Georgia Tech and Notre Dame Exhibit Holes in Saturday Match-up

Posted by CD Bradley on January 12th, 2014

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When the schedules initially came out, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech expected to look very different in their third ACC game than they did on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. For the Irish, things started to devolve in the preseason with the redshirt of Cameron Biedscheid, who then announced his transfer to Missouri after Christmas. Then Jerian Grant, a preseason All-ACC selection who led the Irish in points, assists, and steals, was lost for the season due to an academic issue. Then on Saturday, frontcourt reserve Tom Knight didn’t make the trip to Atlanta due to a sprained ankle.

Georgia Tech's defense on Eric Atkins and his Notre Dame teammates (Getty)

Georgia Tech’s defense on Eric Atkins and his Notre Dame teammates were crucial in Saturday’s win. (Getty)

Georgia Tech has health issues of its own. First freshman point guard Travis Jorgenson tore his ACL in the Yellow Jackets’ fourth game. Then sophomore Robert Carter, who was averaging 10.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game (with a 29.8 defensive rebounding percentage, sixth best in the country), suffered a torn meniscus. Sophomore point guard Solomon Poole, the team’s top backcourt reserve, missed the game on Saturday with a migraine. As Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory put it, “It was two teams who were trying to re-discover themselves with guys out.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Notre Dame Needs Its Frontcourt to Emerge

Posted by Walker Carey on November 25th, 2013

Notre Dame entered the 2013-14 season with a strong and experienced backcourt that will be vital to the Irish as they make the transition from the Big East to the ACC. Seniors Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant and junior Pat Connaughton were mainstays in the starting lineup of last year’s Irish and had developed a reputation as one of the most reliable perimeter groups in the country. Atkins is a true floor general who can hit timely shots and has been a strong leader for several seasons — he is the only player in Notre Dame basketball history to become a three-time captain. Grant is the scorer of the group and has the ability to get as hot as any player in the country. Connaughton, who also excels for Notre Dame baseball as a starting pitcher, is a true glue guy who does a little bit of everything.

Eric Atkins ( AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

Eric Atkins Anchors a Stellar Irish Backcourt ( AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

While the Irish have a proven backcourt that will certainly aid in winning a lot of games, the team’s frontcourt is still a bit of an unknown commodity. Replacing the production of graduated All-Big East forward Jack Cooley looms as a tall task. The most experienced forward in Mike Brey’s arsenal is fifth-year senior Tom Knight. After being sparingly used for much of his career, Knight took on a big role for the Irish during the second half of the 2012-13 campaign, as he was in the starting lineup for the final 16 games of the season. Fellow senior forward Garrick Sherman also brings a solid amount of experience to the fold, as he entered the 2013-14 season with 31 career starts (from both his time at Notre Dame and Michigan State). However, in his first season on the court with the Irish, Sherman battled through some consistency issues. While his season is probably best remembered for his 17-point performance in the five overtime win over Louisville, it also must be noted that he had fallen completely out of Notre Dame’s rotation in the four games prior to that epic contest.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Season in Review: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Posted by Will Tucker on May 2nd, 2013

The Fighting Irish had an auspicious start to a season that was expected to represent a major step forward for Mike Brey’s program. But a slow start and sputtering finish to conference play, coupled with frustrations experienced against the Big East’s top teams, prevented the Irish from matching last year’s top three finish. Despite fielding one of the league’s most talented starting fives, a lack of depth hampered the Irish late in the season and contributed to yet another early exit from the NCAA Tournament.

Preseason Expectations

We ranked Notre Dame third heading into 2012-13, as did the coaches at Big East media day. Mike Brey’s roster returned its top five scorers from 2011-12 and was loaded with talented upperclassmen, namely preseason all-Big East center Jack Cooley, versatile super-senior Scott Martin and the backcourt scoring tandem of juniors Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.

