Big East Afternoon Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 23rd, 2012

  1. You will have to excuse the late posting as I attended the NFC Championship game last night in San Francisco and completely shirked my Morning Five duties, so instead, you folks get an afternoon five. It’s hardly news at this point but No. 1 Syracuse suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of Notre Dame on Saturday. The Orange shot the ball terribly (18-53 for the game) and the Fighting Irish couldn’t miss, especially from behind the arc, but it certainly didn’t help that ‘Cuse center Fab Melo didn’t play in the game due to an academic suspension. ESPN‘s Andy Katz reported that the school hopes to get Melo back in time for next Saturday’s game against West Virginia, which means Syracuse fans shouldn’t be unduly worried. But Jim Boeheim’s squad does play a very good Cincinnati team tonight on the road, and they will need to rebound aggressively to make up for their center’s absence.
  2. After beating Cincinnati in overtime on Saturday, we figured it was time to give Bob Huggins and his West Virginia Mountaineers they credit they deserve, and the Charleston Daily Mail agreed. The Mountaineers were considered a tournament team before the season started, but now they are just a game behind Syracuse in the loss column and angling for a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament. The team is led by runaway favorite for Big East Player of the Year, Kevin Jones, and volume-scoring point guard Truck Bryant, but they are also getting contributions from freshmen guards Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne as well. Last week, we argued that it was still early to call the Bearcats the conference’s second-best team; well, it’s still too early to consider the Mountaineers the conference’s second-best team, but they have inserted themselves in the discussion.
  3. Tennessee is an improving team, especially now that they added stud freshman Jarnell Stokes in the middle of the season, but losing to the Volunteers on Saturday was a bad loss for Connecticut and their hopes for a top seed come tournament time. It is never a good thing when two players (Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier) take 35 shots and its even worse when they combine to make just 14 of those shots. Andre Drummond looked like he had turned a corner last week, but Saturday was his second-straight subpar performance and Stokes thoroughly outplayed him on both ends of the floor. Perhaps the most distressing aspect of the loss was that Niels Giffey and Roscoe Smith, two of the players supposed to replace suspended freshman Ryan Boatright‘s offensive production, were basically non-factors. The Huskies desperately need one of those two guys to get going if they are going to get back to their winning ways.
  4. Not too many people expected Louisville‘s Kyle Kuric or Pittsburgh‘s Tray Woodall to suit up when the two teams met on Saturday, but both did, to drastically different results. Kuric buried five three-pointers and finished with 21 points in 33 minutes, while Woodall went 0-5 from the field and had more turnovers (three) than assists (two) in 21 minutes as the Panthers lost and fell to a shocking 0-7 in the conference. Obviously it is good news for both teams that either player even made it onto the court, but it seems clear that Woodall is still a ways off from being 100% and he is arguably more important to Pittsburgh than Kuric is to Louisville. The Cardinals still have enough athletes to fill the scoring void of Kuric, at least in part. But the Panthers need Woodall’s playmaking ability to help the offense and also allow Ashton Gibbs to return to the wing, where he is more effective and more comfortable. It will be interesting to see if Pitt coach Jamie Dixon tries to rush Woodall back in the midst of what is looking like a lost season at this point.
  5. The last of the five is reserved for observations about someone we have already mentioned — UConn freshman Andre Drummond. Physically and athletically, Drummond is a stud. There might not be another player in the country that has his combination of size, strength, athleticism, skill, and speed. You just wouldn’t know it from watching him play recently. Saturday against Tennessee, Drummond managed just six points on eight shots in 31 minutes. And the game before, a loss to Cincy, Drummond had just four points and six rebounds on nine shots. The linked observations make a good point, it is no longer a question of talent, it is a question of desire and consistency. Drummond should not be criticized for his mild-mannered attitude off the court, it is what makes him one of the more refreshing and likable stars in college basketball. But he needs to start being more assertive on the court, and once he does, the rest of the country better look out.
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Checking In On… The Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Syracuse A Cut Above: With wins over Villanova and Providence this week, Syracuse has moved its record to 19-0 (6-0), equaling the best start in school history (1999-2000). On Monday night, the Orange will try to move to 20-0 for the first time ever when they host Pittsburgh, a team they have lost to five straight times. With 12 games remaining, people are starting to wonder if Syracuse can run the table. It would be a surprise if Jim Boeheim’s team lost at home to anyone, despite visits by Georgetown and Connecticut to the Dome in February. On the road, possible tough trips to Cincinnati, Connecticut, and Louisville appear to be the only obstacles standing in the way of an undefeated season. Syracuse has a 13.7% chance of going 31-0, according to the Pomeroy ratings, but I would put it higher. I think the Orange have a 40% chance to go all the way and those odds are getting better each and every day.
  • Connecticut Back On Track: After consecutive losses to Seton Hall and Rutgers almost two weeks ago, some had wondered if this Connecticut team would ever live up to its preseason billing as a top-five team. While I doubt that is true, the Huskies responded in a big way this past week by defeating West Virginia and Notre Dame. UConn used a 17-3 second half run, sparked by a Jim Calhoun technical, to overcome a ten-point deficit against the Mountaineers before going on the road and snapping Notre Dame’s 29-game home court winning streak. Andre Drummond had a terrific week, but the bigger story might be Alex Oriakhi showing signs of improvement. The junior forward had been in a season-long slump but managed to score 20 points this week, including a 12/7 performance in the win against the Fighting Irish.  However, there was some bad news mixed in for UConn last week. Ryan Boatright was suspended by the NCAA on Friday night for the second time over eligibility concerns.
  • Pittsburgh and Louisville Embarrassed: Raise your hand if you predicted these scores at the beginning of the year: Providence 90, Louisville 59. Rutgers 62, Pittsburgh 39 (at Pitt). Two of the power programs in the conference were waxed by two perennial bottom-feeders, all part of what has been an unpredictable season in the Big East. Louisville has lost four of six while Pitt is in more dire straits having lost six consecutive games. That could easily be seven in a row after the Panthers return from Syracuse tomorrow night. The good news for both teams? They bounced back and played fairly well in games on Saturday with the Cardinals disposing of DePaul and the Panthers nearly stealing an impressive road win at Marquette. Pitt lost the game, but Jamie Dixon had to have picked up some encouraging vibes from that performance. Pittsburgh and Louisville will get together this Saturday in the Steel City.


