Big East Tournament Takeaways: Wednesday Evening

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 10th, 2016

The Big East Tournament officially tipped off on Wednesday night with two opening round games in New York City. The first game between Georgetown and DePaul was a tight battle until the second half, when the Hoyas used their 50 percent shooting to pull away for a 70-53 win. The second game featured a wild swing of events, with Marquette relinquishing a 17-point lead over St. John’s before escaping with a win. Here are some quick takeaways for each of the Big East Tourney’s opening day participants.

Georgetown Lives to Fight Another Day (USA Today Images)

Georgetown Lives to Fight Another Day (USA Today Images)

Georgetown (15-17): Senior center Bradley Hayes was back in action after missing six games and the impact was felt almost instantly. Last night’s win was only Georgetown’s second in its last 11 games, but after suffering a number of close losses this season, the Hoyas’ record doesn’t do the team much justice. The key takeaway last night was that, with Hayes back in the lineup and the team facing a season-ending loss, Georgetown finally played with a sense of urgency. The Hoyas’ defense was rock-solid, holding DePaul to just 0.79 points per possession, and D’Vauntes-Smith Rivera put together one of his most efficient games of the season. Things might not be too rosy for Georgetown in its upcoming test against Villanova, but at least John Thompson, III’s squad will head into that game with some confidence.

DePaul (9-22): A disappointing end to a disappointing season is the only way to put it for DePaul. The Blue Demons struggled mightily in conference play, collecting just three wins and proving uncompetitive in a number of its losses. The plus-side is that the team loses just one key contributor, with Billy Garrett Jr. presumably returning for his senior season alongside promising freshman guard Eli Cain. If there’s one key takeaway from this season, it’s the unwavering confidence that Cain demonstrated, attacking the basket at will and serving as one of DePaul’s most reliable shooters. First year head coach Dave Leitao will have plenty to do this summer as he takes a long-term view with his program.

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Otskey’s Big East Observations: 12.18.15 Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 18th, 2015

While every season is definitely long and winding, Georgetown’s loss to Monmouth should be concerning for both the Hoyas and Big East fans. The primary reason is not that Monmouth is a bad team — rather, the Hawks have a quality squad this season — it is that the Hoyas were run off their home floor in a game that should have been a close, competitive loss or a win. This loss is the latest in a recent history full of uninspiring Georgetown losses under John Thompson III and the second of this season alone. When you look at the Hoyas’ overall KenPom profile, a few things stand out. First, this team is not defending at a high level. While Georgetown’s field goal percentage defense of 37.7 percent is very good, that statistic only shows so much.

John Thompson III's team was the latest to fall victim to upstart Monmouth. (Washington Post)

John Thompson III’s team was the latest to fall victim to upstart Monmouth. (Washington Post)

When you dig a little deeper, you find a team fouling at a high rate and failing to close out possessions on the boards effectively. A team that struggles to rebound and puts opponents on the foul line too often allows for plenty of extra points, which is the main reason why Georgetown ranks 87th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. When compared with their Big East companions, that rate puts the Hoyas ahead of only Butler, Creighton and hapless DePaul. Already with four losses on its resume, Georgetown has some work to do in league play in order to safely make another trip to the NCAA Tournament. Lackluster performances like those against Monmouth and Radford need to become a thing of the past, and Georgetown will have to become a more efficient squad in order to earn that invitation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Propelled by Fresh Faces, the Chris Mullin Era Has Arrived at St. John’s

Posted by Justin Kundrat on December 15th, 2015

Few expected a winning season for a St. John’s team that experienced a complete roster upheaval. Not only was fifth-year head coach Steve Lavin shown the door, but all six players on a team that only played a six-man rotation to begin with departed the program. There was no apparent end in sight for the dark and gloomy forecasts that riddled the program. It went on for so long that fans, coaches and players alike were not wondering when, but if, St. John’s would ever return to its status as “New York’s team.” Alas, the arrival of Chris Mullin provided a struggling program with a flicker of hope. And that hope may be arriving sooner than expected. It started as an uphill battle for a program that hasn’t sniffed a continued degree of success since Mullin himself played in the 80’s. So after St. John’s suffered a blowout loss to Vanderbilt, struggled to hold off Division II Chaminade, and then lost by 16 at Fordham, few expressed much surprise. After all, this was a team full of misfits. Some were only at the university for a one-year stay as graduate students whereas others had been recruited to play for Lavin and were now forced to adapt to new leadership.

