Big East Weekend Wrap: Vol. IX

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 27th, 2015

The Big East Weekend Wrap covers news and notes from the previous weekend’s games.

The Big East now finds itself squarely in second place of KenPom’s rankings, and the reason lies in the sheer depth of the conference. Eight teams are ranked among the top 100 and seven can be found in the top 50. With DePaul (5-2) pulling its own weight this season and both Creighton and Marquette playing increasingly competitive basketball, there have been only a handful of games in conference play that were blowouts. Of the 37 conference games played to date, 13 (35%) have either gone to overtime or been decided by four points or fewer, ranking the Big East first overall for competitiveness. Given that fact, every weekend’s action features close, down-to-the-wire finishes. Below are three key takeaways from the past weekend of Big East action.

Butler (USA Today Images)

Butler Easily Dispatched the Hall Over the Weekend (USA Today Images)

  1. Seton Hall continues its stumble, posting a 20-point blowout loss to Butler. After racing off to a hot start in Big East play, the Pirates have come crashing down in a manner similar to St. John’s, dropping three straight games and four of their last five. If it wasn’t for a Sterling Gibbs game-winner at Creighton, the Pirates would be on a brutal five-game losing streak following their monumental home court win over Villanova. There are a number of reasons for the Hall’s recent struggles, the biggest being the absence of freshman Isaiah Whitehead, whose playmaking ability is sorely missing when Gibbs struggles to find his shot. Additionally, Jaren Sina and Brandon Mobley have provided inconsistent scoring, putting the onus on the freshmen to step up. Seton Hall was once a top 10 team nationally in three-point shooting, but in conference play they are now a Big East-worst 27.2 percent. The good news is that the season is far from over and Kevin Willard has repeatedly stated that Whitehead is on pace for a full recovery. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Evolution of Sterling Gibbs From Shooter to Leader

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 20th, 2015

Rick Barnes made a mistake. When a certain 6’1″, 180-pound guard from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, arrived on his Texas campus in 2011, so too did a plethora of other highly-rated recruits, all vying for valuable playing time. Sterling Gibbs joined four other ESPN100 recruits in Austin, two of whom – Myck Kabongo and Julien Lewis – were in direct competition with Gibbs for playing time at the point guard position. While those two logged 30 and 25 minutes per game, respectively, and returning leading scorer J’Covan Brown started in the Longhorns’ backcourt, Gibbs was relegated as the odd man out on the bench. The New Jersey all-stater was used sparingly by Barnes that year, playing just 7.5 minutes and averaging 2.6 points per game. A lack of playing time should come as no surprise with the backcourt depth at Texas that season, but with his classmates playing well and the program bringing in yet another point guard (Javan Felix) in the following year’s recruiting class, the writing was on the wall for Gibbs.

Sterling Gibbs (USA Today Images)

Sterling Gibbs’ Leadership is a Big Reason Why Seton Hall is Competitive in the Big East This Season (USA Today Images) 

His natural destination was home, as he said at the time: “If my decision had to do with basketball only, I would not be leaving Texas. But my decision is family-related and involves more than basketball.” After a transfer year, Gibbs’ first season at Seton Hall allowed him to play 30 minutes per game, gave him a starting role, and revealed an opportunity for leadership upon the impending graduation of Fuquan Edwin. The redshirt sophomore flourished, scoring 13.2 points per game while dishing out 4.2 assists per game and boasting an impressive 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. While inconsistent in his scoring, Gibbs showed he was not afraid to shoot the ball, finishing the season second on the team in field goal attempts, first in free throw attempts, and demonstrating an uncanny desire to take clutch shots in the moment. Against Villanova in the 2014 Big East Tournament, it was Gibbs who took and made the game-winner off a step-back jumper, despite shooting just 3-of-9 from the field up to that point. “In the end, it was supposed to get in my hands,” Gibbs said of his clutch buzzer-beater. “I was supposed to create a shot for my teammates or create a shot for myself, and I just stepped back and hit the jumper.”

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Big East Weekend Wrap: Vol. VII

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 13th, 2015

The Big East Weekend Wrap covers news and notes from the previous weekend’s games.