Ask The Never-Satisfied Jim Boeheim What He Thinks Of His Team's Chances At An Undefeated Season, And This Will Likely Be His Reaction. (Frank Ordoñez / The Post-Standard)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (19-0, 6-0) – This team just keeps on chugging along and nobody has really threatened the Orange in a big way this season. There have been close calls here and there (Stanford, Florida, and Marquette), but Syracuse is a cut above every other team in this conference. As I mentioned above, I believe there is a good chance this team runs the table in conference play. Dion Waiters scored 20 points at Villanova, part of 47 bench points for the Orange, compared to 32 for the starters. Syracuse held the Wildcats to 33% shooting on their home floor at the Wells Fargo Center. Against Providence, it was all Orange from the start. Syracuse had 12 steals and forced 22 Friar turnovers. Scoop Jardine played like a quality point guard, scoring ten points but dishing out nine assists. The Orange blocked ten Providence shots and shot 73% in the second stanza. Syracuse continues to rank in the top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency, but the Achilles heel for this team seems to be rebounding specifically on the defensive end. The Orange rank #307 in defensive rebounding percentage, but I don’t anticipate that being a major problem until tournament time. This week: 1/16 vs. Pittsburgh, 1/21 @ Notre Dame. Read the rest of this entry »
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Four Thoughts: Connecticut v. Seton Hall Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 4th, 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 from the night before. Enjoy!

Hopefully this game taught Connecticut freshman Andre Drummond that, even if he legitimately has no idea who the opposing team’s best player is, it’s probably better to not say that into a reporter’s recording device. Seton Hall took advantage of the Huskies’ slow start last night to stake a 13-point lead at halftime, and cruised to a 75-63 victory at the Prudential Center in Newark. Here are some of the key takeaways from the upset.

