Season In Review: Providence Friars

Posted by Will Tucker on April 29th, 2013

The Friars (19-15; 9-9) made huge progress in Ed Cooley’s second year at the helm of the rebuilding project in Providence. After limping through the first half of the season with injuries to key players, chemistry issues and no bench to speak of, the Friars rattled off seven of their last nine games to close out Big East play. They posted their first .500 conference record since 2008-09, and with it earned a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2008-09 as well, losing their first game of the NIT on the road at No. 2 seed Baylor.

Preseason expectations

Big East coaches pegged the Friars #13 at media day, while we slightly more optimistically ranked them #11 here at the microsite. Ed Cooley returned the Big East’s reigning two-time assists leader in senior Vincent Council, but his highly-anticipated recruiting class had unraveled in the offseason and his frontcourt remained somewhat of a mystery. In short, nobody really knew what to expect from the program that had been a dismal 12-42 (.286) in Big East play since its last postseason bid.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Reigning Big East Most Improved Player Kadeem Batts returns in 2013-14 (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The Good

Ed Cooley finally got his team to play on both ends of the floor, stamping out the paper bag defense that was Keno Davis’ indelible legacy in Providence. KenPom ranked the Friars 74th in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency –– a figure that, while not outstanding, displayed uncharacteristic balance: Their defense had ranked outside the top 200 in two of the past three years. On paper, only Syracuse was more efficient in defending the three among Big East teams, and Providence snuck into the league’s top 10 in scoring defense as well. At the individual level, it was Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts who led the team’s resurgence. In his junior year, Cotton (19.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.9 APG) stepped into a leadership role few outside of Tucson, Arizona, could have envisioned for the spot-up shooter whose only Division I offer came from Providence. Cotton led the Big East in scoring and three-pointers (98 makes) despite playing more minutes per game (37.8 MPG) than all but six other players in the nation. In the frontcourt, Batts (14.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 47.8% FG) fashioned himself into the Big East’s Most Improved Player after an underwhelming sophomore season that left the 6’9″ forward shrouded in uncertainty entering 2012-13.

