ACC/Big Ten Challenge Presents Giant Opportunity For Michigan

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 2nd, 2013

What to Make of Michigan Heading to Duke in the Headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Nobody ever said life after Trey Burke was going to be easy. Despite entering the season with both a top 10 ranking and preseason All-American (again) to lead the way, John Beilein had to know that this group of Wolverines would be a work in progress. Gone was not only the transcendent Burke, but also backcourt mate Tim Hardaway, Jr., a highly accomplished player in his own right. Also of concern: The fact that this year’s preseason All-American, Mitch McGary, entered the season on the mend. The bruising sophomore is recovering from a back injury, and even with a (relatively) healthy back a season ago, he had averaged only 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as he got acclimated to college basketball. Was he really ready to deliver All-American type production? Every team entered this season with question marks, but Michigan faced as many as any of their preseason top-10 cohabitants.

Michigan And Mitch McGary Will Attempt To Reassert Themselves At Cameron Indoor On Tuesday Night

Michigan And Mitch McGary Will Attempt To Reassert Themselves At Cameron Indoor On Tuesday Night

The Wolverines are now seven games into the season, and the top-10 ranking is gone. The same cannot be said for those pesky preseason questions. Michigan is 5-2 on the year, with an overtime victory over Florida State ranking as its lone victory of consequence (seriously, the average Pomeroy rating for the other four Wolverine conquests is 297). The back injury ultimately caused McGary to miss just two games, but his production since returning has hardly been like that of an All-American: 8.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG in 25 minutes per game. I’m not in the habit of judging a guy off of five post-injury games, but the jury remains out on whether McGary can live up to those expansive preseason expectations.

Nor has a verdict been offered on the Michigan point guard situation. Nobody expected Derrick Walton to become Trey Burke, but the freshman has averaged nearly as many turnovers (2.4 per game) as assists (3.3 per game), while also ceding crunch time minutes to backup Spike Albrecht. In the two Michigan losses (to Iowa State and Charlotte), Walton has averaged just 19 minutes a game. Clearly John Beilein is not ready to fully hand over the reins to the talented youngster, but like McGary, there’s still plenty of time for Walton to grow into his expected role.

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Syracuse’s Maui Title Speaks to Roster’s Versatility

Posted by Lathan Wells (@prohibitivefav) on November 29th, 2013

When you think about Syracuse, you automatically think about the zone. The Orange’s 2-3 zone defense has confounded opponents throughout Jim Boeheim’s tenure, and its uniqueness across the college basketball landscape makes it that much harder to prepare for. One of the keys to the zone is that there often appears to be holes, places for a team to look to operate with space. Instead, the length of the Syracuse defenders closes those holes quickly and converges on opponents with a tenacity that can make even the most seasoned teams struggle. This year’s Orange team, at least thus far, has operated as a sort of microcosm of its preferred method of defense. There appear to be weaknesses to exploit, and sometimes teams have had success doing so. But in the end, Syracuse, just as its vaunted 2-3 zone often does, has won, including hoisting this year’s Maui Invitational trophy on Wednesday.

Syracuse recovered from early-season struggles to take the Maui Invitational (credit: USAToday)

Syracuse recovered from early-season struggles to take the Maui Invitational (credit: USAToday)

Coming into the year, the team was concerned about replacing its perimeter core. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams, guard Brandon Triche and swingman James Southerland all left, either via graduation or early draft entry, leaving the team unseasoned on the outside. One of the keys was the development of shooting guard Trevor Cooney. Billed as a shooter coming out of high school, he’d failed to live up to expectations for the Orange early in his tenure. But Cooney has shown that he can explode at times, with a 27-point, seven three-pointer effort in the opener versus Cornell, five made triples against Minnesota in the opener of the Maui Invitational, and another 23 points against California in the semifinals of the same tourney. The problem is that at other times he’s been a non-factor, such as when he was 1-of-6 from the field in a win over Fordham or 1-of-5 from the arc against Colgate. Cooney’s consistent ability to stretch defenses with his perimeter game is a must for this team.