The Big East marched along last week, continuing its ascent up the rankings of the power conferences. It reached the #1 ranking for overall conference RPI for a bit before bowing to the Big 12 (only slightly), and the conference now stands at second overall with a sizable gap between itself and the rest. Even more impressively, the Big East has the highest average RPI among its conference members thanks to DePaul’s 3-0 start. As of this writing, the league lists nine of its 10 members among the top 100. Below is a list of four key takeaways from the last weekend’s action.

LaDontae Henton

LaDontae Henton’s Team Has a Legitimate Case to Rank Among the League’s Top Three Teams

Providence makes its push for the top of the standings. As I wrote in an earlier article, Providence has a legitimate case as a top three team in the Big East even though the Friars had largely fallen off the radar in non-conference play. They made a strong push last week, picking up a road win at Butler and then defeating Georgetown in overtime. Neither result was necessarily pretty — the Friars won both by a combined seven points — but the pair of wins catapulted Providence to the top of the league standings with a 3-1 record. Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton continue to carry the load on the offensive end, with Dunn doing a much better job of staying out of foul trouble and remaining on the floor. The duo lead the conference in assists and points per game, respectively.

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Big East Weekend Wrap: Vol. VI

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 6th, 2015

The Big East Weekend Wrap covers news and notes from the previous weekend’s games.

The opening week of Big East play featured some crazy results: the home teams went 9-1; the favored teams went 5-5; every ranked team lost at least once; and DePaul is 2-0. If nothing else, these results show the level of parity in the Big East this season. Talent aside, teams succeeded in defending their home floor as the only two unbeaten teams in conference play are the ones that have yet to play on the road. Below are five key takeaways from the Big East’s opening weekend:

  1. Seton Hall has been nothing short of impressive. Not only did the Pirates win two conference games without Isaiah Whitehead, but they did so against what was believed to be the league’s top two teams. After trouncing St. John’s behind 10-of-23 shooting from three, Kevin Willard’s group took it to Villanova, jumping out to an early 17-3 lead before relinquishing it all and then ultimately winning in overtime. It goes without saying that junior guard Sterling Gibbs, who led the team with a combined 45 points, has made his way into all-Big East first team discussions. Stripped of his backcourt mate and second leading scorer, Gibbs took the scoring and passing duties into his own hands, easily creating his own shot off the dribble and putting teammates in scoring situations. Alongside Gibbs, three freshmen — Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguz and Angel Delgado – stepped up at different times to propel the Pirates.

    Sterling Gibbs has played his way into Big East first-team discussions. (Getty)

    Sterling Gibbs has played his way into Big East first-team discussions. (Getty)

  2. DePaul has done its best to counter every prediction about a last place finish. Following a string of six straight brutal losses — including defeats to the likes of Ohio and Loyola Marymount —  DePaul appeared to be right on track for its annual January plunge into the Big East abyss. Yet this time, Billy Garrett Jr. decided he’d rather not. In front of their usual half empty arena, the Blue Demons dashed the hopes of both Marquette and Xavier, handing three-point losses to both. By slowing each game down to a crawl (64 possessions each), it didn’t matter that Oliver Purnell’s team is playing defense that ranks among the worst 50 teams in the country or that both of their opponents ranked in the top 40 in two-point field goal percentage. DePaul won by forcing turnovers (30 over the two games) and with Garrett breaking out of his shooting slump — the 6’6″ sophomore played under control, shooting 12-of-16 from the field over both games and matching his career high 10 assists against Xavier. Read the rest of this entry »
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Is Seton Hall Better Without Isaiah Whitehead?

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 5th, 2015

Before being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot, Isaiah Whitehead was Seton Hall’s second-leading scorer and team assist-leader. As a result, many pundits thought that the team, now lacking its most dynamic all-around playmaker, would flounder in its upcoming Big East tests. Instead, the exact opposite occurred. Without Whitehead available last week, Sterling Gibbs stepped up to put on two electrifying performances against St. John’s and Villanova, contributing a combined 45 points, 12 assists and just three turnovers in a pair of wins. Moreover, the team’s best offensive performance of the year (points per possession) came against St. John’s, and its defense held Villanova to its worst of the season. To be clear, nobody is doubting Whitehead’s talent or his ability to play at the next level, but with the team’s recent string of rather unexpected Big East victories, the question needs to be asked: Does Whitehead’s presence on the floor do more harm than good?

