Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #8 Connecticut

Posted by mlemaire on October 30th, 2012

Few new coaches in the country will have a more difficult job this season than new Connecticut head honcho Kevin Ollie. Not only does Ollie has the unenviable task of following the most popular and successful coach in the program’s history, but he also has to find a way to overcome the departure of some of the team’s most talented and productive players and he has to find a way to motivate his team because previous academic issues forced the NCAA to bar his team from the Big East and NCAA Tournament. Oh and did we mention that Ollie is on a one-year contract and will be under heavy scrutiny all season as the athletic department decides whether to keep him around or chase a bigger name? Needless to say, Ollie has his work cut out for him. The good news is that Ollie’s staff is chock-full of former Division I head coaches and there is still plenty of talent leftover from last season’s tumultuous run. Depth will become a problem and struggles could turn into a freefall without any postseason to play for, but there are certainly enough pieces in place to at least give Huskies’ fans a glimmer of hope heading into a new era of UConn basketball.

2011-12 Record: 20-14, 8-10

2011-12 Postseason: NCAA Tournament Second Round, lost to Iowa State 77-64.

Point Guard Shabazz Napier Is The Unquestion Leader Of One Of The Conference’s Youngest Teams.


Ollie’s career on the bench will start with a bang when the Huskies kick off the college basketball season by playing a very talented Michigan State team on board on active aircraft carrier, and the rest of the non-conference slate won’t be much easier. Last year’s America East champion, Vermont, lies in wait immediately following the opener and the Paradise Jam Tournament with a first game against Wake Forest follows that. Don’t forget about the Jimmy V Classic where they will square off with a very talented North Carolina State squad.

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Taking Stock of UConn’s Transfers: Who Ended Up Where?

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 27th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Between its poor chemistry, inconsistent performance in conference play and seemingly complacent disposition on the court, the 2011-12 UConn Huskies could never regain the competitive drive that propelled its National Championship effort one year earlier. Despite a wealth of returning talent – including small forward Jeremy Lamb, shooting guard Shabazz Napier and big men Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith, not to mention a highly-touted freshmen class featuring center Andre Drummond and point guard Ryan Boatwright – Jim Calhoun’s squad never developed the leadership dynamic it needed and failed to discover an effective way to mesh together the holdovers from the previous season’s title-winning team. The powerhouse program experienced an unexpected down season, but that was the least of its concerns. As penalty for failing to meet the NCAA’s minimum four-year and two-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards, UConn was ruled ineligible for the 2013 postseason. Despite an appeal for alternate penalties and a waiver request – filed under the claim that recently instituted reforms had led to improved academic performance over the past two years – the NCAA held firm on its verdict. The program that just one year earlier was riding an all-time high after winning its third national championship had bottomed out, but the lost hope of a 2013 postseason appearance wasn’t nearly as concerning as the resulting personnel departures it prompted.

NCAA rules prevent Smith from playing this season, but he should join a talented UNLV frontcourt in 2013-14 (Photo credit: Julio Cortez/AP Photo).

Following UConn’s first-round NCAA Tournament loss to eight-seed Iowa State, the quasi-exodus began in earnest. First Oriakhi announced his intention to transfer, a move that – according to an NCAA rule enabling Oriakhi to bypass the customary one-year wait period because of UConn’s ineligibility for postseason play – enabled him to find a school with a legitimate chance of participating in the 2013 postseason. Big man Michael Bradley followed suit soon thereafter. Smith was the third to leave the program, marking a severe depletion of frontcourt talent and depth. And that’s without mentioning Lamb and Drummond, who – whether motivated by the postseason ban or otherwise – declared for the NBA Draft. The NCAA on Friday issued a ruling on Smith’s eligibility for the upcoming season. The result was hardly surprising, but it nonetheless compelled me to delve into the whereabouts of the three UConn transfers and investigate their prospects for the upcoming season. Below you’ll find a brief summary of each player’s state of affairs as they prepare for life at their respective new programs.

