Big East M5: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 12th, 2013

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  1. Syracuse and UConn seem to be moving in very different directions as basketball programs on a number of levels. Syracuse is looking for another top-10 finish to the season and a high seed in the Big Dance. UConn, on the other hand, is ineligible for all postseason play. Syracuse is moving on to the ACC, leaving behind the shell of the once-great Big East. UConn was left at the altar, wondering what its next move will be. And this week, like ships passing in the night, Syracuse gained back dynamic sixth-man James Southerland, while UConn will likely be without big man Enosch Wolf after an arrest this week. Wolf was charged with third-degree burglary, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct after refusing to leave a campus apartment and getting in a physical altercation with a female resident at 6:00 AM. According to Kevin Ollie, Wolf has been suspended indefinitely.
  2. When he suffered a sprained ankle in the first half of what would become an epic five-overtime game against Louisville, Pat Connaughton probably didn’t realize how crucial his presence would be. The sophomore returned to the game later and ended up playing 56 minutes and contributing 16 points and 14 rebounds in the hard-fought Irish win. Connaughton probably didn’t feel great about it on Sunday, but luckily for him Notre Dame is off until Wednesday night when the Irish will take on DePaul. Ice up, Pat.
  3. Jim Boeheim is old, you guys, and I guess it works for him. The Hall of Famer has noted on many occasions that he doesn’t own a computer, and apparently he just recently got into this whole “cell phone” business, mostly because of his young kids. However, in a shocking revelation brought on by the constant Syracuse rumor-mongering surrounding the James Southerland situation, we have now learned that Boeheim knows what a blog is! And surprise, surprise — he resents them as much as we all imagined he would!
  4. Pittsburgh had a slow start to the Big East slate this year, and a lot of that derived from a lack of production from vaunted freshman center Steven Adams.  However, in recent weeks Adams has really come along with his offensive production, allowing Pitt to go back to a more traditional inside-out Panthers attack. The post presence of Adams and power forward Talib Zanna allows Jamie Dixon’s offense to harken back to the days where Levance Fields was able to feed DeJuan Blair under the hoop. The recent emergence of Adams and Zanna’s solid production opens things up for guards like Tray Woodall, who had to shoulder much of the scoring load earlier in the year.
  5. Rutgers has probably played better than many expected this season, but its 3-8 conference record doesn’t really reflect it. The Scarlet Knights have been in many close games but have so far failed to contain the opposition’s best player down the stretch. This problem came to pass once again in Saturday’s 69-63 loss to Georgetown. Scoring has been an adventure for the Hoyas all season, but they have been able to get by on the shoulders of star forward Otto Porter, who led the way by scoring 19 points (including 10 of Georgetown’s final 12) and grabbing 14 boards. Good defensive teams can remove a singular threat like Porter, or at least slow him down in crunch time, but Rutgers isn’t quite there yet.
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Big East M5: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 11th, 2013

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  1. So, Mike Brey might be a bit prescient. Before Notre Dame’s epic five-overtime win over Louisville this weekend, the Irish coach showed his team film from great boxing matches as motivation, and made comments comparing the upcoming game to a 15-round bout. Brey may have intended his analogy to allude to Louisville’s frantic, fast-paced style of play that often wears out opponents, but as fate would have it, the game played out in a much more literal fashion. I expect that Brey will discuss first-round knockouts before this Wednesday’s game against DePaul.
  2. Steve Lavin missed St. John’s Sunday loss to Syracuse due to the passing of his father Albert “Cap” Lavin. Lavin and his father were reportedly very close, and Cap had played a part in this St. John’s season earlier this year, when the Red Storm traveled west to take on his alma mater, San Francisco. According to St. John’s assistant Rico Hines, who stepped in for Lavin during his absence in Syracuse, the players took the loss hard, as they had been able to spend time with the elder Lavin this season: “They were sad. They were really sad… Cap was one of those guys that watched every game or listened to it on the radio, and those guys knew that. … They all said they’d say a prayer for him, and we’ll try to play as hard as we can.”
  3. Syracuse’s long national nightmare is (probably) over. Shortly before tip-off against St. John’s Sunday, word leaked out that James Southerland had won his Friday appeal to a university academic panel, and that he’d be ready to play in the game. The re-introduction of Southerland to the team gives the Syracuse offense more potency from three-point range and vastly improves the Orange’s spacing on the floor, allowing guards Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche more room to operate.  Southerland played 26 minutes off the bench against the Red Storm, scoring 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field.
  4. The adjustment to Division I basketball for Pitt’s Steven Adams has been a tough one, and it has apparently had a negative impact on the seven-footer’s NBA Draft stock. Adams’ play has been improving of late, and with his newfound ability, Pitt has been playing inspired basketball. The Panthers have won four of their last five contests, and during that stretch the freshman has averaged a very solid nine points, nine rebounds, and two blocks per game.
  5. Cincinnati hasn’t been a pretty offensive team at all this year – without a significant low post threat like former Bearcat Yancy Gates manning the middle, it is almost entirely up to guards Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright to score in bunches from the outside.  Unfortunately for UC, that two-guard punch has been significantly hampered by a sprain to Wright’s right knee, which he sustained in a January 15 game against DePaul. Since returning from the injury, Wright has only scored in double-figures once, and as a team Cincinnati has averaged under 60 points per game during that stretch.  For a squad without many reliable offensive options, Wright needs to return to form as soon as possible or the Bearcats risk falling further down the Big East standings.
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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on February 1st, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The biggest game of the season thus far is upon us, as the top two teams in the Big Ten collide in what could be an epic battle of offensive efficiency. There are some important match-ups in the other conferences as well that should keep your Super Bowl weekend packed with great sports. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#1 Michigan at #4 Indiana – 6:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Darius Morris may be gone, but Tim Hardaway Jr. is primed for big things in 2011-12. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s defense could be the key to a Michigan win. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

