rehash everything, but we will say that if Southerland is deemed ineligible for the rest of the season, ‘Cuse fans better get used to seeing Cooney because head coach Jim Boeheim doesn’t have a whole lot else to work with. Would it be nice if Cooney shot better than 29 percent from behind the three-point arc and played better perimeter defense? Of course it would. But we are talking about a redshirt freshman who is receiving inconsistent minutes and still hasn’t found his range yet. Don’t get us wrong, heading into the NCAA Tournament with Cooney as our sixth man would make us nervous too, but let’s cut him some slack and give him another year or two before ‘Cuse fans angrily try to run him out of town.
  4. We have confirmation of some “needed wake-up call” talk down in Louisville where Cardinals players speaking to the media stopped just short of calling their three-game losing streak a good thing because it let the team know that letdowns wouldn’t cut it. While there is still no supporting evidence to convince me that losing three important conference games in a row is a good thing, the argument works well with a team like Louisville. Advanced metrics and eyeballs tell you that Louisville is as complete a team as there is in the country and certainly a viable national championship contender. Seeding is important and a three-game losing streak obviously has an effect on that, but if the Cardinals actually learn from their struggles and are able to maintain intensity and focus for the rest of the season, then maybe I will start buying more of the talk  about these “moral victories” and “wake-up calls.”
  5. File this under someone should probably tell Larry Brown there is no Santa Claus either, as the famous first-year coach at SMU is still holding out hope that the Big East as it currently stands will stick together for another year or two, long enough for the Mustangs to get a taste of the conference. It is possible that the Catholic 7 will be forced to play out their contracts with the Big East, but it is more likely that after some legal wrangling, the Big East gets paid and the Catholic 7 jumps ship sooner and starts collecting checks from their supposedly impending television deal. The 72-year-old Brown seems to just now be coming to grips with all of the conference realignment and you can assume by his assertion that it is “ruining every other sport” other than football that he is not at all a fan. We don’t disagree with Brown, we just think it might be time to get with the picture and realize that the Big East that SMU enters will not look the same as the Big East that SMU thought it had signed up for.
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Big East M5: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 29th, 2012

  1. While fans are rejoicing in Louisville, the Connecticut fan base is not taking it nearly as well and for good reason. The decision to grab the Cards, while potentially only one of a few moves the ACC may make in coming years, leaves the Huskies as the premier athletic program in the Big East. The problem is, they really, really don’t want to be in the Big East anymore, because being the premier athletic program doesn’t exactly speak well to the programs left over and the programs coming in. Now UConn is left to pick up the pieces and console a fan base that sees the writing on the wall as long as their favorite team remains in the slowly decaying Big East. At the end of the day, the fact that Louisville has not one but two excellent money-making programs on its roster probably shifted the balance in their favor. The Huskies have some time to figure out their next move, but the people in charge better start thinking about it right now.
  2. Good news for Marquette today as coach Buzz Williams announced that junior guard Vander Blue would be ready to go when the Golden Eagles square off with No. 7 Florida in the SEC/Big East Challenge. The once-highly touted recruit sprained his knee in the Maui Invitational and luckily for Williams’ club, the injury wasn’t serious and he will return to action immediately. The Golden Eagles are going to need Blue’s athleticism, defensive and scoring ability against the Gators’ ballyhooed backcourt. Blue has been the team’s second-leading scorer thus far (11.4 PPG) and while he has contributed much category juice elsewhere, he is undoubtedly one of the team’s most talented players, and they will need his steady hand if they expect to beat Florida.
  3. Syracuse really couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season from its sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Buried on the bench last season because the Orange were incredibly deep in the backcourt, Williams has embraced his new starting role and has burst out of the gate, leading the nation in assists and nearly leading in steals as well. Of course Jim Boeheim’s club hasn’t exactly played a murderer’s row of opponents yet, so Carter-Williams’ numbers will likely regress some. But even so, the sophomore has proven he is plenty talented enough to hold his own once conference play begins and it is not exactly a secret how important he is to Syracuse’s success this season. He still turns the ball over a little more often than Boeheim would probably like, but that will even itself out as he gets more experience running the team. For now, the Orange and its fan base should feel pretty good about its new point guard.
  4. I am entirely too lazy to look back through my Morning Fives from last season but I seem to remember highlighting a very similar article last season, one in which a reporter highlights that Cincinnati has an excellent basketball team that struggles to draw fans to watch them play. The good news is that coach Mick Cronin and the program’s administration are well aware of the attendance issues, but the bad news is that there isn’t really a definitive plan on what to do about the problem. Cronin has a whole bag of excuses that includes lack of quality seating at his home arena and the fact that Cincinnati is a pro city and not a college town, but the fact of the matter is that crosstown rival Xavier isn’t drawing well either. It’s a real shame too because the Bearcats have the look of an excellent team and should be a real contender once March rolls around. There is no doubt the team will draw better when it plays higher-profile opponents, but hey, folks in Cincinnati, your local college has an excellent product to view, so go view it.
  5. The Bearcats aren’t the only team with attendance issues as Providence coach Ed Cooley has resorted to basically groveling to fans to get them to come out and watch the Friars play. Of course it would be a lot easier to convince oneself to go watch Providence if they were as good as Cincinnati, or even if Kris Dunn or Ricardo Ledo were suiting up. But the Friars have only a few scholarship players and while watching Bryce Cotton shoot the lights out is entertaining, Providence is not going to be very good this year, and fans don’t usually turn out to watch crappy teams lose to conference foes. Of course this is also another case where Providence has played exciting competition, and while Mississippi State rolls into town this weekend, fans probably won’t really turn out in earnest until conference play begins.
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Lost and Found Again: Unearthing Providence Guard Bryce Cotton

