Big East M5: 01.02.14 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 2nd, 2014

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  1. There were definite ups and downs to be found during the marathon that was the first day of Big East play on Tuesday. While those within the conference will admit that the play on the court didn’t often set the basketball world on fire, there is still belief in the future of the league as a basketball power. Commissioner Val Ackerman cites past experience when discussing this topic: “When I was with WNBA, I remember saying it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The same should be said about the Big East. There’s a long history here, but with a new conference, what we do in the first year or two isn’t necessarily going to be indicative.” While Big East fans hope that the league makes a splash here in year one, the 10 programs aren’t going anywhere, and there is plenty of time for this new-look conference to get its legs under it.
  2. Creighton wasn’t great offensively in its first ever Big East game, but the Bluejays’ defense was able to stifle a struggling Marquette offense, leading to a 67-49 win on New Year’s Eve. Creighton only shot 40 percent from the floor, but they were able to known down 13 threes and kept up with a bigger Golden Eagles’ squad in the paint, where they were only outscored by four. While this win was huge for Creighton — its first-ever in a power basketball conference — the performance is perhaps more telling about Marquette, whose well-publicized offensive struggles seem to be getting worse, not better. The Eagles were the preseason favorite to win the league, but without improvement soon, Marquette will struggle to punch a ticket to the Dance come March.
  3. Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery are going to become very familiar voices for Big East fans (if they weren’t already), especially those who watched the entirety of Tuesday’s basketball marathon.  The team called noon’s Xavier-St. John’s game in Cincinnati and then hightailed it to Indianapolis for Butler-Villanova at 7:30. The IndyStar spent time with Fox Sports 1′s top team on the bus between games, allowing the two to reminisce about some of their favorite Big East and NCAA Tournament memories. Spoiler alert: Butler fans are going to appreciate this far more than… say… Syracuse, Kansas State, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Florida, or Wisconsin fans.
  4. In anticipation of Tuesday’s Creighton/Marquette clash, Andy from Anonymous Eagle and Jacob Padilla from The Creightonian got together for an enlightening Q&A discussion. Among the topics covered: Bluejay fans’ excitement for this season and the Big East conference; the importance of the McDermotts to the Creighton program; Marquette’s early season struggles; and the best places to get a beer and a bite to eat in Omaha. Even though it predates the game won by Creighton, both pieces are still fun reads. Check out Jacob’s answers here and Andy’s here.
  5. To round out a very ‘Creighton vs. Marquette’ heavy M5 this morning, we have footage from a raucous CenturyLink Arena crowd.  On one play, the sold out crowd belted out Neil Diamond’s stadium staple “Sweet Caroline” after the arena speakers had already cut off the song, and it seemed to throw off the Golden Eagles, who promptly turned over the ball. You can judge for yourself, but NBC Sports‘ Rob Dauster seems to think the crowd played a part in the play.
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Big East M5: 12.30.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 30th, 2013