1. Don’t look now, but Seton Hall is a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender.

Kevin Willard Has Seton Hall angling for a NCAA Tournament bid after last night's win over Connecticut (AP Photo/Skip Peterson)

Entering the season with a new coach and having lost three of their top four scorers, the Pirates were considered an afterthought in the Big East this season and were picked to finish 13th in the conference’s annual preseason poll. And after they were dismantled by Syracuse 75-49 in their conference opener, it seemed as if the predictions about Kevin Willard’s squad would prove true, but the Pirates had other ideas. Two nights after the Syracuse debacle, Seton Hall rolled over a solid West Virginia team 67-48 and then last night they beat the No. 8 team in the country handily. Senior forward Herb Pope has emerged as one of the conference’s best big man, senior guard Jordan Theodore has been sublime as the point guard, and sophomore forward Fuquan Edwin has been stuffing the stat sheet and is one of the more versatile forwards in the conference. It’s important not to get ahead of ourselves as it’s difficult to imagine a team with a seven-deep rotation surviving a rugged conference schedule, but after that win last night, it shouldn’t shock anyone if the Pirates finish in the top half of the conference.

2. Should we really still consider UConn’s frontcourt as one of the nation’s elite?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 27th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • A Pair of Upsets: How many of you had Wagner winning at Pittsburgh? The Seahawks won their first game against a ranked team since P.J. Carlesimo was the head coach at the school in the late 1970’s, knocking off the Panthers 59-54. Even without point guard Tray Woodall, this is not a game Pittsburgh should have lost. While Ashton Gibbs certainly has to carry more of the load, his shooting has been sub-par this entire season. Against Wagner, the senior Big East Preseason POY shot 5-16 from the floor and 1-7 from deep, dropping his field goal percentage to 37.7% on the year. Usually one of the most efficient teams in the country, Pittsburgh was held to a stunning 89.2 efficiency rating against Wagner. Previously, Pitt’s season low had been 101.7 in a win over La Salle. Last Monday, LSU surprised Marquette in Baton Rouge, downing the previously undefeated Golden Eagles by a score of 67-59. While LSU isn’t an awful team, Marquette allowed the Tigers to shoot 53.5% for the game, something that has to concern Buzz Williams given how well Marquette has played defensively. If Marquette wants to contend for a conference title, it has to defend night in and night out.
  • Non-Conference Play Winds Down: There are 152 games remaining with Big East teams involved and 144 of those (94.7%) will be conference games. Four of the eight remaining non-conference games will take place over the coming week, so you can bet we here at RTC are more than ready to transition into conference play. As we head into the new calendar year, four Big East teams seem to be contenders while another four or five are in contention for NCAA bids. The bottom of the conference is broader and weaker than usual, with at least four and possibly six teams incapable of mounting a run at a bid. As to who wins the league (my poll question above), I am sticking with my preseason pick of Syracuse. The Orange go a legitimate ten deep and, while they do not have a superstar, they are strong defensively and play with great energy. Connecticut may be more talented and Louisville may play harder, but Syracuse is the best team in my estimation. I would love to hear the readers’ take (on this or anything else) in the poll above or in the comments section below.
  • Bob Huggins Wins His 700th Game: It took a crazy Gary Browne three-pointer to force overtime, but West Virginia was able to knock off Missouri State on Thursday night for Coach Huggins’ 700th career victory. He’s now in select company with the likes of Lefty Driesell, Lute Olson, Lou Henson, Henry Iba, Phog Allen and, Norm Stewart in the 700 club. Currently 58 years old and under contract with West Virginia through the 2018-19 season, Huggins has a chance to approach 900 wins if he stays healthy. After winning #700, he joins Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun as the only active Big East coaches to win at least 700 games. He is fourth on the active list of all-time wins, trailing his two Big East peers as well as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