Posted by mlemaire on November 13th, 2012

On the heels of transfer announcements from Gerard Coleman and Bilal Dixon, the rumors started swirling at Providence in early April that yet another guard — then-sophomore Bryce Cotton — asked for his release and was set to leave the program. The thought was that with Vincent Council returning for his senior year and at least two superstar guard recruits entering the program, Cotton saw the writing on the wall and was headed for a place that offered more playing time.

The Friars Have A New Star Of The Show, But The Team Should Be Happy It Has Him At All

Friars’ fans did not take the news well  but the discussion was never about losing a starting guard, it was about losing “depth” and a solid player who could back up Council and uber-freshmen Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo. Never mind that the then-sophomore was coming off a season in which he had averaged 38.6 minutes and 14.3 points per game, the message was already clear. Cotton was a nice player, but he wasn’t Council, or Dunn, or Ledo.

Fast forward to present day and you can bet that the Providence faithful is thanking its lucky stars that Cotton decided to stick around.   The backcourt logjam that was supposed to eat into Cotton’s minutes never materialized. In fact, the backcourt has gone from an area of strength to an area of weakness almost overnight. First Dunn had shoulder surgery, then Ledo was ruled ineligible, and then, early in the team’s season-opening win over the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Council injured his hamstring, leaving him sidelined for an undetermined amount of time.

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Big East M5: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on October 16th, 2012