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Big East M5: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 6th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Providence hasn’t been relevant in basketball in a long time and this season has been no exception. The popular argument seems to be that in order for Ed Cooley to turn the program around, he needs the entire team to buy in to his plan. The point is a good one as the Friars have arguably as much pure talent on their roster as any other team in the conference yet still can’t put anything together. The evidence of such issues is pretty damning actually. Transfer Sidiki Johnson took a voluntary leave of absence from the team recently and two of the program’s best players, LaDontae Henton and Vincent Council, both sat to start the Connecticut game because of issues with Cooley — and you know Ricardo Ledo doesn’t care about the long-term success of the program given his recent comments about considering the NBA. Ledo is the only one with a decent excuse since it isn’t his fault he has to sit out this season, but Johnson has set new records for using up good will wherever he goes and this is hardly the first issue Council has created because of his cavalier attitude. The article is right. Cooley can stockpile the most impressive collection of basketball talent on the Eastern Seaboard and it won’t matter unless he can get the whole team to buy in to what he is selling. Until then, Providence is going to be a program that produces a few NBA players without ever winning many college games.
  2. Yes, it is just the ranting of an angry fan, but there was already plenty of buzz around the topic of whether DePaul should fire head coach Oliver Purnell and that buzz has only grown louder after the Blue Demons were embarrassed on their home court last night by a mediocre Villanova team. The loss came on the heels of two hard-fought overtime losses last week but it was also the seventh-straight defeat for Purnell’s club, which really hasn’t shown much improvement now in his third year at the helm. The school paid Purnell handsomely to spurn Clemson in the hopes that he would come in and rebuild a once proud program. Instead, his lack of ties to Chicago have hurt him in recruiting and, never one to be mistaken for a strategy whiz, Purnell’s team consistently blows winnable games and is often obviously outplayed. No matter how the team finishes this season, Purnell probably deserves to watch his first recruiting class graduate and if the team’s best players, Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, don’t do something silly like enter the NBA Draft, it could be the best and deepest club Purnell has coached in Chicago. But if he can’t make it work next season with a solid recruiting class and a host of returning talent, I wouldn’t bet on him making it through another full season unscathed.
  3. With questions swirling about whether super-sub James Southerland‘s season is done, the good folks at Troy Nunes Is A Magician took a quick look at why the program’s fans hate freshman guard Trevor Cooney so much. The article does a fine job of examining the issue on its own so there is no need to rehash everything, but we will say that if Southerland is deemed ineligible for the rest of the season, ‘Cuse fans better get used to seeing Cooney because head coach Jim Boeheim doesn’t have a whole lot else to work with. Would it be nice if Cooney shot better than 29 percent from behind the three-point arc and played better perimeter defense? Of course it would. But we are talking about a redshirt freshman who is receiving inconsistent minutes and still hasn’t found his range yet. Don’t get us wrong, heading into the NCAA Tournament with Cooney as our sixth man would make us nervous too, but let’s cut him some slack and give him another year or two before ‘Cuse fans angrily try to run him out of town.
  4. We have confirmation of some “needed wake-up call” talk down in Louisville where Cardinals players speaking to the media stopped just short of calling their three-game losing streak a good thing because it let the team know that letdowns wouldn’t cut it. While there is still no supporting evidence to convince me that losing three important conference games in a row is a good thing, the argument works well with a team like Louisville. Advanced metrics and eyeballs tell you that Louisville is as complete a team as there is in the country and certainly a viable national championship contender. Seeding is important and a three-game losing streak obviously has an effect on that, but if the Cardinals actually learn from their struggles and are able to maintain intensity and focus for the rest of the season, then maybe I will start buying more of the talk  about these “moral victories” and “wake-up calls.”
  5. File this under someone should probably tell Larry Brown there is no Santa Claus either, as the famous first-year coach at SMU is still holding out hope that the Big East as it currently stands will stick together for another year or two, long enough for the Mustangs to get a taste of the conference. It is possible that the Catholic 7 will be forced to play out their contracts with the Big East, but it is more likely that after some legal wrangling, the Big East gets paid and the Catholic 7 jumps ship sooner and starts collecting checks from their supposedly impending television deal. The 72-year-old Brown seems to just now be coming to grips with all of the conference realignment and you can assume by his assertion that it is “ruining every other sport” other than football that he is not at all a fan. We don’t disagree with Brown, we just think it might be time to get with the picture and realize that the Big East that SMU enters will not look the same as the Big East that SMU thought it had signed up for.
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Big East M5: 01.08.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 8th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. After Syracuse kicked off its Big East farewell road tour with a 55-44 win over USF in the Sun Dome, Jim Boeheim admitted he wouldn’t be accompanying his team to the ACC were Syracuse leaving the Big East of yore. “If it was the same and we were leaving, I wouldn’t leave. I would have just retired. It’s not the same.” Boeheim didn’t seem to elaborate, which leaves us to wonder if he would have eschewed a lateral move to the ACC out of loyalty to the school’s home of 30 years. Perhaps in light of a growingly tenuous conference landscape, Boeheim doesn’t want his retirement to hamper Syracuse’s footing in its new league. Either way, it’s an ironic position considering his administration effectively co-authored the Big East’s death sentence more than a year ago.
  2. Villanova point guard Ryan Arcidiacono won Big East Rookie of the Week honors for the second week in a row yesterday. Confronted by an embarrassing 4-4 record a month ago, the home-grown freshman has helped orchestrate a six-game winning streak, which he capped off with a 36-point performance in Nova’s overtime win over St. John’s. His seven made three-pointers fell one short of Ray Allen’s single-game record –– quite an achievement for a freshman who missed his entire high school senior season with a back injury.
  3. New York Post columnist Zach Braziller has issued a mea culpa for dismissing Louisville’s Russ Smith as a high-major prospect. The writer has spent plenty of time around future pros covering New York City high school hoops, and even he was blindsided by Smith’s metamorphosis. “I felt he was making a mistake by going to prep school, that he should pick whatever mid-major would have him.” While he now appreciates the unrefined talent Smith possessed three years ago, what most impressed Braziller was the junior’s unwillingness to crow to his detractors: “The way basketball is, you just have to end up being lucky,” Smith told him.
  4. Seth Davis calls Marquette his team of the week in college hoops, after a marquee win over Georgetown and a 2-0 Big East start. Davis cautions that Buzz Williams’ team still needs to prove it can pull out similar wins on the road. Elsewhere, MU blog Paint Touches writes that Jamil Wilson has found his niche as a high post zone-buster, after channeling a dash of Jae Crowder in the Georgetown win.
  5. On the heels of last weekend’s 10-point home loss to DePaul, Friarblog argues that Providence has “regressed in all areas” over the past two weeks, despite adding Kris DunnVincent Council and Sidiki Johnson to its roster. After a promising 8-2 start, Ed Cooley’s squad has now dropped four in a row and claims a share of the worst Big East record to this point (0-2). Along with some salient observations about the Friars’ turnover bug and a call for Ed Cooley to make systemic adjustments on defense, the post resurrects this artifact from the dustbin of history:Davis-Full-Court-Pressing-System-774