The Hoyas Have Outperformed Preseason Projections Thanks To Two Wins Over Memphis And A Big Road Victory In Tuscaloosa. (Richard Lipski/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (13-0) – Among many other things, Syracuse has done a terrific job in turnover margin. The Orange lead the Big East by a wide margin in that department and rank in the top ten nationally in both offensive and defensive turnover percentage. Fueled by Dion Waiters off the bench, the Syracuse transition attack has been sensational. Big East play begins this week with a visit from upstart Seton Hall followed by a trip to DePaul. Surprisingly, Syracuse was out-rebounded by Tulane, including 15-9 on the offensive glass. This week: 12/28 vs. Seton Hall, 1/1 @ DePaul.
  2. Louisville (12-0) – It hasn’t been easy, but Louisville just keeps winning. The Cardinals trailed Charleston and Western Kentucky this week before putting those teams away late in the game. Against Charleston, Rick Pitino made a great adjustment late in the game by putting the more versatile Kyle Kuric at the free throw line to attack the Charleston zone instead of Gorgui Dieng.  Dieng still had a great week, going for 14/12 against the Cougars and 13/15 against the Hilltoppers. Louisville ranks fourth nationally in defensive efficiency, but its offense continues to be a work in progress. As I said in this spot last week, the longer the Cardinals can keep winning before getting their roster back to full strength, the better. This week offers a huge test against two teams that can really put the ball in the basket. This week: 12/28 vs. #15 Georgetown, 12/31 @ #2 Kentucky. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Morning Five: 11.23.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 23rd, 2011

  1. On October 28, the Big 12 formally announced that it had accepted West Virginia into the conference. Three days later, West Virginia sued the Big East conference in hopes of entering the Big 12, which had already agreed to accept them, as early as next year. The Big East wasn’t about to let one of their premier schools leave without a fight, especially considering it would set a dangerous precedent for other defectors Syracuse and Pittsburgh, so the conference countersued, hoping to block the Mountaineers’ move until 2014. Well, West Virginia recognized that decision, and appears ready to blatantly ignore it. Over the weekend, Athletic Director Oliver Luck said he expected West Virginia to be in the Big 12 next year, and couldn’t resist kicking the conference while it was down as well. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports relayed this juicy quote in a column Monday, “We were fortunate to get out,” Luck told the Charleston Gazette. “We got out [of the Big East] when the ship was seriously going down. I mean, only the tip of the sail was showing.” Ouch Mr. Luck, that wasn’t very nice. It is hard to argue with the logic on either side here, which makes this defection all the more ugly. West Virginia wants to get out and move on so they can get a piece of that juicy TV contract the Big 12 signed with Fox. And the Big East isn’t keen on letting their best football program and a quality basketball program leave at what they feel is a moments notice, because it opens the door for more lawsuits and hasty exits. This has all the makings of a long and protracted legal battle, so strap in Mountaineer fans, it could get bumpy.
  2. In related news, CBS Sports reported last night that the Big East’s courtship of Brigham Young University has come to an end. OK, you may not think this is as juicy as Ashton and Demi but we do!  The main point of contention leading to the break-up appears to be, yep, you guessed it…money!  BYU signed a lucrative eight-year television contract last year with ESPN to broadcast home games and it appears control of these rights is where the impasse lies. While The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting the Big East – BYU relationship may ultimately prove stalled, CBS Sports is taking a firmer position saying that the conference is done with BYU and exploring its next option, which is to add San Diego State as a football-only member.  The Aztecs would ostensibly be part of a plan to join fellow new football-only members Boise State, Air Force, and Navy along with soon-to-be-announced full members: Houston, Southern Methodist, and Central Florida. This would result in a 12 football and 16 basketball member Big East once all the Mayflower vans got done doing their thing. While the projected alignment arguably would create a better football conference than exists today, it would certainly result in a regression basketball-wise. To that end there have been some vocal proponents (see Rick Pitino) of adding two more all-sport, but basketball-centric members such as Temple and Memphis.
  3. After last week’s discouraging home loss to Long Beach State, Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon was glad to have six days off to rest his weary team and, according to him, “get the younger guys going”. The loss to the 49ers caused the Panthers to tumble all the way to #16 in the most recent AP poll heading into last night’s game against La Salle and the Panthers, while displaying a much improved defensive effort, got all they could handle from a tough Explorer team who took Villanova to overtime last week, and squeaked out a 73-69 win at the Peterson Events Center. While star senior guard, and preseason Big East Player of the Year selection, Ashton Gibbs struggled through a poor shooting night (3 of 15), it was one of the youngsters who keyed the defensive effort for Dixon’s squad. Freshman Khem Birch had an active 13 minutes, tallying four points, six rebounds, and three blocks.  Birch spent some time at the center spot last night, and drew praise from his coach, “He was more effective there,” Dixon said. “He was playing both (forward and center) and we’ve got to get him more comfortable playing there.” Junior guard Travon Woodall logged a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists to pace the 3-1 Panthers. The 5’11” guard also registered three blocks, including a huge one down the stretch to preserve the victory.
  4. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun held sophomore forward Roscoe Smith out of a preseason game for missing a “team commitment” and it looked like the sophomore role player might cede his playing time to talented freshman DeAndre McDaniels. The problem, according to Calhoun and teammates is that Smith tends to sulk in the face of adversity when he should be doubling his effort. Currently his averages (6 PPG and 3 RPG) are similar to last year’s numbers and that’s not great. Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi are going to carry UConn all season, but the team needs a healthy, energetic, and upbeat Smith — whether it is in the starting lineup or coming off the bench — once they play fiercer competition. The linked article notes that Smith was better on both ends of the court against Coppin State, but Coppin State isn’t a Big East-caliber team, and that same pep will need to carryover to the conference schedule if the Huskies hope to repeat.
  5. As noted here yesterday courtesy of future Friar Ricky Ledo, Providence has been on the prowl for some front court help.  We thought he meant for next year but as it turns out coach Ed Cooley may (and may is the operative word here) be getting a big for the second semester as 6’10” Daquan Brown announced via his Facebook page on Tuesday that he will be transferring to Providence.  While it is not known yet if Brown will be able to play right away, the need for more immediate help is likely due to the fact the Friars have been playing with just eight scholarship players as red-shirt sophomore Kadeem Batts, perhaps their best big man, is serving an indefinite suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules and freshman guard Kiwi Gardner is out pending appeal of an NCAA academic eligibility ruling concerning his prep school curriculum.  Brown, a New York native, is currently enrolled at Fresno State and on their basketball roster however he has yet to play there due to what appears to be his own indefinite team suspension. Out of Brooklyn’s Lincoln High School Brown appeared headed for Oklahoma State until academic issues redirected him to Barstow Community College (CA) where he averaged 12 points and ten rebounds per game. Brown visited Providence this past weekend and was in attendance for the Friars’ victory over Florida A&M.
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RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take I