  • Michigan versus Indiana should be one of the best offensive duels we see in college hoops this season. Both teams have scoring options all over the floor, shoot the lights out from two and three, and have proven to be incredibly efficient all season long. There is very little that separates these two teams on paper. One factor that could play huge role even before the game starts is the availability of Michigan forward Jordan Morgan. Morgan rolled his ankle early in the game against Illinois and sat out against Northwestern on Wednesday. Morgan gives the Wolverines another sneaky offensive threat and size on the inside. He is a key player on the defensive glass, which will be very important for the Wolverines. If Indiana gets too many second chance points, it will be a long night for John Beilein and company. You will also want to keep an eye on the potential match-up between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Victor Oladipo. Oladipo is clearly the Hoosiers most valuable player at this point and is filling up the stat sheet recently. Michigan must find a way to lock down Oladipo. Additionally for Michigan, keep an eye on Jon Horford. Horford has been very solid in the last two games making up for the loss of Morgan. The Wolverines will need Horford to be at the top of his game, if they want to win. Finally, keep a close eye on Michigan’s demeanor early in the game. If you recall, the Wolverines came out rattled and uninspired against Ohio State on the road. Early mistakes put them behind big. If that happens in Bloomington, it’s unlikely Michigan can bounce back against an offense as good as Indiana’s. If Indiana gets off to a fast start, you won’t see the Wolverines panic.  However, if the fast start is due to mistakes and uninspired play, it’s curtains. While the offenses will be at center stage in this game, the winner will be the team that plays better defense. Watch perimeter defense closely as both teams are excellent from distance. Whoever is able to defend the perimeter better will win the game.

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Big East M5: 01.07.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 7th, 2013

