Bracket Prep: East Region Analysis

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 18th, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), Midwest (11 AM), South (1 PM), West (3 PM). Here, Brian Otskey (@botskey) breaks down the East Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC East Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCeastregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Brian breaking down the East Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

East Region

Favorite: #1 Indiana (27-6, 14-5 Big Ten). Ranked No. 1 in 10 of the 19 AP Top 25 polls this season (through last week), Indiana is the strong favorite in this region. The Hoosiers won the Big Ten regular season title but fell to Wisconsin in the conference tournament semifinals this past Saturday. Indiana fans are definitely bummed that their team won’t be playing in the Indianapolis regional but they will still show up. IU fans travel as well as any school in the country.

Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers earned the top seed in the East region (Photo: Andy Lyons)

Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers earned the top seed in the East region (Photo: Andy Lyons)

Should They Falter: #2 Miami (27-6, 18-3 ACC). It has been a dream season in Coral Gables as Miami won both the ACC regular season and tournament titles. History, however, is against this team. Miami has made only one Sweet Sixteen appearance (1999-2000) in program history, representing the furthest this program has ever ventured into March. Also, nobody on the roster has ever played in an NCAA Tournament game. There are positives, though. Head coach Jim Larranaga obviously had a memorable run with George Mason in 2006 and most of Miami’s major contributors are older, veteran players. It’s much easier to win when you’re coaching 22- and 23-year olds rather than 18- and 19-year olds.

Grossly Overseeded: #4 Syracuse (26-9, 14-8 Big East). Despite advancing to the Big East championship game and playing better than Louisville for 24 minutes in that game, Syracuse’s overall profile looks more like a #5 or #6 seed rather than a #4. The Orange were just 5-5 in true road games, under .500 against the RPI top 50 and only 12-9 against the top 100. Before the Big East Tournament run, Syracuse had lost seven of its last 12 regular season games. There’s no doubt the week at Madison Square Garden helped Jim Boeheim’s team (as it historically has), but Syracuse is still too high for my liking.

