SEC/Big East Challenge: Big East Looks to Gain the Edge on Friday Night

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 30th, 2012

After splitting Thursday nights first four games of the SEC/Big East Challenge, the Big East looks poised to take hold of the series with tonight’s four match-ups.  Let’s take a look at Friday’s slate of games.

#6 Syracuse @ Arkansas

Quick trivia question:  when was the last time Syracuse lost a regular season non-conference game?

Answer:  Cleveland State in the Carrier Dome in 2008. You might remember Cedric Jackson’s 60+ foot heave at the buzzer against a Jonny Flynn-led Syracuse team to defeat the Orange, 72-69.  Since that game, Syracuse has swept its non-conference slate, which has included multiple games against Florida and Memphis as well as match-ups against California, North Carolina, Michigan, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, and NC State. The Orange will look to continue that streak against an Arkansas team that looks to make noise in the SEC this season. Arkansas is led by B.J. Young, who is one of the better scorers in the SEC and leads the Razorbacks with 20.5 points in just 26.5 minutes per game so far this year. The Razorbacks put points on the board, averaging 82 per game, but are not an efficient scoring team. They shoot 43.7% from the field and just 27.8% from three-point range, which is not a good sign for a team preparing to go up against a Syracuse zone that they are not familiar with. Arkansas is a good home team, and Bud Walton Arena will be sold out, so the game should prove to be a significant road test for the Orange.  If they can contain Young, and Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland continue their tremendous play, the Orange should be able to escape with a win.

#20 Georgetown vs. Tennessee

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Breaking Down the Thursday Night SEC/Big East Challenge Games

Posted by rtmsf on November 29th, 2012

The SEC/Big East Challenge tips off tonight with four games and will carry on throughout the weekend. The Big East microsite has you covered, with three reasons why each of its respective squads will win. As an added bonus, the SEC microsite counters with its own opinion on the Florida-Marquette game.

Three Reasons Why Notre Dame Will Win

  1. Experience. There is no one in the country with functional vision that thinks the Fighting Irish can match up with the Wildcats athletically, but that’s the beauty of college basketball, having the best athletes and most pure talent do not always translate into victories. Where the Fighting Irish do have the distinct advantage is in the experience department. Almost everyone in coach Mike Brey’s seven-man rotation has played in high profile games like this with the exception of freshman Cameron Biedscheid. Heck, forward Scott Martin was probably playing in big-time college basketball games while some of Kentucky’s players were still adjusting to high school. The Wildcats will be a force to be reckoned with once they learn to play together, but they are still figuring that out, giving Notre Dame a window they need to take advantage of. If they can punch Kentucky in the mouth early, it may be difficult for the young Wildcats to re-organize and come back in the game.
  2. Ryan Harrow’s Return. Technically the transfer’s return to the lineup after an undisclosed illness should be a boon for Kentucky. But, even though Harrow says he is ready, coach John Calipari has expressed concern about whether Harrow is up to game speed and it wouldn’t be surprising if his minutes were monitored closely. Fellow transfer Julius Mays and former walk-on Jarrod Polson have held their own in Harrow’s absence, but in the Wildcats’ loss to Duke, neither player made much of an impact at all. Notre Dame has a backcourt duo in Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant that can score in bunches and so look for the Fighting Irish to try and exploit their backcourt advantage by taking it to Harrow or his backups on both ends of the floor. There is little doubt that Atkins and Grant are going to get plenty of scoring looks tonight, and if they start knocking down their shots and attacking the rim at will, Kentucky is going to be in a lot of trouble.
  3. They will play Mike Brey basketball. If you are interested in watching a style of basketball that is effective yet will offend all of your sensibilities, just watch the Fighting Irish on offense. Through six games, Brey’s club ranks #331 in adjusted tempo and anyone who is even remotely familiar with the Notre Dame coach knows that is pretty much par for the course. Kentucky has the athletic advantage and in the frontcourt, so they will be looking to run and force the issue offensively. By contrast, Notre Dame will only run if Brey falls asleep or gets kidnapped, and they will put a lot of effort into getting Kentucky out of its rhythm and making them play a slower pace than they want to. This strategy is ugly, but it has been proven effective time and time again as Brey has upset more talented teams by limiting their offensive opportunities and taking care of the basketball at all costs. This strategy may be particularly effective tonight because the young Wildcats may get frustrated by the languishing tempo, and the Fighting Irish have experienced guards and wings to run the offense patiently and effectively. The Irish have enough offensive weapons to hang with the Wildcats if the pace gets pushed, but if the game is played in the low 60s or high 50s, that will probably mean that Notre Dame has the Wildcats right where they want them.
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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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ATB: Weekend Edition — A. Davis, Boeheim, Tu, Big East/SEC & Dunkdafied…

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

This Weekend’s Lede. Every Week a Playoff… Until It Isn’t. No matter your opinion on whether Oklahoma State or Alabama should have the right to play LSU for the BCS national championship next month, can we at least come to an agreement that college football’s tired meme of “every week a playoff” has once again been blown out of the water as farcical? Look, we all know that the NCAA Tournament system is far from perfect in terms of anointing the best team as the champion, but like every other major American sport, at least every team that has a reasonable claim to the crown gets a chance to prove its worth on the hardwood. The old saying goes, “in order to be the best, you have to beat the best,” but as this comical CFB playoff scenario shows, at least one deserving school will get no such chance to do that. On to basketball…

Your Watercooler Moment. Anthony Davis’ Game-Saving Block.

