Big 12 M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 1st, 2013

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  1. The U.S. Basketball Writers Association announced the midseason watch list for college player of the year, otherwise known as the Oscar Robertson Trophy. There are only two players from the Big 12 and both play for Kansas. No one will dispute that Ben McLemore is unworthy of making the list, but I wonder, had McLemore been eligible last season, could KU have beaten Kentucky in the championship game? Jeff Withey is adding an offensive game but he’s also still locking the paint down on the defensive end. The two Kansas players outnumbered power leagues like the ACC, SEC and Pac-12 in total players chosen.
  2. It was a busy day at the USBWA as they also released its midseason watch list for the Wayman Tisdale Award, given to the top freshman in college basketball. Thankfully, the Big 12 had more diversity among the candidates. Baylor’s Isaiah Austin is one of the more versatile seven-footers in all of college basketball — how many guys that tall can shoot threes and pull down 20 boards like he did against Oklahoma? Speaking of versatility, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart is a point guard who wears many hats: those of a passer, a defender, and a leader. Those two along with Ben McLemore give the Big 12 three of the 12 candidates named for this award. The Pac-12 led all conferences with four representatives.
  3. When Frank Martin trotted out freshman Angel Rodriguez as a stater last season, I wasn’t so sure it was the best idea. Clearly he felt strongly enough to throw him into the fire and, wouldn’t you know it, he didn’t burn as the Wildcats ended up winning 22 games in 2011-12. Rodriguez’ Achilles heel last season was turnovers but that appears to be a thing of the past this time around. He’s averaging 6.3 assists and 1.6 turnovers per game in seven Big 12 games which amounts to nearly a 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The point guard depth in this league is exceptional so being the third best one-guard behind Smart and Pierre Jackson is by no means an insult.
  4. We know Texas stinks this year but would it be the right decision to fire Rick Barnes after the season? Admittedly, my gut says no way because he’s had so much success (two Elite Eights and a Final Four) and a team in the tournament every year since he arrived at the Forty Acres. And then I think about the teams he had from 2009-11 who appeared destined for deep NCAA runs but in fact never made it to the second weekend. Yes it would be foolish to let go of Barnes after one bad season out of 15 years at the helm, but it wouldn’t be foolish to keep an eye on him if I’m athletic director DeLoss Dodds. If progress isn’t made soon, we’ll hear those grumblings get louder.
  5. Jordan Tolbert’s numbers are down from last year and now we know that this has played a role in it. Tolbert lost his father, James Tolbert, to a heart attack back in October — he was just 40 years old. “To wake up to that [learning of his dad's passing], I just couldn’t believe it,” the sophomore guard said. Learning of something like that can derail anyone’s season but Tolbert has turned things around this past week (15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds per game). His season isn’t quite over but, much like the healing process, it’s getting better by the day. Thoughts and prayers to the entire Tolbert family.
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Big East M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 1st, 2013