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Morning Five: 08.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 27th, 2012

  1. Worrisome news was released on Friday from Saint Louis University when the school announced that its head coach, Rick Majerus, will be taking a medically-related leave of absence next season, leaving top assistant coach Jim Crews in charge. According to SLU, Majerus is currently hospitalized in California “undergoing evaluation and treatment for an ongoing heart condition.” As we wrote after the news was released, this is the sort of thing that could mark  a turning point in the longtime head coach’s professional career. Majerus is well-known as a guy whom you can only keep out of the gym by padlocking its doors, so it’s no joke that he’s choosing to give up the thing he loves most in order to take care of his health. We wish him nothing but the best on this latest twist in his journey, and certainly hope that even if he never coaches another minute of college basketball, he has a number of productive and fulfilling years still ahead of him. As for his Billiken program, with the core of a Round of 32 team returning to St. Louis, Andy Glockner writes that Crews will inherit a squad with both significant expectations and the added specter of Majerus’ health hanging over the team. Crews had some success at Evansville a decade or more ago, but there is reason to question whether he’s up to the task of running what is undoubtedly a team with Top 25 talent.
  2. The other big news on Friday was the announcement from Marquette that assistant coach Scott Monarch had been dismissed and that head coach Buzz Williams will suffer a self-imposed one-game suspension for what are admittedly rather mild recruiting transgressions — Monarch gave team gear and transportation to an unnamed recruit. To be clear, there is no evidence that Williams himself knew about the illegal recruiting benefits — his suspension derives from the coach’s duty to monitor staff compliance. According to the Marquette athletic director, Larry Williams, Monarch’s mistakes became compounded when he allegedly lied about them during the school’s internal investigation — had he been truthful from the beginning, he’d probably still be employed at MU today. This shows once again that the old adage is almost always true — the cover-up is more damaging than the underlying crime. Maybe someday someone will actually find themselves in such a situation and take this sage advice — it might end up saving his job.
  3. In recent days, the conviction of Oklahoma State forward Darrell Williams for allegedly sexually assaulting two female students at a party in December two years ago has come under fire by some in the non-sports national media. In the especially tense arena of national racial politics, a case like Williams’ where a black man was accused of heinous felonies by two white women and convicted by a nearly all-white jury is bound to raise some eyebrows. On Friday, an Oklahoma judge delayed Williams’ sentencing hearing on those convictions, citing a defense motion that new and possibly exculpatory evidence has been found that could force the judge to throw out the convictions and order a new trial. There’s no way of knowing whether the claim of new evidence has any merit, but with Jesse Jackson, Jr., in town and many commentators outside the sporting realm taking a curious interest in this case, it will be very interesting to watch how this unfolds.
  4. The NCAA made its ruling on former Connecticut and current UNLV forward Roscoe Smith‘s transfer waiver request on Friday, and the decision to deny the waiver — meaning Smith will become eligible in 2013-14 — could be a blessing in disguise for both the Runnin’ Rebels and Smith himself. UNLV already boasts a loaded lineup next season and the 6’8″ big man, who has two years of eligibility remaining, would be well  situated to slide into a starting spot in the frontcourt most likely vacated after Mike Moser’s presumptive last season as a collegian. Smith, as you recall, was a frequent starter on the 2011 UConn championship team (averaging 6/5 in 25 MPG), but like many of his Husky teammates, backslid a bit in his sophomore season (5/3 in 18 MPG). Still, there’s no questioning his talent when bought in and completely focused, so Dave Rice’s team will look forward to Smith’s leadership and skill in what they hope are the immediate years following UNLV’s first Final Four run in two decades.
  5. UNLV’s Smith may not see the court for another year, but another offseason transfer, Memphis’ Charles Carmouche, has enrolled at LSU and will join the Tigers for his senior year next season. This is actually Carmouche’s third transfer — the wiry guard from New Orleans began his career at hometown University of New Orleans, but decided to transfer upriver to Memphis when it appeared that UNO would downgrade from Division I athletics. After a solid junior season at UM in 2010-11, though, Carmouche’s senior season was derailed because of problems with his knees. Still, despite receiving medical clearance in January, he chose to not suit up again, and after graduating he was then free to use the grad-transfer loophole to go anywhere who would take him. Enter LSU, where new head coach Johnny Jones will welcome the scoring punch that Carmouche brings to Baton Rouge. It’s been a wild and woolly ride for Carmouche over the past four years, but we’re guessing that he’ll need to make the most of this final season, as his eligibility is unlikely to extend to yet another transfer destination.
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RTC Summer School: Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on August 14th, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Up next: the Mountain West.

