Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 19th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Khem Birch Leaves Pittsburgh: In what was certainly a surprising development, Pittsburgh announced that highly-touted freshman Khem Birch would be leaving the program for personal reasons. No future destination for Birch was announced. The 6’9” freshman averaged 4.4 PPG and 5.0 RPG in 15 minutes per game for Jamie Dixon, including a season-high 15 points at Pennsylvania on November 25. Birch, a Canadian, was a five-star prospect out of Notre Dame Prep. Birch’s departure will be felt by a Panthers team still trying to find its identity. Pittsburgh remains a very deep team but has to get its defense in order to be able to win consistently once conference play begins.

Khem Birch Left Pittsburgh, Which Shocked No One Familiar With The Commitment Issues Of Well-Traveled Young Phenoms

  • Cincinnati Responds In Impressive Fashion: After losing a bunch of guys to suspensions (including Yancy Gates) stemming from the brawl with Xavier, Cincinnati somehow put together its two best offensive performances of the season. The Bearcats scored 78 in a win at Wright State before throttling Radford with 101 points on Saturday. Maybe the suspensions were just what Mick Cronin needed to get his team focused. While the competition wasn’t great, Cincinnati all of a sudden looks like an improving team after this week.

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (11-0) — The Orange passed their first road test of the season, winning comfortably at NC State on Saturday. Dion Waiters led the way off the bench yet again with 22 points on 9-14 shooting while Kris Joseph added 21. Now that Syracuse has gotten by NC State without any trouble, the Orange could hold onto the top spot in the national rankings for quite some time. Jim Boeheim has some tricky games coming up against upstart Seton Hall, conference title contender Marquette and still-dangerous Villanova, but those are three games Syracuse should not lose. One area for the Orange to focus on in practice this week is defense. NC State shot 57.7% from the floor on Saturday. This week: 12/20 vs. Bucknell, 12/22 vs. Tulane.  Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Morning Five: 12.19.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 19th, 2011

  1. The big news of the weekend that we will have more analysis on later is that Pittsburgh freshman Khem Birch decided to leave the program over the weekend and is in fact already gone. The article cites sources saying that Birch still may change his mind, but this is a weird story with lots of implications for the Panthers. We will save most of the story for our later post, but this is a big blow to Jamie Dixon’s team, which was already struggling. Birch wasn’t making a major impact yet, but he was improving. This will be a story to follow.
  2. The Chicago Sun-Times writes what most of the country already knows — Notre Dame is not very good this season. It obviously didn’t help to lose Tim Abromaitis before he could even play five games and this team has been stricken with injury issues, but they are still discovering their offensive identity and it might not happen for a while. There is talent on the team, like redshirt freshman Jerian Grant and sophomore Eric Atkins, but Mike Brey has his hands full this season and the Fighting Irish will need to make a lot of strides if they want to sniff the NCAA Tournament.
  3. This story is barely relevant now but it is interesting to see that Marquette star Darius Johnson-Odom was suspended for Friday’s game against Northern Colorado for violating team rules. The Golden Eagles still won handily, and we will likely never know what team rules he broke, but this isn’t really the leadership Buzz Williams is looking for out of his senior and best player. There is really no point speculating other than to say that Marquette has the talent to make a deep run this season, and Johnson-Odom’s play and leadership will be essential to that goal. Hopefully he has received the message.
  4. One of the more sordid and strange stories of the weekend came from the Syracuse Post-Standard when they took an in-depth look at what went on inside Bernie Fine‘s house. The story is long and well-worth the full read, but as our crack research team noted, it is “a bit disturbing” that his home is being called “a hangout for boys.” It’s even more disturbing if he really was taking in troubled children and then molesting them. That type of abuse of power is just sickening.
  5. Anybody want to actually talk about what Syracuse is doing on the basketball court instead? Well the link is just a boring game recap, but I am using it to talk about how deep the Orange are… again. Dion Waiters is a star in the making, and he is coming off the bench. That is insane. They have depth at every position, star talent across the board, and if their big men can continue to improve, they will be tough to beat this season and should be considered a favorite for the National Championship.
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Checking In On… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. You can also find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Crosstown Knockout: Suspensions were handed down on Sunday for the embarrassing incident at the conclusion of Saturday’s Cincinnati/Xavier game, a 76-53 Musketeers victory. Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis each received six game bans while Ge’Lawn Guyn will sit out for one game. On the other side, Xavier suspended Dezmine Wells and Landen Amos (a walk-on) for four games while Mark Lyons will sit for a pair and Tu Holloway for one. As for Gates and company, six games doesn’t seem nearly enough, especially when only one of those is a Big East game (a probable loss at Pittsburgh to begin with). Mick Cronin’s comments certainly were interesting. The UC coach waxed poetic in the postgame press conference but didn’t follow those words up with strong actions. On the other hand, Cronin told’s Andy Katz that the suspensions were handed down by those above him in the Cincinnati administration. Even so, it would seem hard to believe the administration wanted to go easier on the players than the head coach. If Cincinnati wanted to be serious, it would have suspended Gates and the others for a large chunk of the Big East season and the rest of non-conference play, or simply kicked them off the team. Instead, this incident is yet another example of placing sports and winning games before justice and learning a life lesson. If this happened off the basketball court, Gates would likely have been charged with battery. Instead, Gates only has to sit six games against the steady diet of non-conference cupcakes Cronin has feasted on over the last two years. From the fight itself to the way the aftermath has been handled, this has been one huge embarrassment for both Cincinnati and Xavier.

