Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 23rd, 2012

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
  • Number One Goes Down:  For the seventh time, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish took down a top-ranked team in the Joyce Center, knocking off Syracuse 67-58. Despite all of that prior success, the Irish hadn’t beaten a #1 team at home in 25 years. That didn’t matter on Saturday night. Taking advantage of Fab Melo’s absence, Notre Dame slowed the pace and worked the ball inside, scoring in the paint or kicking it out to an open shooter on the wing. Notre Dame shot 50% for the game and limited the Orange to 34%. Using a +13 edge on the glass, Notre Dame was able to control the tempo and prevent Syracuse from getting out in transition where it is so lethal. I have to say I was surprised. Looking at Syracuse’s schedule last week, I thought the Orange could run the table. They had played better than any team in the nation on a consistent basis but drove into a buzzsaw on Saturday. Even if Melo had played, I’m not sure it would have made a major difference.
  • South Florida On A Roll: It seems as if nobody has noticed, but South Florida is 5-2 in the Big East after a 2-0 week with wins over St. John’s and DePaul. USF has won on the road at improving Villanova and also took down Seton Hall at home when the Pirates were ranked. The Bulls also beat Rutgers, one game after the Scarlet Knights beat Florida. How has USF done it? Jawanza Poland has played very well since returning from a back injury and Stan Heath is getting timely contributions from guys like Victor Rudd and Ron Anderson Jr. However, the two main reasons for USF’s success are point guard play and defense. Freshman Anthony Collins has been fantastic at the point, averaging 5.3 APG in Big East play to go with a #28 national ranking in assist rate. Although he’s turning the ball over a bit too much, Collins has given the Bulls a huge boost at the most important position in college basketball after years of bad guard play in Tampa. On the defensive end, South Florida’s opponents average only 57.6 PPG, tops in the Big East. With a combination of defense, good rebounding and timely scoring, USF is starting to make some noise in the crowded middle of the Big East.

Pat Connaughton Celebrated With Fans After The Irish Stung The Top-Ranked Orange. (Matt Cashore/U.S. Presswire)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (20-1, 7-1) – The Orange remain the best team by far in the Big East and I still think they are the best team in the nation even after losing at Notre Dame. Nothing went right for the Orange against the Fighting Irish. The Orange were out-shot 50% to 34%, out-rebounded by 13, and couldn’t string stops together when they were trying to get back in the game.  Should we have seen this coming? The cracks in the foundation appeared in a closer-than-expected win over Pittsburgh last Monday. The Panthers probed the Syracuse zone fairly well, getting to the free throw line area and making good interior passes. Fab Melo had 10 points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks in that game, but didn’t play in South Bend due to a mysterious academic issue. Pitt out-rebounded Syracuse 38-24, meaning the Orange were minus-27 on the glass for the week. Syracuse ranks #320 in defensive rebounding percentage, an issue that needs to be addressed immediately by Jim Boeheim, with or without Melo. Syracuse is struggling from three point land as well, tenth in three-point percentage in Big East games (31.9%). Scoop Jardine had 12 points and ten assists against the Panthers, but didn’t make a field goal (0-5) against Notre Dame. A tougher than expected week is ahead. Could the Orange lose again after winning 20 games in a row? This week: 1/23 @ Cincinnati, 1/28 vs. West Virginia. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big East Afternoon Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 23rd, 2012