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  1. So that whole thing about the ‘Catholic Seven‘ breaking away from the Big East?  That’s looking like an even better decision than we initially thought. According to ESPN.com‘s Darren Rovell, the seven schools have an offer from FOX, which is looking to launch its own sports channel next summer, for 12 years and $500 million. According to the report, the schools would look to bring in three to five additional members who would receive lesser shares, and the seven schools would each make around $5 million per year. In the current Big East, non-football members now make between $2-$3 million per season. These schools may not have powerful football programs, but Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, and the others still hold some weight in the basketball world, as FOX’s reported offer shows.
  2. Meanwhile, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco is having a rough go of things. In a Hartford Courant article, he compares the last six weeks to “drinking from a flood”.  That time period includes the departures of Louisville and Rutgers, the news that Boise State would remain in the Mountain West, and the announcement that the ‘Catholic Seven’ would breaking away from the Big East. Unfortunately for Aresco, it is really less of a flood and more of a drought in terms of viable programs remaining in his conference. San Diego State, which was planning to join as a football-only member, may now turn its back on the conference with Boise gone, and there seems to be real questions as to whether Navy ever ends up joining for football either. To wrap this all up, there does not seem to be many other qualified programs in the east, and schools like Cincinnati, UConn, and USF will jump ship as soon as another viable conference comes calling.
  3. CBS Sports‘ basketball guru Gary Parrish recently penned his mid-season review for the Big East, and everything seemed to line up until his pick for ‘freshman of the year favorite’. Parrish chose Pitt’s Steven Adams as his selection, a players who is having a decent year, and he mentions Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono as another candidate, but as Pitt blog Cardiac Hill notes, by far the best choice for this award is St. John’s forward Jakarr Sampson. Sampson is averaging 13.9 points and seven rebounds per game to Adams’ 7.3/6.2 numbers, and has definitely been the conference’s most impressive rookie so far.
  4. Speaking of the Johnnies, they got what may end up being a signature win against Cincinnati on Saturday. Sampson had a solid night, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight boards, but in crunch time Steve Lavin gave the ball to D’Angelo Harrison. Harrison was having an off night for the Red Storm, but came through in the clutch regardless, scoring the final five points in a 53-52 win over the Bearcats. Harrison was benched by Lavin earlier this season when he wasn’t living up to his potential as a team leader and role model… and it certainly seems like his disciplinary tactics are now paying off.
  5. Brandon Triche has always been somewhat of an enigma to Syracuse fans.  He is a four-year starter, and his statistical lines read like those of a consistently good-but-not-great player. However, many people, including Jim Boeheim, envisioned more from Triche, and it seems like the senior guard may be breaking out at the right time for the Orange. In the first two Big East games of the season, Triche has scored a total of 45 points on 16-of-24 shooting, and has taken some of the play-making pressure off of point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Syracuse does not have great depth at guard, especially when freshman Trevor Cooney struggles to score, so Triche’s ability to provide consistent scoring and spell MCW by running the point has proven to be invaluable this season.
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Big East M5: 12.11.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on December 11th, 2012

  1. The biggest news of the last 24 hours came just after midnight, when it was widely reported that the Big East’s seven non-football members convened with conference commissioner Mike Aresco in New York to raise concerns over the league’s uncertain trajectory. The meeting substantiated previous rumors that the Jesuit bloc of Marquette, DePaul, St. John’s, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova were considering acting as a group to dissolve the Big East and form a rogue basketball league. If those seven schools can reach a consensus in favor of dissolution before football-playing newcomers gain voting membership in July, they could avoid the exit fees, loss of branding and equity they would incur were each school to jump ship unilaterally. The new wrinkle in this convoluted web of intrigue is that Temple –– a school that was expelled from the Big East in 2004 –– might control the fate of the league. As a pending member, it’s currently unclear whether Temple is permitted to vote in basketball-related affairs yet. If it does, its leadership would likely relish the opportunity to veto that plan should it arise, and keep Tulane and SMU on Villanova’s schedule for the foreseeable future.
  2. Rivals.com writer Greg Domorski did a nice feature for Seton Hall on the return of prodigal son Sterling Gibbs, who is looking forward to the opportunity to spend his last three years of eligibility with the Pirates after a homesick freshman season at Texas. He is the first Seton Hall Prep player to join the basketball program at SHU since Jamar Nutter did so in 2003. Gibbs cites his familiarity with the community as a major factor in his decision to return home: “I will work extra hard knowing the support of my family and my friends are all around me. At Texas, they knew my name but not exactly who I was. They didn’t follow me through high school. Here that’s different.” Though he regrets his Texan sojourn, the experience wasn’t altogether unrewarding –– he credits the friendships he developed with former Longhorns D.J. Augustin and Kevin Durant as essential to his growth as a player.
  3. VU Hoops takes a look at the gaping hole in Jay Wright’s frontcourt after the transfer of Markus Kennedy and asks the question, “did it really need to be this way?” A story from Philly.com over the weekend had depicted some questionable decision-making from Wright, who apparently agreed to let Kennedy rejoin the team after a fruitless attempt to transfer out, only to renege on that decision once some of his teammates voiced their displeasure. “It begs the question of whether the inmates are running the asylum” author Brian Ewart points out. Attrition in the Cats’ frontcourt could get worse before it gets better, with Mouphtaou Yarou graduating and solutions remaining on the recruiting board rather than on the bench.
  4. Tom Noie at The South Bend Tribune points out that Notre Dame junior point guard Eric Atkins has recorded 33 assists to just one turnover in his last 143 minutes on the floor. Atkins had resolved to be more aggressive on offense this season at the risk of committing more turnovers, but counterintuitively, his assertiveness has coincided with even greater efficiency. The Irish guard leads the Big East with a 5.3 assist/turnover ratio in the process of dishing out seven assists per game.
  5. Lastly, Ray Fittipaldo at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers some perspective on the maturity Pittsburgh senior Dante Taylor has displayed in taking an active role in his team’s leadership despite playing behind freshman Steven Adams. The affection and respect Taylor has garnered among his teammates was on full display in the latter minutes of Pitt’s win over North Florida last Saturday, as their bench exuberantly celebrated Taylor’s team-high 16 points. “Even when I wasn’t playing well those guys were in my corner… It was a confidence-builder.” Jamie Dixon praises Taylor as a consummate teammate and leader, and stressed after the game that his contributions in other areas are more important to him that the senior’s scoring. Nonetheless, Taylor is shooting a career-best 64% from the field, and any sustained offensive production at a center position that generates a modest 11.2 points per game right now will greatly benefit his team.
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The Freshman 10: The Best and Worst of Big East Newcomers