To Many, Saturday's Brawl Between Xavier And Cincinnati Signifies A New Low For College Basketball (USAT)

  • West Virginia and Marquette Involved in Thrillers: The Mountaineers ventured to Wichita, Kansas, and took on Kansas State in what was essentially a road game despite it being played away from the Little Apple. Bob Huggins was able to defeat his student, Frank Martin, but it took two overtime periods to do so. It was a thrilling game full of big shots and lots of toughness. It was very important for West Virginia to add a quality road win to its resume and while the Wildcats may not be as good as last season, this win could make a big difference if the Mountaineers find themselves on the bubble come March.  Marquette took on Washington at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night and found itself in a dogfight with the Huskies as UW took the early lead. Marquette fought back to take a three-point halftime lead when the game really ramped up. The high level of play led to numerous lead changes in an up-and-down affair that eventually came to an end when Jae Crowder knocked down a three from the corner to win it for the Golden Eagles, one of only nine undefeated teams remaining in college basketball as of this writing.
  • Big East Continues to Disappoint:  It’s still very early but it’s also hard not to notice that the conference may be looking at eight NCAA Tournament teams in a best case scenario. The Big East lost six games this past week, three by the dregs of the conference but three others by teams considered to be NCAA contenders. It was an awful week for Villanova as it blew two chances for quality wins away from home, losing in New York to Missouri and across town in Philadelphia to Temple. The Wildcats have lost four of their past five games and have zero wins of note on their resume to date. If Villanova doesn’t win at St. Joe’s this coming week, it may have to go 10-8 in conference play just to even be considered for the Tournament. Meanwhile, Cincinnati sits at 5-3 after the Xavier loss with key players in trouble due to the brawl. The Bearcats’ best win is a road victory over 4-5 Georgia, a bottom-tier SEC team. With no quality wins and two ugly losses already on their resume, the Bearcats probably have to beat Oklahoma on December 29 and go 10-8 in league play to have any chance.
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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. You can also find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

Dominating the SEC:  In the newly expanded Big East/SEC Challenge, the Big East came away with a decisive 8-4 victory over the SEC. Only two Big East teams (DePaul and Rutgers) lost on their home floor while four conference members snagged important road wins across the south. The most impressive was Georgetown, a 57-55 winner over Alabama at Coleman Coliseum, a victory that should put the Hoyas in the national rankings this week. Providence earned a nice win at South Carolina while Pittsburgh and Cincinnati took care of business against Tennessee and Georgia. While this event doesn’t have the buzz of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for instance, I thought this was a success for both leagues. It’s good to get some quality games early in the season instead of fattening up on cupcakes. It’s a shame four Big East schools (Marquette, Villanova, Notre Dame and South Florida) had to sit out but that’s just the way it goes since the SEC only has 12 teams.

The Emergence of Georgetown and Marquette: As mentioned above, Georgetown knocked off Alabama, part of a 3-0 week bookended by two cupcakes. At 7-1 with a close loss to Kansas, the Hoyas look much better than originally advertised. Despite Georgetown’s admirable success, the most significant Big East win this past week came courtesy of Marquette. The Golden Eagles knocked off in-state rival and top ten Wisconsin in Madison on Saturday. The Badgers almost never lose at the Kohl Center so any team that comes out of there with a win deserves major props and earns my respect. I had my doubts about Buzz Williams’ team (ranked fifth here last week) but the win at Wisconsin is as impressive as it gets. Not to mention it was without starting point guard Junior Cadougan, suspended for the game by Williams for an unspecified violation of team rules, plus Jae Crowder was saddled with foul trouble most of the game. I’m officially on board the MU bandwagon.