 

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Arizona Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on June 26th, 2012

Even at the start of last season, head coach Sean Miller knew that the 2012-13 team would be absent four seniors who had completed their collegiate eligibility (Jesse Perry, Kyle Fogg, Brendon Lavender and Alex Jacobson). But, given that Miller was welcoming in a strong four-man 2011 recruiting class and had already dialed in an elite 2012 recruiting class, the Wildcats still figured to be a deep and relatively young squad. However, as is so often the case these days in college basketball, half of last year’s four freshmen never stuck around long enough to see their sophomore seasons in Tucson, and would-be senior Kyryl Natyazkho also decided to forgo his final season of eligibility in pursuit of a professional career in Europe. As a result, instead of simply losing four players from last year’s team, there are a total of seven players who earned minutes last year who will not be in UA uniforms next season. We’ll look at all seven players below, roughly in the order of the degree to which they will be missed.

Kyle Fogg, Arizona

After Four Strong Years In Tucson, Kyle Fogg Finds Himself On Several All-Time Lists (John Miller, AP)

  • Kyle Fogg – Fogg came to Tucson in relative obscurity in the class of 2008, a late bloomer ranked as just the 64th best shooting guard in his recruiting class by ESPNU. Four ever-improving seasons later, Fogg bowed out while holding some pretty impressive spots on the all-time Wildcat lists. He’s fifth on the all-time list in games started and first in games played, fourth in three-point field goals made, and seventh in minutes played. He’s 22nd all-time on the Wildcat career scoring list, quite impressive given some of the elite players who have passed through this program. What’s more, he was a guy who was considerably better as a senior than he was as a surprising freshman who earned 24 minutes a game. The quiet freshman who was a recruiting afterthought turned into a great asset for his team by the time his impressive college career was up. He’ll be missed in Tucson.
  • Jesse Perry – Perry only spent two seasons in Tucson after transferring in from Logan Community College in 2010, but he was a solid contributor in his time with the Wildcats. After a relatively slow start, he turned up his game in time to help UA make its run to the 2011 Pac-10 title and the Elite Eight, then nearly doubled his output as a senior while upping his efficiency numbers too. Though undersized at 6’6” for a guy who was ostensibly a power forward, Perry was third in the conference in rebounding last season (7.5 RPG) and a key part of the UA attack. Luckily for Sean Miller and company, though, Perry’s loss will be mitigated by the arrival of three freshman big men ready to step into his role.
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Providence: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by mlemaire on April 19th, 2012

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

What Went Wrong

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

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

What Went Right

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

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

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Most Impactful Incoming Transfers For Next Season

Posted by EJacoby on April 18th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