Posted by mlemaire on December 6th, 2012

The season is only a month and some change old but it is never too early to check in on the progress of some of the conference’s most heralded and surprising freshmen. While young bloods like Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and Nik Stauskas of Michigan have made an instant splash on the college scene, the Big East’s crop of rookies have made a more muted impact.  There was no methodology when it came to selecting which freshmen to analyze, so we just chose 10 of the most interesting freshmen to follow. Of course, conference play hasn’t even begun yet, so evaluating their body of work is somewhat of a trivial venture. But don’t you worry, we will be back later in the year to check in on some of these players again.

DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse)

The Learning Curve For Prized Freshman DaJuan Coleman Has Been Steeper Than Some Expected

It is still far too early to make a judgment call on what type of player DaJuan Coleman can become this season. But those who expected the highly touted forward to come in and immediately start anchoring the paint for the Orange probably need to adjust their expectations. To his credit, he seems to be getting better each game. But in six games against subpar competition, Coleman hasn’t seen much playing time and has shown only promise and inconsistency when he does play.

Anyone with eyes can see the wide-bodied forward is going to be an excellent rebounder and considering he is averaging 5.3 rebounds per game in just 16.3 minutes of playing time, he is already on his way to validating that obvious observation. But he isn’t a shot-blocker which is fine so long as he is an efficient scorer in the post and an elite rebounder. He has an impressive skill set and nimble feet for a man his size, but the ball rarely makes it back out to the perimeter if it goes to Coleman in the post, and he will need to take better care of it and make smarter decisions if he wants to continue to receive looks in the paint. His downfall offensively may be his sketchy free-throw shooting (55 FT%) as he is the type of strong interior player destined to draw a lot of fouls, and if he can even make his free throws at a 66 percent clip, he will be a much more productive scorer.

Jakarr Sampson (St. John’s)

It should come as no surprise that Sampson has adjusted to college basketball quickly because the Akron native was supposed to be suiting up for the Red Storm last season before lackluster academics forced him to return to prep school. But now that he is on the roster, he has wasted little time making his mark on both ends of the floor and is the clear front-runner for conference rookie of the year honors. The lanky 6’8″ forward already had a well-deserved reputation as a sensational dunker, but his game is more nuanced than that. Sampson has thus far started all nine of the team’s games, averaging 30.8 minutes per game, and he ranks second on the team in scoring (13.8 PPG), first in rebounding (6.6 RPG), and second in blocks (1.6 BPG).

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Big East M5: 11.23.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on November 23rd, 2012