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ACC M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 8th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. South Florida Sun-Sentinel: I’m starting to notice a trend with articles written about teams picked to finish in the bottom third of the ACC. Writers and coaches use phrases like “hope to compete” in lieu of buzzwords like “confident” or any mention of the league title. Miami is no different. The most impressive statistic Christy Chirinos drops at the start of this article is that the Hurricanes return one percent of their assists from last season. One percent. That’s insane. Luckily, Manu Lacomte may be the best player on Jim Larranaga’s roster, so assists may be the one area that Miami isn’t in huge trouble.
  2. Syracuse Post-Gazette: Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney have huge shoes to fill on defense. Jim Boeheim called Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams the best defensive backcourt he’s ever had (though Dion Waiters, Triche and Scoop Jardine wreaked all kinds of havoc on the perimeter too). As they lack the length of Carter-Williams and Triche, this might be another reason to hold back on buying too much Syracuse stock before the season gets going in earnest. Perimeter defense was the biggest reason Syracuse made the Final Four last year, so taking a step back on that front will definitely have a big impact.
  3. Baltimore Sun: While it’s true Mark Turgeon‘s team looked like a headless chicken on offense for much of last season, Maryland improved dramatically down the stretch. The team showed flashes of its potential in two big wins against Duke, though inconsistency still shone through. But it’s weird that people think Turgeon can’t coach. His teams at Texas A&M weren’t stacked with talent and most of them overachieved. Last year’s Maryland team lacked a true point guard, which combined with an inside-out approach for a turnover-prone halfcourt offense. This year should be better, though Seth Allen’s injury doesn’t help the Terps’ turnover problems.
  4. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Jamie Dixon does a good job explaining the struggles of crafting a schedule here. Interestingly he points out that the 18-game conference schedule gives teams less flexibility with the non-conference schedule. Another tidbit he offers is that it’s much less (directly) lucrative to play a big school on national television at a neutral site. That surprised me a lot. Obviously there are exceptions (for instance, Duke makes far more money on its trip to Madison Square Garden than normal home games because the school promotes the event itself), but Dixon estimated neutral games are only worth $100,000 and home games are worth $500,000 in revenue. That’s a huge per-game difference.
  5. Fayetteville Observer: Bret Strelow writes that Duke‘s athleticism this season will bring back memories of the teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. There’s one thing missing though: great bigs. The national championship teams of those years had Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer, two players with plenty of NCAA success between them. They’re also both really big guys. Amile Jefferson may be taller, but he’s at least 20 pounds lighter. However, if Jefferson can hold down the post without getting in foul trouble, Strelow’s comparisons may look very good.
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ACC M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on October 28th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse Post-Gazette: Mike Waters does a good job reporting on CJ Fair’s decision to come back to Syracuse for his senior season. Fair was right on the edge of declaring for the draft. But between very mixed feedback from the NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee along with his father and coaches pushing for him to return, Fair ended up coming back. Fair’s inconsistent draft stock may have a lot to do with his previous role for Syracuse; while he was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder last year, Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche really ran the team. This year, with a freshman point guard in place, Jim Boeheim will need Fair to step into that first option role.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs took a look at the worst three-point shooters in the ACC. The only two players who took over 100 threes but still finished in the bottom 10 were Rion Brown (29.2%) — Miami’s streaky, bright shoe shod, lone returning wing — and rising Syracuse sophomore Trevor Cooney (26.7%). Miami desperately needs Brown to become an efficient scoring option, as he’s essentially the only returning scoring option. Another player who made the list is Florida State senior Ian Miller, whose offense will also be in high demand this season.
  3. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: The latest in the “adjusting to the less physical ACC” articles out of Pittsburgh, Kevin Gorman’s takeaway will be a little more interesting to follow. He points to Jamie Dixon’s recent recruiting of stretch fours instead of the bruising power forwards of old as a sign of changing times. While it’s true many ACC schools have a forward capable of stretching the floor, it’s also true that many have a bigger lineup better off staying near the paint. However, the new rules also put a value on spreading the floor, which could also influence future recruiting.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: PJ Hairston may be in trouble with the NCAA but North Carolina fans understand how important he is for this team’s success. Despite (or because?) of his summer troubles, Hairston received the biggest ovation at Late Night with Roy last Friday before he went on to be the leading scorer in the scrimmage. But it’s still unclear for how long Hairston will be suspended. In other concerning news for the Tar Heel faithful, Roy Williams mentioned that the athletic department is also talking with the NCAA about Leslie McDonald‘s eligibility. If you recall, McDonald was shown on a website for a custom mouthguard company, leading to questions about his connection with that organization.
  5. KenPom.com: Ken Pomeroy’s preseason rankings are out. His methodology is pretty simple, although ACC fans may be upset with being the third-ranked conference in the country. Duke leads the way for the conference at sixth, followed closely by Syracuse (#9) and North Carolina (#10). Like myself, Pomeroy is bullish on Boston College (#37) this season. Virginia Tech (#154)? Not so much. I have a feeling Duke and Syracuse have pretty high Pomeroy-ian ceilings, as both lost a lot from last season, where I imagine Miami (#62) has a low cellar because of its stellar finish last season.
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ACC Team Preview: Syracuse Orange