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  1. Big East teams have wrapped up non-conference play, and with the start of conference games on the horizon with five straight games scheduled throughout Tuesday, writers are beginning to file their mid-year reviews of the new-look league. IndyStar‘s Zak Keefer cites conference winning percentage, true road wins, and the current RPI numbers in defense of the Big East. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard also finds value in that last statistic: “[We have] six teams in the top 50. Rankings [the Big East has just one team, #8 Villanova, in the Top 25] don’t really matter. The RPI does matter.”
  2. Not everyone is as high on the work that the Big East has done so far this season. USA Today‘s Nicole Auerbach digs into some of the same numbers and her findings aren’t too kind for the conference, especially without Villanova‘s impressive resume: “Just one of those 85 wins has come against a team with an RPI in the top 25. Even worse, Big East teams were just 5-19 against the RPI’s top 50. Villanova has done most of that heavy lifting on its own. Its sparkling 11-1 record — including a missed opportunity Saturday with a loss to Syracuse — features wins against Kansas and Iowa, ranked No. 3 and No. 38 in the RPI, respectively.” In the past, Big East teams could recover from mediocre Novembers and Decembers with big league wins against highly-ranked Syracuse, Connecticut or Louisville squads. Now, those opportunities will be much more fleeting.
  3. Doug McDermott checks in at number two on RTC alumnus and Cleveland.com‘s David Cassilo’s weekly Player of the Year rankings. Cassilo praises McDermott’s elite shooting and all-around scoring ability, while noting his attention to detail: “Being a coach’s son (his father Greg is the coach of Creighton) means that McDermott pays special attention to the little things too. He’s averaging just 2.0 turnovers per game, 1.5 fouls per game and shoots 89.3 percent from the line.”  McDermott is the only Big East player on a list topped by Duke’s Jabari Parker. Former Big East players Shabazz Napier, Russ Smith, and C.J. Fair also appear in the top 12.
  4. Despite a setback in Syracuse over the weekend, Villanova enters conference play as the favorite to win the new league. The Wildcats were expected by many to return to the NCAA Tournament and finish among the top half of the conference this season, but just a few years removed from a 13-19 nightmare, few would have guessed that they would be the only Big East team in the Top 25 and have wins against Kansas and Iowa to their name. Wright credits a refocus in the philosophy of the program for the success that the team has recently experienced: “We got caught in a situation where we had guys that were coming in thinking about leaving early, so we were backing ourselves up in recruiting thinking they were going to leave. Then they didn’t leave. They were frustrated they were here and the guys behind them weren’t getting the playing time to develop. I think we learned a good lesson from that.” Now, Villanova enters league play stacked to the brim with talented guards, as well as strong frontcourt players like JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu, and their upcoming opponents can’t be too excited to see the Wildcats on the schedule.
  5. Big East commissioner Val Ackerman considers the Butler basketball program as a great model for what she believes the entire conference can achieve as a hoops-focused league in a college athletics landscape largely dominated by football revenues. She believes that schools can thrive in athletics without big time college football, and uses Butler’s recent Final Four runs as a strong example: “It was a bold move, don’t get me wrong, for all these schools to essentially say, ‘We’re not going to get into the football arms race’, but the commonality is what separates this league from others, and certainly from what the old Big East had become in terms of the division of interest between large and small, football and non-football.” Butler should reap the benefits of membership as well. As Zak Keefer notes, Butler’s conference schedule has been upgraded to include teams like Georgetown and Villanova as opposed to the Horizon League opponents it regularly faced, and increased exposure in places like New York City, where the conference will host its conference tournament, should help its recruiting take off.
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Val Ackerman The Right Pick To Head The New Big East

Posted by mlemaire on June 27th, 2013

In a landscape where powerful state universities and brand-name colleges feverishly chase the big TV money pouring out of college football, the schools in the new Big East announced to the rest of the conferences that things were going to be different in their league when they hired former WNBA president Val Ackerman to be the conference’s first commissioner Wednesday. The schools in the Big East don’t really care about college football money, because their conference was built on the principle of basketball above all else. The “Catholic 7″ defected from the Big East in December 2012 primarily because they felt their football-first partners didn’t have their best interests in mind, and you shouldn’t need to review recent NCAA Tournament results to understand that strengthening the conference’s basketball profile was the driving motivation behind the additions of Creighton, Xavier, and Butler.

Ackerman Has Been Successful Everywhere

Ackerman Has Been Successful Everywhere

If the then-Big East and now-American Athletic Conference hired former CBS Sports Executive Mike Aresco to land a lucrative television deal that would help the conference keep up with the Jones’, then the new Big East hired Ackerman because they saw the Jones’ adding a guest house and decided they would rather pick up their basketball and head to the playground instead. Let’s be clear, the schools in the Big East didn’t lark out on their own for any altruistic reasons and they aren’t exactly rebelling against the establishment because they need television revenue to survive just as badly as the schools and conferences do. They just recognized that the path to enriching themselves involved becoming the biggest and baddest basketball conference in the country, and the 12-year deal from Fox Sports that followed the arrival of Creighton, Xavier, and Butler proves that in 500 million different ways.