As most of the top high school recruits have signed their letters of intent and the NBA Draft early entries finish piling up (official deadline: April 29), we’re starting to get a much clearer picture of next season’s rosters. But the other huge factor to consider is the transfer ‘market,’ in which hundreds of players decide to change schools every offseason. Always an unaccounted-for variable in recruiting, certain transfers can drastically change programs. The majority of names on the transfer list each season are players that won’t leave significant dents in a program (coming or going), but there are always some notable departures. Here we lay out the transfers that will have the most significant impact for next season. In that context, this list only includes top incoming players that will be eligible in 2012-13. Most players must sit out for a full year after a transfer, so many of these guys have not been in the news for over a year. We haven’t forgotten about them, and neither should you.

Alex Oriakhi Won a National Title at UConn and Gets to Play Next Season for Missouri (Getty Images/R. Martinez)

INCOMING – These players will be eligible next season for their new teams.

  • Jared Swopshire, Northwestern – He’s taking advantage of the ‘graduate program’ rule in which he can play immediately next season after transferring this offseason, thanks to having graduated from his former school (Louisville) with a year of basketball eligibility still remaining. Despite limited playing time at Louisville, Swopshire is a versatile and talented forward that will look to replace the departed star forward John Shurna and lead Northwestern to its first-ever NCAA Tournament, which is still possible with several returning starters.
  • Alex Oriakhi, Missouri – And the run of Missouri Tigers begins. Oriakhi is eligible immediately next season for a different kink in the rules (UConn being postseason-ineligible), and he fills an important role as a big man for a talented team that lacks size. Laurence Bowers returns from injury next season and Oriakhi steps in as another experienced forward for Mizzou.
  • Jabari Brown, Missouri – This top 20 recruit left Oregon and will be a huge get for Mizzou. The very talented 6’5” guard Brown will help replace the scoring void of departed shooter Marcus Denmon.
  • Earnest Ross, Missouri – Another 6’5” guard, Ross was the leading scorer at Auburn two seasons ago and will step in as another talented scorer for Frank Haith’s Tigers. He can help replace another departed star in Kim English.
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Arizona: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 4th, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: Arizona.

What Went Wrong

The Wildcats came into the season expecting to compete for a Pac-12 title and find their way back into the NCAA Tournament for the 27th time in 28 years. With a class of four highly regarded freshman coming in, it seemed that while Sean Miller might struggle a bit with inexperienced players, they would have enough talent to establish enough of a resume to earn a postseason invitation. Instead, one of those freshmen – Sidiki Johnson – played exactly nine minutes in his Arizona career before getting run off by Miller for behavioral problems. Another freshman – Josiah Turner – lost his starting job in the second game of the season for being late to a shoot around, blew his chance at regaining that spot by missing a practice and getting suspended just before the trip to Florida in December, then got suspended a second time in March leaving his future with the team in jeopardy and leaving his Wildcats on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday.

Josiah Turner, Arizona

Josiah Turner's Inability To Stay Out Of Trouble Left Arizona Without A Leader At The Point (Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star)

What Went Right

Veterans like Kyle Fogg, Jesse Perry, and Solomon Hill all did their best to step up and lead the team, with each turning in their best season in the careers. Fogg was excellent during the conference season and ends his Wildcat career with several places in the program’s record book alongside Wildcat legends while Hill was at his versatile best leading the team in rebounds and assists while finishing second on the team in scoring. Between the three of them, they accounted for 56.1% of the scoring, 54% of the rebounding, and 44.3% of the assists. Plus, despite the struggles that Miller had with immaturity among his freshman class, the coach showed his willingness time and again to put discipline as a priority in his program, a decision that may have cost Arizona a game or two this season, but one that should pay dividends in the long run.