Posted by Chris Kehoe on October 23rd, 2013

The Syracuse Orange had a great season last year, largely overachieving on their way to a 30-10 record and a Final Four appearance. After struggling to an 11-7 conference record in the swan song for the mighty Big East Conference, they rode a wave of momentum behind their tenacious zone defense all the way to Atlanta where they fell to Michigan. Much of their overall success was due to senior leaders Brandon Triche and sixth man extraordinaire James Southerland. Losing these two seniors and play-making savant Michael Carter-Williams to the NBA Draft lottery removed much of the nucleus head coach Jim Boeheim relied upon in the 2012-13 season. However, Syracuse does return arguably the team’s most valuable and versatile player in C.J. Fair, who led the team in points and rebounds per game from the forward slot. Much of the team’s success this year will rely on Syracuse’s patented zone defense and Fair’s ability to shoulder an even larger offensive role without Southerland, Carter-Williams and Triche around to help shoulder the burden. There certainly will be a nice “shock factor” present in unleashing their vaunted defense against the rest of the new ACC this season that will have Boeheim cushioning his already exorbitant wins total.

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Returnees

  • Senior forward C.J. Fair: Widely considered one of the best players in the ACC. Should be in a compelling year-long battle for ACC Player of the Year with Virginia’s Joe Harris and Duke’s Jabari Parker. A second team all-Big East performer last season, Fair is a versatile and athletic leader for this Syracuse team. Big things are expected from the Baltimore native in a transition year for Syracuse athletics to the ACC.
  • Sophomore forward Jerami Grant: The 6’8” DeMatha alumnus is pegged by many analysts to have a breakout season. While he did not have a successful freshman season, he is a future project based on his rangy and lanky body type and the athleticism he has exhibited. He certainly has successful basketball genes in his family, seeing as his brother Jerian is a senior point guard star at rival Notre Dame and his father Harvey had a successful NBA career with multiple teams.
  • Redshirt sophomore guard Trevor Cooney: This redshirt two-guard sure has no trouble scoring the basketball. He is a prolific shooter but needs to improve other facets of his game to secure his spot in Syracuse’s starting lineup. The Delaware native has two years of practice with Boeheim under his belt which should help his knowledge of the 2-3 zone and offensive schemes.

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20 Questions: How Will Syracuse Handle Depth at the Point Guard Position?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on October 15th, 2013

As usual, there will be no shortage of talent at Syracuse this season, but that’s not to say Jim Boeheim won’t be facing challenges with his newest collection of talent. A dearth of capable ball-handlers looms as the biggest hole in this Orange roster, meaning freshman Tyler Ennis better be ready to handle point guard duties from the get-go.  Still, even if Ennis is prepared to carry the load – and his prep resume would indicate that he is – the absence of a natural backup to the freshman is both puzzling and potentially problematic. One would think that finding a backup in the mold of a Spike Albrecht – a role player capable of playing five to 10 minutes a game at the point (dazzling title game shooting displays, optional) — wouldn’t be especially difficult for a program with as much reach as the Orange, and yet here we are in mid-October, with Duke transfer and natural wing Michael Gbinije resting second on the point guard depth chart. Mike Waters – a man quite familiar with the happenings around the Syracuse program – posited a few theories for why Boeheim is okay with that situation last week, but I’m not quite as eager to let Boeheim off the hook on this one.