  1. Mike DeCourcy at Sporting News asked yesterday why Cincinnati’s attendance is hovering around 5,700 fans (43% of arena capacity), despite the team’s Top 25 ranking, 4-0 record and charismatic roster. He argues that Mick Cronin’s squad is reminiscent of the 2011 Pittsburgh team that went 15-3 in possibly the deepest Big East ever. So what’s separates Cincinnati from those Big East Champions? An appreciable home-court advantage, says Decourcy. The Panthers succeeded that year “in no small part due to their 8-1 home league mark fueled by ferocious crowds that consistently threatened the Petersen Center’s 12,500-seat capacity.” Mick Cronin contends that continuing to win is the only way to woo Cincinnati’s pro-sports-minded fans, who tend to show up for the biggest names on the schedule. “Which comes first, though? The home-court success or the home-court advantage?” asks Decourcy. “Honestly, not a lot of quality teams ever have to confront that question.”
  2. In his post on Louisville’s plodding 51-46 victory over Northern Iowa in their Battle 4 Atlantis opener last night, Eric Crawford of local affiliate WDRB restates that UofL’s offense needs to wean itself off the three-point shot. Heading into its contest with a prolific Missouri offense, 43% of Louisville’s shots this season have been lobbed from beyond the arc. Louisville has only connected on 29.4% of the more than 27 threes they attempt each game, on average. That irrational shot distribution makes it impossible for Louisville to score with any efficiency on a regular basis. “This is a team that ought to be able to throw lobs off penetration, or to drive in for mid-range looks. It ought to be able to enter the ball to the post from the wing, rather than from a guard who drives and dishes from two feet away, where the defense can easily collapse.” Crawford also cautions that the fruits of Louisville’s full court press have become a crutch that the Cards won’t always be able to depend on. “This team is scoring a remarkable 37.6 percent (109 out of 290) off of turnovers. And that’s fine, if you can keep causing them. But eventually somebody is going to take better care of the ball.” Phil Pressey’s Missouri team could be the first to force UofL to rely on half court offense.
  3. The folks at Pittsburgh blog Cardiac Hill write that the Panthers 67-62 loss to #4 Michigan “proved that there’s still a good bit of work to do” before Pitt fans can consider their team elite. Watching Pitt hang with the favored Wolverines down to the wire was apparently more frustrating than encouraging for fans who knew enough to expect more from Steven Adams and Tray Woodall. The heralded freshman Kiwi in particular continued a weeklong trend of decreasing minutes and productivity: “He was scoreless, but even more importantly, just didn’t look like he belonged.” At least the Panthers didn’t have much time to dwell on the loss, as they’ll regroup against Delaware today.
  4. Some reporter had the misfortune of asking Jim Boeheim about realignment. Spoiler alert: he’s kind of ambivalent. “Everybody knows the story. They’re going for whatever they’re going for. The rivalries don’t matter to anybody anymore. I think if you ask somebody at West Virginia right now, their fans, if they like going out to Texas Tech and Texas A&M[?] and all those places. Ask their fans if they really like that? Maybe they do. I don’t know. I don’t get it, never have got it. But that’s just the way it’s going and nothing you can do about it. It’s like I said, if these guys were running the United States in Colonial times, Brazil and Argentina would be states because they have something we need. It would make a great country” (brackets added).
  5. The Providence Journal published an article the other day about the possibility of the Big East basketball schools voting to dissolve the conference. Last night, Brian Ewart at VU Hoops posted a critique that sought to distill the report’s concrete facts, and arrived at the conclusion that dissolution––even after losing another all-sports member to the ACC––remains very unlikely. The two-thirds majority would require unanimous consensus in favor of dissolving among all the basketball schools, and Georgetown and St. John’s allegedly strongly oppose league suicide. On a pragmatic level, pulling the plug on the Big East would deprive the basketball schools of hundreds of thousands of dollars (potentially much more, depending on current media negotiations) in television revenue. Any move to unilaterally dissolve before the eight new members officially join could expose each of the Catholic basketball schools to a mind-numbing amount of litigation, as each of those new members are in various stages of cutting prior conference affiliations.
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Set Your DVR: Feast Week

Posted by bmulvihill on November 19th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Thanksgiving week, otherwise known as “Feast Week” for college hoops fans tuning into ESPN, provides us a bunch of viewing options while we gorge ourselves with turkey and stuffing. Several of the higher profile preseason tournaments get going or finish up this week including the Maui Invitational, the NIT Tip-Off, and the Battle 4 Atlantis. While we don’t know all the potential match-ups in those tourneys just yet, you can be sure there will be some great games. We’ll take a look today at the first round games for a few of the tournaments but definitely tune into the later rounds as they progress. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Week

#5 Michigan vs. Pittsburgh (PNIT Semifinals) – 9:30 PM EST, Wednesday on ESPN HD (****)

The battle between Michigan’s Trey Burke (above) and Pitt’s Tray Woodall could be the best point guard match-up we see all season(AP)