Top Storylines

  • The Realignment Circus Continues: The latest blow to the Big East came just recently as West Virginia was accepted into the Big 12. That leaves the Big East with 13 basketball schools remaining and a handful of others (football schools) desperately trying to flee the sinking ship. Commissioner John Marinatto has said he is committed to holding Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia to the 27-month notice provision in the conference’s bylaws but one has to wonder if a financial settlement will be worked out in order to expedite the transition and move the conference into rebuilding mode. It’s going to be quite awkward if these three schools remain in the league until 2014. All of the current Big East members should eventually find a stable home in one form or another, but the days of Big East basketball as we know it will soon come to an end. Enjoy the 2011-12 season because it just might be the last year of this remarkable 16-team behemoth.
  • How Many Bids This Year?: After sending a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament last year, can the Big East reach that mark again? That seems unlikely but you never know how things will truly play out. I’d say there are ten contenders for NCAA bids and to make 11 you would need all of those teams plus one of the three New York City-area schools to have a wildly successful year and snatch a bid. The Big East is quite possibly the best conference in the land yet again but 11 NCAA teams is far-fetched. Eight or nine bids this season would seem to be much more realistic.
  • Can Connecticut Repeat?: The technical answer is yes but it will be extremely tough to do. There’s a reason only two teams have gone back-to-back in the last 20 years. College basketball is as deep as ever in terms of talent and quality teams, plus there’s someone missing from last year’s Connecticut team. Kemba Walker is now in the NBA and, despite Jim Calhoun’s impressive recruiting haul, there is a major leadership void to be filled. This team is stocked with talent but Walker was a one-of-a-kind leader who took complete control in Maui and parlayed that into a way of life for the rest of the season. Jeremy Lamb figures to take control but remember how young this group is. They’ll get better as the season progresses and may even win the Big East but when the chips are down in the NCAA Tournament, they won’t be able to call on Kemba and that’s why I feel they will not repeat.