Coach Jim Boeheim And The Rest Of The Orange Will Lean Heavily On Tyler Ennis This Season

Coach Jim Boeheim And The Rest Of The Orange Will Lean Heavily On Tyler Ennis This Season

Waters notes that Syracuse isn’t in the habit of recruiting backups, but in this era of the one-and-done superstar, we are seeing more elite programs stockpile talent throughout their rotations. Kentucky is the best example of this phenomenon, but top recruits across the country appear increasingly willing to bet on the stars starting above them to leave early for the NBA. So no, I don’t think tasking one of the best recruiters in the game with bringing in a well-regarded backup is an impossible challenge.

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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Syracuse Orange

Posted by BHayes on August 28th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

In many ways, the 2013-14 season looks to be business as usual at Syracuse. The roster is deep and talented, expectations are sky-high, and Jim Boeheim is manning the sidelines for the Orange. But you can rest assured that there will have never been a Syracuse basketball season like this one. The day is finally here – the Orange, charter members of the Big East conference, are now officially ACC constituents. Heading south with them are former Big East brethren Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. The addition of these three formidable basketball programs makes the ACC, at least on paper, the toughest hoops conference in the land.

Jim Boeheim And CJ Fair Are Looking Forward To Syracuse's First Year In The ACC

Jim Boeheim And C.J. Fair Are Looking Forward To Syracuse’s First Year In the ACC

  • Team Outlook: Duke will undoubtedly be eager to remind the newbies that the ACC is its conference to rule, but Syracuse should be as poised as any foe to upend the Blue Devils. The Orange frontcourt is loaded, with junior and all-Big East second teamer C.J. Fair (14.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG) leading the charge. Surrounding Fair up front is a trio of high-upside sophomores. Rakeem Christmas (5.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.8 BPG), DaJuan Coleman (4.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG), and Jerami Grant (3.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG) are all expected to see an uptick in production in year two, but of the three, it is Grant who has the best chance to quickly transform himself from role player into star. Junior Baye Keita (8.6 block percentage) will also see minutes up front, while Duke transfer Michael Gbinije and freshman B.J. Johnson will battle to find time in this crowded frontcourt. Not surprisingly, given the remarkable depth up front, the question marks for Jim Boeheim and the Orange all appear in the backcourt. Gone are Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, leaving Trevor Cooney as the sole backcourt returnee who saw any time a year ago. The sophomore is an engaged and capable defender, but will be expected to shoot the ball better from the outside this time around (he was just 27% from three as a freshman). He may also be tasked with handling some backup point guard duties, as there is no obvious reserve for presumptive starter Tyler Ennis. Ennis, a freshman from Ontario, California, may be the most important player on the Orange roster. With said deficit of ball-handlers, the consensus top-25 recruit will have the rock in his hands a whole lot, and what he does with it will go a long ways towards determining the fate of this Syracuse season. With all the talent around him he does not need to be nearly as dynamic as MCW was a year ago, but with few other options around, he most certainly has to play a solid floor game for the Orange to begin to tap their full potential. Read the rest of this entry »
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Season In Review: Syracuse Orange

Posted by mlemaire on May 16th, 2013

The 2012-13 college basketball season for the Syracuse Orange was nothing if not entertaining to watch and follow. Hopes were high after the team rattled off 18 wins in its first 19 games including a gutty road win over then-No.1 Louisville. The optimism faded quickly as off-the-court issues sprung up again, the team lost seven of its final 12 regular season games, and some began to wonder whether the Orange had quit. Of course the Orange made those people look foolish in the Big East Tournament by reaching the title game and then made the doubters really eat crow by cruising with relative ease all the way to the Final Four before losing to Michigan. The team heads for the ACC next season and coach Jim Boeheim’s future remains murky, but for now, Orange fans have reason to walk a little taller these days.

Preseason Expectations

Everyone agreed that the Orange were at least a half-class below Louisville in the preseason conference pecking order, especially considering they had lost three of their four leading scorers from a year ago and one of the conference’s best defenders in big man Fab Melo. Despite all of that, expectations were still high for the Orange who had plenty of talent to fill the holes and now had a year of college basketball experience. Both the coaches and our microsite picked the Orange to finish second in the conference and while the regular season didn’t shake out that way, the NCAA Tournament vindicated our predictions.