Slowly but surely, it seems the Red Storm are taking well to Chris Mullin's leadership. (Tania Savayan/The Journal News)

Slowly but surely, it seems the Red Storm are taking well to Chris Mullin’s leadership. (Tania Savayan/The Journal News)

Considering the limited degree of time and resources, Mullin’s roster construction in a matter of months has been a truly admirable effort. He took a completely unfamiliar group of players, put them on the floor together, and let the chemistry work itself out. “We’re young, we’re inexperienced, we’re all new guys, speaking a different language, but when you play together and you play well, it’s a positive reinforcement.” Mullin’s two graduate transfers Durand Johnson (Pitt) and Ron Mvouika (Missouri State) have stepped in as immediate contributors and provided invaluable leadership to the host of newcomers. Meanwhile, sparingly used returnees Christian Jones and Amar Alibegovic have worked to fill in the gaps while the freshmen, his freshmen, develop. Read the rest of this entry »

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Thoughts on the Big East’s Opening Week

Posted by Justin Kundrat on November 19th, 2015

Half-empty stadiums, passive fans, and disheveled teams. All of these are commonly found in college hoops in November, and all steadily reverse as the season progresses. Why is it the case that November basketball brings all these out? These games count the same towards the record as the games in February, often providing prime chances for key non-conference wins. It’s a strange time for both fans and players. The former are overlooking many of these games, either writing them off as wins or being simply indifferent towards the outcome. The latter are inexperienced and unable to achieve an optimal degree of chemistry on the floor.

Like the haze from the charity stripe, it was an up-and-down week for Jessie Govan and Georgetown. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Like the haze from the charity stripe, it has been an up-and-down start for Jessie Govan and Georgetown. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Which brings us to Exhibit A: Georgetown. How disappointing was a double overtime loss to Radford? Well, very. The poor play of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and his surrounding cast of sophomores left much to be desired in the loss to the Highlanders. Somehow though, just days later they gave #3 Maryland everything they wanted in the Comcast Center. Despite ultimately falling short, the positives were numerous. Seldom used senior Bradley Hayes has played out of his mind thus far, displaying very impressive footwork and shot-making ability in the post. Sophomore Isaac Copeland, who may see as many minutes as Smith-Rivera this season, will eventually find ways to be more assertive on offense given his greater degree of responsibility. Freshman Marcus Derrickson shined against the Terps, and it looks as if he will have a chance to provide the Hoyas with a much needed three-point threat. Like last season, it may only be a matter of time before things start clicking for John Thompson III‘s squad. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Column of Enchantment: Not Even Barely About Basketball

Posted by Joseph Nardone on November 17th, 2015

I’ve mentioned this many times before to the point of nausea, but I am about to do so again. The St. John’s Red Storm are my favorite team. Not only in college basketball. In all of sports. There’s a few reasons why — mostly Bootsy to blame — yet it is the reality of my life. So few people roaming this planet were as excited as I was when their season was about to open on Friday night against Wagner.

Sometimes, sports just takes a backseat to news around the world. Friday was one of that instances. (AP)

Sometimes sports just takes a backseat to news around the world. Friday was one of those instances. (AP)

Before the game, however, some really horrific news broke. Everyone knows the story by now. At the time, though, the events unfolding in France were simply mind-boggling. Like many other people, I struggled with trying to separate my emotions from attempting to enjoy the basketball games. Some people, ones smarter than I at least, decided to not venture on Twitter or discuss the matter at all. It was their right. So, too, were those who tried to find comfort in the sports being played. To each their own, really. There’s definitely no right or wrong way to handle tragedy.

Judging others who decided to continue to watch basketball and — how dare they — comment on it, are infuriating. Parts of me get it. We’re all a little bit selfish. We need to make things about us. When something as tragic as the terror that was taking place in France is happening far from home, people have to localize their outrage. Still, the anger was misplaced, misguided and mostly founded out of ignorance. Some people HAD to tweet about the basketball games because it was their jobs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 2015 Tip-Off Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 13th, 2015