  1. You will have to excuse the late posting as I attended the NFC Championship game last night in San Francisco and completely shirked my Morning Five duties, so instead, you folks get an afternoon five. It’s hardly news at this point but No. 1 Syracuse suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of Notre Dame on Saturday. The Orange shot the ball terribly (18-53 for the game) and the Fighting Irish couldn’t miss, especially from behind the arc, but it certainly didn’t help that ‘Cuse center Fab Melo didn’t play in the game due to an academic suspension. ESPN‘s Andy Katz reported that the school hopes to get Melo back in time for next Saturday’s game against West Virginia, which means Syracuse fans shouldn’t be unduly worried. But Jim Boeheim’s squad does play a very good Cincinnati team tonight on the road, and they will need to rebound aggressively to make up for their center’s absence.
  2. After beating Cincinnati in overtime on Saturday, we figured it was time to give Bob Huggins and his West Virginia Mountaineers they credit they deserve, and the Charleston Daily Mail agreed. The Mountaineers were considered a tournament team before the season started, but now they are just a game behind Syracuse in the loss column and angling for a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament. The team is led by runaway favorite for Big East Player of the Year, Kevin Jones, and volume-scoring point guard Truck Bryant, but they are also getting contributions from freshmen guards Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne as well. Last week, we argued that it was still early to call the Bearcats the conference’s second-best team; well, it’s still too early to consider the Mountaineers the conference’s second-best team, but they have inserted themselves in the discussion.
  3. Tennessee is an improving team, especially now that they added stud freshman Jarnell Stokes in the middle of the season, but losing to the Volunteers on Saturday was a bad loss for Connecticut and their hopes for a top seed come tournament time. It is never a good thing when two players (Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier) take 35 shots and its even worse when they combine to make just 14 of those shots. Andre Drummond looked like he had turned a corner last week, but Saturday was his second-straight subpar performance and Stokes thoroughly outplayed him on both ends of the floor. Perhaps the most distressing aspect of the loss was that Niels Giffey and Roscoe Smith, two of the players supposed to replace suspended freshman Ryan Boatright‘s offensive production, were basically non-factors. The Huskies desperately need one of those two guys to get going if they are going to get back to their winning ways.
  4. Not too many people expected Louisville‘s Kyle Kuric or Pittsburgh‘s Tray Woodall to suit up when the two teams met on Saturday, but both did, to drastically different results. Kuric buried five three-pointers and finished with 21 points in 33 minutes, while Woodall went 0-5 from the field and had more turnovers (three) than assists (two) in 21 minutes as the Panthers lost and fell to a shocking 0-7 in the conference. Obviously it is good news for both teams that either player even made it onto the court, but it seems clear that Woodall is still a ways off from being 100% and he is arguably more important to Pittsburgh than Kuric is to Louisville. The Cardinals still have enough athletes to fill the scoring void of Kuric, at least in part. But the Panthers need Woodall’s playmaking ability to help the offense and also allow Ashton Gibbs to return to the wing, where he is more effective and more comfortable. It will be interesting to see if Pitt coach Jamie Dixon tries to rush Woodall back in the midst of what is looking like a lost season at this point.
  5. The last of the five is reserved for observations about someone we have already mentioned — UConn freshman Andre Drummond. Physically and athletically, Drummond is a stud. There might not be another player in the country that has his combination of size, strength, athleticism, skill, and speed. You just wouldn’t know it from watching him play recently. Saturday against Tennessee, Drummond managed just six points on eight shots in 31 minutes. And the game before, a loss to Cincy, Drummond had just four points and six rebounds on nine shots. The linked observations make a good point, it is no longer a question of talent, it is a question of desire and consistency. Drummond should not be criticized for his mild-mannered attitude off the court, it is what makes him one of the more refreshing and likable stars in college basketball. But he needs to start being more assertive on the court, and once he does, the rest of the country better look out.
Share this story

Set Your TiVo: 01.20 – 01.22

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Cincinnati and Vanderbilt will look to keep rolling but a Big 12 clash highlights Saturday’s slate.