Calhoun Won't Have His Mr. Everything Around This Season

  • Cautious Optimism at Georgetown, Villanova and West Virginia: These traditional powers lose a lot of talent and figure to be lodged in the middle of the conference. All three programs return key cogs but the departures of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, Casey Mitchell, John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla leave more questions than answers. These teams all need someone to step up and become a deep shooting threat while maintaining a low post presence. Guards win in college basketball but you also have to be able to rebound and score inside occasionally. Hollis Thompson, Mouphtaou Yarou and Deniz Kilicli must become better all-around post men if their respective teams hope to make the NCAA Tournament. At 6’7”, 205 lbs., Thompson isn’t one to bang with the big guys but he’s going to have to score in the paint at times. Each team has a nice recruiting class coming in, but it’s up to the returning players to make the ultimate difference.
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2011-12 RTC Class Schedule: Connecticut Huskies

Posted by zhayes9 on September 7th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Jim Calhoun’s life has taken a dramatic turn in just one year’s time.

Not too long ago, a shocking NIT flameout, a messy Nate Miles investigation, numerous health scares and a dip in recruiting rendered Connecticut’s 2009 Final Four berth a distant memory. Questions began to circulate whether Calhoun was still fit for the grueling task of coaching an elite Division I basketball program. A preseason top-5 UConn outfit that lacked any semblance of cohesion or chemistry finished 18-16 in 2010 and the immediate future for the Hall-of-Fame headman appeared insecure.

Then Kemba Walker decided to embrace the role of team leader and captain, bringing his game to the next level and a unit of mostly inexperienced underclassmen on an unforgettable ride. UConn shockingly dispatched of Michigan State and Kentucky to win in Maui, finished the non-conference slate undefeated, took their lumps in a rigorous Big East, won five games in five nights to take the conference crown in New York, then for the hell of it won six more for Calhoun’s third national title.

It gets better. Calhoun never saw eye to eye with Connecticut athletic director Jeff Hathaway. The longtime A.D. promptly resigned this summer. And just for good measure, local blue-chip prospect Andre Drummond shocked the college basketball world and not only committed to UConn rather than go to prep school and enter in the 2012 NBA Draft, but he re-classified in order to play this upcoming season. The kicker: a recruit that grew up in a Tennessee group home, Michael Bradley, is apparently fine with giving up his scholarship.

This confluence of events has delivered Calhoun more than enough ammunition to give coaching another go-round in 2011-12. Whether this magic can continue into November remains up in the air.

Jeremy Lamb will be on quite a few preseason All-American lists

Team Outlook: The sudden addition of Drummond sends Connecticut from Big East title contender to odds-on favorite. Drummond has a pro frame, possesses tremendous athleticism and is a dynamite scoring compliment to Alex Oriakhi in the low post.  Let’s not skim over the departure of Kemba Walker. Not only was the All-American their floor general/leader, but he took (and made) every big shot. Jeremy Lamb will be expected to fill Walker’s role as dependable shot-maker while Walker understudy Shabazz Napier claims full-time point guard duties. Roscoe Smith rounds out the starting five as a capable role player offensively and a potential weapon defensively because of his length. Ryan Boatright, Napier’s backup at the point, and DeAndre Daniels,  a gifted scorer at the wing, are two freshmen expected to play integral roles in Calhoun’s rotation.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 3. The good news for UConn fans is that their schedule, combined with Carolina and Kentucky going head-to-head on December 3, opens up the realistic chance that the Huskies will be the last undefeated team standing heading into the teeth of Big East competition. The bad news is that, when it comes time to put a magnifying glass up to resumes and decipher who deserves #1 or #2 seeds on Selection Sunday, a lacking non-conference schedule won’t do them any favors. It’s not entirely their fault. It was impossible to foresee Bruce Pearl’s complete collapse at Tennessee. Arkansas was an unfortunate draw in the SEC/Big East Challenge. Other than Florida State and Harvard, their tournament in the Bahamas doesn’t contain much meat. It’s plausible Connecticut’s toughest opponent pre-Big East will be the Crimson, a motivated group of returnees looking to avenge last season’s heartbreak.