morning5

  1. With the start of the college basketball season upon us, we figured it would be a good time to bring back the Morning Five. We apologize for the infrequent nature of these posts the past few months, but we had to deal with a variety of things the past few months (all good). Now that the season is starting we are planning on doing these posts at least a few times a week. If you have not been on the site in a while we encourage you to check out the great work that our microsites have been doing. And if you are in the mood to try something different this season (and potentially win tickets to one of the NCAA Regionals this year), we encourage you to enter into our Survivor Pool. Unlike some other sites, we are not being investigated by any Attorney Generals, you don’t have to pay any money to enter, and we don’t use insider information to try to win our own event.
  2. We often talk about college sports being essentially separate entities from the educational institutions that they represent, but there are many instances in which they are intertwined. One excellent example of this is the WashingtonTexas game that is being played in Shanghai. Many will view this as a way for the basketball teams to grow their brand and possibly even that of the conferences, but the schools also view it as an opportunity to promote their schools as educational options for people overseas. Financially it makes sense for schools to go after individuals who might pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition money instead of hoping to sell a bunch of $20 t-shirts.
  3. Although the season is officially starting tonight there are a handful of notable players who are still in NCAA eligibility limbo. The most significant of these is Cheick Diallo, the highly touted Kansas freshman. We won’t claim to have any inside information/knowledge about the case, but Sam Mellinger’s column on the situation and his proposed solution is a worthwhile read while we wait for the NCAA to hand down a decision. As Mellinger notes the blame here shouldn’t fall as much on the NCAA as it should on the member institutions that allowed it to have this type of unregulated power.
  4. Diallo appears content to wait for the NCAA to make a decision, but two other players (I guess they are technically just students now) have received negative rulings from the NCAA and in a somewhat unique move appear to be ready to call the NCAA on it by threatening lawsuits. Parties representing Central Florida freshman center Tacko Fall and St. John’s freshman Marcus LoVett have both reportedly looked into filing lawsuits against the NCAA. This might sound interesting on paper, but we doubt it will end up doing either athlete much good in the near-future because of the glacial pace that the NCAA and the court systems that deal with its cases move at for these type of things.
  5. Finally, we have been off long enough that we never addressed the Louisville prostitution scandal and it looked like we might be able to avoid the topic since the administration at Louisville obviously doesn’t care about how poorly the situation reflects on the school, but we probably could have figured that out with the way they have handled numerous other things. Now it appears that the school may end up having to deal with the NCAA as Katina Powell, the individual who allegedly supplied the program with the prostitutes, will meet with the NCAA next week in reaction to the high likelihood that she will face criminal charges. Given the way the NCAA usually deals with these things we doubt that they will do anything to the program, but it will be interesting to see if Rick Pitino ever decides that it would be best to move on rather than have to deal with this scandal for the foreseeable future.
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A Column of Enchantment: Season is Near, Donald Trump and Unicorns…

Posted by Joseph Nardone on November 10th, 2015

The college basketball season is a few days away from starting. On Friday a full slate of games will begin, with ESPN‘s marathon of hoops kicking off shortly after, all of which will start the season off with a bang. It will also be buried under the wasteland that is football. Not that there’s anything wrong with men literally ruining their bodies for our entertainment, yet I do wish we would pay a little more attention in the realm of shooty hoops when the season starts. Every game, especially if your program is not an annual world-beater, means something at the end of the day. I mean, this isn’t Major League Baseball or anything.

Oh Yes, It's Back...

Oh Yes, It’s Back…

With the season quickly approaching there are going to be many bandwagon supporters of the sport. I wrestle with which one is worst: ambassadors of the sport who turn a blind eye to anything possibly wrong with it, or those who ignore it for 10-ish months of the year, then pretend they like it when the season starts, disappear a week later, finally culminating with their “undying love” of the sport showing again come March. There should be some sort of survey one must take which rates your college basketball love.

Example: Do you love crowds?

  • A) Yes
  • B) No
  • C) Lobsters

If you answered “A”, then you are a true college basketball fan. You are also admitting you like a sport as much for the atmosphere as you do the quality of the play on the court — as the latter isn’t nearly the same quality as the NBA’s, but accepting it never will be only makes one enjoy the sport.  If you answered “No”, well, you are probably a communist. Anyone who answered “Lobsters” is certainly reading the right column. Honestly, A Column of Enchantment is your go to source for lobster news, opinion, and insight.

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What to Watch For: Key Big East Preseason Storylines

Posted by Justin Kundrat on October 26th, 2015

College basketball is just around the corner. Finally. It seems like ages ago since we last discussed Big East basketball. Maybe that’s because the league had no deep NCAA Tournament runs outside of a Sweet Sixteen appearance from Xavier; or perhaps the droll of mid-summer baseball wasn’t enough to hold us over. Not to worry though, the hibernation period is over. For those who have distanced themselves from offseason news about the Big East for the last six months, here’s your handy primer. There are several key storylines worth monitoring as we approach the start of the regular season.

The Return of the… Freshmen?