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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 6th, 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

  • Fab Melo Returns: After missing three games due to an academic issue, Fab Melo returned to the Syracuse lineup Saturday afternoon in New York. Melo scored a career-high 14 points in 21 minutes but, more importantly, changed the dynamic of Syracuse on both ends of the floor. Melo’s return adds some rebounding, opens up the middle for others to drive and score/dish and gives the Orange a defensive anchor in the middle of their zone. Melo doesn’t block every shot, but he alters a very high number. With the Brazilian big man roaming the paint, Syracuse is a legitimate national championship contender, something that was plainly evident on Saturday. Despite a backloaded schedule coming into view over the next few weeks, I’d be surprised if Syracuse loses another regular season game.
  • Pittsburgh Is Back: Oh Jamie Dixon, why did we doubt you? We should have known better. After starting the conference season 0-7, Pittsburgh has won four straight games and is actually in a position to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers’ resurgence has been keyed by the return of Tray Woodall and better play defensively. Woodall scored a career-high 29 points against Villanova on Sunday and the Panthers held the Wildcats to 36% shooting. That’s the Pittsburgh defense we’ve grown accustomed to over the years and if it keeps up, Pittsburgh will go dancing. Pitt faces a crucial week. It must take at least one (preferably both) road game of the two at South Florida and Seton Hall between now and Sunday. If the Panthers can get both, they’ll be 6-7 with three of their final five games at home. I actually feel safe saying something that would have been considered outrageous just two weeks ago: I believe Pittsburgh will be in the NCAA Tournament.

Fab Melo's Importance To The Orange Was On Full Display Last Week

  • Order Being Restored: Pittsburgh has won four straight. Seton Hall has lost six straight. South Florida lost by 30 at Georgetown on Saturday. Louisville has turned it around. All of that tells you something, doesn’t it? The Big East is shuffling back into place as we head into the home stretch of the season. While the Pirates and Bulls were nice early-season surprises and feel-good stories, reality has set in. Seton Hall was ranked in the top 25 as recently as January 9, but hasn’t won a game since a victory over DePaul the following day. The Pirates are anemic offensively and can hardly shoot 30% against any opponent. I wrote a piece last week about what has gone wrong at the Hall, but it shows no signs of stopping this tailspin anytime soon. South Florida remains at 6-4, but four of its final seven games are on the road as the schedule stiffens. The Bulls will play Pittsburgh twice, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Louisville and West Virginia down the stretch. Expect their 6-4 record to turn into something like 8-10 rather quickly. Even if that happens, it has still been a successful season for Stan Heath and his team. Nobody expected them to win even six or seven league games.

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (23-1, 10-1) – What a difference one player makes. Syracuse played only once last week, but Fab Melo’s return sparked the Orange to dunk-filled 95-70 win over hapless St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. The win, Jim Boeheim’s 879th, pulled him into a tie with legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith for third place on the all-time wins list. Boeheim has this team humming right along and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Syracuse scored 53 bench points against the Red Storm, once again showing off its incredible depth and talent. Michael Carter-Williams electrified the Garden crowd with this dunk while C.J. Fair, Dion Waiters and Kris Joseph also played very well for the Orange. Syracuse shot 56% for the game. The schedule gets tougher in February but Syracuse should be favored in every game from here on out. This week: 2/8 vs. #15 Georgetown, 2/11 vs. Connecticut. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.02.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 2nd, 2012