Buzz Williams And Marquette Picked Up A Huge Win At Wisconsin

Jim Boeheim Apologizes: Syracuse’s important 72-68 victory over a quality Florida team took a back seat in the press room Friday night as Orange head coach Jim Boeheim apologized to those who accused former associate head coach Bernie Fine of sexual molestation. Saying he “misspoke very badly,” Boeheim appeared somber yet nervous as he stood in front of the large media contingent. He clearly looked like a man under a lot of pressure and he admitted as much, saying how difficult of a time this has been for him, his family, and his staff. On the surface it appears the Orange players are not distracted by all that is going on but it would be naïve to think they aren’t paying attention in some fashion. With the investigation ongoing and agencies such as the FBI and US Secret Service involved, it is highly likely that more information will come to light. The Orange players have to do their best to block out the distractions as they march deeper into a season full of high expectations. Two weeks into this, there still isn’t anyone out there who can confidently say what will happen over the next few months with regards to this investigation.

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (8-0) — Off the court issues aside, Syracuse sure is taking care of business on the court. The Orange destroyed former assistant Rob Murphy’s Eastern Michigan squad before getting by Florida on Friday at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse didn’t shoot particularly well against the Gators but managed to get to the line 21 times while out-rebounding Florida. Florida’s 20 turnovers also helped the cause. On the broadcast, Jay Bilas said Brandon Triche could become Syracuse’s best player. I can’t disagree. Triche is a solid three-point shooter who is terrific in transition and defensively on the outer flank of Jim Boeheim’s zone defense. The junior’s statistics are up pretty much across the board in five fewer minutes of game action. This week: 12/6 vs. Marshall, 12/10 vs. George Washington.
  2. Louisville (7-0) – The Cardinals had to rally to defeat Vanderbilt on Friday evening with Peyton Siva sealing the win in the final seconds. A lot of people think Louisville is overrated but I’m not one of them. While the Cardinals certainly are banged up, Rick Pitino always gets the most out of his players. If Wayne Blackshear is able to make it back onto the court, watch out. This team could do a lot of damage with its defense come Big East play and has just enough capable offensive players to be satisfactory on that end once they put it all together. It also helps when you have such an advantage like this team does at the KFC YUM! Center. This week: 12/7 vs. IUPUI, 12/10 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Morning Five: 12.01.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 1st, 2011

  1.  With star forward Tim Abromaitis left to “live life” and ponder whether his basketball career is over, Notre Dame is in a lot of trouble without him. His replacement, freshman Pat Connaughton (11 points), was actually one of the Fighting Irish’s best players in last night’s 20-point loss to No. 19 Gonzaga. Point guard Eric Atkins had six points on 2-8 shooting and six turnovers, and senior leader Scott Martin went 0-6 from the field and scored just one point. Without their star in the lineup, Notre Dame’s offense sputtered and don’t be surprised if that is a recurring problem in the short term. Jerian Grant and Connaughton are solid young players, but Atkins has disappeared against every decent opponent and Martin is a solid role player but not someone who can shoulder the offensive load. It might be a long season for coach Mike Brey in South Bend.
  2. I am not buying Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier when he says the city-game between Pittsburgh and Duquesne doesn’t need to be played. Collier claims the game is never competitive and it has become little more than a “respectful little social event.” For one, it’s curious when juxtaposed with the paper’s game recap, in which the lede pretty much says it was the most competitive game in 11 years. The game hasn’t been must-see TV in the past, but this game was competitive and did nothing to assuage the doubt enveloping Pitt. The Panthers committed 23 turnovers but dominated the boards 39-15, including 16 on hte offensive end. Plus, what “respectful little social event” doesn’t sound like a good time, no matter the final score?
  3. With the scored tied at halftime, South Florida was in good shape against VCU. Then the Rams raced out to a 51-35 lead early in the second half and they never looked back. Stan Heath’s team has been snakebitten by injuries and seldom-used sophomore LaVonte Dority played just one minute tonight because of shoulder trouble.  The Bulls barely have seven healthy players on the roster and they won’t be competitive until center Augustus Gilchrist returns to the lineup. I hope Stan Heath isn’t getting too comfortable in that coaching seat, because his job is in jeopardy and these injuries aren’t going to help him save it. At this point, South Florida will have to find some sort of magic is Heath is going to be back on the bench next season.
  4. Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician has the story that the universally hated and notorious publicity hounds of the Westboro Baptist Church will be picketing Saturday’s Syracuse-Florida basketball game. I am not going to link to the press release, as you can find that yourself, but this is the type of distraction the Orange will face all season long in light of the Bernie Fine scandal and it will be especially magnified in high-profile games between ranked teams. As for the game, it should be a good matchup and Syracuse’s first real test this season. Florida has played exactly one respectable opponent, and they lost by seven to Ohio State. It will be fun to watch Florida’s guards try to fill it up against Syracuse’s deep rotation of long and athletic defenders.
  5. Lots of interesting opinions to chew on in the ESPN post explaining Alex Oriakhi‘s displeasure with his role in the Connecticut offense. Some seem to think that one of the team’s best players during the Huskies’ run to the championship should be coming off the bench.  It is an interesting argument given the versatility of Tyler Olander and Andre Drummond but I think as the season goes on, Jim Calhoun will need Oriakhi to play major minutes, especially against conference opponents. Of course if that is going to happen, Oriakhi is going to need to grow up and act like the veteran he is. If he wants to prove his worth, he will need to play better on both ends of the floor, and change his attitude as well.
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Checking In On… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. You can also find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was