  1. Rick Pitino’s highly touted Louisville squad took the court for the first time in the annual Red/White Scrimmage on Saturday. It’s obviously hard to derive any significant conclusions from this sort of event, but the scrimmage provided Cardinal fans with their first glimpse of newcomer Montrezl Harrell. The former Virginia Tech commitment –– who’s earned the title “Baby Chane”  – did not disappoint, posing 17 points and 12 rebounds in his first public performance as a Cardinal. His performance substantiated the notion that that 6’8″, 235-pound Harrell can replace the departed Jared Swopshire and Rakeem Buckles as a serviceable backup to both Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng. Louisville’s frontcourt rotation suddenly appears more talented than even the 2009 team, which featured future NBA players Earl Clark and Samardo Samuels in the post.
  2. It’s already been covered at length by both the sports and general news media, but the stabbing incident that cut short Syracuse’s Orange Madness event last Friday bears mentioning in light of new developments. The victim was identified as 25-year-old Shoquinn Benton, someone who was unaffiliated with the university, uncooperative with police, and subsequently seems to have discharged himself from the hospital with little fanfare. Athletic Director Daryl Gross indicated that while this was an isolated incident at an otherwise positive event, the school will take steps to avoid the environment that fostered multiple fights at last weekend’s Orange Madness: “What we’re going to do is make sure that we ensure that you can’t even get that storm together again… Obviously, we’re going to be meeting a lot about this.” Sean Keeley at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician speculates that those meetings may result in measures like charging admission to the event for non-students and non-ticket holders.
  3. Speaking of Syracuse, last Friday we noted that not only does this season mark the 37th year of Jim Boeheim’s head coaching tenure there, but also the 50th anniversary of the coach’s matriculation to Syracuse as a college freshman. For his part, Boeheim isn’t eager to celebrate the occasion: “Nobody knew about it. I shouldn’t have told anybody.” He’s 67 years old and non-committal about retirement (saying “it’s getting close”), but he doesn’t hesitate to gush over his squad’s preparation heading into the season. Given Jim Calhoun’s recent retirement, Boeheim’s equivocation about hanging up the towel, and recent comments from Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, it’s entirely possible that Rick Pitino could enter the 2013-14 season as the only Big East coach with a national title.
  4. This week is a big one for Georgetown recruiting. Notable Big East recruit Roddy Peters will make his college decision this morning at 9 AM ET. The Suitland, Maryland, point guard will reportedly decide between Georgetown, Rutgers, Maryland and Xavier. Another Georgetown target and consensus top-50 recruit, Johnathan Williams III, will also decide later this week between the Hoyas, Michigan State, Tennessee and Missouri.
  5. According to Friar Blog, Providence is appealing the NCAA to have Ricky Ledo eligible to play in the second semester. Ledo had been declared a partial qualifier in September, making him eligible to practice but not to play in the upcoming season. Even getting the precocious freshman eligible for a handful of Big East games would be a huge lift for Ed Cooley and Providence fans eager to see what he can do. Complemented by heralded freshman point guard Kris Dunn, PC would immediately have one of the most talented backcourts in the conference. This is certainly a storyline worth watching as we head into the winter months.
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Big East M5: 10.11.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on October 11th, 2012

  1. Louisville coach Rick Pitino went on the radio earlier this week to talk about all things Cardinals’ basketball and The Card Chronicle was generous enough to extract the key points from the conversation. The most interesting tidbit for us was Pitino’s praise of sophomore guard Kevin Ware. Ware landed at Louisville last season after a mini-recruiting scandal involving his courtship to Central Florida but he struggled picking up the offense after only gaining his eligibility in December and he was asked to play out of position as a backup point guard. Now, according to Pitino, he has worked hard to improve his shot and his athleticism and has stood out so much in practice that Ware is currently the team’s starting shooting guard… ahead of the mercurial Russ Smith. Of course you will probably see a lot of Smith this season, but if Ware starts living up to his vast potential, Louisville will be scary good this season.
  2. The list of College Basketball’s Top 100 players from CBSSports.com came out Monday and while we don’t want to spend too much time trading in irrelevancies, we do want to talk about how happy we are to see that the Big East’s top representative is Georgetown sophomore Otto Porter, who checked in at No. 16, ahead of the more recognizable and popular picks, Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva. You will see next week that we didn’t pick Porter as our preseason player of the year, but some of us feel like we may regret that choice as the season goes on. Porter is still relatively unknown on the national scene, but you can expect that to change quickly now that he is the focal point of the Hoyas’ offense.
  3. Apparently Villanova‘s recent on-court struggles have not adversely affected Jay Wright’s ability to recruit, especially in Washington, DC. The Wildcats recently collected a commitment from 6’5″wing Josh Hart who couples with 6’6″ power forward Kris Jenkins to give the program a pair of top-100 recruits from the District. Jenkins is an undersized bruiser in the mold of a less-skilled, more physical JayVaughn Pinkston. Hart will likely play on the wing, but he is versatile and athletic enough to play multiple positions. If he can become more aggressive offensively and continue to develop his outside shooting, he will be a big-time, multi-year contributor for Wright.
  4. Early in September we learned that precocious Providence freshman Ricky Ledo would only be allowed to practice with the Friars this season, not play. While the NCAA isn’t going to tell the public why Ledo is only a partial-qualifier, it seems pretty clear to those in the know that Ledo’s one semester stint at Notre Dame Prep played a role in the NCAA’s decision. The NCAA is investigating the Massachusetts prep school for shady academic and financial issues, and as a result, a number of Division I recruits, including Ledo, were ruled ineligible to play this season. The good news for Friars’ fans is that Ledo plans to stick around and play next season as a redshirt freshman, which will be a small consolation for fans hoping to see the program’s fabulous recruiting class in action next month.
  5. For many teams in the conference, Midnight Madness kicks off this Friday. Every school takes a different approach to this event but it is always fun to see which coaches get dressed up, which musical stars show up to perform, and which walk-on will dump 18 points on his teammates in the intrasquad scrimmage. While we like to think of ourselves as analytical minds here at the Big East microsite, that doesn’t mean we don’t love the occasional dose of frivolity either, especially when it is guaranteed to involve Doug E. Fresh. Check back tomorrow morning as we run with a light-hearted but essential guide to Friday’s Midnight Madness festivities.
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Morning Five: 09.06.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 6th, 2012