  1. Wednesday was national Letter of Intent signing day in college football, and Oregon made one of the bigger splashes of the day by signing 6’8”, 290-pound defensive end Arik Armstead. While the signing was a boon to head football coach Chip Kelly’s strong class, it may also prove to help out Dana Altman and his basketball program as well, since Armstead expects to shift over from the football field to the basketball court once the Ducks’ football season ends (and, if recent history is any indication, that won’t be until January). While football is his top priority, Armstead didn’t even consider going to schools that wouldn’t have offered him the opportunity to play both sports. It remains to be seen how fresh those wheels will be once he’s done being pounded on by Pac-12 offensive linemen for a year, but Armstead could give Altman’s program a midseason boost next year.
  2. In the wake of Kevin Parrom’s broken foot that will cost him the rest of his junior season, Arizona head coach Sean Miller said that the school will attempt to petition the NCAA for an extra season of eligibility. Although Parrom has already played more than the 30% of games on UA’s schedule, making him ineligible for a redshirt season, Miller thinks that the combination of Parrom’s good academic standing, his 14 missed games as a freshman and his hardships this season (Parrom was shot in the leg while visiting his mother in New York City during the fall, just before his mother died of cancer) make him a good candidate for a fifth year. With another year of eligibility remaining, it may be quite a while before a decision is reached, and the odds are good that the NCAA decision will be negative, but Miller thinks this strategy is at least worth a try.
  3. In a season chock full of transfers and dismissals, we found out the next step in the careers of a couple former Pac-12 players in recent days. First, in the next step of a somewhat surprising downfall, former UCLA forward Reeves Nelson was released on Tuesday by BC Zalgiris, a professional team in Lithuania. Nelson averaged 10 minutes per game in six appearances with Zalgiris but contributed just 2.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while shooting just 28% from the field. Nelson is still eligible for the NBA Draft in June, but the odds that he hears his name called then seem to get slimmer by the day. Meanwhile, former Arizona forward Sidiki Johnson has latched on at Providence. Johnson played a grand total of seven minutes in his Arizona career before been suspended by Miller for a violation of team policy and then leaving the team a couple weeks later.
  4. C.J. Wilcox is expected to be full-steam ahead for Washington’s matchup with UCLA on Thursday night, according to head coach Lorenzo Romar. Wilcox played 26 minutes last Saturday against Arizona after getting ten minutes against Arizona State on Thursday, his first game back after missing three with a stress fracture in his hip. For now, the plan is for Wilcox to skip practices during the week while playing in games, a similar scenario to the way Romar handled Brandon Roy in 2004-05 when he was recovering from knee surgery.
  5. Lastly, it may have been lost in the final outcome on Sunday, but Stanford’s redshirt freshman center, Stefan Nastic, turned in his best game of his career, scoring a career-high 11 points in a 19-minute effort that was by far also his longest stint of the year. Nastic played five games early last season and looked to be a promising prospect before breaking a bone in his foot and missing the rest of the season. Then he got sick at the start of this season and struggled to get started at the outset of the year. But now the seven-footer has put in his ticket for an increased role and could turn into an impact player for Johnny Dawkins.
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Morning Five: Groundhog Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2012

  1. Very sad news in the college basketball community came on Wednesday as former Missouri State, St. Louis, and UNLV head coach Charlie Spoonhour passed away from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 72. You may recall that two years ago Spoonhour underwent a lung transplant at Duke University, with a nice assist from his friends in the coaching fraternity, Bob Huggins and Mike Krzyzewski. The “Spoon” is best known as a coach for building consistently good programs at MSU and SLU that regularly made the NCAA Tournament (eight trips and 373 wins at three schools), but his lasting legacy will be the wisecracking and affable personality that he regularly brought to bear in his press conferences and interviews. The Dagger compiled a greatest hits list of some of his better quips dating back to the ’80s, and we highly suggest you get over there to enjoy them all. RIP, Spoon, you will be missed.
  2. One of the notable aspects of the 2011-12 season is that the NPOY race has been slow to develop a clear favorite as it has at the same point of the season in other years. In just the last five seasons, for example, players such as Tyler Hansbrough, Evan Turner and Kevin Durant were well ahead of their counterparts in early February and stayed at the top of the list through March. This ESPN.com straw poll of NPOY candidates suggests that Kansas forward Thomas Robinson may be putting some distance between himself and the other top contenders — Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, West Virginia’s Kevin Jones — so it’ll be interesting to see how KU’s February road games impact what appears to be the presumptive favorite with six weeks remaining in the season.
  3. It may have been National Signing Day in football on Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t significant news from the college basketball recruiting front as well. In fact, there was some huge news on Wednesday as Class of 2013 center Nerlens Noel from the Tilton School (NH) has decided to reclassify to his original high school Class of 2012, effectively making him eligible to play college basketball next season. The 6’10″ shot-blocking extraordinaire is considered one of the top two or three prospects in either class, and his reclassification will open up a floodgate of additional interest given that there are only a handful of top prospects left on the board for next season. His list includes several Big East schools, including Georgetown, Syracuse, Connecticut and Providence, in addition to SEC powers Kentucky and Florida, along with North Carolina. It will be very interesting to watch this recruitment over the next few months.
  4. From a high school recruit to a collegiate one, former Arizona forward Sidiki Johnson has decided to transfer to Providence where he will be eligible to play in the second semester of the 2012-13 season. The former top 100 recruit in the Class of 2011 only played a grand total of seven minutes in Tucson this year, scoring a single point and grabbing three rebounds. The Harlem (NY) native clearly thinks he’ll fit in better in the Big East, and his inclusion to the Friars’ already-loaded 2012 haul of recruits (top 10 by all indications) will give Ed Cooley the talent he needs to compete in the deep conference.
  5. Expect an official announcement on this Thursday, but Syracuse.com reported last night that Orange center Fab Melo has been reinstated and will be available to suit up for the team during Saturday’s game vs. St. John’s. During his two-week absence from the lineup as starting center, Syracuse went 2-1, losing its first game of the season at Notre Dame, but bouncing back to win at Cincinnati and at home against West Virginia (in a controversial call involving Melo’s backup, Baye Keita). We’re not sure Jim Boeheim’s team would have beaten the Irish on that night even with Melo in the lineup, but they’re clearly a better defensive team with him patrolling the lane and anchoring their zone. We’re glad to see that whatever academic issue he had has now been resolved.
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Big East Morning Five: 02.01.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 1st, 2012