Kentucky vs. North Carolina. North Carolina vs. Kentucky. What else could it be? Saturday afternoon’s tilt in Lexington was one of those rare fulfilling games where the action on the floor not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded it. And the hype for this game was extraordinary, especially considering that it took place on the first Saturday in December rather than sometime deep in March. Our post-game takes on what we’d seen in the one-point Kentucky win are located here, but the long and short of it is this: Carolina should feel as if they were only a play away from winning a difficult road game that didn’t cater to its strengths (61% on threes, but only 33% on twos), while Kentucky should feel that its extremely young but talented team stood toe-to-toe with the other most talented team in America and didn’t blink. Both UNC and UK should be playing in New Orleans next Spring, and if we’re lucky they’ll tip off for the fourth time in just over 16 months with nothing less than the national championship on the line.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

  1. Big East Dominates SEC in Challenge. Coming into Friday, the SEC was tied with the Big East at 2-2 in this year’s Challenge. The Big East then won the next six games before dropping the final two Saturday evening to finish at 8-4. The most impressive wins over the weekend were Pittsburgh and Cincinnati’s road wins at Tennessee and Georgia, respectively(the Big East had four roadies), and as we noted in our commentary on Saturday, the Big East appears to be an eight- or nine-team NCAA Tournament conference, whereas the SEC seems to deserve roughly half that. Nothing too surprising here, just further confirmation that the Big East, along with the Big Ten, are the top two conferences in college basketball this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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BGTD: Afternoon Commentary — Marquette, Big East/SEC, and a Healthy Dose of Tu…

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2011

It may have felt like #1 Kentucky’s big win over #4 North Carolina was the only game of the day, but another 200+ teams who suited up today might beg to differ. Our thoughts on the earlier Game of the Century are located here, but this post will deal with the rest of the afternoon’s key games.

  • Marquette Wins Badger State Battle. The second-biggest game on today’s slate was a rivalry game in the Badger State. Marquette wasn’t feeling very Badgerly today, though, as Buzz Williams’ team made a statement of superiority in taking down Wisconsin in Madison. You know, at the Kohl Center, also known as the building where Wisconsin never loses (12 times under Bo Ryan coming into today). MU exploited its better quickness and play-making ability to regularly break into the gut of the Badger defense and gang-rebound the basketball, and despite a good second-half comeback from Wisconsin, Marquette remains unbeaten and served notice to the rest of the Big East that, once again, the small school on the frontier of the conference will be heard from. With a home-heavy schedule the rest of December and a neutral game against Washington next week at the Jimmy V Classic, the Golden Eagles have a great chance at hitting 2012 at 13-0. As for Wisconsin, Jordan Taylor suffered a poor game (4-10 FG, one assist, five TOs) write the Badgers out of your top ten at your own peril.
  • Tu Holloway: Xavier Savior. We’ll probably be writing this a lot this year, but Tu Holloway put his team on his back in the second half of Xavier’s game against a fired-up and better-than-advertised Purdue team this afternoon, and carried the Musketeers to another win after being left for dead down 19. With under two minutes in the game and XU still down five points, Holloway drilled a three to cut the lead to two. After a Purdue turnover, here’s where we pick it up:

 These are just one-on-one moves by a player good enough to not only create his own space, but also to knock down the long jumpers. XU had a horrendous first half (18 TOs), but was able to claw back into the game by taking better care of the ball and tightening up its defense. The key, though, is Holloway. He’s such a difference-maker with the ball in his hands that you have to believe that Xavier will win just about every close finish they’re involved in this year.