  • A Rough Week for the Big East: Conference teams lost 13 times this past week to the likes of UCF, Illinois State, Northeastern, and Richmond among others. Only three undefeated teams (Syracuse, Louisville, and Marquette) remain and of the 13 teams with at least one loss, only three (DePaul, Seton Hall and Georgetown) have not yet recorded a bad loss. As we enter December, the middle of the conference doesn’t appear to be as strong as in years past. The Big East has a handful of great teams and a host of teams that appear to be very average at this point. It’s a long season, but the chances of seeing nine or ten NCAA bids from this league are certainly not promising.
  • Syracuse and Marquette Take Home Titles: The Orange defeated Virginia Tech and Stanford at their second home, Madison Square Garden, to win the NIT Season Tip-Off while Marquette took home the Paradise Jam championship, albeit against a so-so field. Both teams struggled in their respective championship games, but managed to pull it out down the stretch, the sign of a good team. Each team’s schedule ramps up this week against a pair of top ten teams as Syracuse hosts Florida on Friday and Marquette visits in-state rival Wisconsin on Saturday.
  • Tim Abromaitis Tears ACL: There was awful news out of South Bend late last week when it was announced that Notre Dame fifth year senior forward Tim Abromaitis tore the ACL in his right knee during practice on Friday. The loss of Abromaitis is a huge blow to a Notre Dame team already with two neutral court losses on its resume and a pair of road games coming up this week. The Fighting Irish rotation is pretty much only seven deep now with only three or four reliable scorers. Point guard Eric Atkins has played very well, but Scott Martin and Pat Connaughton will have to step up in a big way for Notre Dame to have any chance of making the NCAA Tournament.

With A Big Game Against Florida Looming Friday, How Will Jim Boeheim Keep His Team Focused Amid The Bernie Fine Scandal?

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (6-0) – After feasting on four cupcakes to begin the season, the Orange were impressive late in victories over Virginia Tech and Stanford in the NIT Season Tip-Off. They struggled for the better part of both games, but the ability of this team to flip the switch and play like the top five team it is is something that will suit them well outside of conference play. However, Syracuse had better play well for 40 minutes once the Big East season arrives or else they’ll lose more games than you think. Jim Boeheim’s team ranks in the top ten nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency, one of only four teams at the moment. Syracuse has done a great job forcing turnovers leading to easy points in transition. Dion Waiters appears to have taken his game to the next level as a sophomore with transition play being a big part of that. How this team is affected by the Bernie Fine investigation, if at all, is something to watch over the next few weeks. This week: 11/29 vs. Eastern Michigan, 12/2 vs. #6 Florida.
  2. Louisville (6-0) – Rick Pitino was successful last year by molding a team of role players into a cohesive unit with no superstars through an incredible focus on defense. Louisville looks to be following that same formula again in 2011-12. The Cardinals rank third nationally in defensive efficiency and only one opponent has scored more than 54 points. Of course, offense is Louisville’s biggest challenge. Peyton Siva is back, but Pitino’s rotation has been scaled back due to injuries to Wayne Blackshear and Mike Marra. Blackshear may be back but Marra is lost for the season with a torn ACL. Louisville struggled against Ohio and has another tricky game with Long Beach State on Monday. Freshman Chane Behanan (9/9) is stepping up in the absence of Blackshear while Gorgui Dieng has been a shot-blocking machine in the paint at three rejections per game. This is a big week for the Cardinals as their competition gets stronger. This week: 11/28 vs. Long Beach State, 12/2 vs. #20 Vanderbilt. Read the rest of this entry »
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 28th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish on Mondays throughout the season. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED….that classic first game of the season where you just get blindsided. With a lineup full of projected first-round picks and some much-needed experience from last season, many felt that it would take a while for top-ranked North Carolina to fall. But those Runnin’ Rebels from UNLV went Jerry Tarkanian on Roy Williams’ crew and gave us 2011’s first shocker. That was seriously out of nowhere, and just two weeks into the season we can start asking what seems to be an annual question about UNC’s ability to defend the perimeter.