  • The battle between Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall and Michigan’s Trey Burke at the point guard position could be one of the best we see all season. Woodall is averaging 14 points and seven assists through four games this season and shooting a fantastic 57.1% from inside the arc. Burke is averaging 18 points and eight assists through three games and is also shooting 57% from inside the arc. There are two areas to keep an eye on as these two battle throughout the night – turnovers and three-point shooting. Burke is turning the ball over at a slightly higher rate than Woodall – 20% vs. 15%. While both are excellent distributors of the basketball, the player who wins the defensive battle and can create more turnovers will give his team a huge advantage. Additionally, Burke is extending defenses with his 43.8% shooting from downtown. His ability to continue to hit threes against a Pitt team that has shown weakness against perimeter shooting will be vital to a Michigan victory — particularly so if Michigan wants to free up space on the inside for its frontcourt.
  • Speaking of the frontcourt battle, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford finally give coach John Beilein some rebounding to go along with his penchant for the outside shot. Michigan has been a three-point heavy squad with very little rebounding support under Beilein. With the additions of McGary and Robinson, the Wolverines can go big and hit the offensive boards hard should their outside shooting go cold. They are going to need it because the Panthers bring their own talented frontcourt to the party in Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, and 7’0” freshman center Steven Adams. Offensive rebounding will be a huge factor in this game. Michigan is only allowing opponents to grab 14% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, good for third in the nation. They face a much tougher Pitt frontline however whose offensive rebounding rate is sixteenth in the nation at 46%. Something has to give.
  • Given the great match-ups we are going to see in this game, it should be a close one in Madison Square Garden. The difference could be Michigan’s outside shooting. The Wolverines are currently hitting 49% of their three-point attempts. Outside pressure can come from Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., freshman Nick Stauskas, and even Robinson. If Jamie Dixon’s squad can improve its perimeter defense and get Adams more involved in the offense, they will have a chance to take down the Wolverines. Otherwise, U of M will walk out of the Garden with a victory.

Six Other Games to Watch This Week

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Big East M5: 11:06:12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 6th, 2012

  1. I am willing to bet most of the country doesn’t read The Hour, a century-old newspaper based in Norwalk, Connecticut. But the fortunate folks who do regularly read the paper were treated to a neat story from columnist John Nash about Los Angeles natives Kevin Ollie and forward DeAndre Daniels.  The sophomore forward was highly touted as a freshman but struggled to adjust to life on the opposite coast and thus struggled on the court. But Ollie, who went through exactly what Daniels was going through when he arrived in Storrs, helped the freshman through the season, and now the duo need each other as both are out to prove themselves. If the Huskies are going to win games this season, they will need Daniels to make serious strides on both ends of the floor which, at least for now, seems to be in progress.
  2. File this under problems most coaches would kill to have but apparently Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon isn’t done talking (read: bragging) about tinkering with his starting lineup. Pittsburgh brought in an excellent recruiting class led by New Zealand big man Steven Adams and got clearance to play for accomplished transfer Trey Ziegler, so Dixon’s inability to decide on a starting lineup shouldn’t elicit much sympathy from anyone. What the topic does illustrate well is that Pittsburgh is poised to rebound very quickly from last season’s losing debacle. While successful programs like St. John’s and Villanova remain mired in mediocrity, Dixon has his Panthers again ready to challenge for the Big East crown if everything falls into place.
  3. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was able to convince another long, athletic, big man to play basketball for him, although it may be a little while before we see this one in actino. Bronx native — by way of the Salisbury School and Brewster Academy – Chris McCullough is a five-star talent in the class of 2014 who committed to Syracuse yesterday (hat tip on the reporting to our very own Dan Lyons). This is a big get for the Orange who still have a number of very high profile targets left on the board in that class and McCullough himself is no slouch. I watched the highlight videos from the link from beginning to end, which I rarely do, and what I saw was an athletic big man with exceptional range, touch, and footwork. McCullough will fit nicely in the back of that zone defense where his length and inherent defensive talents will not be kind to opposing shooters. Don’t look now, but 2014 is shaping up to be a monster recruiting year for the Orange.
  4. The Villanova Wildcats have not looked good in the preseason and are staring down another rebuilding season as they try to rebuild the depth and talent that made them a perennial contender for the second half of the last decade. One way the rebuilding project can be expedited is if redshirt sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston fulfills some of the potential he showed in spurts last season and becomes a go-to scorer for a team who desperately needs a playmaker who can create his own shot. The good news is that Pinkston, who always seemed too short to play power forward and too heavy to run with small forwards, has lost 25 pounds and apparently has put his past transgressions behind him. He was a breakout star for the Wildcats during parts of conference play last year and he will need to become an offensive leader for this young and inexperienced team. Jay Wright seems to have righted the ship and the Wildcats should be better than last season, but how much better may depend on whether Pinkston really has put some of those troubles and conditioning issues behind him.
  5. I admit, this story is old, but I would be remiss if I didn’t occasionally throw some love towards the oft-forgotten members of the conference, so Rutgers and its head coach Mike Rice deserve our attention. The article itself is pretty straightforward. The Scarlet Knights have one new scholarship player this season and he is junior college transfer Vince Garrett. He is raw, but very, very athletic, and he will be counted on to add a scoring punch on the wing. He is struggling with the nuances of the D-I game right now, but Rice is confident he will pick it up and eventually become a key contributor. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Rice is building himself some excellent depth in the backcourt for this season.
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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #7 Pittsburgh