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  1. The U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association released its Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List yesterday, which featured Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and Louisville’s Russ Smith. The Big Ten placed four players on the list, followed by the Big East and Big 12 with two apiece. The award, which recognizes the best player in college basketball each season, hasn’t been claimed by a Big East player since St. John’s Walter Berry won it in 1986. While Carter was a consensus 4/5-star recruit with NBA prospects coming out of high school, the recognition denotes a long three-year journey for Smith, who was hardly even evaluated by national scouting services out of high school.
  2. Syracuse forward James Southerland will get an opportunity to appeal his recent academic suspension before a university panel next week, but not before missing two more games. Jim Boeheim’s leading three-point shooter will sit out for upcoming bouts at Pitt and at home against Notre Dame. But in light of DaJuan Coleman’s recent knee injury, Southerland’s presence under the basket might be missed most of all: The two combine to average 9.5 rebounds per game. The Orange bench will only go seven deep for at least two pivotal games, but at least for Syracuse fans there’s a definite possibility that Southerland could return this season.
  3. Speaking of timetables, Rick Pitino revealed during his weekly radio show yesterday that there’s a chance Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware could both return for Sunday’s game with Marquette. Blackshear (sprained shoulder) and Ware (“indefinite” suspension) both practiced yesterday for the first time this week. Blackshear was expected to recover from his injury this week, but news of Ware re-entering Pitino’s good graces came as a surprise to Louisville fans. He seemed firmly and perhaps irrevocably planted in the doghouse after the Pitt game, when his coach claimed he “isn’t coming back anytime soon.” We’re left to wonder what exactly it was that Ware did, but Pitino indicated it wasn’t an egregious offense like drug use.
  4. Though outrebounded by a Big East-record 55-24 margin, UConn managed to outduel Providence on the road in overtime last night, 82-79. It was a war of attrition Ryan Boatright claims last year’s Huskies would have surrendered: “Last year’s team, when it got tough like that, when they made all those runs, we would have folded.” Jeff Jacobs at The Hartford Courant outlines a strong argument that the Big East members’ agreement to exclude the Huskies from the conference tournament looks increasingly disingenuous as league members disperse to greener pastures. “It’s too bad all those schools that are fleeing the conference sit in judgment of UConn. At this point, the only schools that should count are Cincinnati, South Florida and the schools that are coming in to be part of the Big East’s future.”
  5. They may be sitting in third place in the league standings with a 6-3 record, but Steve Lavin recognizes his St. John’s team is “still a work in progress.” Despite two impressive wins over ranked teams in the top half of the conference, the Red Storm have narrowly avoided upset against their last two inferior opponents and the meat of their schedule undeniably lies ahead of them. Lavin’s players are well aware of the criticism and seem excited for an opportunity to make a statement against another hot team. Said D’Angelo Harrison, “Teams are probably still doubting us because if you look at our schedule we’ve played the bottom half of the league. We’re looking to prove ourselves at Georgetown next.”
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Big East M5: 01.30.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 30th, 2013

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  1. The recognitions continue to roll in for Villanova sophomore Darrun Hilliard, who was named Player of the Week by the US Basketball Writers Association a day after the folks in Providence pegged him as its Big East Player of the Week. It’s a significant national distinction: Hilliard joins Victor Rudd (December 23) as the only Big East players to earn the honor this season.
  2. After watching the Villanova loss in which Louisville’s Chane Behanan struggled to handle a couple of passes down the stretch, his brother made an unconventional suggestion to improve his coordination: juggling lessons. Behanan gave Chip Cosby of Louisville’s cn|2 Sports a glimpse of his juggling baseline. Maybe he’s being tongue-in-cheek, but Cardinals fans should feel encouraged that Behanan plainly acknowledges his recent problem clutching the ball and is striving to improve.
  3. At 1-7 in the Big East, South Florida is squarely in last place in the league standings heading into February. Moreover, they’re averaging fewer points per game than all but 44 teams in Division I, and they haven’t eclipsed 70 points since before Christmas. Collin Sherwin at Voodoo Five tries to diagnose what’s right and wrong with Stan Heath’s offense right now. His conclusions are, in a word, bleak: “You can’t run a pick-and-roll if you don’t have anyone that can roll to the rim effectively. You can pick-and-pop, but our perimeter shooters aren’t exactly known for their quick triggers… And we really don’t have anyone (besides Collins) that can put the ball on the deck and get into the teeth of the defense.”
  4. Substantial Syracuse freshman Dajuan Coleman underwent knee surgery yesterday that will keep him off the court for four weeks. With Coleman rehabbing and James Southerland benched for a while, Jim Boeheim is left with only seven scholarship players. Syracuse’s enviable depth is suddenly a thing of the past, and Brent Axe at the (Syracuse) Post-Standard points out Coleman’s injury is just one of a series of mid- and late-season big man casualties for the program. Nonetheless, Axe questions how much of a substantive impact the loss of Coleman will have on Syracuse: “Coleman may start every game, but has barely been used by Jim Boeheim in game situations that matter.” It will be interesting to see whether the coaching staff elects to slide Rakeem Christmas to center or start backup five-man Baye Keita. The Orange have several days to deliberate this issue as they look to rebound from the Villanova loss against Pitt on Saturday.
  5. It’s not all doom and gloom in upstate New York, as CJ Fair was entrusted with the official Syracuse Athletics Twitter account yesterday, to the great benefit of humanity. CJ apparently liked Django and believes he’s the ‘Cuse player most likely to win the Hunger Games. No profound insights, but his blunt economy of language is what really made the cameo entertaining:
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