#5 Missouri @ #3 Baylor – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

This Clash Between Big 12 Powers Offers a Contrast in Strengths

  • This game could really come down to which team imposes its will. For Missouri, it would love nothing more than to speed the game up, force turnovers and not let Baylor get set in its half court defense. Missouri’s strength is its guard play. Frank Haith employs a four-guard lineup and it has worked wonders this season. The Tigers have shot the ball very well this season and that’s going to have to continue on the road in Waco. Missouri has struggled against teams with bigger front lines so its guards must shoot well if penetration is cut off and Ricardo Ratliffe is limited inside by Baylor’s trees. Kim English, Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon can flat out shoot the basketball and Haith will need all three contributing in order to beat Baylor. It will be a bonus if Ratliffe can get anything going inside but Mizzou’s guards must continue to make shots in a tough environment.
  • Baylor is the stronger team inside and Scott Drew knows it. Getting Perry Jones III to assert himself in the paint along with Quincy Acy could be the key for the Bears in this game. Baylor will have the home crowd and energy behind itself and capitalizing on that is going to be very important against a team that loves to speed you up and force turnovers. In order for Jones and Acy to get the ball, Baylor’s guard play must be up to the task. Missouri will pressure Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton all game because the Tigers need to run up the turnovers and transition points in order to offset what should be a significant Baylor edge on the glass. If Baylor can slow the game down a bit, limit turnovers and get the ball inside, it should be on its way to a win. If Jones III and Acy are hot in the paint, that will open up Brady Heslip and Jackson from deep. Jackson does so much for this team with penetration, passing and shooting ability but Heslip is great spotting up or coming off a screen. Baylor has multiple weapons of varying height, something Missouri may have a very hard time dealing with.
  • As we said, Missouri must speed the game up and create turnovers against the turnover-prone Bears. Ratliffe is a very good post player but we’re not sure if he’s going to be able to score consistently as the only Mizzou big man against Baylor’s immense height in the paint. If Missouri can’t get anything inside it must knock down deep shots and get to the free throw line. The Tigers shoot 77.6% from the charity stripe and that could end up being their most efficient way of scoring against Baylor aside from the three ball. Baylor didn’t defend well against Kansas but Missouri was exposed in a tough environment at Kansas State. If Baylor is physical and sticks to the game plan of good half court offense, the Bears should win. Missouri should play better in its second time on the road against a very good team but you have to favor Baylor at home given the size mismatch.

Cincinnati @ West Virginia – 3:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPNU (****)

Share this story

Set Your TiVo: 01.09.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 9th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

While Monday night isn’t an “official” ESPN Big Monday, we might as well call it that. Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery and Jay Bilas will be on the call in Hartford as the Big East takes center stage this evening.

West Virginia at #14 Connecticut – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (****)

  • It was a rough last week for Connecticut as the Huskies fell twice in the state of New Jersey, first at Seton Hall and then at Rutgers on Saturday. Returning to the XL Center in Hartford should give the team some confidence. Turnovers have been the big problem for UConn of late, especially on the most recent road trip. The Huskies committed 33 turnovers in their last two games with eight of those by Andre Drummond in the low post. The Connecticut offense can run smoothly with players like Drummond, Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, and Ryan Boatright, but the Huskies must limit turnovers against a West Virginia defense that can be taken advantage of in the paint. Jim Calhoun’s team usually plays well when it makes threes but tonight the focus should be inside. West Virginia allows opponents to shoot 48.3% inside the arc and you would think this is the perfect game to get Alex Oriakhiback on track. Using Boatright’s quickness, Napier’s passing ability, and Lamb’s versatility, the Huskies should be able to penetrate the West Virginia defense. Turnovers, of course, would limit that success. 

    Will This Be The Game That Alex Oriakhi Reasserts Himself?

  • Aside from a loss at Seton Hall on December 30, West Virginia has been rolling. The Mountaineers beat Georgetown on Saturday and a win tonight would vault them into position for a run at the second spot in the Big East. The Mountaineers are also struggling with turnover issues as Bob Huggins has freshmen playing key roles. West Virginia plays so much better when it makes shots, but not necessarily from the outside. West Virginia’s biggest strength is Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant doing the bulk of the scoring with others chipping in from time to time. Jones had 22 and 16 against Georgetown while Bryant is averaging 27 PPG over his last two outings since a 3-16 shooting performance in the Seton Hall game. Not coincidentally, West Virginia won both teams with relative ease. West Virginia has to get Jones many touches but he’ll be facing his toughest test to date. Connecticut’s interior defense is solid as always, ranked #3 (37.6% against). If West Virginia can’t score inside, it won’t win this game. The Mountaineers have done a tremendous job getting to the foul line in Big East play but UConn historically doesn’t foul a lot with Calhoun at the helm. His big men are adept at blocking shots without breaking the plane of verticality and fouling. However, the Huskies have put opponents on the stripe at a higher than average clip in conference play.
  • This game will be a war with two physical and talented teams going at it. You would expect nothing less in a Huggins-Calhoun match-up. Both teams will crash the offensive boards with incredible energy and whoever wins that battle may end up taking the game. West Virginia has better numbers when it comes to defensive rebounding but the Huskies have a great knack for getting second chance opportunities. Should this game come down to the wire, Connecticut has the advantage being at home with better free throw shooters (though not by much). Staying on that theme, look for Napier to try to get to the line often. When he does, Connecticut usually has success. When he doesn’t, it’s tougher for UConn to score in the half court. Based on the recent trends and statistics, some people may think West Virginia has the edge here. That wouldn’t be surprising but we’ll go with the home team in a close one.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 9th, 2012