  • Big East Dominance. The SEC/Big East Challenge hasn’t formally ended yet, but as of this writing, the Big East had run out to an 8-2 lead with the two remaining games happening later today. After Friday night’s 4-0 Big East record, the SEC had virtually no chance to tie, but Connecticut ensured the victory in a convincing win over Arkansas, while Pittsburgh outlasted Tennessee in Knoxville. Right now, we’d peg the SEC as a four-team NCAA league with a reasonable shot at a fifth, while the Big East looks like a surefire eight-team NCAA conference with a reasonable shot for a ninth and an outside shot at a tenth.
  • Pac-12: Best Mid-Major Conference in America? We hate to pile on this league so much, but there were five Pac-12 games this afternoon, and the league went 1-4. Perhaps worse, other than Arizona State’s somewhat surprising win at Tulsa by three points, the other four teams — UCLA, Oregon, USC, and Utah — were all noncompetitive in their losses. And it’s not like they were playing ranked teams here, folks. UCLA couldn’t hang on to an early lead against Texas in its home-away-from-home; Oregon got run out of the EnergySolutions Arena by BYU; USC put up a miserable 40 points in a loss against Minnesota; and, shudder… new Pac-12 member Utah lost by 30 to a largely mediocre Fresno State team. We were joking in the blurb title here about being a mid-major league, but the Pac-12’s KenPom profile is actually closer to the Atlantic 10, Mountain West and Missouri Valley than it is the SEC or ACC. (note: gulp, and that was before today!)
  • Butler Not Butler. Nobody expected Butler to immediately recover from its personnel losses after last season’s run to the national championship game, but Brad Stevens’ team is really struggling after an overtime home loss to Valparaiso today. Through eight games, the Bulldogs’ best win came against Savannah State, and a murderer’s row awaits in the next few weeks — Purdue, Xavier, Gonzaga, Stanford. We have learned our lesson about writing off Stevens teams, but right now it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if BU enters the meat of the Horizon League schedule with an overall losing record. The Bulldogs are having trouble shooting the ball from both the line ( 61% on the season, 17-29 today) and behind the arc (29% on the season, 6-20 today), two key components of their attack — until Stevens shores up those areas, Butler will be just another mid-major team.
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ATB: Entertaining SEC/Big East Challenge Deadlocked After One Night

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. Big East Earns Two Road Wins in SEC/Big East Challenge.

The Length of Kentucky Frustated St. John's to the Tune of 18 Blocks (LHL/P. Alcala)

The first of the three-night SEC/Big East Challenge is in the books, and at least at this point, the Big East appears to have the upper hand. After Georgetown and Providence earned road wins at Alabama and South Carolina that neither was expected to achieve, the conferences are tied at 2-2 going into Friday night’s quadruple-header. Kentucky and Ole Miss saved face for the SEC with two wins of its own, but the Rebels barely survived at DePaul and UK was a heavy favorite over St. John’s. With three Big East schools hosting games on Friday night, and all three positioned as significant favorites, the league will be in a great spot to take a commanding lead in the 12-game challenge heading into Saturday’s final four games. Can the SEC simply send Kentucky’s long-armed corps of flyswatters to each Big East arena instead?

Your Watercooler Moment. Hollis If Ya Hear Me!

Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson came through with a big-time play on the road at Alabama tonight when many lesser teams and players would have crumbled under the pressure. After methodically imposing its defensive will on the Crimson Tide for 38 minutes to take a nine-point lead with a little over two minutes remaining, Alabama went on a 10-0 run behind its stars JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell to take a one-point advantage into Georgetown’s final possession. As the video above shows, Jason Clark, a Thursday All-American, dribble handed off to Thompson on the right side and he drained the long three for the win, ending Alabama’s 24-game home winning streak (fourth longest in the nation). The Hoyas are playing better than anyone could have anticipated and have now defeated two top-15 teams (Memphis as well) while giving another (Kansas) all it wanted. Credit is deserving to John Thompson, III, who has fashioned another really good team after losing his stellar backcourt of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman to graduation last season.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

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The Big East and SEC Join Challenge Week

Posted by nvr1983 on December 16th, 2010

Given the growing popularity of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge over the past few years it seemed inevitable that the other power conferences would join the fray and earlier today the Big East and SEC announced that they would be expanding their relatively under-the-radar SEC/Big East Invitational into a more comprehensive Big East/SEC Challenge. Over the past four seasons the two conferences have engage in a series of 4 games to decide a winner. To date the conferences are tied 1-1-2 with the conferences splitting the overall games 8-8.

We could be seeing more huge SEC/Big East games in the future

While the SEC/Big East Invitational has yielded a few good match-ups over the past few seasons with the most recent being Tennessee‘s big win at Pittsburgh the fact that it only involves 4 match-ups between the conferences limits the ability of fans of either conference to confidently claim superiority based on these results although we have a sneaking suspicion that the Big East fans would have a stronger argument over the past few seasons. The new format would involve 12 games meaning that all the SEC teams would play every year and 12 of the 16 (then 17) Big East teams would participate each year. Because only the SEC teams would get to play every year the home-and-away rotation would be based on the SEC team. The games will be played over 4 days beginning on the Thursday after Thanksgiving. Keeping the Challenge to a confined period should keep fans interest and avoid some of the pitfalls that plagued the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series that is coming to an end. In a somewhat amusing move the name will alternate each year from the Big East/SEC Challenge in 2011 to the SEC/Big East Challenge in 2012 and so on. The match-ups have not been announced yet, but will be broadcast on one of ESPN’s family of networks starting on December 1, 2011.

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