Seton Hall is Playing Better Without Its Star Freshman (USA Today Images)

Seton Hall is Playing Better Without Its Star Freshman (USA Today Images)

Against St. Johns, the Pirates notched 18 assists on 23 made baskets for a whopping 78.3 percent assist rate — both season highs. Freshman Angel Delgado, a force on the offensive glass, logged 13 points and 12 rebounds, with Gibbs adding 25 points and eight assists of his own. Sophomore Jaren Sina also gave his best performance of the season, shooting 4-of-8 from deep en route to 14 points. The Seton Hall offense looked incredibly fluid throughout — both in transition and in the half-court — with Gibbs and Sina knocking down outside shots in rhythm. This was in stark contrast to the team’s performances against Georgia and Wichita State, when the offense often fell stagnant and became overly reliant on Whitehead’s demonstrated ability to get to the rim.

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Big East Weekend Wrap: Vol. V

Posted by Justin Kundrat on December 22nd, 2014

The Big East Weekend Wrap will cover news and notes from the weekend’s games.

What is basketball, or any sport for that matter, except for a continuous stream of results and changing expectations? We only know as much about a team as their body of work, and with that, we attempt to make judgments about their future performances and outcomes. With more data comes more information and hopefully, more informed opinions. The Big East got off to an incredibly hot start in its first six weeks, but the last few days of action have brought most of its teams back down to earth. Whether they recover remains to be seen.

The Good

  • Villanova posted an impressive rally. The Wildcats struggled to penetrate the Syracuse zone for the first 25 minutes of action and trailed for nearly the entire game before rallying to send it to overtime in the final 17 seconds. The offensive balance that propelled the team in past victories was gone, as three players scored over 20 and nobody else on the team scored more than six points. However ugly, Villanova found a way to win. It exemplified the team’s resiliency and also demonstrated a sense of senior leadership that was missing earlier this season. Darrun Hilliard posted 23 points, five rebounds and four steals while JayVaughn Pinkston scored 25 and added 10 rebounds of his own. With the Wildcats’ perimeter shooting nowhere to be found, both seniors found ways to score down the stretch by attacking the rim and creating for themselves. The gap between Villanova and the rest of the pack appears to be widening; the target on their back has never been bigger.
Despite some early struggles, Jay Wright's crew eventually cracked the Orange's zone and found a way to eek out an impressive victory. (Getty)

Despite some early struggles, Jay Wright’s crew eventually cracked the Orange’s zone and found a way to eek out an impressive victory. (Getty)

Other Big East teams were not so fortunate…

  • Butler went 0-for-2 in resume-building games. The Bulldogs have fallen in the past week about as quickly as they rose in November. Chris Holtmann’s squad had two good chances to build on their 8-1 start: the first was at Tennessee, a game in which they broke down in the final 10 minutes as discussed here. The second was Saturday on a neutral floor against a similarly athletic team in Indiana. Here, Butler again played well in the first half before crumbling, scoring just 12 points in the final 8:38. The game was close the entire way, but the Hoosiers’ second half adjustments worked to slow Kellen Dunham and no other Bulldog was able to put together an efficient shooting performance. The defense was effective (held leading scorer James Blackmon – 19.2 PPG prior – to 5 points), yet to the surprise of many, the rebounding was not. The Hoosiers grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and only gave up 11 turnovers, preventing the run outs that kick start Butler’s offense. The offensive struggles remain: Roosevelt Jones and Alex Barlow are defensive-minded players that have not proven to be consistent scorers, and the Bulldogs are in desperate need of one to complement Dunham. The hope is that freshman Kelan Martin will eventually emerge.

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Rushed Reactions: Seton Hall 64, #3 Villanova 63

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 13th, 2014

rushedreactions

Brian Otskey will be reporting from the Big East Tournament all week.

Three key takeaways from Seton Hall’s dramatic Big East Quarterfinal upset of Villanova.