  1. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun was back on the sideline Saturday but it didn’t make a difference as the Huskies played uninspired basketball and lost to Rutgers, 67-60. Apparently eager to make up for lost time, Calhoun made his displeasure clear to the media and at practice the next dayShabazz Napier played well, but backcourt mate Ryan Boatright did not and center Alex Oriakhi has practically disappeared from the team’s offensive plans entirely. Aside from a good showing against St. John’s last week, UConn’s offense has been in a funk lately as they shot worse than 40% for the second straight game. They better hope they can get it together quickly because they play West Virginia Monday and Notre Dame next Saturday, both of whom are coming off big upset wins.
  2. There was some good news for UConn fans this weekend as uber-freshman Andre Drummond told reporters he planned to return for his sophomore season. This news is less surprising given the number of high-profile players who have opted to stay in school in the past two seasons, but let’s not forget, this season is far from over and Drummond will have plenty of time to change his mind. Despite risking injury and his cemented spot in the NBA Lottery, the move makes sense from a developmental standpoint. Remember that Drummond reclassified and is still very young and inexperienced. He has shown flashes this season, but he has also been very inconsistent and rarely dominant. Another year to gain some seasoning and some polish could help make him even more appealing and NBA-ready.
  3. Saturday provided a number of upsets and perhaps none was uglier and yet still impressive than Notre Dame’s gutsy double-overtime road win against Louisville. Point guard Eric Atkins went just 4-16 from the field, but he played 50 minutes. The Fighting Irish shot just 31.7% from the field but they forced 18 turnovers and outlasted an offensively challenged Cardinals team. This season has been full of obstacles for the Fighting Irish and Mike Brey deserves a lot of credit for holding this team together and keeping them competitive, but they are still not a finished product. They have the look of a bubble team and they don’t have enough veteran leadership or scorers to be more consistent, but none of that should take away from what must have been a very gratifying win for Brey and the Irish fans.
  4. Former Pittsburgh prized freshman Khem Birch was supposed to decide between UNLV and Florida sometime last tonight according to the Las Vegas Sun. But as I type this, Birch’s Twitter account has been silent and I can’t find any evidence he has picked a school as of yet. No one seems to have a read on which way he is leaning either, but landing Birch would be a major coup for both programs as long as his decision remains permanent this time around. The Panthers have been struggling in his absence and a year away from the court is stunting Birch’s development — or at least postponing it. Stay tuned tomorrow to find out where he ends up.
  5. The other big upset of Saturday was West Virginia’s dismantling of No. 9 Georgetown in Morgantown. The Hoyas were due for a loss and didn’t play particularly well, but let’s give credit where credit is due. Mountaineers forward Kevin Jones is an absolute stud and possibly the best player in the conference if not the country and guard Truck Bryant has been on fire in the team’s past two games. Bob Huggins will have to make sure they don’t dwell on the win for too long because they are in Hartford tonight to battle UConn and will need to come out ready to play because Jim Calhoun is going to have his squad fired up.
Share this story

Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2012

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

Ed. Note – This post was written prior to Tuesday’s action, and was mistakenly removed briefly Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Rick Pitino’s Interesting Announcement: I was one of the folks who questioned why Rick Pitino would announce he plans to retire five years from now when his contract with the University of Louisville runs out. You would figure this will hurt recruiting, but Pitino seemed relieved and at peace with his decision. Of course, many things can change over a five-year time frame, but I’ll take Pitino at his word. As’s Andy Katz writes, he will leave quite the influential mark on the college game once he exits the stage.
  • Conference Play Begins: At long last, Big East play is finally here. 13 conference games were played this past week and some storylines are already beginning to emerge. Pittsburgh is 0-2 for the first time under Jamie Dixon while Villanova is also 0-2 for the first time since the 2006-07 season. Syracuse has continued to steamroll through its schedule and is among the select few teams capable of winning a national championship. Slowly but surely, Connecticut seems to be finding its identity. Once the Huskies establish a leader on the floor, they may begin to take off. Georgetown and Seton Hall have surprised the conference this season, filling the void vacated by the Panthers and Wildcats in the top half of the league. While the conference is down a bit, this is sure to be another terrific Big East basketball season. Enjoy the ride over the next two months.

Is Fab Melo College Basketball's Most Improved Player? (Dennis Nett/Syracuse Post-Standard)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (15-0, 2-0): Simply put, this team is rolling. Syracuse blasted its two opponents this past week, obliterating Seton Hall by 26 points and winning by 19 at DePaul. Most impressive was the game against the Pirates, one in which Fab Melo recorded 12 points, seven boards, and a school record 10 blocked shots as Syracuse avenged last season’s home loss to Seton Hall. Even more amazing is that Syracuse won by 26 without Kris Joseph scoring a single point. How’s that for depth? The Orange forced 23 Pirate turnovers and held them to 31.7% shooting, including an 0-11 FG line for Fuquan Edwin. Against DePaul, Syracuse held Brandon Young to 0-8 shooting. That’s 0-19 FG against Syracuse for two guys averaging a combined 31 points. Syracuse still needs to improve its rebounding (Seton Hall was +2 on the glass) but this team is scary good and some are saying it hasn’t even reached its full potential yet. This week: 1/4 @ Providence, 1/7 vs. #13 Marquette.
  2. Connecticut (12-1, 2-0): The Huskies struggled for most of the game at South Florida, but managed to pull away late behind Jeremy Lamb’s 23 points on 8-11 FG. In the St. John’s game, the Huskies shot a scorching 60.4% and assisted on 21 of their 29 made field goals. Andre Drummond helped out in a big way, going for 16/11. Connecticut won both games without Jim Calhoun but the final one without their headman will be the toughest. UConn visits Seton Hall on Tuesday and won’t have their energetic coach to fire them up against a much stronger opponent than either USF or St. John’s. On the road and without its coach, Connecticut is somewhat vulnerable. This team lacks a true leader like Kemba Walker, but it slowly moving up the Big East power rankings. This week: 1/3 @ Seton Hall, 1/7 @ Rutgers. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Set Your TiVo: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 30th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the official RTC Star System.

A quality Friday night Big East game leads us into a Saturday full of terrific matchups. There are a couple good games on Sunday, but if you’re going to watch any basketball around the New Year’s holiday, make sure you are in front of a television on Saturday.

West Virginia @ Seton Hall – 9:00 PM EST Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Kevin Jones Has His Mountaineers Surging

  • Since losing at Mississippi State four weeks ago, West Virginia has reeled off six wins in seven tries with the only loss coming in overtime to a top 10 Baylor squad. The Mountaineers have an imposing trio of Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli but the timely contributions of freshmen such as Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne, and Aaron Brown have pushed West Virginia over the top in a few of these close games. Bob Huggins runs the vast majority of his offensive sets through Bryant and Jones with Kilicli chipping in as well. West Virginia is not a good outside shooting team but it should be able to take advantage of Seton Hall’s interior defense, rated #258 in two-point percentage.
  • Seton Hall ran out to a hot 11-1 start but the reality check came at the hands of Fab Melo and top-ranked Syracuse on Wednesday night. Melo blocked 10 Pirate shots in the blowout win, a game that got out of hand shortly after the opening tip for Seton Hall. Kevin Willard’s team needs to rebound in a big way tonight, the second of three difficult games to open their Big East schedule. Going up against Jones, Herb Pope has to stay on the floor and play a strong game. After a strong start to his season, Pope has averaged only 8.7 PPG over his last three outings. If he doesn’t get well into double figures, Seton Hall will have a hard time winning. Jordan Theodore needs to be a pass-first point guard in this game rather than a guy who shoots 15+ times. Getting Pope, Fuquan Edwin and three point specialist Aaron Cosby involved will be important for the senior Pirate point guard.
  • It’s likely that Pope/Jones and Bryant/Theodore cancel each other out meaning the game will be decided by the supporting casts. Kilicli could be that guy for West Virginia while Seton Hall will look to Edwin and/or Cosby to make a winning impact. Edwin had an awful game against Syracuse but he should rebound nicely in front of the home folks and a less imposing front line. These teams have played five overtime games between them and another could be in the offing here. West Virginia is probably the better team but the Hall playing at home evens this contest up. Neither team shoots the ball well from the charity stripe but it’s something that just may decide this game.