Posted by Will Tucker on October 31st, 2012

Despite being picked fourth in last year’s preseason Big East coaches’ poll, Jamie Dixon’s squad went 5-13 in conference play and finished at a dismal 13th place in the standings. Pitt fans expect a big rebound from the disappointment of last season: Their team returns fifth-year senior Tray Woodall, seven of its nine top scorers, and a blockbuster recruiting class featuring hulking Kiwi Steven Adams, the school’s highest-ranked basketball commitment of all-time. Big East coaches seem to agree that Pitt is on the uptick, placing Pitt sixth in last week’s preseason Big East coaches’ poll. While the writers at RTC’s Big East microsite have their reservations about Pitt’s ability to reverse course over a single offseason, there’s enough talent at Jamie Dixon’s disposal to envision a substantial improvement. But the loss of leading scorer and leader Ashton Gibbs, coupled with lingering doubts about Woodall’s health, makes it difficult to place Pitt any higher in our predicted standings.

2011-12 Record: 22-17, 4-14

2011-12 Postseason: 5-1, College Basketball Invitational Champions

Tray Woodall is the key to Pitt’s success (Photo credit Fred Beckham/AP)

Schedule

Pitt opens up the season with a fairly rigorous non-conference slate. Oakland, Detroit and crosstown rival Duquesne will test the Panthers in November, while neutral-court games in Madison Square Garden against Michigan, Virginia and Kansas State could materialize depending on how the Preseason NIT bracket unfolds. Apart from that tournament in late November, Pitt won’t leave the familiar confines of Pittsburgh until January 5, when it travels to Rutgers.

The Panthers draw a fairly advantageous Big East schedule in 2012-13, with home-and-home series against Cincinnati, Marquette, DePaul and Villanova (two of whom we predicted to finish in the bottom third of the conference). The most brutal stretch of the Big East schedule takes place between the end of January and the third week of February, when Pitt plays at Louisville, Syracuse, at Cincinnati, at Marquette, Notre Dame and at St. John’s. How the team weathers that gauntlet will likely define its season.

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Big East M5: 10.15.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 15th, 2012

  1. Where many midnight madness events favor glitz and glamour over basketball substance, Louisville‘s event at the Yum! Center was all business. The Cardinals are a few months removed from a Final Four berth, and enter the 2012-13 season as one of the favorites to return, so it is little surprise that the team is taking their practice time seriously. Point guard Peyton Siva said as much about Louisville’s midnight madness event: ”It’s definitely all business here,” Siva said. “I wish we could Midnight Madness and play around, but Coach P is a business-first type of guy. We have our fun after practice, but once we lace it up and step on the court, it’s all business and that’s how we play.” Don’t worry though, the Cardinals did find time to dance to “Gangnam Style”, because it is still in fact the fall of 2012.
  2. Pittsburgh’s Steven Adams continues to receive praise from various publications in their preseason lists and rankings. Today, it is Athlon Sports, who lists Adams at the top of its “Top Impact Freshman of 2012-13″ rankings heading into this season, noting that Adams is the highest-rated recruit to ever sign with Pittsburgh, and that though he is raw, his talent should allow him to be very productive for the Panthers this season.
  3. That whole “will he stay home in Syracuse or join Kentucky’s stellar 2012 recruiting class” thing?  Syracuse freshman big man DaJuan Coleman said that was never even much of a debate for him. “I wasn’t close at all,” Coleman told the Post-Standard’s Donna Ditota. “I had a feeling I was going to come here since my junior year. I just wanted to go through the recruitment and everything.” Coleman joins former high school teammate Brandon Triche at Syracuse this season, and unlike some other recent Syracuse freshman bigs, many believe that Coleman has the polish to be an effective player on both ends of the court immediately. If anything, the bulky Coleman should help shore up the major rebounding problems that plagued the Orange in 2011-12.
  4. It is no secret that this basketball season in Storrs is going to be a trying one for all involved. The players have no postseason to play for, Kevin Ollie is fighting for a multi-year contract, and the administrators who need to make decisions that will impact the program going forward will be doing so under the gaze of legendary head coach emeritus Jim Calhoun, who is expected to remain a major part of the program. With all of the pressure that is being heaped on the Connecticut program, Ollie’s utilization of a sports psychologist with the whole team may be a very wise move early in his tenure. UConn is working with Dr. Joe Carr, a psychologist who worked with UMass last year en route to a strong year for the Minutemen, to work through many of the chemistry issues that plagued the Huskies in 2011-12.  Carr is no stranger to helping teams come together, as noted in the Courant’s article, and he describes the positive effects of sports psychology further: ”If we can get players to develop blind trust and buy into a principle, they are going to outplay a lot of people. They are playing for something else, and that’s each other. The teams that win are usually the ones that make the most sacrifices.”
  5. Prized recruit Tyler Roberson is on the radar of many Big East teams, but he chose to head to Rutgers for this year’s midnight madness.  Roberson would be an absolute recruiting coup for Mike Rice and company, as he holds offers from Big East rivals Syracuse, Villanova, and rival-to-be SMU, as well as perennial national power Kansas.  Kentucky is also involved, as Tyler Roberson is an elite high school basketball player, and that’s sort of their thing.
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Big East M5: 10.09.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 9th, 2012