UNLV RTC'd the Orleans Arena Floor Saturday Night (With Good Reason)

I LOVED….how Rick Majerus has Saint Louis rolling this early. The Billikens have already knocked off Washington, Boston College, and Villanova this season – marking them as a mid-major to deal with down the road. Majerus is a fascinating coach with plenty of supporters and detractors (see this great article from Sports Illustrated’s S.L. Price in 2008) but he’s one heck of a basketball coach.

I LOVED….Griffin Lentsch’s 89 points last week for Grinnell College against Principia College. For those not familiar with Division III Grinnell, the Iowa school plays a crazy-fast, shoot-happy style that scores boatloads of points – so this kind of outburst makes a slight bit of sense. Still, I’ve been fascinated with point totals like these ever since Kobe Byrant dropped his remarkable 81. Scoring 89 points at any collegiate level is pretty remarkable.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 11.28.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 28th, 2011

SPONSORED: Rush the Court is pleased to bring you a second installment of a one-day fantasy college basketball league courtesy of The league, which is completely free to enter, will play on Tuesday night (November 29) involving several high-profile teams — Duke, Ohio State, Michigan, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Maryland, Clemson — and features $150 in prizes. Even better, if you beat our trained monkey that we’ve assigned to make our picks (username: RTCmonkey), you’ll win even more money. Test your college hoops knowledge to win! Click here to enter.

  1. This Bernie Fine/Syracuse story deserves more space than what we typically include here so we will keep it simple. Yesterday morning news surfaced of an audio tape recording a conversation between Bobby Davis, Fine’s initial accuser, and Fine’s wife in 2002 in which his Fine’s wife admits to knowing that Fine molested Davis, but there was nothing to do about it, as well as an indication that Fine gave Davis money to pay for student loans that he used as leverage for sexual favors. Fine’s wife also reportedly became sexually involved with Davis when he was older. The tape was turned over to ESPN in 2002, but they did nothing with it including turning it over to authorities at the time, because they could not corroborate the information. Meanwhile, another person, a man from Maine, has come forward claiming to be the third Fine victim, although the man’s father claims that the man never even met Fine and in fact is being charged with sexually abusing a child himself. Late last night, Syracuse decided to fire Fine with a short statement. Jim Boeheim, who had initially defended Fine and accused the alleged victims of chasing money, issued a much less aggressive statement that appears to have been run through a PR agency before being released. We will have more on this subject later when we find the time and can wrap our head around what is becoming an increasingly bizarre case.
  2. Black Friday was not a good one for Notre Dame as they lost Tim Abromaitis for the season after he tore his right ACL in practice. Not only did the Irish lose their best player, but they also lost one of their two seniors on the roster (Scott Martin is the other). Abromaitis had only played in two of Notre Dame’s six games this season as the result of a suspension by the NCAA resulting from a misinterpretation of NCAA rules by Notre Dame. While the Fighting Irish lost both games that Abromaitis played it would be foolish to read too much into that. Their four games without Abromaitis (all wins) were against weak competition. Their two games with Abromaitis (both losses) were against solid competition. This injury should move Notre Dame from a potential middle-of-the-pack Big East team to one that will be hanging out near the bottom of the conference standings.
  3. Minnesota may similarly devastating news coming their way as Trevor Mbakwe injured his right knee last night during a loss to Dayton in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic. While the extent of the injury will not be known until later today when Mbakwe has an MRI, initial reports from the scene and Mbakwe’s tweet (“Lord please get me through this”) do not appear promising. Mbawke, who came into the game averaging 14.8 PPG and 10 RPG, is the key to the Gophers this season and without him they may struggle to stay out of the Big Ten cellar.
  4. Steve Lavin missed Saturday night’s loss to Northeastern for what is being reported as management of his stamina andenergy. So far this season Lavin has missed three of the team’s seven regular season games (the season-opener, which happened more than a month after his surgery, and the last two games). As we said before we are not going to get into the medical stuff that Lavin is going through (PSA test results, post-operative complications, etc), but we will get into the basketball stuff. Right now St. John’s is not a very good team. They are young and missing a lot of what they expected to have on the court this season after the NCAA ruled that many of their incoming freshmen were academically ineligible. Now they have a game at Kentucky coming up on Thursday. Unless Lavin thinks he is going to get his energy and stamina back very quickly he might want to think about taking a longer leave of absence rather than making decisions on a game-by-game basis. For a team this young the change between Lavin and interim coach Mike Dunlap along with the uncertainty of who will be coaching will adversely affect the team’s development. For Lavin’s sake and that of his team, he should make a longer term decision about how he wants this team to be run.
  5. President Obama caught his second college basketball of the season as he took some time off from a variety of pressing issues to watch his brother-in-law Craig Robinson coach Oregon State against Towson in a game that the Beavers won easily. Interestingly, the President was not the only well-known person in attendance as Bill Murray was also there rooting for his son Luke Murray, an assistant coach at Towson. We are guessing that President Obama will not get the chance to see many more college basketball games this season with all the other things that he has to attend to, but with the way the Beavers are playing he may have to schedule some time during March to catch them in the NCAA Tournament.
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Black Friday for the Irish: Abromaitis Tears ACL