  1. Villanova’s chances at a top seed took a major hit. Seton Hall isn’t a terrible team but because of some bad losses and a weak non-conference schedule, its RPI is well outside of the top 100. This is only Villanova’s fourth loss of the season, but it means that it won’t be playing any more games until next week after the brackets are announced. The Wildcats are light on big-time wins so their resume will be looked at with more scrutiny after this loss. The general consensus was that Villanova would earn a No. 1 seed with a Big East Tournament title or even just a trip to the championship game, but that won’t happen now and Villanova’s chances of getting the final top seed are significantly lower.
  2. Seton Hall played with a ton of confidence. After surviving a Butler team that beat them twice, the Pirates played with nothing to lose and gave it everything they had today. For a hard-luck team, it finally paid off. Coming into this tournament, Seton Hall had lost an astounding six games either by one point or in overtime. In two games at Madison Square Garden, Kevin Willard’s team has flipped the script with two one-point victories and one massive upset. This win against Villanova, ranked third in the AP Top 25, was Seton Hall’s first ever top-three win in program history. The Pirates had previously been 0-30 against the top three of the AP poll before this afternoon’s win.
  3. Free throw shooting cost Villanova the game, but points off turnovers nearly won it for the Wildcats. Villanova shot 15-of-25 (60 percent) from the charity stripe this afternoon with JayVaughn Pinkston in particular having a very rough game (3-of-10). For as much as free throws eventually wound up costing the Wildcats the game, disrupting Seton Hall’s offense and creating live ball turnovers. Villanova turned those into quick points with most of them coming during a 16-0 run that allowed the Wildcats to turn a 13-point deficit into a three-point lead, a run that seemed to take the air out of Seton Hall’s upset bid at the time. Villanova’s pressure bothered the Pirates for most of the second half, forcing them into wasted possessions and bad shots. However, the free throw struggles proved insurmountable for Villanova.

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Morning Five: 02.24.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 24th, 2014

morning5

  1. By now you have seen countless replays and photoshops of Jim Boeheim‘s meltdown at the end of Syracuse’s loss at Duke on Saturday night. You have also probably seen at least a dozen columns critiquing the call and Boeheim’s reaction to it. Even though we were there with almost a straight on view of Boeheim we won’t bore you with any more specific analysis of it other than to say it was amusing to see in person (as was Boeheim’s post-game press conference) or try to argue that he should be fined or suspended for his reaction (completely ridiculous). The point remains that there is no circumstance under which Boeheim should have reacted like that particularly in that situation. Boeheim’s 945 wins (and counting) at Syracuse will buy him more leeway for his reaction than some other coaches this season have received, but as we said right after it happened given the circumstances it might be the most meltdown this season.
  2. When Cody Doolin left the San Francisco basketball team early this season we figured that it would the last we would see of him as a college player. The senior point guard, who had started all 103 games of his college career and averaged 13 points and 7 assists with just 1.5 turnovers this season, left the team just four games into his senior season after reportedly getting into an altercation with a teammate during practice. At the time we mentioned that we have no idea what could have been so bad about the incident that Doolin would leave team, but on Friday he announced that he would be transferring to UNLV. Doolin will reportedly seek a waiver (presumably as a graduate student) to play immediately for UNLV. Honestly, we were not completely sure that leaving your team after the season had started would even qualify you for redshirt status for the season. If he is allowed to play for the Rebels next season he would join a team that returns Khem Birch, Roscoe Smith, and Bryce Dejean-Jones and is bringing in a top ten class.
  3. Tulsa senior guard Pat Swilling Jr, who was averaging 8.6 points per game this season, is being investigated for potential sexual assault charges stemming from an incident on January 27 in which a Tulsa student is accusing Swilling of raping her. Swilling, who is the son of former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and one-term Louisiana House of Representative member Pat Swilling Sr, was suspended from the team earlier this month, but no explanation was offered. Swilling has had an interesting college career to say the least. After initially being kicked out of St. Joseph’s for being in possession of a stolen laptop, Swilling has spent time at Louisiana Tech and College of Southern Idaho before ending up at Tulsa. He is scheduled to appear in court on March 4 for a hearing which would prohibit Swilling from having any contact with his accuser.
  4. We are not sure what Kevin Willard is doing at Seton Hall, but it seems like he is suspending players left and right. His latest target is sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs who he appears to have been suspended because of his attitude in practice. Gibbs, a transfer from Texas, is second on the team in scoring (14.3 per game to Fuquan Edwin’s 14.5) and leads the team in assists (4.4 per game). We won’t necessarily chalk up Seton Hall’s 1-point loss at Creighton to Gibbs’ absence, but we would assume that Gibbs’ VORP is worth at least one point. As for when Gibbs will return it appears that it could be as soon as the team’s game on Tuesday as he is meeting with Willard in Chicago.
  5. According to Indiana it is once again safe to enter Assembly Hall. After temporarily postponing games last week when an eight-foot, 50-pound steel beam fell from the ceiling onto seats, Indiana will resume playing games in Assembly Hall. The women’s team played their first game on Saturday afternoon without and the men’s first game will be on Thursday when they play Iowa as a make-up for last Tuesday’s postponed game. We imagine the seats near where the beam fell will be among the less popular ones to sit in for the rest of the season.
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Morning Five: 12.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 18th, 2013