Drew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference. You can also find his musings on Twitter @amurawa.

Three Summer Storylines

  • Tectonic Movement Continues. For the second straight year, the landscape of the MW shifts. Last year it was BYU and Utah heading off to greener pastures with Boise State landing in their place. This year TCU is on its way out the door with Fresno State and Nevada on their way in. And next year Boise State and San Diego State will depart with San Jose State and Utah State coming in. All in all, this will still be a good basketball conference even after all these moving parts settle, but the loss of a rapidly improving Aztec program will be tough for MW fans to take. TCU and Boise State certainly aren’t major losses on the basketball side, but the strength of their football programs could have provided stability for the conference and the potential for improved programs on the hardwood. Between the four newcomers, each of Fresno State, Nevada and Utah State have had good runs over the course of a handful of years, but they’ll all need to prove their ability to compete with more established programs like UNLV and New Mexico, while SJSU figures to step directly into the basement of the conference.

  • The Mtn. Crumbles. On May 31, The Mtn., the Mountain West’s television network, went dark, ceasing all operations after six years. Now, say what you will about the network, a channel that eschewed HD programming, struggled with distribution and had issues with their on-air talent, but the shuttering of its doors leaves some questions for MW hoops fans. In the era of The Mtn., if you wanted to follow MW hoops, it was easy to do so. Now, it remains to be seen exactly how much exposure teams from this conference will get during the year. Sure, the MW still has deals in place to get games shown on NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network, but what about that Air Force/Boise State game on some random February Wednesday? Should you want to watch that game and you’re not in Idaho or Colorado, odds are pretty good you’re going to be out of luck.
  • Continued Success? For all the uncertainty about the membership of the conference, the last three years have been something of the golden age of Mountain West basketball. In the past three seasons, the MW has received 11 NCAA Tournament berths. Two years ago there were dual Sweet Sixteen appearances by BYU and SDSU. We’ve had Jimmer and Kawhi grab national headlines, while other guys like Dairese Gary and Darington Hobson, Billy White and Drew Gordon, D.J. Gay and Hank Thorns, Andy Ogide and Malcolm Thomas have kept us all entertained. But, even with all of those players now gone, there is still plenty to be excited about in the conference. San Diego State and UNLV lead the way again, with both expected to start the season in the preseason Top 25. New Mexico and Colorado State, who joined the Aztecs and Rebels in the Big Dance last year, both should be in the hunt for another tourney bid, while Nevada could be a sleeper in its first season in the conference. And, as always, we could be in for another surprise or two.

Reader’s Take #1

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Big East Summer Capsules: Connecticut Huskies

Posted by mlemaire on August 2nd, 2012

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

1. It’s official; there will be no postseason play for the Huskies in 2013.

There was only one truly major story that came out of Connecticut this summer but it was a doozy. The Huskies got into hot water with the NCAA because the program’s APR score wasn’t high enough to meet NCAA standards from 2008-11. The NCAA as a result dropped a postseason ban on the program because of its lackluster APR score and the university and the program have been fighting to appeal that ban ever since.  By the middle of July, they had run out of appeals and it became official that the UConn basketball program would not be participating in any postseason tournaments next season. The logic behind the ban makes sense, but it still seems unfortunate to punish the players directly, many of whom weren’t even on the team during the years in question. It also is truly unfortunate to punish the fans of the program. I am sure Storrs will still be rocking when big names roll through town,  but it is going to be tough to stay invested and motivated in your team’s success when you know no matter how well they do, there won’t be any pot of gold at the end of this proverbial rainbow.