#10 Louisville @ #3 Kentucky – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (*****)

Jones and Company Invite Louisville to Rupp Saturday Afternoon

  • Kentucky has blasted every inferior team it has played this season but the Wildcats have played closer games against Kansas, North Carolina and Indiana. Louisville is the fourth good team Kentucky will see so far, and given the passion in this rivalry, another relatively close game should be expected. The Wildcats are the better team but you can throw rankings and records out in rivalries as bitter as this one. Kentucky must use its superior offensive talent to its advantage, namely Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. Louisville is highly vulnerable to the deep shot making Lamb a key player. Jones is the best player on the floor and needs to use his versatility to rack up fouls on Louisville’s interior players or step out and knock down a deep ball. Six Kentucky players average double figures and Louisville just can’t match the Wildcats offensively.
  • Where Rick Pitino’s team can match Kentucky is on the defensive end. Louisville’s game plan has to be intense full court defense, making Marquis Teague work for every dribble and every pass. Teague averages 3.2 turnovers per game and Louisville is one of the better teams in the nation at forcing turnovers. Offensively, this is not a typical Pitino team. Louisville doesn’t shoot the three-ball well but Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith and Kyle Kuric can put the ball in the basket. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they don’t do it consistently enough to be an offensive force as a team. Peyton Siva has to be the catalyst in this game. The quick Louisville point guard has good vision but must cut down on turnovers. If Kentucky is getting runouts, it’s lights out for Louisville.
  • It’ll be hard for Louisville to score points on the road against the elite Kentucky defense but the Cardinals can force turnovers and get easy buckets. Both coaches don’t mind speeding up the game but that would favor John Calipari in this particular matchup. Pitino has to design a game plan that adeptly probes the Kentucky defense and gets quality shots. Siva is the key to execute that, plus the Cardinals must crash the boards and get second chance opportunities. That’s easier said than done against Jones and Anthony Davis. Davis has the potential to neutralize Dieng and anyone else who dares enter the paint for Louisville. The Cardinals will defend but they simply lack the offensive firepower needed to win this game at Rupp. We would be surprised if Kentucky loses at home for the first time under Calipari but this will be a fun game to watch regardless.
Share this story

Big East Morning Five: Inaugural Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 16th, 2011