Cupcake City: Contrary to last year’s loaded Maui bracket, it’ll be a soft landing for Calhoun in 2011. Cupcakes line the schedule in their first four home contests against Columbia, Wagner, Maine and Coppin State before battling UNC-Asheville and likely UCF in the Bahamas. A visit from both Harvard and Fairfield are sneaky difficult, but there’s little doubt Connecticut will be favored in every one of their games outside of the Big East.

Toughest Early Season Test: Normally a visit to Tennessee would be the standout candidate, but newly minted head coach Cuonzo Martin has a major rebuilding project staring him in the face with Scotty Hopson, Tobias Harris, Brian Williams and Melvin Goins all moving on. Unless moribund Utah or Massachusetts pulls off a major upset, Connecticut will face either Florida State or Harvard in the final. Both pose their own distinct challenges. Florida State boasts the athletes and length to give UConn fits early enough in the season where on-court chemistry post-Kemba isn’t settled. Harvard returns every significant player from a team that lost one game to a team that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament: Yale by one point.

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Andre Drummond Commits To UConn & Changes The National Title Picture

Posted by nvr1983 on August 26th, 2011

A little over two weeks after he decided to spend an extra year in prep school rather than go to college Andre Drummond announced that he had changed his mind and would head to Connecticut this fall. It was a shocking change of heart even by the standards of a typical teenager that dramatically changes the landscape of college basketball next season. Instead of the expected North CarolinaKentucky showdown that college basketball writers have been hyping since the NBA Draft deadline passed we should get a national title picture that is a little less clear. While the Huskies won’t go straight to the top of the pack they may possess the most talented starting line-up in the country with Shabazz Napier, Jeremy Lamb, Roscoe Smith, Alex Oriakhi, and Drummond. Even though that group will need a little time to mesh and we expect the other four to take a while to adjust to life without Kemba Walker that is one of most talented, versatile line-ups we have seen in several years.

Drummond and Muhammad may never meet in college now

On top of adding the talent of a potential #1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft to the defending national champions, Drummond’s decision gives Jim Calhoun (we are assuming that he is definitely coming back at this point) the flexibility to use two other less-hyped, but still very talented freshmen–DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright–in more targeted action early in their college careers. Perhaps more importantly it allows Smith to move to small forward and Oriakhi, who went through maddening stretches last season where he couldn’t grab a rebound, to power forward where he should be able to overpower most of the other power forwards he faces. And when the leaner, more athletic blow by Oriakhi? They wind up facing Drummond, a player whom many NBA scouts have compared to Amar’e Stoudamire (a little premature, but if you watch the video below you will see why).

Contrary to some of the reaction online this doesn’t automatically vault the Huskies into the #1 spot and a sure-fire repeat champion like Duke appeared to be last season before Kyrie Irving‘s injury. Like the other top contenders the Huskies have their own issues to deal with. The Huskies will have to deal with the obvious issue of how their offense functions without Walker dominating the ball, adjusting to having to run more of the offense through the post, and sorting out a rotation that will rely on freshman who are unproven at the college level no matter how talented they are. What Drummond’s decision does mean is that this year’s national championship picture is suddenly a three-horse race and a year in which college basketball was expected to have its most talent in nearly a decade will get even deeper.

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Who’s Got Next? DeAndre Daniels Commits, Duke Spotlight, Rodney Purvis and More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on June 10th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at


The DeAndre Daniels saga is finally over. After committing and then de-committing and then setting up different decision dates and not following through on them, Daniels let everyone know where he will play college basketball. Where, you may ask? Well, that may be the most surprising thing that’s happened is his whole recruitment. Class of 2012 shooting guard Rodney Purvis (#7) also spoke out on a couple of his recent visits and many other top prospects talked about their new lists. And speaking of Purvis, why will he be attending the same camp as North Carolina star Harrison Barnes this weekend?  You can find out that and more in this edition of Who’s Got Next?