  1. CBS Sports rolled out a few major parts of its college basketball season preview yesterday, including the “expert” picks for this season and Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish’s picks for preseason All-American honors. Goodman, Parrish, and Jeff Borzello picked Louisville to win the Big East this year, with Matt Norlander and newcomer Doug Gottlieb choosing Syracuse. The Cardinals also proved to be a popular Final Four pick, with Goodman choosing the Cards as his preseason national champion.  Bob Huggins also makes a cameo as Goodman’s coach of the year pick. The All-American picks were less Big East-friendly; only Georgetown forward Otto Porter cracked the four teams listed, with a fourth team selection alongside Kansas block artist Jeff Withey and Lehigh’s Duke-killer C.J. McCollum.  Pittsburgh freshman Steven Adams cracked the All-Freshman second team. The Kiwi center is expected to man the middle for the Panthers, and help prevent a second straight disappointing season for Pittsburgh in its final Big East campaign.  These lists include a number of incoming blue-chip freshmen and mid-major superstars, while the Big East has a number of consistent contributors aiming for breakout seasons.  It will be interesting to see if the conference is better represented on these lists come March.
  2. Hopefully for Pitt, Adams’ signing turns out to be worth the effort, because it put a lot of stress on head coach Jamie Dixon. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dixon suffered a pulmonary embolism after one of the 16-hour flights from Wellington, New Zealand, and was hospitalized after he discovered he was having difficulty breathing.  The article goes on to describe Adams’ unique story, one that I’m sure will spread quickly if the seven-footer helps the Panthers make it back to the top of the Big East and into the NCAA Tournament in 2013.
  3. In yesterday’s ’5′, we told you about Georgetown’s new athletic training facility, which is set to break ground in the “very near future.” Well, Connecticut is following suit in upgrading their facilities… the school just doesn’t want people to know how it’s doing it.  According to Boston.comHusky sponsor Webster Bank will be footing some of the bill for these new facilities, but the university declines to disclose various other financial agreements, like the one with Webster, as well as the identities of many private donors. The legal matters involved in situations like this are not nearly as fun as the basketball implications (unless you’re into that sort of thing), so my biggest takeaway from this situation is that UConn is moving swiftly to stabilize its program as a national contender in the post-Calhoun era. We’ve seen other Big East programs get major boosts from upgraded facilities recently, like Syracuse with it’s Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center and Louisville with the Yum! Center, as well as Kentucky who just opened some ritzy new basketball-focused dorms. Nailing down the coaching situation, whether that’s Kevin Ollie or someone else, is important, but new practice facilities should definitely help UConn sell itself on the recruiting trail going forward.
  4. Those of you in the Mid-Atlantic region will be able to catch quite a few Georgetown (and Big East) basketball games on MASN this season.  The Big East slate here includes the Hoyas’ trips to Marquette, South Florida, and Rutgers, as well as home games against Providence, Seton Hall, and DePaul. In my experience, there are few things worse than trying to find a way to watch your team’s less marquee match-ups on television, so I fully support any agreement that will get more league basketball on TV. If we’re being honest, the real winners here are the DMV-area Western Carolina fans who will be able to catch their December 10 bout with the Hoyas.
  5. Former St. John’s guard Nurideen Lindsey‘s hardship waiver was granted by the NCAA this weekend, and the feisty guard will be able to open the season with his new team Rider this season.   The 6’3″ Lindsey was very impressive in his short, nine-game St. John’s career, during which he averaged 12.4 and 2.8 assists per game. In his debut against William and Mary, for example, Lindsey scored a season high 19 points and added four assists. Later in the year, he added 18 points and two assists in an 81-72 loss to then-#16 Arizona. Lindsey and the Broncos open their season at home against Robert Morris on November 9.
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