Jack Cooley,Mike Brey

Mike Brey must adjust to a life without Cooley in 2013-14 (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

The Good

The Irish raced out to a blistering start, winning 12 in a row for the first time since 2006-07. By early January, they’d blown out #8 Kentucky at home, edged #21 Cincinnati on the road, won their first two Big East games and earned a #16 Coaches Poll ranking alongside their 14-1 record. Cooley (13.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG) lived up to his first team all-Big East billing as he shot 58% from the field and led the Big East in literally every rebounding category. Deep reserve big men Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman filled the void left by Scott Martin’s absence, and keyed huge victories over the likes of Louisville, Marquette and Villanova. The highlight of the season was, unquestionably, enduring five overtimes against the eventual National Champions after Jerian Grant scored 12 points in the last 45 seconds of regulation. Brey’s program claimed its sixth NCAA Tournament bid in seven years, and has averaged almost 13 Big East wins in each of the last three regular seasons –– a figure surpassed only by Syracuse.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Posted by Will Tucker on March 22nd, 2013

Notre Dame built a Tournament resume by beating top-10 ranked UK and collecting conference wins over Louisville, Marquette, Pitt, Villanova and Cincinnati. In the Big East Tournament, Mike Brey’s team bested Rutgers and Marquette, and then hung with Louisville for 25 minutes before ultimately succumbing in the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year. Despite being ranked for much of the season, the Irish were handed a seven seed due to a weak nonconference schedule and 2-5 record against the RPI top 25.

Perimeter defense is top priority for Notre Dame (credit Frank Franklin III)

Perimeter defense is top priority for Notre Dame against Iowa State (credit Frank Franklin III)

Region: West
Seed: No. 7
Record: 25-9 (11-7 Big East)
Matchup: v. Iowa State in Dayton

Key Player: First Team All-Big East big man Jack Cooley has been an offensive juggernaut for the Irish all year, shooting 57% and posting the best offensive rebounding rate in the Big East for the second consecutive season. Cooley isn’t known as a versatile defender though, and the agile shooters in Iowa State’s frontcourt will force him to guard spots on the floor outside his comfort zone. If he can defend the perimeter without posing a defensive liability, Mike Brey’s team will be able to dictate the methodical pace they prefer against the high octane Cyclones.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 03.14.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 14th, 2013