Michael Carter-Williams Was The Big Reason Syracuse Was So Good.

Michael Carter-Williams Was The Big Reason Syracuse Was So Good.

The Good

Even if you didn’t watch any Syracuse basketball you could still say that Syracuse’s defense was excellent and feel good about your chances of being right. Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense has become famous, but this year’s team was particularly well-suited for it. There may not have been a longer and more athletic team in the country than Syracuse and opponents did not enjoy trying to score against that zone, just ask Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen or Marquette in the Elite Eight. The Orange’s team defense is the reason the team made it all the way to the Final Four. If you are one who likes to nitpick, you could point out that Michael Carter-Williams turned the ball over too much and has a long way to go before he becomes a shooting threat. That still won’t change the fact that MCW (11.9 PPG, 7.3 APG, 39.9% FG) was one of the best players in the entire country and a big reason why Syracuse was so successful this year. He was a difference-maker on both ends of the floor and in every facet of the game and opponents should be glad he has moved on to the NBA. Efficient senior seasons from Brandon Triche and James Southerland helped the Orange get over the rough stretches of the season and junior C.J. Fair (14.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 47.0% FG) came into his own this season, especially in the NCAA Tournament when he was a two-way monster for the Orange.

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Rushed Reactions: Syracuse 58, Georgetown 55 (OT)

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

Brian Otskey (@botskey) filed this report from Syracuse’s overtime victory over rival Georgetown in Friday night’s Big East semifinal at Madison Square Garden.

Three key takeaways:

Big John and Jim Share a Moment Before the Game

Big John and Jim Share a Moment Before the Game

  1. James Southerland and Trevor Cooney opened up Syracuse’s offense. Syracuse did most of its damage in the first half of this game thanks to Southerland’s continued hot shooting and Cooney’s surprising contribution off the bench. Southerland scored all 13 of his points in the first 24 minutes of the game (more on that next), not an unexpected performance from a guy who has been on fire all week. His four triples gave him 16 for the week, tying Gerry McNamara’s record from 2006. But it was Cooney who really energized the Orange in the first half. The seldom-used sophomore out of Delaware came off the bench and poured in 10 points, all before halftime. The outside success of these two players opened up a lot inside for Syracuse, a team that doesn’t look there all too often. Baye Keita had arguably his best game of the season with a lot of his production coming via the offensive glass. With Georgetown having to respect the Orange on the perimeter, it gave Keita more space to get in position for rebounds and scores. Even though Southerland and Cooney almost didn’t score at all in the second half and overtime, their success in the first half enabled Syracuse to hang on.
  2. Jabril Trawick’s defense on Southerland allowed Georgetown to come back. Trawick, known as Georgetown’s best defender, completely locked up the hot-shooting Southerland for the final 16 minutes of regulation and the five minute overtime, holding the Syracuse senior sharpshooter to just two field goal attempts over the final 21 minutes of action. As a team, Georgetown held Syracuse to just 28% shooting in the second frame, allowing the Hoyas to slowly chip away at the lead as regulation winded down. Georgetown made some clutch shots and free throws but team defense (and Trawick specifically) was the main reason why the Hoyas were able to force overtime.
  3. It was a fitting end to a classic Big East old guard rivalry. It’s sad that this all had to come to an end. These two teams put on a show for the 20,000+ fans gathered in Madison Square Garden on this semifinal Friday night and it seemed that nobody wanted this game to end. There will be a lot written about this in the days and weeks to come but this game will be a treasured memory for everyone in attendance, one that nobody will soon forget. We were all incredibly lucky to witness one final classic between two founding members of the original Big East.

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Can Syracuse Still Win the Big East Without James Southerland?

Posted by mlemaire on February 6th, 2013

We won’t know for sure whether James Southerland‘s season is done or not until Friday but there are some who feel that allegations that Southerland had a tutor write his term papers will be too much for the university to overlook and Southerland’s Syracuse career will come to an ignominious end. At first the Orange didn’t seem to be affected by Southerland’s absence, continuing their winning streak and rising to the top of the conference standings. But in the last two weeks Syracuse has looked vulnerable and back-to-back losses to Villanova and Pittsburgh have left the Orange just a half-game ahead of Marquette, causing some fans to wonder whether the lack of Southerland’s scoring punch and defense are finally catching up to Jim Boeheim‘s club.