morning5

  1. Seton Hall had hit a bit of a rough patch with injuries, but got some good news when it was announced that Sterling Gibbs will only miss 1-2 weeks after hyperextending his right knee. When Gibbs went down with his injury late on Saturday, it appeared as if the Pirates’ season was about to go down in flames as the team is already playing without Fuquan Edwin (ankle) and Patrick Auda (foot). Although both are expected to be back fairly soon, the prolonged loss of Gibbs (the team’s leading scorer) would have put the Pirates in a difficult position as the entered Big East play. Now, as we mentioned on Monday, the Pirates have a soft schedule until New Year’s Eve when they travel to Providence so the timing of Gibbs’ injury appears as if it will work out well for the Pirates.
  2. One of the topics of discussion that has been brought back by the increased emphasis on calling fouls this season is the idea of allowing players to have six fouls before they foul out. There are plenty of reasons for it including allowing prominent players to play more minutes and allowing all players to be more aggressive because they would have more room to operate with their fouls. As Ken Pomeroy points out there is some data on this as the conferences formerly known as the Big East and the Trans America Athletic Conference allowed players to pick up six fouls before being disqualified from conference games from 1990 to 1992. Pomeroy’s research is admittedly rough (he included games where players were only allowed to pick up five fouls in games during those seasons), but there were notable increases in the fouls per games. What that means for the actual quality/level of play during the games is unclear, but perhaps a more in-depth look at those seasons and those games would give the NCAA a better idea of how such a change would play out.
  3. One of the teams that we had the most trouble ranking this week was Duke. It turns out that we are not alone. ESPN’s BPI has the Blue Devils ranked a surprising 31st. As they note, the Blue Devils have been rather uninspiring this season and even their wins do not appear that impressive when you ignore the names of the front of the jerseys of their opponents. We are confident that Duke will move up these rankings as the season progresses and they develop as a team, but right now they are among the many big-name teams that have not proven themselves on the ocurt.
  4. Speaking of polls many critics argue that they are at best useless and at worst undermine the game by focusing an inordinate amount of interest on games featuring teams in the top 25 at the expense of other teams and games. Gary Parrish is not part of that camp. In fact, Parrish says that preseason polls (widely considered the most useless of all polls) are in fact quite useful. Parrish’s methodology is a bit suspect–using the current Ken Pomeroy rankings to determine the accuracy of the preseason AP Top 25–but it does point out that these rankings can be a useful guide as to who the best teams are. We view rankings similar to the way that we look at advanced metrics–they can be used to supplement your viewing experience (or in this case guide you to the better games), but if they are your only tool then you are missing the big picture.
  5. Finally, as we approach the end of the year we are sure to hear about the major stories of 2013. While this season is still young one of the dominant storylines has been (and will be) that of the freshmen. Andrew Sharp notes that this is nothing new and that looking back on the arcs of past phenoms can give us some insight into the current group. The obvious college basketball example is Andrew Wiggins and while he has had his ups and downs in his brief college career that is almost always the case with players under this degree of scrutiny. And as Sharp mentions the next group of phenoms are just a few YouTube clips away.
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Morning Five: 12.16.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 16th, 2013