  1. C.L. Brown at the Courier-Journal (KY) took a tour of Russ Smith Sr.’s barbershop in Harlem, and the short video is worth a watch. The elder Smith, known simply as “Big Russ,” has appointed his shop from wall to wall with memorabilia, photos and mementos spanning the Louisville junior’s career. He tells Brown that his favorite souvenir is a framed photograph of him with his son following Louisville’s Big East 2012 championship –– in his own high school playing days, Big Russ says, his teams always lost before they could reach a Madison Square Garden tournament. The father’s pride in that particular accomplishment; the way it resonated with a personal and cultural icon of his own youth, is a somber reminder of what made the Big East Tournament such a special institution.
  2. Speculation that Jamie Dixon is USC’s top choice to replace Kevin O’Neill ramped up on Tuesday when The Big Lead reported that Pittsburgh resident and Dixon acquaintance Jed Hughes is the consultant taking point at USC’s search firm. It seems like the kind of attenuated connection that has spawned many a premature proclamation of “done deal” during coaching searches (has Dixon bought a house in LA yet?), but it’s certainly plausible. Dixon is a California native, a Ben Howland protégé, and probably anxious that Pitt’s move to the ACC could jeopardize the recruiting pipelines Dixon has built in Big East country. As Cardiac Hill points out, the coach’s vague statement after the USC job opened up “generally amounts to a ‘no comment.’”
  3. Notre Dame outlasted a persistent challenge from Rutgers in last night’s Big East Tournament nightcap, carried by Pat Connaughton’s 21 points and six three-pointers. This ran counter to Notre Dame’s game plan, which Brian Hamilton points out had emphasized getting Jerian Grant, Eric Atkins and Jack Cooley going. But the 39 combined points from Connaughton and former reserve Tom Knight were all separated the Irish from a second-round loss, as Grant and Cooley went 4-of-16 from the field. With their first game jitters behind them and some reassurance that they can win without prolific scoring from their stars, Notre Dame can bring some newfound confidence to its third-round game with Marquette tomorrow night, as they strive to avenge an early March loss in Milwaukee.
  4. Seniors James Southerland and Brandon Triche found their offense yesterday, and lifted Syracuse in explosive spurts over Seton Hall, 75-63, to advance to face No. 4 seed Pittsburgh in today’s BET semifinals. After shooting 15-of-52 over his last five games, Triche scored 17 on an efficient 6-of-9 field goal attempts against the Pirates, while Southerland led the way with 20 points and six threes. Sophomore Michael Carter-Williams didn’t turn the ball over once and tied a Big East Tournament record with 14 assists. This comes just days after Boeheim said his seniors would have to play better if they had any chance at becoming a good NCAA Tournament team.
  5. USF blog Voodoo Five described the Bulls’ overtime loss to Seton Hall in the first round as “a horrid, unwatchable mess that would be hard to distinguish from the dozens of other horrid, unwatchable messes USF basketball presented us for most of the last eight seasons. Except that this time they wore Mello Yello uniforms.” Ouch. Yes, Tuesday night’s loss concluded a season of thorough regression. More importantly, the author questioned whether USF basketball has made any appreciable advances in their time in the Big East, or if the culture of the Big East had any positive impact on the neglected Tampa basketball program. It has struggled to capture the interest of its community even after last year’s Cinderella season and a beautiful Sun Dome renovation, which begs the question: “When are [students and locals] ever going to buy in again? When they’re playing Tulane and East Carolina and Memphis and Houston all over again?” It’s a bleak prospect right now.
Share this story

Three Thoughts as Notre Dame Dominated Cincinnati

Posted by WCarey on February 24th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Sunday afternoon’s game between Cincinnati and Notre Dame. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey

Entering Sunday’s game, both Cincinnati and Notre Dame had a lot to play for in-terms of the Big East standings. The Bearcats sat at an even 7-7 in league play, but that record was a bit misleading as all but one of those conference losses was by single digits. Mick Cronin’s squad had been limited offensively since senior point guard Cashmere Wright suffered a knee injury last month and has yet to fully recover. The Irish came into the game following a win at Pittsburgh in what was one of the more peculiar games of the season. After falling behind 19-3 while shooting just 1-of-19 from the field, Notre Dame recovered to notch an important 51-42 road victory to bring its conference record to 9-5. Following the win over the Panthers, the Irish were beneficiaries of five very important off days as the team had just finished a stretch where it had played three games and six overtime periods in just nine days. Notre Dame looked like a rested team Sunday when the Irish were able to thoroughly stymie the Cincinnati offense en route to a 62-41 victory. The following are three thoughts from Sunday afternoon’s action:

  1. Cincinnati Is Not Playing Good Basketball Right Now. The Bearcats entered Sunday’s game as losers of four of their last five and that losing trend continued in embarrassing fashion against the Irish. On Sunday, the Bearcats were pretty much dominated from the opening tip and struggled to get anything going offensively as they managed to score just 41 points (only 15 in the first half) and shoot just 31.5% from the field. A lot of the Bearcats’ offensive issues can be traced to the health of Cashmere Wright, who is still struggling with a knee issue. In 23 minutes Sunday, Wright was held scoreless and only attempted two shots. Another area that give Cincinnati trouble Sunday was rebounding. The Bearcats were out-rebounded 43-27 and that advantage undoubtedly aided the Irish in transition. With five losses in six games, Cincinnati is looking further away from being a lock for an NCAA Tournament bid. If the Bearcats do not improve offensively and on the rebounding glass, they could be a team that is mentioned frequently in the bubble discussion.
  2. Notre Dame’s Defense and Rebounding Have Been Excellent Over The Past Two Games. The Irish held Pittsburgh to just 42 points on 34.8% shooting in Monday’s victory. Mike Brey’s squad also out-rebounded the Panthers by a 36-22 margin. After giving up 78 points to DePaul and 71 points to Providence in the two games prior, it was reasonable to see Monday’s performance as a bit of a fluke. The Irish were out to prove Sunday that Monday’s performance was not a stroke of luck and they succeeded by playing suffocating defense and crashing the glass with great vigor all afternoon. The 41 points scored by Cincinnati on Sunday were the fewest Notre Dame has ever given up in a Big East game. With two strong defensive and rebounding efforts under their belts, the Irish should start to be viewed as one of the premier defensive teams in the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big East M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 21st, 2013