What They’re Saying

You Have to Think Calhoun Will Be Back Now

  • Senior DeAndre Daniels on why he committed to Connecticut: “I chose UConn because I thought it was the best fit for me, just their style of play, and just how they develop their wing guys. And just how he makes his guys better.” On head coach Jim Calhoun possibly returning: “[Calhoun said] I don’t have to worry about him not being there. He said he’ll be there.”
  • Junior Archie Goodwin (#19) on his list and when he will commit: “Kentucky, Baylor, Arkansas, Memphis, Tennessee, UConn, Missouri along with a lot of others including Louisville and Georgia. I’m definitely going to [sign] later.”
  • Junior Devonta Pollard (#40) on his offers and what he’s looking for: “Mississippi State, Georgetown, Ole Miss, North Carolina State, LSU, Alabama and Kentucky… a place where I can go and be comfortable, where I can play and be successful.”
  • Junior Perry Ellis (#10) on who he’s considering: “I still am considering all six teams (Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma, and Wichita State), as well as Duke now.”
  • Sophomore Malcolm Hill on his Indiana visit and the schools who are recruiting him: “They have a nice campus, it’s a good environment and I saw that they have good study habits. I really like the practice facility a lot. The other schools that are looking at me are Ohio State, Xavier, UCLA, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Providence and Tennessee.”
  • Sophomore standout Isaiah Lewis on what he’s looking for in a school: “The fan base… academics, that’s an important part. I want to see where coaches play me. I really want to go to college playing point guard.”
  • Freshman shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes on his list: “Arizona, North Carolina State, Texas, Oregon and a couple of other schools.”

What Rodney Purvis is Saying

Rodney Purvis talked a lot about recent visits. (Credit: HighSchoolHoop)

Class of 2012 shooting guard Rodney Purvis (#7) recently wrote a player blog for ESPN RISE in which he said some interesting things. Take a look below.

Read the rest of this entry »

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.05.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 5th, 2011

Now that a champion has been crowned, today, we’re bringing you links from the webosphere pertaining to UConn’s title run and Butler’s second consecutive NCAA championship game appearance.


  • Ronald Nored helped remind the devastated Bulldogs after the game of their familial bond and brotherhood as teammates in the wake of their loss. In the first half, Nored did a great job challenging Kemba Walker, but UConn proved to be too much.
  • Despite Monday’s disappointing performance, Butler has a great deal to be proud of following their surprise run to the championship game.
  • Matt Howard, the pride of Connersville, Indiana, will long be remembered for his dedication to Butler. His hometown made a generous gesture, leading a fundraising effort to send 17 of his family members to Houston.
  • A great breakdown of Howard’s top ten moments as a Butler Bulldog. The big man was a tremendous four-year player for the Bulldogs and his services will definitely leave a void that needs to be filled for Brad Stevens’ squad next season
  • As he’s done throughout his rise among the coaching ranks, Brad Stevens played it cool and modestly after a loss that was hard to stomach, remaining proud of his team for what it accomplished.
  • Shelvin Mack will contemplate his options in potentially leaving Butler a year early to go pro. While Mack’s draft stock rose with each huge performance in the NCAA Tournament, the small sample size should remind him as well as talent evaluators to take a more methodical approach.
  • Someone else who gained some exposure was Blue II, Butler’s live mascot, a seven-year-0ld English Bulldog. Blue II’s Twitter account now features over 6,000 followers, which cramps the style of a certain college basketball blog’s Twitter following.


  • Some 1,800 miles from Reliant Stadium, UConn students soaked up the most improbable of their school’s three national titles. An unranked status at the start of the season proceeded to a roller coaster 9-9 Big East finish before the Huskies reeled off 11 straight wins to win it all.
  • Jeff Goodman argues that coach Jim Calhoun‘s best move right now would be to leave UConn on top and call it a career. Calhoun has accomplished a great deal in his illustrious career, though retirement won’t keep NCAA investigators away from the team.
  • Kemba Walker’s final line of 16 points on 5-19 shooting wasn’t one to remember, but in a ragged game, he did the job. For many neutral fans who watched, the game is one to forget, but the final outcome will be cherished for years by the Bronx native.
  • One breath of fresh air was sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi, who was a rare mark of consistency shooting the ball in Monday’s final, going 5-6 from the floor. Oriakhi is just one of several players in UConn’s stable of young players, but his contributions were pivotal.
  • The trio of Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith and Charles Okwandu put a forcefield on the paint defensively, as Butler made just three two-point baskets the entire game. While Okwandu is a senior, it will be interesting to see Smith and Oriakhi develop as their careers progress.
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