  1. The NCAA has ruled on the eligibility of one of the high-profile recruits in the Class of 2013, and it appears it’ll be “see ya next year” for Providence guard Ricardo Ledo. The star prospect who bounced around between numerous high schools in his prep career has been deemed a ‘partial qualifier,’ which effectively means that he can practice with the team during the upcoming season but will have to wait until 2013-14 to put on the Friar uniform and play. Ledo said earlier this week that he planned on staying at the school regardless of the NCAA’s decision, but if things change between now and next spring for the 6’6″ guard, he would of course have the option of entering the NBA Draft pool. Ed Cooley’s talented recruiting class — along with Ledo, point guard Kris Dunn is out until January with an injury — isn’t off to the best start, but the season after next could end up being PC’s long-awaited return to prominence. Here come the Friars, indeed.
  2. It it weren’t so sad due to his current hospitalization for high blood pressure, the outrage about Billy Gillispie‘s treatment of his Texas Tech players and staff would without question be much less muted. The story keeps getting weirder, though, as Texas Tech disclosed on Wednesday that it had reprimanded the head coach earlier this year after it was discovered that he was holding practices last December that were much longer than allowed by NCAA. The school self-reported the violations to the NCAA in January, and the governing body accepted the penalty as a result (docking itself twice the number of hours of practice). There’s almost no way that this story ends well for Gillispie or Texas Tech, and Gary Parrish writes what everyone around the college basketball world has been thinking: “Bottom line, this [Gillispie] is done.” How someone can blow the next chance he receives after self-immolation at a blue-chip job is a trajectory we have trouble reconciling, but that appears to be the only possible outcome here.
  3. Every year one of the most fun preseason exercises that a college basketball fan can go through is to attempt a prediction of the next group of breakout stars. Luke Winn’s annual Sophomore Breakout column, meticulously supported by their freshman efficiency numbers, is one of the better such examples that you’ll find. His group of five breakout players last season, for example, yielded Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas. And while his choices for this year’s group of next-gen stars definitely leans to the mid-major level, just consider it homework that you can drop on your buddies sometime during the holiday season. Oh, you don’t know about VCU’s Treveon Graham? — amateur hour.
  4. While on the subject of efficiency numbers, NC State‘s Backing the Pack published an interesting article this week examining the question of what the profile of a power conference champion looks like. The premise, of course, is to project just how much better Mark Gottfried’s Wolfpack squad needs to improve to have a reasonable shot to take the ACC regular season championship next season. Basically, the post concludes that the magic number of efficiency to have a reasonable shot at a league title is around a +10.0 points per 100 possessions differential. What’s not discussed here, though, is that the competition at the top in NC State’s league — ahem, Duke and North Carolina — have regularly blown past that differential into the range of +20.0 points per 100 possessions in the five-year sample. With those two schools poised to take a bit of a step back next season, it’s certainly possible that the top of the ACC could fall into Wolfpack hands, but it’s sorta like KU losing the Big 12 championship — we’ll believe it when we see it.
  5. Remember the tragic and hard-luck story of the Fort Wayne, Indiana, prep prospect, Austin Hatch, who lost his father and stepmother and nearly killed him in a small-engine plane crash last summer? The 6’6″, 210-pound wing did not play in what would have been his junior season as he rehabilitated from his injuries, and with the blessing of the Indiana High School Athletic Association, he has been approved to reclassify to the Class of 2014. This will allow him two years to graduate high school and also find his game again (assuming he wants to go in that direction, and who would blame him if he doesn’t?). Michigan has already agreed to hold a scholarship for him, but his reclassification means that John Beilein’s excellent 2013 class will now have an open scholarship. We certainly wish Hatch nothing but the best in trying to piece together a semblance of a normal high school existence this year and next — he certainly deserves it.
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Big East Summer Capsules: Providence Friars