2. A lot of pressure falls on the young shoulders of Omar Calhoun.

There Will Be No Postseason For Jim Calhoun And His Huskies Next Season

As if the postseason ban wasn’t enough of a stomach punch, the program also watched as its two most talented players – Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond – left for the NBA; one of its captains – Alex Oriakhi – transfer because he was unhappy; and another key contributor – Roscoe Smith – transfer out so he could play small forward. Needing to replace a lot of scoring and talent, the coaching staff brought in exactly three players. There is 6-foot-10 Philip Nolan who should provide defensive support in the post but is really raw offensively. There is Leon Tolksdorf, another German recruit who at the very least should provide much needed depth to a frontcourt sorely in need of it. And then there is 6-foot-3 combo guard and New York City native Omar Calhoun. Calhoun is strong enough psychically and multi-talented enough offensively to step into a contributing role immediately. After all, he hasn’t even been on campus for more than a few months and already has held his own against arguably the program’s best player ever in a game of one-on-one. But the Big East won’t be a one-on-one scrimmage, and Calhoun will need to learn quickly, because the Huskies need a lot of help across the board especially given the scoring exodus that took place during the offseason. Calhoun has all the tools to fill some of that scoring gap right away, so he should be ready to make the most of this opportunity.

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Rough Offseason Has UConn Reeling, But Team Remains Hopeful in 2012-13

Posted by EJacoby on June 21st, 2012

Breaking news surfaced on Wednesday when the NCAA released its Academic Progress Report (APR) for all Division I athletic programs, and a whopping 10 men’s basketball teams are now banned from the 2012-13 NCAA Tournament after failing to reach the required APR average score of 900 over the last four years. The biggest name on the list, and the only power conference school to ever receive a postseason APR ban, is Connecticut, which recorded a four-year score of 889. But none of this was news to the Huskies, a school which had already lost an appeal this offseason for inclusion. The postseason ban is just one of many pieces of bad news that UConn has received this offseason, which has put the future of UConn basketball in serious doubt. Your 2011 National Champions have struggled on and off the court since that wild run two springs ago sparked by Kemba Walker and company. Transfers, violations, firings, underperformance, and bans have dominated the news cycle around Storrs and 70-year-old future Hall of Fame head coach Jim Calhoun remains on the fence about coaching his team for much longer. Where does UConn go from here, and what can we expect from the Huskies on the court next season?

Jim Calhoun’s future remains in doubt, but the Hall of Fame coach doesn’t want to leave the program in chaos (AP Photo)

Connecticut basketball has been nothing short of a disaster since hauling the National Championship trophy two seasons ago. While that year’s historic run of 11 straight postseason wins is forever engrained in Storrs lore and perhaps fans can accept a few years’ grace period after winning a title, it’s still hard to believe how quickly things have fallen. UConn entered 2011-12 as the Big East preseason favorites but struggled to a 20-14 finish, playing through multiple suspensions and the extended absence of Calhoun due to rules violations and health reasons. The team lost its first round NCAA Tournament game to Iowa State in convincing fashion, and things have only gotten worse since that game in March. Top talents Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond both declared for the NBA Draft, and forwards Roscoe Smith, Michael Bradley, and Alex Oriakhi all transferred out of the program, leaving major holes in the roster. The team is ineligible for both the 2013 Big East and NCAA Tournaments after poor academic performances in the past four years. Recruiting has been understandably difficult, as the school remains a questionable short term destination for prospects. There’s a brand new athletic director (Warde Manuel) on campus who has yet to implement his long-term strategy. And perhaps most importantly, Calhoun remains uncommitted to his future on campus. The 70-year-old has two more years left on his contract and certainly does not want to leave the program in chaos, but the future Hall of Famer will probably not stick around much longer no matter what situation the team is in.