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Jim Boeheim Knows The Importance Of James Southerland On His Team’s NCAA Tournament Chances

The team got back to its winning ways with an easy home rout of Notre Dame on Monday but in the long-term the question remains — can Syracuse win what is sure to be a hotly contested Big East title race without the services of their senior sixth-man? The team obviously remains in excellent position as the schedule heads into the home stretch but the team also has four games against ranked opponents left on the schedule and can ill-afford a regression to mediocrity at this point. But is Southerland’s absence really the difference-maker for the Orange, or are the team’s struggles rooted in something else?

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Big East M5: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 6th, 2013

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  1. Providence hasn’t been relevant in basketball in a long time and this season has been no exception. The popular argument seems to be that in order for Ed Cooley to turn the program around, he needs the entire team to buy in to his plan. The point is a good one as the Friars have arguably as much pure talent on their roster as any other team in the conference yet still can’t put anything together. The evidence of such issues is pretty damning actually. Transfer Sidiki Johnson took a voluntary leave of absence from the team recently and two of the program’s best players, LaDontae Henton and Vincent Council, both sat to start the Connecticut game because of issues with Cooley — and you know Ricardo Ledo doesn’t care about the long-term success of the program given his recent comments about considering the NBA. Ledo is the only one with a decent excuse since it isn’t his fault he has to sit out this season, but Johnson has set new records for using up good will wherever he goes and this is hardly the first issue Council has created because of his cavalier attitude. The article is right. Cooley can stockpile the most impressive collection of basketball talent on the Eastern Seaboard and it won’t matter unless he can get the whole team to buy in to what he is selling. Until then, Providence is going to be a program that produces a few NBA players without ever winning many college games.
  2. Yes, it is just the ranting of an angry fan, but there was already plenty of buzz around the topic of whether DePaul should fire head coach Oliver Purnell and that buzz has only grown louder after the Blue Demons were embarrassed on their home court last night by a mediocre Villanova team. The loss came on the heels of two hard-fought overtime losses last week but it was also the seventh-straight defeat for Purnell’s club, which really hasn’t shown much improvement now in his third year at the helm. The school paid Purnell handsomely to spurn Clemson in the hopes that he would come in and rebuild a once proud program. Instead, his lack of ties to Chicago have hurt him in recruiting and, never one to be mistaken for a strategy whiz, Purnell’s team consistently blows winnable games and is often obviously outplayed. No matter how the team finishes this season, Purnell probably deserves to watch his first recruiting class graduate and if the team’s best players, Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young, don’t do something silly like enter the NBA Draft, it could be the best and deepest club Purnell has coached in Chicago. But if he can’t make it work next season with a solid recruiting class and a host of returning talent, I wouldn’t bet on him making it through another full season unscathed.
  3. With questions swirling about whether super-sub James Southerland‘s season is done, the good folks at Troy Nunes Is A Magician took a quick look at why the program’s fans hate freshman guard Trevor Cooney so much. The article does a fine job of examining the issue on its own so there is no need to rehash everything, but we will say that if Southerland is deemed ineligible for the rest of the season, ‘Cuse fans better get used to seeing Cooney because head coach Jim Boeheim doesn’t have a whole lot else to work with. Would it be nice if Cooney shot better than 29 percent from behind the three-point arc and played better perimeter defense? Of course it would. But we are talking about a redshirt freshman who is receiving inconsistent minutes and still hasn’t found his range yet. Don’t get us wrong, heading into the NCAA Tournament with Cooney as our sixth man would make us nervous too, but let’s cut him some slack and give him another year or two before ‘Cuse fans angrily try to run him out of town.
  4. We have confirmation of some “needed wake-up call” talk down in Louisville where Cardinals players speaking to the media stopped just short of calling their three-game losing streak a good thing because it let the team know that letdowns wouldn’t cut it. While there is still no supporting evidence to convince me that losing three important conference games in a row is a good thing, the argument works well with a team like Louisville. Advanced metrics and eyeballs tell you that Louisville is as complete a team as there is in the country and certainly a viable national championship contender. Seeding is important and a three-game losing streak obviously has an effect on that, but if the Cardinals actually learn from their struggles and are able to maintain intensity and focus for the rest of the season, then maybe I will start buying more of the talk  about these “moral victories” and “wake-up calls.”
  5. File this under someone should probably tell Larry Brown there is no Santa Claus either, as the famous first-year coach at SMU is still holding out hope that the Big East as it currently stands will stick together for another year or two, long enough for the Mustangs to get a taste of the conference. It is possible that the Catholic 7 will be forced to play out their contracts with the Big East, but it is more likely that after some legal wrangling, the Big East gets paid and the Catholic 7 jumps ship sooner and starts collecting checks from their supposedly impending television deal. The 72-year-old Brown seems to just now be coming to grips with all of the conference realignment and you can assume by his assertion that it is “ruining every other sport” other than football that he is not at all a fan. We don’t disagree with Brown, we just think it might be time to get with the picture and realize that the Big East that SMU enters will not look the same as the Big East that SMU thought it had signed up for.
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Big East M5: 02.05.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 5th, 2013