(Ralph Thompson/maxpreps)

Jalen Brunson is the one to watch this season. (Ralph Thompson/maxpreps)

Three key players headline the list of Big East recruits this season, and all come at opportune times for their respective teams. The first is Jalen Brunson, recipient of the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year award and a star on the USA FIBA U-19 team over the summer. Brunson is a budding star and arguably the best point guard in his class, setting high expectations that he can provide an immediate scoring punch and carve out a starting role in Villanova’s loaded backcourt. Henry Ellenson, a 6’10″ forward who chose Marquette over the likes of Kentucky and Michigan State, will assume an immediate starting role in the Golden Eagles’ frontcourt alongside returning junior Luke Fischer. Ellenson is a big-bodied forward whose style more closely resembles a Brad Miller/Dirk Nowitzki type than a traditional back-to-the-basket player. And while Brunson might be the bigger household name following his summer breakout, Ellenson should have the larger impact on a resurgent Marquette team that desperately needs his size. Last is Georgetown recruit Jesse Govan, a 6’10″, 260-pound center who truly plays like one. His presence around the rim is game-changing on the defensive end, and as a result, the freshman should see immediate playing time following the departures of Joshua Smith and Mikael Hopkins. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Column of Enchantment: The Final Chapter of the Steve Lavin Story

Posted by Joseph Nardone on April 2nd, 2015

(Ed. Note: The first chapter of the Lavin story can be located here. Also, quotes may or may not be verbatim. Or accurate.)

The dark clouds have parted over the St. John’s campus. Despite much speculation regarding a possible extension, the Red Storm athletic department has parted ways with head coach Steve Lavin. Different reports have stated that Lavin was looking for more money and an extension, but that doesn’t matter now — the Johnnies have gone in another direction. One which they hope will bring much shine back to the program. That direction is going to be led by the greatest player in the history of their program, Chris Mullin. Still, Lavin has one last (short) adventure left in his story.

As he parts, Steve Lavin leaves Chris Mullin with some words of wisdom ... kinda. (ESPN)

As he parts, Steve Lavin leaves Chris Mullin with some words of wisdom … kinda. (ESPN)

———————-

Lavin is cleaning out his office. Unlike most other college basketball coaches, though, his office isn’t filled with film, game plans, or any other type of traditional coach’s office fillers. Instead it has a desk filled with restaurant menus, a calendar on the wall with the dates filled in with reservation times, and a coffee cup filled with a weird, green looking juice. This was Lavin’s home. Not anymore, though, as he has to leave it clean for the person who is taking his job. As he is cleaning out his office he makes a decision to be a good man. Lavin, as he often does, decides that he should leave Mullin a note that has some positive reinforcement in it. As with all things Lavin, though, the note becomes less of a good look memo and more of a watch your back warning.

Dear Chris Mullin,

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The Big East Fell Flat, or Did It?

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 25th, 2015

A curtain of despair has suddenly fallen over the Big East’s 10 members. After starting off with an unblemished 4-0 record in the first day of the NCAA Tournament, five of the league’s six invited teams peeled off over the remaining three days, save Xavier (which played Cinderella story, Georgia State). What was considered the second-best conference from top to bottom now stands at just 5-5 with the Musketeers facing a significant battle against Arizona on Thursday night in Los Angeles. Even the conference’s biggest proponents can’t mask their disappointment with how things have played out. A whopping 60 percent of the league’s teams qualified — five of which were granted a #6 seed or better — and yet here we are, with only one school advancing past the first weekend. So what happened? Is this a problem with the conference as a whole or simply those individual teams? Or is it a problem at all?

Villanova Piccolo Girl Signified the Disappointment of an Entire League

Villanova Piccolo Girl Signified the Disappointment of an Entire League

To preface this examination, I had set the over/under at 2.5 for the number of Big East teams advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. This was under the presumption that Villanova was a near-lock and that two of the remaining schools would receive favorable enough draws to break through. The results were not ideal but the league’s overall performance cannot be blamed on the quality of the conference itself. Anyone who thinks that the Big East didn’t have talented players or deserve its six bids hasn’t watched the league this season. Sure, it wasn’t as top-heavy as the ACC but nearly every game was competitive and served to battle-test each team. Still, a team’s ability to achieve postseason success does not necessarily correlate with regular season scheduling. Teams likes Wichita State, Butler, Davidson, Northern Iowa and Gonzaga have had successful postseasons in years past despite playing softer conference schedules.