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Morning Five: 05.28.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 28th, 2012

  1. On Friday the NCAA ruled that Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler would be able to play for Pittsburgh next season without having to sit out the usual one year. Citing historical precedent, Zeigler was granted a waiver because his father, Ernie, had been fired by Central Michigan. The addition of Zeigler to the Panther roster gives them one of the best backcourts in the country and makes them a potential top 25 team even if they have to work out a few things after last season’s disaster. We should note the curious decision by the NCAA to give athletes a waiver in this situation. Even though we are all for giving student-athletes the best opportunity to improve themselves it seems like the NCAA is creating some of these rules arbitrarily as your father losing a job is very different from someone in your family battling a terminal illness. In any event, it will be interesting to see how the Panthers utilize Zeigler over the next two seasons.
  2. As expected Connecticut transfer Roscoe Smith announced that he will be transferring to UNLV after leaving the Huskies program that will be forced to sit out next year’s NCAA Tournament. It is expected that Smith will be able to play for UNLV next season as his former team is ineligible for the postseason. If it is true, it could create a potential glut in the frontcourt for the Rebels. In fact, it will probably seem strange to many observers to say that a Mountain West team might be better to have a player who got regular minutes in the Big East sit out a year, but having Smith for two more years post-Mike Moser years might be of more benefit to the program. We doubt that Smith would want to do that so we might be seeing ridiculously early “buzzer-beater” shots coming to Las Vegas very soon.
  3. Another one of the 10 defendants charged in an illegal gambling ring that tried to influence the outcome of San Diego basketball games pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court. Richard Thweni became the third individual to enter a guilty plea in the case investigating the gambling operation that reportedly ran from January 2009 until April 2011. There are still seven more individuals who are waiting to be tried in court (or enter pleas), but we are unsure if all of the information surrounding reported attempts to influence those basketball games will ever come out.
  4. After a rumor was started that three teams from the ACC–Florida State, Clemson, and Miami–were looking at the possibility of moving to the Big 12. Of course that rumor was quickly refuted as a miscommunication, but it still got plenty of people talking. We did not really read too much into this as we assume that every school is constantly on the lookout for options that are better for themselves. Shawn Eichorst, Miami’s athletic director,  felt it was necessary to reiterate the Miami’s commitment to the ACC. It seems like a curious statement to make at least publicly, but to us there is only one translation–none of the better conferences want the Hurricanes right now..
  5. Remember all that talk about Kendall Marshall coming back from a scaphoid fracture to play within a week? It turns out that there was more wrong with Marshall than just that fracture as he also had a fractured elbow. In reality the injury is academic since no reputable medical staff would have cleared Marshall to play with the scaphoid fracture he sustained, but it makes all the talk about him playing again so soon in the NCAA Tournament seem even more ridiculous.
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Big East Weekly Five: 04.24.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on April 24th, 2012