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  1. Last night’s game between Syracuse and Notre Dame featured two top-25 teams jostling for position in the conference standings, but it also was the first and maybe the only time the Grant brothers–Jerian and Jerami–will get to play against each other in college. This will be the only meeting between the two teams this season and with Syracuse set to leave for the ACC posthaste,  who knows when the next time these two teams will play unless they meet in the Big East Tournament. The brothers are apparently quite close and Jerami even credits his older brother with making sure he didn’t give up when he wasn’t getting playing time early in the season. Jerami and his Orange repaid the older brother by throttling his Fighting Irish. Jerian may have scored more (15 to 14) but Jerami added six rebounds and two assists as Syracuse cruised to a 63-47 win.
  2. Pittsburgh finally got itself a marquee win over the weekend against Syracuse and then avoided the obvious letdown by beating Seton Hall last night for its sixth win in seven games. The Panthers tried their best to let Seton Hall beat them, shooting a season-low 34 percent from the field, but Pirates’ star Fuquan Edwin got hurt in a one-point game and Pitt managed to pull away thanks to its depth and its defense. Seton Hall is headed for a finish near the bottom of the conference, but the win was still huge since the Panthers will play three ranked teams over the course of the next nine days.
  3. The end of the James Southerland saga is now in sight according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports who cited a source to say Southerland’s eligibility appeal will be held Friday. Counting the game last night against Notre Dame, Southerland has missed six games and the team has gone 4-2 in his absence but surely Syracuse fans are excited to get one of their most dynamic offensive players back on the floor. Grant and Trevor Cooney were able-bodied replacements but they lack the scoring punch and athleticism of Southerland. The appeal is being heard by the university and assuming it is granted, the Orange could have Southerland back in uniform as soon as Sunday’s game against St. John’s. But few people know the severity of Southerland’s academic transgressions and even fewer will know the nature of the appeal, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves quite yet.
  4. It has been a good past few weeks for Cincinnati and coach Mick Cronin. The Bearcats have won five of their last six and currently sit just a half-game behind Syracuse in the conference standings. They also recently secured one of the more high-profile recruits of the Cronin era when the Bearcats landed New Jersey native and five-star forward Jermaine Lawrence on Sunday. Lawrence is an athletic power forward with plenty of face-up skills and decent range. He will need to add some meat to his bones but he has the frame to add serious muscle and could make an immediate impact in terms of floor-spacing and natural ability. Perhaps more importantly is that it signifies that Cronin can recruit with the big boys and once he is able to do that with consistency, the Bearcats will be a perennial contender no matter what happens to the Big East.
  5. Steve Lavin has St. John‘s playing tough basketball, which is why freshman point guard Jamal Branch‘s knee injury and presumed sprained MCL is especially inopportune. Branch has been up and down since becoming eligible,  but recently he has been a spark plug for the Johnnies and the team is 5-1 since being inserted into the starting lineup. The Red Storm don’t really have a true backup for Branch and will likely use a combination of Marc Bourgalt and Phil Greene IV at the point in Branch’s absence. Hopefully Branch isn’t out long because while Lavin’s club doesn’t quite have the look of a tournament team, they are headed in that direction in a hurry.
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