  1. The 24-hour hoops marathon was not very kind to some Big East teams, especially West Virginia, which broke a 36-game non-conference home winning streak when they lost to a very good Kent State team, 70-60. Point guard Truck Bryant, who the Mountaineers are hoping will help bridge the gap until some of the young players mature, turned the ball over six times to go with just one assist and he finished just 4-13 from the field. After the game, Bryant admitted he didn’t play very well. Meanwhile coach Bob Huggins readily admitted that his team struggled, especially his freshmen, and he challenged them to step it up. The Mountaineers played all six of their freshmen with mixed results and the team turned the ball over 17 times and missed a dozen free throws. These are the growing pains a young team will inevitably face, and the pain might be sharper when West Virginia starts their conference schedule. On the bright side, we might get a number of excellent Huggins rants out of this season. The anticipation is killing me!
  2. Speaking of lack of experience, Rutgers was the second team to lose yesterday as they spotted Miami a ten-point lead at halftime and never really made it close at any point. Reserve forward Austin Carroll led the team with eleven points, but he was the only one playing with any passion, at least according to coach Mike Rice who alluded to what we can only assume are memories of third grade when he said, “Austin is the only one I would like to walk to the bus with me.” The story also quotes Rice criticizing his freshman guards such as Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears, something he will likely do a lot simply because he doesn’t have the luxury of a veteran backcourt. After barely nipping Dartmouth in RU’s first game, Mike Rice’s team has the look of a squad that will struggle a lot this year. Rice is an excellent coach, and because of that they will play tough and competitively, but there is simply not enough veteran talent on the roster to succeed in the face of such a demanding schedule.
  3. The Mikan Drill had yet another excellent in-depth post about the importance of Pittsburgh forward Nasir Robinson to his team’s zone offense. They used advanced stats to show Robinson was wildly more efficient than any of the other players Jamie Dixon tried in the middle of the zone offense, and also noted that when Robinson is not in the game the guards are more hesitant to attack the rim and prone to tossing up contested three-pointers. Ashton Gibbs may be the team’s best player, and Tray Woodall has gotten plenty of attention for his improved range and overall offensive skill set. But I am convinced Robinson is the team’s unsung hero and one of its most important players. He is versatile enough both offensively and defensively to play big or small, and he has an underrated offensive game to go with his rebounding prowess and defensive energy. Pitt is always considered one of the toughest teams in the country and this year is no exception, and that is primarily because of the presence of Robinson in the middle of that lineup.
  4. Syracuse routed Albany last night as expected, but the game’s MVP might have been just as unexpected. As The Daily Orange rightly called out junior James Southerland for his 6-9 shooting performance in the first half that helped the Orange overcome a sluggish start. It was pats on the back and glowing quotes all around for Southerland in the story, but if he can become an offensive weapon too, that would make Jim Boeheim‘s team that much more dangerous. I can’t be too sure about this because I have never done it, but it must not be easy guarding an athletic 6’8” man who can shoot from long-range and also attack the rim.
  5. Okay so this article was originally published more than two weeks ago, but its our first day so I get to call attention to it anyway. ESPN’s Jason King penned a column about the rise in junior college players playing key roles on good teams. He just so happens to use Marquette and their litany of JuCo players to illustrate his point. There was also an accompanying blog post that highlighted St. John’s Nurideen Lindsey and Cincinnati’s Cheikh Mbodj as two junior college transfers to watch in the Big East. The point is a salient one if slightly outdated. Teams like Marquette and Cincinnati and St. John’s and even South Florida and Seton Hall have been using junior college transfers to remain competitive for years, although it should be noted that this year’s crop seems to be exceptionally important to their teams’ success. Of course for all of their benefits, junior college players can still be a gamble and they also mean more recruiting because they have fewer possible years of eligibility. But if it helps a team win, I seriously doubt any Big East coach is worried about logging some extra frequent flier miles while recruiting.
Share this story

Morning Five: 11.07.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 7th, 2011