  1. Providence has struggled to find wins in conference play, currently sitting in last place at 1-8.  However Ed Cooley and company continue to win on the recruiting trail as multiple reports revealed yesterday that Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson will become a Friar.  No official announcement was made by the school at the time of this writing, but once all of the Is are dotted and Ts are crossed, Johnson will be slated to make his Providence debut next December.  The 6’8” power forward should add much needed frontcourt depth. Johnson, a top 100 prospect in the class of 2011, enhances an already high-profile 2012 recruiting class for Providence that includes two top 25 talents in shooting guard Ricardo Ledo and point guard Kris Dunn to go along with sharpshooter Joshua Fortune.  As presently constituted Providence does not have an open scholarship, but rumors have circulated recently that redshirt junior Bilal Dixon will transfer to Towson for his final year of eligibility. Johnson appeared in only three games for Arizona this season (0.3 PPG, 0.7 RPG).
  2. The latest chapter in the Bernie Fine saga has taken a soap-opera-like twist. An affidavit filed by Gloria Allred, the attorney representing Fine accusers Robert Davis and Michael Lange in a defamation suit against Syracuse University and head coach Jim Boeheim, alleges that Laurie Fine, wife of Bernie, had sex with a number of Syracuse players over the years. The suit says Boeheim defamed Davis and Lange when he questioned their motives for accusing Fine of molesting them and indicated they were lying for financial gain. In the affidavit, Davis, who is also on record as having consensual sexual relationships with both of the Fines, said Laurie Fine’s activities were common knowledge around the program and therefore Boeheim had to know what was going on. “Players used to talk openly about it as a known fact,” Davis said. Mrs. Fine’s attorney, Edward Z. Menkinquickly lashed back against Allred and the accusations. “This is both desperate and disgusting, an example of a lawyer flailing about to keep a dying lawsuit in the public eye,” Menkin told The Syracuse Post-Standard.
  3. Never thought you’d see Marquette’s Davante Gardner and the word thin in the same story?  Well, Gardner suffered a sprained knee against Villanova on Saturday so the Golden Eagles were without their 6’9”, 290–pound forward/center for last night’s 66-59 victory over Seton Hall. This further depleted an already thin Marquette front line as Gardner had been starting and playing increased minutes in the absence of Chris Otule, who is out for the year after suffering a knee injury in early December.  Gardner has responded positively to the increased role (11.4 PPG, 6.3RPG since the Otule injury heading into last night’s game), and is listed as day-to-day. Marquette next plays Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame.
  4. Louisville is another team that has been beset by injuries this season and their lack of bodies has meant trial by fire for freshman forward Chane Behanan.  To Behanan’s credit he has responded well and is churning out a solid rookie campaign. While Behanan’s steady progress has perhaps kept him under the radar and overshadowed by bigger freshman names such as Andre Drummond and Moe Harkless, it appears the secret is leaking out.  Behanan has started 22 of 23 games and is averaging 24.4 minutes per game.  Despite the heavy workload in his first year, rather than wearing down it appears that Behanan is gaining steam, posting averages of 12.7 points and 9.0 rebounds over Louisville’s last four games versus his overall season totals of 9.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
  5. The Big East continues to find itself the subject of realignment fodder as CBSSports.com reported yesterday that Louisville is “aggressively pursuing a Big 12 invitation.” As noted here at the time, Big 12 officials met last week to discuss the possibility of further expansion. While obligatory statements like, “There is nothing imminent” came out of that meeting, you can bet people did not just show up for the free Frescas and wing dings.  The Big 12 is sitting at 10 teams right now, or at least will be once West Virginia’s situation with the Big East has been worked out, and needs to decide whether it wants to stand pat or keep adding schools.  If they do expand further, doing so with one additional school does not seem to make sense.  But get this, the Big 12 actually going to 12 members probably does. If so, the Big East will remain firmly entrenched in the Big 12’s crosshairs for the foreseeable future.  As the CBS piece points out, Cincinnati would pop up next on the rolodex after Louisville.