  1. With three weeks having passed since Kentucky snipped the nets in victory we here at RTC Big East are officially in withdrawal and already cannot wait until the 2012-13 season tips off.  However, we understand that things tend to slow down a bit over the summer months and will just have to cope. That said there will continue to be plenty to discuss from week-to-week so we are happy to introduce the Big East Weekly Five.  Think of it as the Morning Five’s lazy cousin. You know, that cousin who doesn’t show up as much as some of the other relatives, but always seems to grace you with his presence if there is free beer?  The Weekly Five will continue throughout the summer and its goal is to provide similar content as the Big East Morning Fives that you have come know and cherish. In keeping with the desire of many to slim down for summer, there will just be less of us to love.  Still, just because we are getting lean and mean does not mean cutting back on the Fresca!
  2. Recruiting is the name of the game in the spring and summer, especially if you are St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin who coming into the weekend had five open scholarships for next year burning a hole in his pocket. What a difference a few days makes as Lavin and St. John’s scored three solid commitments when Harvard transfer Max Hooper joined Monroe (junior) College teammates Marco Bourgault and Orlando Sanchez in pledging for the Red Storm. All three players were on the Queens campus over the weekend — Lavin just needed to seal the deal. Bourgault and Hooper are shooters who will be tasked to help St. John’s stretch the floor with their ability to hit it from deep. The 6’6” Bourgault averaged 10.9 points per game for Monroe and made 42% of his three-point attempts. Hooper, also 6’6”, appeared in just two games while at Harvard and did not make the only shot he attempted. Fittingly both shooters will have three years of eligibility, although Hooper will have to first sit out a season under NCAA transfer rules. The 6’9″ Sanchez may represent Lavin’s biggest coup of the week as he fought off Big East rival Providence and the always persistent Ed Cooley in a battle for the big man. Sanchez will have two years of eligibility remaining.
  3. Seton Hall appears to have filled the significant void vacated by graduating star point guard Jordan Theodore as Texas transfer and Seton Hall Prep alum Sterling Gibbs will be coming home to suit up for the Pirates. The addition of Gibbs solidifies Seton Hall’s lead guard position, but the real kicker for head coachKevin Willard is that he may have Gibbs at the controls this coming season. Gibbs has applied for a hardship waiver that, if granted, would allow him to avoid sitting out next season per normal NCAA transfer rules.  The basis for the hardship waiver request is reported to be a family member’s illness. In Gibbs’ freshman season in Austin, he played in 30 games averaging 2.6 points and 0.7 assists in 7.5 minutes per game for the Longhorns.
  4. While players appear to be headed to St. John’s in droves, the exit door at Connecticut is getting an intense workout. Faced with the reality of not being allowed to play in next season’s Big East and NCAA Tournaments due to his program’s failure to meet NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards, sophomore forward Roscoe Smith became the latest to leave the program when he indicated he will transfer over the weekend. Smith, who averaged 4.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game this past season, joins fellow transfers Alex Oriakhi, who has since committed to Missouri, and Michael Bradley, along with Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb who declared for the NBA Draft.  Bradley, however, may ultimately opt to remain in Storrs as his primary reason for requesting a release from his scholarship is to explore options around moving closer to his ill grandmother.  The 6’10″ forward was scheduled to meet head coachJim Calhoun yesterday to discuss his future.
  5. The NCAA defended its position on Academic Progress Rate (APR) guidelines when it responded to a letter written by six members of Connecticut’s legislature that said banning the Huskies from NCAA Tournament play next year represented too harsh a penalty. The crux of the letter echoed the university’s appeal-losing position, stating that the APR calculations are not fair because they incorporate performance dating back four years when no one on the current roster was on the team. NCAA spokesman Bob Williams countered that the standards have been in place since 2006 and Connecticut knew the standard by which they and all other schools and teams were being measured.

You May Not Have College Hoops For Awhile, But You Can Always Have Fresca

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Big East Morning Five: 02.27.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 27th, 2012

  1.  Syracuse clinched the Big East regular season crown this weekend when C.J. Fair blocked a last-second three-pointer by Roscoe Smith and the Orange held on to a 71-69 win over Connecticut. The Huskies’ faithful wanted a foul and they certainly had a legitimate argument, but the referee swallowed his whistle and Syracuse sealed the No. 1 seed in next weekend’s Big East Tournament. Although he was probably outplayed by Andre Drummond, center Fab Melo had the go-ahead putback flush with 31 seconds left and held his own with 11 points and nine rebounds. The loss put a very serious dent in the Huskies’ at-large chances, but it also showed that the Orange aren’t invincible heading into the Big East Tournament. As history has proven many times, the tournament has always been unpredictable. But this year it really seems like any of nine teams could win this thing. Is it next weekend yet?
  2. In a game with plenty of intrigue but very little offense, South Florida edged Cincinnati, 46-45, and put themselves in excellent bubble position in the process. The two teams combined to shoot 37-of-127 from the field, including a whopping 6-of-42 from behind the three-point line. But kudos to freshman point guard Anthony Collins, who led the Bulls in scoring with 14 and drained a pair of game-winning free-throws with 3.2 seconds left. It’s been a vindicating season for South Florida coach Stan Heath for finally putting an NCAA Tournament-worthy team on the court, but this isn’t a time for patting themselves on the back. A win on Wednesday at No. 17 Louisville would go a long way to putting the Bulls on the right side of the bubble for good.
  3. It didn’t take long for Bog Huggins to say what everybody already knew, that he is tired of watching wins that seemed within grasp slowly slip away down the stretch. After letting another double-digit lead slip away against Marquette Friday night, West Virginia will need to make a run in the Big East Tournament if they hope to ensure a spot in the Big Dance. The problem is that the reason WVU has let so many leads evaporate is because they are really young, inexperienced, and incapable of stopping more experienced teams when they bear down. No one exemplifies this better than mercurial freshman Jabarie Hinds. The ultra-quick guard has shown flashes of his vast potential this season, but he has had just as many games like he had Friday when he missed all four shots he took and turned the ball over four times. He doesn’t deserve to be singled out because the problem is a team-wide issue, but that is primarily why Huggins’ streak of NCAA Tournament appearances might be over soon.
  4. If there was one loss over the weekend that really shouldn’t have happened, it was Notre Dame‘s lackluster defeat to St. John’s. Yes, it was a road game, but there is no reason why the Fighting Irish should have shot 4-of-31 from behind the three-point arc, and even then they still had a chance to win the game at the end. There is no doubt Mike Brey has done a terrific job this season and his team has transformed in the past two months right before our very eyes, but it is games like this that give critics the ammunition to discount them. Their NCAA Tournament bid is all but wrapped up, but the going doesn’t get any easier as the Irish will be heading to Washington, D.C., to square off with the Hoyas tonight on national television. They can help quiet those critics if they can rebound against a talented Georgetown team.
  5. The other team that should be kicking themselves this weekend, perhaps even more than Notre Dame, is the Seton Hall Pirates. A win on senior night over Rutgers would have allowed them to breathe a little easier on Selection Sunday, but instead they let Dane Miller run roughshod over their defense and they lost in overtime. Now, their future is murkier, and some think the Pirates will need to win at least one game in the conference tournament if they want to ensure they will be playing in the NCAA Tournament. As Brendon Prunty points out, this was really the first bad loss for Seton Hall, and they might even be headed for the First Four rather than the actual tournament. But, was anyone really surprised? The Pirates have played Jekyll and Hyde basketball all season, and this is no different. They better hope they handle DePaul in their season finale, otherwise they will be in real trouble.
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The Doctor Is In The House: Connecticut Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 31st, 2012