  1. It’s finally here. It has been a little more than 7 months since Connecticut defeated Butler to give Jim Calhoun his third national championship. In the interim, we have been forced to talk about the NBA Draft, a ridiculous amount of conference realignment, an even more ridiculous amount of NCAA violations, and some recent exhibition games (we will get to the latter three in a bit). Tonight, the actual games start with three games on the docket: William & Mary at St. John’s (the first game of the season and also the first RTC Live of the year), Eastern Kentucky at Mississippi State, and Valparaiso at Arizona. We are hoping with the season starting we can get back to focusing on the sport we all love. Just remember your team is still undefeated right now.
  2. Connecticut freshman Ryan Boatright continues to be in limbo with the NCAA during its ongoing investigation into his eligibility regarding a plane ticket purchased for him by Reggie Rose, his AAU coach who happens to be Derrick Rose‘s brother. According to a NCAA source, Boatright could miss between three and six games depending on the value of the ticket. [Ed. Note: How do they figure this out? Use the highest possible price like it was purchased day of or do they see what you could get on Priceline?] For his part, Reggie Rose is declining comment “out of the respect to the Boatright family” while a source close to him calls the entire thing a “witch hunt”. While the Huskies will miss Boatright in November because of their lack of depth at point guard given the relatively short length of the potential punishment we doubt that this will affect UConn in the long run unless the NCAA drags its feet in announcing the punishment because Boatright will have to sit out during that period too.
  3. We have known it was coming for weeks, but on Sunday the SEC made it official–Missouri will join the SEC for the 2012-13 season. We have already discussed in depth the impact this and other moves will have on the landscape of college sports so we will spare you all the details and moralizing. For the SEC fans who may not be familiar with Missouri and its sports teams, Alabama Live has provided a nice primer on the school and its athletic department. Our personal favorite part is the ranking schools by number of major NCAA infractions.
  4. Bob Huggins would probably like to forget West Virginia‘s last second 77-74 loss to Division II Northern Kentucky on Saturday night when Eshaunte Jones hit a three with one second left. As we have said before these games aren’t particularly helpful although some people will make a big deal out of Northern Kentucky winning its first exhibition game against a Division I opponent in 19 tries. The reality is that the Norse shot lights out going 13 of 25 from beyond the arc and shooting 54% from the field overall while the Mountaineers came out flat falling behind 42-29 at half after trailing by as many as 17 points in the first half. After the game Truck Bryant, who led the Mountaineers with 24 points, said, “I didn’t see this coming. I mean losing to a D-II school, not to take anything away from them, that’s embarrassing.” We are assuming that Huggins and Bryant will use this as motivation for the regular season opener against Oral Roberts on Friday night.
  5. Chuck Klosterman put out a list of his 50 favorite college basketball players of all-time and it created a brief controversy on Twitter on Friday afternoon as people harangued him for his selections. As we mentioned at the time the list should not be taken as a top 50 list despite its title. Klosterman lays out his criteria at the top, which is fine since it is his list, but makes some questionable interpretations of those criteria when ranking players. Overall, we sort of like his list with its mixture of players that everybody remembers as being great along with a few that only serious basketball fans would know unless they had some special connection (fans of that school, etc) and have already admitted that it is much better than what we could probably do off the top of our head for indie rock bands, Klosterman’s area of expertise.
Share this story

The RTC 2011 College Football All-Americans (with a Hoops Twist)

Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC Pac-12 and Mountain West correspondent and a frequent columnist. 

It’s that time of year again. Off in the distance, it could be a mirage, or it could be the start of college basketball season. It’s probably a mirage, but the Great Sports Desert (you know, that time of year between the end of the NBA Finals and the start of college football when normal American males actually have time to get stuff done) ends Thursday, as college football kicks off its 142nd season. And given the offseason that college football has had, it couldn’t come any sooner. Unfortunately, given all the scandals and arrests and the like, according to my source at the NCAA, it appears that literally every college football player will be ineligible for the coming year (at least I assume that is true – it’s not a very good source). As a result, football programs across this great nation have been scrambling for some last minute replacements. And, since we here at RTC are nothing if not diligent, we’ve spent the last few weeks scouring college football camps across the country while other lesser outlets have been reporting on things like a little scuffle in Baton Rouge and something-or-other about Miami (I’ll admit, I never got through that whole article, but I think I got the gist of it – Miami is a nice place to go to school, right?). Anyway, since we’re the only ones who seem to be on top of this sea change in college football, we’ll let you all in on some of our wisdom as we preview college basketball’s richer, more-spoiled sibling, with RTC’s official 2011 College Football All-American team.


High School Star Aaron Craft Will Fill In Nicely for Terrelle Pryor at OSU

  • QB: Aaron Craft (6’2″, 190 lbs), Ohio State: In light of the Buckeye football program’s recent troubles, new head coach Luke Stickell turns the reins over to the sophomore Craft. He’s not the quickest or fleetest of foot, but he is accurate, he’s tough and he’s a leader. There has been plenty of talk about the Heisman Trophy campaign of North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall, but until he takes better care of the ball (last year, he turned the ball over on almost 30% of all possessions), we’ll give the nod to Craft, who at least has the advantage of having played QB for three years in high school.
  • RB: Jordan Taylor (6’1″, 195 lbs), Wisconsin: The newest Badger tailback may not have the size of former greats like Ron Dayne and John Clay, but Taylor is a tough and smart runner who excels at finding a crease and finishing through contact.
  • Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story