Fresca Fuels Big 12 Expansion, Or Maybe Not (Photo: Fresca.com)

                                        
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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • The third weekend in conference play went a long way towards settling the conference into some tentative tiers. With the Bay Area schools’ sweeps of Colorado and Utah, Stanford and California sit atop the conference with 5-1 records and have established themselves, for now, as the teams to beat in the conference. A half-step back sits Washington, winner of four of five conference games, but unproven on the road so far, and Oregon, the sole team in conference play with more than one road win – the Ducks have three. The next tier down is made up of Arizona, Colorado and UCLA, all teams with two losses who have been inconsistent, but have enough talent to leave a mark on the Pac-12 race. We’ll wedge in one more tier before the bottom, with Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon State all seriously flawed teams who for one reason or another are clearly better than the tier of Utah and USC at the bottom of the Pac.
  • Yesterday we got news of a couple more problem children coming to the end of their ropes with their current teams, as Cal’s Richard Solomon and Utah’s Josh Watkins, both of whom had already been suspended for a game once this season, ran into trouble. Solomon was declared academically ineligible and is done for the year, though he could return next season for his junior year provided he cleans up his grades. Watkins, however, is done. The senior was booted off the Ute team by head coach Larry Krystkowiak for his second behavior-related offense of the season. It’s been that kind of year in the Pac-12, with these two just the latest in a line that includes Reeves Nelson, Jabari Brown, Keala King, Sidiki Johnson and Bruce Barron (and I’m sure I’ve blocked another player or two from my memory), players whose seasons ended early because of their own decisions.

The Loss Of Richard Solomon Is A Potential Major Blow To Cal's Conference Title Chances (pac-12.org)

What to Watch For

  • Until further notice, we can just assume that whatever games involve the Bay Area schools any week will be the games to keep an eye on, with the two matchups between the rivals potentially being the games of the year. This week, it is the Washington schools hosting California and Stanford, and the Huskies, in particular, should provide a stiff test for both schools. Washington will be without the services of second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox for both games this week, due to a stress fracture in his hip, his loss will rob Lorenzo Romar’s bunch not only of a pure shooter on offense, but also one of the Huskies’ best perimeter defenders, a situation that could spell trouble against talented three-point shooters such as Cal’s Allen Crabbe and Stanford’s Anthony Brown, to name two. Read the rest of this entry »
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