  1. Well, just when everyone had become enchanted with the idea of Providence giving Syracuse a stiff challenge, the Orange came out and showed everyone why they hadn’t lost at home in 37 games. Boeheim’s defensive length sparked a 31-5 run to close the first half, and the Friars were run out of the gym, 84-59. CJ Fair logged his second consecutive double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and the Orange shot almost 57% on a Providence defense that had held Notre Dame to 39% last week. Most encouraging for Syracuse fans was the impeccable performance Michael Carter-Williams turned in after his tapering assist numbers had raised eyebrows. The sophomore ended with 12 assists and an absurd 6:1 assist to turnover ratio to go along with 15 points and five rebounds. Any doubts about Syracuse’s trajectory were erased as they moved back into a tie for first place in league play.
  2. In another Wednesday night blowout, Georgetown freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera played a career game as the Hoyas pounded DePaul, 90-66, to extend their winning streak to eight. Coming off the bench, the stocky Thompsonian guard racked up 33 points on 10-of-12 (83%) shooting, hit 5-of-6 threes and 8-of-10 free throws. It was the most points scored by a Georgetown freshman since Victor Page put up 34 in the 1996 Big East Tournament. It also warrants some further research to determine the last time anyone accumulated as many points shooting 80% or higher from both the field, three-point and free throw lines. We’ll look into it.
  3. Jamie Dixon’s emphasis on rebounding is well documented, but it’s even more important this season without a reliable scorer. Despite entering last weekend’s game tied for the best rebounding margin in the Big East, Pitt emerged bloodied from its Notre Dame embarrassment with a -22 margin between two straight losses. In fact, Pitt’s lost six of the last eight games in which it hasn’t earned an advantage on the glass. Dixon stresses the need for “rebounding from every position,” but Lamar Patterson had questioned the effort from his big men after last weekend’s Marquette loss: “We’ve got big guys, too. Steve [Adams] and Talib [Zanna] are big guys. It came down to who wanted it more.” The two performed even worse on the boards against the Irish, collecting four and two rebounds, respectively. Maybe it’s not the kind of criticism you’d pose publicly, but it appears to have some merit.
  4. Notre Dame forward Scott Martin is poised to return to full participation in practice this weekend after missing eight games with chronic knee issues. Despite the leadership and production Martin brings to the table, the Irish are 6-2 in his absence, as Tom Knight has ascended from obscurity to become a reliable starter. It’s not an unfamiliar situation for Mike Brey: “Luke Harangody came back to us at time we were rolling along with a different nucleus. Scott will have to work himself in and he and I talked about that. His attitude is great… I would love to have that body available down the stretch.” Brey also revealed he’s also contemplating inserting Martin at the three spot, which would alleviate the problematic numbers game in Notre Dame’s frontcourt. It’s hard to imagine a hobbled Martin having the lateral quickness to guard many Big East threes, though.
  5. Eric Crawford at the Louisville Courier-Journal juxtaposes the patchwork understanding of basketball Gorgui Dieng brought to Louisville with the astute mind for the game he’s developed in three seasons. He’s gone from not grasping that offensive and defensive fouls count toward one’s foul total, to becoming one of the team’s best passer, whom Rick Pitino compares to former point-center David Padgett for his passing ability and intellect. “He’s our coach on the floor,” says Pitino. While Dieng demurred when asked about his coach’s comments that he may encourage the 23-year-old junior to test the draft after this season, Crawford picks up on subtleties in Dieng’s speech that suggest he might be preparing for an exit. Responding to concerns about fatigue, Dieng said, “I will do whatever to help this team. I’m not worried if I play a lot of minutes or less minutes. I don’t know if I’m going to have this chance again, ever.”
Share this story