Posted by mlemaire on July 19th, 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. First up is Providence.

1. Setbacks to the much ballyhooed 2012 recruiting class.

Questions About The Eligibility Of Ricardo Ledo Continue To Swirl

First it was five-star guard Kris Dunn announcing he would miss at least five months after surgery to repair a torn labrum. Then it was fellow point guard recruit Ian Baker tearing his ACL, which will likely keep him out for all of next season. Throw in the continued eligibility concerns about top shooting guard Ricardo Ledo and Providence fans have reason to be concerned about their once highly-anticipated recruiting class.  Ed Cooley continues to remain positive that Ledo will become eligible, and the Friars still have enough backcourt depth to survive the absences of Dunn and Baker, but it is still a major disappointment considering the hype surrounding this recruiting class and the hope it gave to the program’s future.

2. The Big East didn’t do them any favors when it came to scheduling.

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Two of Nation’s Top Point Guards Facing Potentially Serious Injuries

Posted by EJacoby on June 25th, 2012

It’s been well documented that the point guard position was not a strong suit of Division I basketball last year, and the same applies for the incoming class of freshmen players. The last thing we need is for some of the country’s elite lead guards to suffer setbacks this offseason heading into 2012-13, but it appears that’s exactly what has happened over the past week. NC State’s rising junior Lorenzo Brown is set to undergo knee surgery this week, and incoming Providence stud Kris Dunn suffered a recent shoulder injury that could require surgery as well. Brown’s procedure is notable as only ‘exploratory’ and should not leave him sidelined for more than several weeks, but knee surgeries are never good news for quick guards. It often takes far longer than the required rehab time before a player returns to 100% health and regains the trust to rely on his knee for all the cuts required during games. Dunn’s status, meanwhile, remains unknown but could become a far more serious issue that requires several months of rehabilitation. Both players could also end up fine for the upcoming season — still over four months away — but their teams could also become affected during parts or all of the year.

Lorenzo Brown is a versatile guard for NC State and hopes to avoid a serious knee injury after exploratory surgery this week (AP Photo/C. Burton)

Brown averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game as a sophomore last season for a late-surging Wolfpack team that made a strong run to the Sweet Sixteen. The heady guard has terrific size at 6’5″ that enables him to see the floor well and defend at a high level; he even averaged half a block per game last year. He’s the leader of a preseason top 15 team who led the squad in minutes played last season. Luckily, Mark Gottfried’s team also has incoming McDonald’s All-American freshman Tyler Lewis as its backup point guard, but he is not ready or able to handle all the responsibilities that Brown does — Lewis would fit much better as a rotating reserve to start his career. Hopefully, Brown’s surgery doesn’t reveal anything particularly damaging and the veteran can re-join the team long before the season starts, but having a procedure to “discover the source of pain” leaves reason for temporary concern.