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on November 26th, 2011

Notre Dame was dealt a heavy blow yesterday when it learned that team leader Tim Abromaitis tore his ACL in practice and will be out for what was to be his final season in South Bend.  Abromaitis, a fifth year senior forward, was set to lead the Irish (currently 4-2) on a quest for another NCAA Tournament bid coming off a stellar season (15.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG) supporting the departed Big East Player of the Year, Ben Hansbrough.  It is not known if Abromaitis will seek a rare sixth year of eligibility.  He has already earned both undergraduate and masters degrees from Notre Dame and will have surgery in the coming weeks.

The Irish Will Have to Make Due Without Abromaitis

Notre Dame has some experience playing without Abromaitis this season as he played in just two games, ironically the team’s only losses, after sitting out the first four contests due to an NCAA suspension for playing in exhibition games leading up to a redshirt year in 2008-09.  Even with Abromaitis, the Irish were running thin on the front line.  Coach Mike Brey will be forced to play small and juggle the match-ups to win, relying heavily upon sophomore point guard Erik Atkins (14.8 PPG, 3.0 APG), sophomore guard Jerian Grant (13.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.5 APG) and senior wing Scott Martin (11.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG).  Also look for a continued increase in responsibilities for freshman guard/forward Pat Connaughton (10.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 24.7 MPG) who saw increased minutes during the Abromaitis suspension and has shown well thus far.

Notre Dame, who is riding a two-game losing streak, hosts Bryant University on Sunday.

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The Big 12 Week Ahead: Thanksgiving Tournament Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 21st, 2011

With all the holiday tournaments going on this week, it’s time to take a look at the tournaments involving Big 12 teams.

CBE Classic: Missouri

Opening Round Opponent: vs. Notre Dame, Monday 6:30 p.m. CT

Down the Road: vs. Cal/Georgia, Tuesday

First-year head coach Frank Haith will get his first taste of real competition at Missouri this week, as his Tigers square off against Notre Dame on Monday night. The Irish are undefeated, but their only marquee victory came against a solid Detroit team at home by six points. They’ve completed their 4-0 run without forward Tim Abromaitis, who was suspended by the NCAA for participating in an exhibition game a few years ago. Monday will mark the senior’s first game back, however, and he changes the entire dynamic of the lineup. He was preseason First Team All-Big East selection, after all. Abromaitis is one of just two returning starters for Mike Brey along with Scott Martin, while Missouri, of course, returns just about everybody from an NCAA Tournament team. The Tigers have picked up Haith’s new style of play quickly so far, but we’ll have to wait until tonight to judge this team’s true progress.

Frank Haith Faces His First Test at Missouri

Pre-Season NIT: Oklahoma State

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