Big East M5: 01.31.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 31st, 2013


  1. Mike Aresco mentioned the likelihood of Big East and Catholic Seven schools scheduling future non-conference series in his comments the other day in Connecticut. Fittingly, neither of the first two programs to arrange such a continuation will play in the Big East in two years. Syracuse and St. John’s will kick off a home-and-home in Madison Square Garden on December 15, extending a century-old intrastate rivalry. While the second game will have no affiliation whatsoever with the Big East, it’s an encouraging bellwether of other efforts to preserve existing Big East rivalries. That’s certainly the impression given in a statement from Syracuse AD Daryl Gross, which begins “As we continue to aggressively secure rivalries that are dear to us…” Perhaps the political entanglements of realignment won’t trample all of the conference traditions fans appreciate.
  2. It’s a moot point, but one Kevin Ollie’s team should feel proud of: the consensus is that UConn would be comfortably in the NCAA Tournament field right now, were they eligible. Before last night’s win over Rutgers, Jerry Palm and Joe Lunardi projected that the Huskies would be seeded between #7-#10, checking in “the low 30s on the S-Curve” in Lunardi’s ESPN Bracketology. Much of the preseason conjecture on UConn’s outlook focused on whether they could stay motivated this season, but Shabazz Napier puts it simply: “You don’t play to lose games.” “It probably hasn’t hit a lot of guys that we’re almost done,” Napier continued, “I think the guys understand that we’re doing this for something bigger. We’re doing this to get ready for next year.”
  3. Prior to hosting Villanova last night, Notre Dame had lost a slumping starter to injury and dropped two of its last three games at the Joyce Center. Meditating on the Fighting Irish’s 65-60 win over Nova, Brian Hamilton at the Chicago Tribune says Notre Dame’s “new reality,” characterized by energetic contributions coming from unimaginable places, “might not be a bad thing.” In his second start in Scott Martin’s stead, Tom Knight scored efficiently in double digits again (10 points, four rebounds, two blocks). Talented freshmen Zach Auguste (four points) and Cam Biedscheid (18 points) contributed off the bench, with the latter scoring a career-high on 5-of-7 three-pointers. “It’s fun watching the new vibe that we have,” said Brey. For now, it’s a promising reality.
  4. In this week’s power rankings, Luke Winn points out that Russ Smith leads the nation with 7.6 transition possessions per 40 minutes, scoring 1.212 points per opportunity. To put that in perspective, deft transition scorer Shabazz Muhammad only scores 1.011 points per possession on 6.9 average chances per ballgame. That statistic underscores that Louisville isn’t utilizing its best offensive asset when the Cards haven’t scored more than seven fast break points in any of their past four games.
  5. Cincinnati managed to overcome a 10-point deficit last night with a hobbled Cashmere Wright to rally past a reeling Rutgers team, 62-54. Though Wright had eight days to rehabilitate his knee after a tough loss to Syracuse, the point guard still struggled to find his shot in 20 minutes of playing time. He’s shooting a paltry 15.7% since returning from injury: He followed last week’s 2-of-13 shooting outing against Syracuse with a 1-of-6, six-point affair tonight. Though Sean Kilpatrick and a defensive lift from Justin Jackson propelled the Bearcats, Wright’s recovery will be pivotal to their contention for a Big East title. According to Kilpatrick, you can’t fault his point guard’s effort: “With the injuries he has, I can’t see anyone playing through it. But he always gives us his everything. That’s a leader for you. He gives you everything until he can’t walk anymore.”
Share this story