morning5

  1. After a rough first month of the season things are finally starting to turn around for Billy Donovan. Last Tuesday they knocked off a Kansas team that is still struggling to finds its identity, but that may pale in comparison to the impact of the announcement that McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker has enrolled at the school and is waiting on the NCAA Clearinghouse before he can play for the team. The addition of Walker should make the Gators a legitimate Final Four contender as their two losses have come in close road games and adding a 6’10” power forward will only make them tougher by adding to an inside game that is severely lacking in depth. Walker will almost certainly miss tomorrow night’s game against Memphis and while we have no idea how long it will take the NCAA Clearinghouse it looks like Walker won’t be needed for quite a while as the Gators do not play another ranked opponent after tomorrow night until February.
  2. It didn’t take long for Greg Whittington to find a new home. Whittington, who was dismissed from the Georgetown basketball team late last month, made his first official visit this weekend when he went to Rutgers and apparently Piscataway was impressive enough to convince him commit to Rutgers without visiting any other schools. As we have stated before, Whittington has the potential to a building block for a very good team as he averaged 12.1 points and 7 rebounds per game in the first 13 games as a sophomore before being declared academically ineligible. Whittington is currently rehabbing after tearing his ACL, but if he recovers and is able to become academically eligible look for him to best big men in the Big Ten.
  3. As if losing to St. Peter’s was not bad enough, Seton Hall will be without Sterling Gibbs, its leading scorer, after he injured his right knee towards the end of regulation on Saturday. Gibbs reportedly had imaging tests on his knee on Sunday, but the school had not released the results as of last night. With Gibbs out, the Pirates are without their top three scorers as Fuquan Edwin (ankle) and Patrik Auda (foot) are still recovering from injuries. When you combine this with Tom Mayaan departing last week to rejoin the Israeli army for his mandatory service, Kevin Willard is left with an increasingly shaky roster. Fortunately for Willard, the Pirates face a light slate before they begin Big East play on New Year’s Eve.
  4. North Carolina might be turning the corner on the court, but it seems like the program cannot get out of its own way off the court. On December 6, former UNC forward Will Graves was arrested on one count of possession of marijuana and one count of drug paraphernalia at a home owned by Tar Heels coach Roy Williams. According to the school, Williams was renting out the house to Graves who was finishing his degree at UNC and working as a part-time video coordinator for the basketball team. Williams renting out the house to Graves might not be surprising at some level, but it is interesting that he is doing it and has Graves on staff even though he dismissed Graves from the team three years ago. One of the more unique points in the case is that Graves was only charged after an electric worker noted that the supposedly vacant house was using more energy than expected and called the police to investigate. When the police arrived, Graves invited the police to enter the house where they found the marijuana/drug paraphernalia. As Sean Newell points out, Graves probably did not even have to let the police enter the house, but may have felt compelled to do so.
  5. Things have not worked out quite as well for this young Kentucky team as Big Blue Nation may have hoped and it appears that fans are not showing up at Rupp Arena in quite the numbers that they have in the past. As John Clay points out, attendance at Rupp Arena has dropped since 2009. This is certainly not a phenomenon unique to Kentucky as nearly every school has seen it, but it still an interesting trend given that the Wildcats boast the most rabid fan base in the sport. There are plenty of reasons for this (our personal favorite comes courtesy of Chester), but the most likely ones are a weak home schedule and the fact that nearly every game is available on TV. At this point, we have no idea how to reverse this trend (at least the TV part) and it seems like this will only continue, but it is something worth watching and might be a consideration for schools looking to build new arenas.
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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 18th, 2013

The 2013-14 college basketball season is off and running, and it was a really interesting week for the Big East conference, which saw a number of teams compete in big non-conference games.  Only half of the teams in the league remain unscathed, so there may be some shuffling in our power rankings this week.

Few players in the entire nation have had the start that Doug McDemott has this season.

Few players in the entire nation have had the start that Doug McDemott has this season.