The Big East’s under-performance this March lies in individual games where opponents exploited weaknesses and exposed mismatches. No specific team other than Villanova lost a game it truly had no business losing. The results alone start to appear bad when we examine the conference as a whole. Let’s dig into each team’s situation:

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Rushed Reactions: #8 San Diego State 76, #9 St. John’s 64

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 20th, 2015

rushedreactions

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

All Smiles for San Diego State Tonight -- We Can't Score? (USA Today Images)

All Smiles for San Diego State Tonight — We Can’t Score? (USA Today Images)

  1. San Diego State was just too deep and tough. This was not the best of matchups for a shorthanded St. John’s team. With San Diego State’s depth and the tough defense that the Aztecs play, the Red Storm would have faced a tough challenge even before they lost center Chris Obekpa to suspension. The Johnnies battled hard, and to their credit, they made an effort to push the ball in transition (16 fast break points) rather than face the molasses-thick half-court defense of the Aztecs. Tired legs probably caught up with them in the second half as St. John’s only shot 1-of-6 on their second half threes. We saw this coming when the halftime box score showed that four of Steve Lavin’s group had played the entire half while eight San Diego State players had logged at least nine minutes.
  2. Rebounding was a huge concern for St. John’s but San Diego State didn’t dominate the glass. The Red Storm were a terrible rebounding team (-6.6 RPG) in Big East play this season even with Obekpa in the lineup. But for the first 20 minutes, the undersized Johnnies battled San Diego State evenly on the glass. After intermission, though, the deeper frontline of the Aztecs eventually won the day, leading them to a +13 advantage in second chance points for the contest.
  3. The Aztecs were actually good offensively. San Diego State came in with the nation’s 172nd-best offense but came out hot tonight, scoring an efficient 1.21 points per possession in a surprisingly potent 40-point first half. St. John’s is no Virginia defensively, especially without Opekpa in the paint, but the Red Storm had no answer when the Aztecs attacked. The real surprise was that San Diego State was so hot from distance, making 9-of-22 threes in tonight’s game.

Star of the Game.  Dwayne Polee II, San Diego State. The balanced Aztecs had many candidates for this award, but we will select Polee II for getting his team off to a fast start. The senior who had missed 15 games earlier this year for health reasons hit 4-of-6 threes on his way to 12 first half points, getting the Aztecs off and running.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Evening

Posted by RTC Staff on March 20th, 2015

RTC_NCAA15

In what was certainly one of the most competitive and jam-packed “opening” days in NCAA Tournament history, Friday’s slate of games will have a hard time following Thursday’s remarkable act. However, today offers a fair share of fascinating matchups as well. Here is a preview of Friday’s evening games.

#8 Oregon vs. #9 Oklahoma State – West Region First Round (at Omaha, NE) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS.

The game plan is simple when playing Oregon: Stop Joe Young. (USA TODAY Sports)

The game plan is simple when playing Oregon: Stop Joe Young. (USA TODAY Sports)

For the Ducks, it all begins and ends with Pac-12 Player of the Year Joseph Young. A deadly shooter, Young is stroking it at 36.1% from three (a career-low), 50.3% from two and 92.6% from the free throw line. He’s adept as a pull-up shooter from deep, a catch-and-shoot guy coming off a screen or on the bounce and on the attack. He’s scored 20 or more 17 different times this season. In other words: stop Young, stop the Ducks. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they don’t appear to have a ready-made matchup for Young, unless they put 6’6” Le’Bryan Nash – ostensibly a power forward on this team – on him. On the other end of the court, the Ducks can throw a combination of Dwayne Benjamin, Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks at Nash – the ‘Pokes leading scorer – and feel relatively comfortable, while they’ll let Young, or any of their other fresh guards, chase Phil Forte off screens and try to limit his clean three-point looks. In the end, the Cowboys are more reliant on three-point shooting, while the Ducks can score in all three ranges. Unless Forte and senior Anthony Hickey get super hot from deep, the Ducks should have the edge

The RTC Certified Pick: Oregon

#1 Duke vs. #16 Robert Morris – South Region Second Round (at Charlotte, NC) – 7:10 PM ET on CBS.

Robert Morris sprung a mild upset in Dayton on Wednesday, knocking off favored North Florida in impressive fashion. To further extend their season, the Colonials will need another unexpected victory, but quite obviously, this upset may be slightly less attainable. Duke has had their share of recent struggles in the Tournament’s second round, but stubbed toes against foes such as Mercer and Lehigh can only offer RMU so much solace. Jahlil Okafor dominated small-conference foes in November and December – the Colonials, like almost every team in America, has no player capable of slowing Duke’s freshman star. Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones have proven virtually unstoppable as a duo: stopping one is possible, but forcing poor shooting nights from both is rare. The Colonials made only 4-of-16 three-point field goals against North Florida but have shot the three-ball well this season (37.7 percent). Getting hot from long range would be a great way for Andy Toole’s team to begin the task of hanging around in this game. To finish that chore — even if it ends in defeat — Robert Morris will need to pitch a perfect game. This is the life of a #16 seed, and while it’ll be Duke moving on to face the winner of San Diego State-St. John’s, Robert Morris should head home with heads held high, a proud season in the books.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke Read the rest of this entry »

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