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Handicapping Next Season’s SEC/Big East Challenge Matchups

Posted by EJacoby on June 4th, 2012

The Big East sent more teams (nine) to last year’s NCAA Tournament than any other conference, while the SEC compiled the best winning percentage (.769) during the Big Dance. The two leagues are squaring off next season in the second annual SEC/Big East Challenge, whose matchups were announced on Friday. With plenty to offer in the form of juggernaut teams and program traditions, the idea of this event should provide great intrigue to the non-conference season, something the Big Ten and ACC have done in their cross-conference challenge for the past 14 years. Next year’s slate doesn’t look nearly as enticing as some were hoping for — UConn, Louisville, and Missouri aren’t participating, while Syracuse is in but wants out – and our SEC microsite broke down the lack of headline games on the schedule. Nonetheless, we can’t overlook this event that allows for top conference teams to play true road games against other power leagues. Last season, Georgetown played at Alabama in one of the most entertaining games of the entire non-conference slate, and that game didn’t garner much publicity at all. The Big East came away victorious, 8-4, in last year’s event. Here’s what the 2012 SEC/Big East Challenge presents us.

Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish Like Their Chances Against the National Champs Next Year (AP Photo)

Youth vs. Experience, Kentucky at Notre Dame (Nov. 29) – Notre Dame returns all five starters from last season; Kentucky returns none. But both teams have high hopes next year, as the Fighting Irish bring back the entire core from a team that went 13-5 in the Big East while the National Champion Wildcats showcase the nation’s number two recruiting class of SEC-ready stars. Both programs have decorated pasts with loyal fanbases; each team is ranked in the RTC preseason Top 25. What’s not to love about this matchup? A Kentucky-Syracuse game would have garnered more hype, but this matchup could produce a better game. Who wins out, the young guns or the vets? We should get a great read on the new crop of UK freshmen in this their first real road test.

Seeking Sweet Revenge, Marquette at Florida (Nov. 29) - These two teams squared off in last year’s Sweet Sixteen, when the Gators ended the Golden Eagles’ season and Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom’s careers. Buzz Williams’ boys are looking for revenge in Gainesville, though both teams will look a lot different from last season. Florida loses its own pair of stars (Erving Walker, Bradley Beal) but Kenny Boynton and Patric Young are back to form one of the nation’s most threatening inside-out duos. Each team must call on a host of young players that showed promise last year but have to step into more prominent roles in 2012-’13. There’s plenty of intrigue in this one, though Florida is the strong favorite at home.

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Providence: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by mlemaire on April 19th, 2012

Our apologies for plagiarizing borrowing the ideas of our colleagues over at the Pac-12 microsite, but we liked their post-mortem team breakdowns so much that we decided to replicate them with our conference. So over the course of the next two weeks, we will break down each team’s season, starting from the bottom of the conference standings. Next up is Providence.

What Went Wrong

If you were one of the few dreamers who thought Providence could make a run to the NCAA Tournament this season, then you probably thought a lot went wrong. But if you were realistic about new coach Ed Cooley‘s first season in charge of the Friars, then you probably weren’t too disappointed in the way the season went. Basically the Friars cruised through a relatively easy out-of-conference schedule before being exposed by the better teams in the Big East.

It didn’t help that Kadeem Batts was suspended for the first semester of the season and there were grumblings about discontent in the locker room which led to a number of key transfers. On the court, the defense was the primary issue as the team finished 212th in defensive efficiency and 13th in the conference in scoring defense. Offensively the team had plenty of weapons, but they didn’t shoot it very much from behind the three-point arc and they were much too inconsistent, especially against better defensive teams.

What Went Right

LaDontae Henton Was A Revelation For The Friars This Season (credit: Providence Journal)

Although perception and opinion can change quickly in college basketball, Cooley’s hiring brought a lot of energy and optimism for a program lacking both after the Keno Davis era. Snagging big man LaDontae Henton after arriving at Providence proved to be an excellent move as the freshman was a consistent double-double threat and should only get better next season. Point guard Vincent Council missed one game for undisclosed reasons but for most of the season he was one of if not the best point guard in the Big East, and the development of sophomore wings Bryce Cotton and Gerard Coleman should give the Friar faithful plenty to look forward to, especially considering how loaded the backcourt will be next season. Batts was only okay after his return from suspension, but he and rising sophomore Brice Kofane give the team some interior depth heading into next season as well.

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