Week One Power Rankings

  • 10.) DePaul (2-1), Last Week (10): The Blue Demons very nearly knocked off a Southern Miss team that many expect to be among the top squads in Conference USA, falling to the Golden Eagles, 75-68.  Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young are off to strong starts.
  • 9.) Butler (2-0), LW (9):  After handling Lamar, the Bulldogs had a close call with Princeton, knocking off the Tigers, 70-67.  Butler is getting even scoring across the board, with five players averaging at least nine points per game.
  • 8.) Seton Hall (2-1), LW (7): Things haven’t been easy for the Pirates.  After participating in the game that launched a thousand referenda on refereeing in 2013, Seton Hall edged by Kent State by two before dropping a game at Mercer in double overtime.  Fuquan Edwin and Sterling Gibbs look very good early, but with the Pirates sitting at 231st in the nation in assists at 11.7 per game, they need to do a better job of moving the ball.
  • 7.) Xavier (3-0), LW (8): Unsurprisingly, Semaj Christon is good at scoring the basketball.  The Musketeers are glad to have Dee Davis back after missing two games—the junior guard had a well-rounded game against Morehead State, scoring seven points, grabbing five rebounds, and doling out nine assists in 35 minutes.
  • 6.) Providence (3-0), LW (6): The Friars’ opening night win against Boston College doesn’t look quite as good with the Eagles going on to drop games to UMass and Toledo, but they’ll have chances to prove themselves with games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky rapidly approaching.  Providence has an array of scorers, headlined by the consistent Bryce Cotton, and as a team hits free throws at an 85 percent clip. Don’t foul these guys, America.
  • 5.) St. John’s (1-1), LW (5): The young Red Storm nearly came away with a big win against Wisconsin in their first game.  D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson look very good through two games, while Steve Lavin and company are still waiting for freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan to put everything together.

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Three Takeaways on Wednesday’s Big East Action

Posted by George Hershey on November 14th, 2013

Here are three quick thoughts on Wednesday night’s Big East action:

1.   Providence can still win when Bryce Cotton doesn’t have a great shooting game. Last night Providence was able to hold off Brown even though Cotton only had six points, going 2-of-12 from the field. Cotton is the unquestioned leader of the team, but it was reassuring to see players like LaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris step up when he wasn’t shooting the ball very well. With Cotton and Kadeem Batts (19/11) leading the way, the Friars could become a dangerous team if Henton and Harris can provide additional offense and rebounding like they did last night. Hopefully for the Friars, this goes down as Cotton’s worst game of the year, but it’s good to see some other players capable of raising their game.

Sterling Gibbs helped lead Seton Hall to a win last night (Jim O'Connor/ USA TODAY Sports)

Sterling Gibbs helped lead Seton Hall to a win last night (Jim O’Connor/ USA TODAY Sports)

2.   DePaul should have won a big non-conference game. DePaul let an early lead evaporate quickly as they led by 10 points midway through the first half before Southern Mississippi went on a run and led by five at halftime. The Blue Demons were frustrating to watch as they played great for stretches, but what did them in was that they started heaving up deep, contested threes early and often (they ended 7-of-26 from deep). They also played sloppily and lost all their momentum late in the game when they failed an alley-oop on a fast break, leading to a Golden Eagles layup on the other end. DePaul was impressive at times, though, as the team stuck with the Conference USA favorites for the whole game and got turnovers from their full court press. Overall, it’s a disappointing loss for DePaul as they had a great chance to get a big early win, but they have the pieces in place to have their most successful season in years.

3.   Sterling Gibbs is the real deal. Seton Hall held off an impressive Kent State team last night. Most importantly for the long term success of the Pirates was the way Texas transfer Sterling Gibbs played. Gibbs had a great all-around game as he led the team with 20 points and six assists and also contributed five rebounds. Gibbs could be the key for the Pirates as they have two excellent players in Fuquan Edwin and Gene Teague, but the point guard position had been unstable. He attacks the basket aggressively, and it showed as he took 13 free throws in last night’s game. Having a player who can distribute the ball and attack the rim at a high level bodes well for the Pirates this season.

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