Big East M5: 01.28.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 28th, 2013


  1. After we’d learned last week that an injury-plagued Scott Martin was on an indefinite hiatus from Notre Dame’s rotation, Mike Brey insisted that he was holding open auditions to fill the starting job. Senior Tom Knight apparently earned the spot in practice, and responded in a big way in the Fighting Irish’ 73-65 win over South Florida on Saturday. In 32 minutes, the 6’10″ forward grabbed seven rebounds and scored a career-high 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting. He’d only scored 24 points on the season prior to the USF game. The performance underscored the value that experience plays in Brey’s program: “[Knight’s] been around us for a while, so it’s nice. You lose a six-year senior and we put in another senior who’s been in our program.”
  2. Many (myself included) dismissed Villanova’s upset victory over #5 Louisville last week as more symptomatic of a poor effort from the Cardinals than a turning point for the Wildcats. Then on Saturday, Jay Wright’s squad turned around and upset #3 Syracuse in overtime, 75-71, in a cumulative effort from “a long list of standouts.” Ryan Arcidiacono’s three sent it to overtime and Mouphtaou Yarou’s 13-point, 16-rebound double-double put his point guard in a position to tie it up. But the biggest key to Villanova sustaining its momentum may be the efficient scoring of 6’6″ sophomore guard Darrun Hilliard. After averaging 21.4% from the field and shooting 2-of-17 from beyond the arc in his first three Big East games, Hilliard is suddenly lighting up elite defenses, shooting 55.8% from the field and hitting 9-of-17 threes (53%) in these last four league games.
  3. Rick Pitino is calling tonight’s Pittsburgh game a must-win. Panthers’ blog Cardiac Hill concedes that a fourth straight loss coupled with a lack of quality wins could understandably trigger panic, but also argues that a loss to Pitt wouldn’t spell doom for the Cardinals. Pitino likely agrees, but a dose of exaggerated urgency could fit the bill for a team that might have been too flippant about losing after falling to Syracuse.
  4. Shabazz Napier willed UConn to a crucial win over Rutgers in Hartford over the weekend that moved the Huskies to .500 in conference play. Coach Kevin Ollie says the junior guard is healthy and “making the definite choice to be a leader.” Napier put forth the kind of efficiently prolific performance he had in the Huskies’ win over Notre Dame, scoring a team-high 19 points (6-of-13 shooting) to go with six assists and five steals. Most impressive was the fact that UConn finished +4 in rebounding margin, after being abused on the glass in their two previous games.
  5. Marquette is quietly sitting alone at a half-game out of first place in the Big East after subduing Providence 81-71 in Milwaukee’s Bradley Center. The game wasn’t particularly close after Marquette opened it up with an early 13-2 run, and the only real source of basketball-related excitement came from a huge Vander Blue dunk over LaDontae Henton. Thankfully, an absurd spectacle sparked by a rogue bat with a preternatural affinity for the brightest space in the building made the game well worth the price of admission. Ed Cooley was not amused. At least we have this .gif for posterity.
(From @bubbaprog)

Ed Cooley: not stopping in bat country (From @bubbaprog)

Share this story

Big East M5: 01.17.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 17th, 2013