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Morning Five: 06.27.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 27th, 2013

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  1. It’s NBA Draft day, and we here in college basketball land will once again watch the proceedings to bid adieu to the one-year wonders and four-year plodders alike. Weak draft or not, the harsh reality is that most of these players will never be heard from again by any of us, but there’s always the hope that the next Kawhi Leonard or Paul George is hidden somewhere among the busts. One of the interesting notes with this year’s draft is that there’s no consensus on which player will be the first chosen — as many as seven individuals, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, Maryland’s Alex Len, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Michigan’s Trey Burke, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, appear to be in the mix. The smart money probably lies with Noel heading to Cleveland to join Kyrie Irving, but it’s highly likely that a redrafting of this group in five years would look very different. For additional prep for tonight, check out the mock drafts at NBADraft.net, DraftExpress, and Chad Ford’s Insider; as well as our own RTC Draft Profiles series, and the RTC Offseason Podcast: NBA Draft Edition, featuring draft profiler and columnist Bennet Hayes. Plenty of great material there. 
  2. We’ve been waiting on this series to finish up before linking to it, but the Emory Sports Marketing Analytics group has been rolling out some data and related conclusions examining power conference schools’ ability in putting players into the NBA Draft (the entire series of posts is here). The one thing we will laud them for here is controlling for the incredibly important factor that the bigger and better schools recruit the best talent — a bit of a chicken-and-egg argument always ensues. Does Duke, for example, put a bunch of players in the NBA because they recruit great players, or because they develop and therefore produce great draft picks? The truth is both, but ferreting out how much of each input should be allocated is the hardest part. These guys try to explain away that issue with their analysis, but the time frame chosen (2002-11) creates another confounding issue. How important is the school — in other words, the brand and the physical university — versus the head coach when it comes to recruiting and player development? In our opinion, that distinction is significant. Tubby Smith was great at developing players at Kentucky; but John Calipari is great at recruiting them. In this analysis, Kentucky the program gets credit for both, and falls to third in the SEC as a result. Is Vanderbilt (and by proxy, Kevin Stallings) the best program in the SEC at “converting” talent to the NBA Draft? It seems a specious argument based on essentially one group of players, but we’re withhold a longer criticism until we see the next steps they have planned with this data set (which does look promising).
  3. We may have found our next Russell Westbrook in this year’s NBA Draft, and he goes by the name Trey Burke. No, we’re not suggesting that the NPOY has the explosiveness or all-around game that the NBA All-Star for the Oklahoma City Thunder has, but he may be very well on his way to matching Westbrook’s oft-ridiculous but always-talked about style. GQ Magazine chose the Michigan star as their top style pick in this year’s draft, and we have to say from our view that we’ll remain happy seeing the cocksure point guard in his jersey and basketball shorts. If he’s lucky, maybe he’ll get some run on Inside the NBA next season for more than just his play, though.
  4. The Big East got its (rumored) woman, as former WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman was announced as the league’s new boss Wednesday. With the league formally opening up operations on Monday and in desperate need of a manager who can get things done — like, say, building a fall sports schedule — this appears on its face to be a strong move. Ackerman is widely respected within the basketball community, having played at Virginia, helped to found and build the WNBA in the mid-1990s, and acted as the president of USA Basketball for a successful period during the last decade. We’ll have a bit more on this on our Big East microsite later this morning, but it goes without saying that a bright, basketball-centric person with significant organization and business experience is a superb hire.
  5. Finally, the NCAA was busy handing out reprimands on Wednesday, as Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, Kansas head coach Bill Self, and a Wichita State associate athletic director named Darron Boatright were all censured for incidents during the NCAA Tournament. Henderson’s one-gun salute to La Salle fans after his team’s loss in the Round of 32 warranted his reprimand, while Self’s slamming of the scorer’s table during the Jayhawks’ win over UNC in that same round was cause for his. The Wichita State official’s reprimand was the most peculiar, as Boatright apparently got into a confrontation with a Staples Center security officer prior to the Shockers’ Sweet Sixteen contest against La Salle. It’s a good thing that the NCAA enforcement staff is all over these incidents, that’s for sure.
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