Over the next few weeks we will be diagnosing some of the weaknesses and reasons behind the struggles of some Big East teams. Next up is Connecticut, losers of their last three games and five of their last seven.

When you lose someone as important to your offense and departed star Kemba Walker was to UConn’s offense, there will undoubtedly be some growing pains. But most people thought that the remaining talent on Jim Calhoun’s roster was enough to make them a viable if unlikely contender to repeat as National Champions. But now, on the heels of three straight close losses to supposedly inferior teams, some are beginning to wonder if the young Huskies have enough left in the tank to make the NCAA Tournament at all.

1. The team’s commitment to defense seems to have disappeared.

Since 2003, the Huskies have been a consistent presence among the nation’s leaders in defensive efficiency, having never ranked below #41 overall. This season they currently are ranked #80 in the country in defensive efficiency, despite having not one but two premier shot-blockers and endless amounts of length and athleticism on the wings. The team is second in the conference in field-goal percentage but dead last in the conference in three-point field goal percentage which would seem to mean that the onus is on the Huskies’ perimeter defenders to take away their opponents’ open looks. But a renewed commitment to defense will have to be a team effort. Even if Alex Oriakhi can’t get back to blocking shots at the same rate he did in the past two seasons, the Huskies will still block plenty of shots, so forcing turnovers and closing out on shooters should be two things Calhoun harps on in practice.

Traditionally Excellent, UConn's Defense Hasn't Been Up To Speed This Season.

2. There has not been any consistent offensive post play.

When the highly touted Andre Drummond reclassified and joined UConn in time for the start of this season, pundits and fans alike began salivating over the prospect of having Drummond and Oriakhi playing alongside each other in the middle of UConn’s defense. Not only would they be a two-man block party defensively, but their simultaneous presence would make it difficult for opposing defenses to double-team either of them. Unfortunately, none of that has happened. Drummond is a difference-maker defensively and he has shown flashes offensively, but he remains inconsistent and sometimes timid.

Oriakhi probably deserves his own number in this column as this season has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster for the junior captain. He was supposed to assume a larger role offensively and blossom into one of the conference’s best big men. Instead he has seen his minutes drop and as a result he is averaging a paltry 6.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game and has posted just one double-double all season. According to KenPom, the Huskies are the eighth-tallest team in the country, so there should be no reason why they are being outrebounded by Notre Dame‘s undersized bunch.

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