  1. Many college basketball players will rack up on-court accomplishments for four years and never even sniff the opportunity of getting their jersey retired. But when you are Carmelo Anthony, all it takes is one season and a national championship apparently. Anthony will have his jersey retired by Syracuse in February and the No. 15 of the one of the most celebrated one-and-done players in history will hang alongside Dave Bing, Derrick Coleman, and Sherman Douglas. Of course it doesn’t matter how much time he spent in school, ‘Melo obviously deserves this honor. The Baltimore native finished in the top-10 nationally in both points and rebounds and led the program to its only national championship. He, like Kevin Durant, was one of the few true NBA superstars to even play in college, and unlike Durant, he helped his school win a championship on his way to stardom. It is definitely a bit weird to see a player who basically used Syracuse as a stepping stone for one season getting his jersey retired, but if ever there was a one-and-done player who deserved to be honored this way, it’s ‘Melo.
  2. Yesterday morning we told you that Georgetown’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, Greg Whittington, would miss his second game for a violation of team rules. Then, before last night’s game against Providence, it became apparent that Whittington violated the “don’t fail school” rule and his suspension will be indefinite in length. Whittington’s academic ineligibility didn’t matter last night as the Hoyas jumped out to a huge lead on the Friars and held on for a nine-point win and it seems unlikely he will miss the remainder of conference play. But this is a team with plenty of well-documented scoring issues that is fighting to stay in the top half of the conference standings, and without Whittington that will be difficult. Jabril Trawick is a nice player, but not nearly as productive as Whittington, and Aaron Bowen is at least athletic, but he is a long way from being the player that Whittington is. The Hoyas have an important game this weekend against South Florida, because dates with Notre Dame and Louisville loom after that, and the Hoyas will need every win they can get.
  3. Villanova may have learned some valuable lessons from their loss to Syracuse last weekend but it didn’t show last night as the Wildcats took a slim lead into the half for the second-straight game and then gave it all back in the second half to let Pittsburgh escape with a crucial road win. The game was close for most of the second half as well but with less than six minutes to play, the Panthers clamped down on defense and held ‘Nova to zero points over the last five minutes and 13 seconds of the game while they poured in 15 of their own during that stretch to seal the victory. I will buy the argument that the Wildcats proved they have what it takes to hang with good teams in the conference, but only for a half. The Wildcats have made a habit of watching their halftime leads disappear (they did it in losses to LaSalle and Temple earlier in the season) and while some of that can be attributed to a young roster without a lot of lethal scorers, some of the blame should fall at the feet of Jay Wright, who is seemingly getting out-adjusted at halftime by every coach the Wildcats play. When Villanova was dominant, they had a roster that knew how to close out close games and keep the intensity high, this team seems to inevitably fold every time their opponents start to force the issue in the second half. If they want to return to their spot atop the conference, they will need to improve on that greatly.
  4. The heart-and-soul of Cincinnati will be okay as senior guard Cashmere Wright is only day-to-day after he only sprained his knee at the end of a close win over DePaul. This is hugely important news for the Bearcats because while injuries happen to every team, Wright has been the most consistent and best player on the floor for coach Mick Cronin all season long, and I shudder to think what Cincinnati’s offense would look like without their second-leading scorer, playmaker, and floor general. The Bearcats are off until Saturday when they square off with a hot Marquette team and then play at Syracuse two days later and having Wright in the lineup for both those games will be crucial if the Bearcats want to assert their position at the top of the conference standings. It might be worth a look later in the season but I think the argument can be made that Wright is the most important player in the conference to his team.
  5. Our friend Rob Dauster (#DausterForUSC) raises an excellent issue after watching Notre Dame inexplicably fall to a St. John’s team that had just been blown out by Georgetown — why was All-America candidate Jack Cooley on the bench in the closing minutes of the loss? Dauster correctly points out that Cooley had struggled mightily in the game and that the Johnnies were playing with a smaller lineup, but there can’t be too many good reasons why senior scrub Tom Knight was on the floor while he much more talented and experienced teammate watched.  The key moment came when Knight had what appeared to be an easy put-in blocked by D’Angelo Harrison and the Red Storm were able to seal the win. There is of course no way of telling whether Cooley would have fared any better in that situation, but at least if it was Cooley who had his shot-blocked then there is no need for second-guessing, you can know that you put your best player in a position to tie the game and for whatever reason he didn’t come through. But because he wasn’t in the game, fans and pundits are left to ask why Brey kept him on the bench.
Share this story