Grossly Underseeded: #14 Davidson (26-7, 20-1 Southern Conference). Stephen Curry put Davidson on the map with a magical run to the 2008 Elite Eight, the only NCAA Tournament victories for the Wildcats since 1969. This year’s edition is pretty good in its own right. Coached by Bob McKillop, who has now made a respectable seven NCAA Tournament appearances in his 24 years at the small school near Charlotte, North Carolina, the Wildcats won 26 games and lost only once in conference play. Davidson challenged itself in the non-conference, playing the #20-rated schedule that included games against Gonzaga, Duke and New Mexico. Davidson has just two top 100 wins but we figured a 26-win team that scheduled up would have been rewarded with something other than a #14 seed. Ken Pomeroy’s rating projects only a four-point loss to Marquette so it’s clear that the Wildcats are capable of winning a game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 02.07.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 7th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Providence got 26 solid minutes from junior forward Lee Goldsborough and 25 points from Kadeem Batts as they pulled the probable upset of the week, beating Cincinnati 54-50 to wreck the Bearcats’ momentum. Goldsborough is seeing increased minutes because Sidiki Johnson left the team and the little-used junior made the most of them by making all three of his baskets, grabbing four offensive rebounds, coming through with a number of excellent defensive plays as well. We just talked yesterday about the importance of Cooley finding players who actually want to be at Providence and hearing Goldsborough describe the way he was feeling as “over the moon” it sounds like the Friars have at least a few players who believe in the program and want to help it succeed.
  2. From the opposite perspective, this was a bad loss for a Cincinnati team that seemed to be finding its footing in the conference. The Bearcats’ offense was stagnant and listless all evening and coach Mick Cronin ripped into his team a little bit calling the loss “ugly” while also accepting blame for not getting the team ready to play. The Bearcats would have loved to head into their three-game home stand with a lot of momentum, but instead they let a vastly undermanned and disorganized Providence team jump out to an early lead and hold onto it in the second half. The team’s over-reliance on Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright for its offense is troubling and could be an issue when they play better teams. But for now they just need to make sure they don’t let this bad loss snowball and turn into a losing a streak that could knock them out of the conference race.
  3. St. John’s held off a furious second half rally from Connecticut last night to secure a much-needed seventh conference win. With nothing to play for, the loss stings the Huskies less and the win helps the Johnnies remain in striking distance of the teams at the top of the conference. Moreover, the Red Storm did it all without their starting point guard, Jamal Branch, and responded well when they were punched in the mouth at the start of the second half proving that this season’s team may have what it takes to keep from folding and make the NCAA Tournament. Branch’s replacement, Marc-Antoine Bourgalt, may not have the same playmaking ability, but he did provide a surprising scoring bunch (11 points) and helped lead an all-around impressive defensive effort. Now the Johnnies will begin preparing for road games at Syracuse and Louisville this week with a little bit of a buffer in the standings.
  4. After watching studs Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom leave for the NBA, everyone seemed to think that Marquette had an excellent team, they just weren’t sure who would step out from the pack and become to the go-to-guy. As conference play has got under way, junior guard Vander Blue has assuaged some of these concerns nicely. He had just 13 points in last night’s blowout win over South Florida but he has been a driving force offensively for the Golden Eagles. The once highly-touted guard has taken a few years to blossom, but his steady offensive presence and ability to defend multiple positions is one of the main reasons the Golden Eagles are surprising folks and sit close to the top of the Big East standings. It is indeed rather uncanny the way Buzz Williams develops one of these elite players every year .
  5. The last game of the night featured Louisville overcoming yet another sluggish first half to cruise to a 20-point win over Rutgers. The Cardinals were lethargic in the first half and then, as they have seemingly done all year, they turned up the defensive intensity in the second half and quickly sank the Scarlet Knights’ potential upset bid. The Cardinals will be able to get away with this type of Jekyl and Hyde style of play against lesser teams like Rutgers, but that inconsistency is exactly the type of thing that could derail Louisville’s national title hopes. They showed in the second half that when they are focused, they are a runaway steamroller. But they aren’t always focused and running smoothly, so figuring out how to become more consistent should be top priority for Rick Pitino the rest of the way.
Share this story

Louisville’s Decisive Win Shows Progress, Shifts Scrutiny to Marquette

Posted by Will Tucker on February 3rd, 2013

Marquette took the outright lead in the Big East when Syracuse lost at Pittsburgh on Saturday. That distinction was short-lived, as the Golden Eagles emerged from their game against Louisville the next day with a humbling 70-51 defeat and the league’s upper echelon nipping at their heels. Beneath Marquette and the slumping Orange suddenly lie four teams a half-game behind at 6-3, including the resurgent Cardinals. The game put to bed several of the lingering misgivings about whether Rick Pitino’s team had really turned a corner after  its close win over Pitt last Monday. Rebounding and shooting percentage defense had been of particular concern. The win over the Panthers was a messy affair in which neither team could corral many defensive rebounds. It had also marked the third time in four games that the Cardinals gave up more than 44% shooting from beyond the arc.

(Credit AP)

Louisville’s transition offense got back on track against Marquette (Credit AP)

Neither issue manifested against Marquette, though. After a vexing first five minutes in which Louisville failed to make a field goal, Pitino plugged in energetic backups Montrezl Harrell and Stephan Van Treese. In about 10 first-half minutes apiece, the big men combined to hit each of their three shots (all dunks) and grab five offensive rebounds. Their enthusiasm also lifted the play of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, who entered halftime with a cumulative 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists and would finish the game with 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting. Fundamentally sound rebounding from every position and stingy man-to-man defense catalyzed a 37-15 run that sent the Cardinals to halftime with a 14-point lead.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 01.28.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 28th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

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

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

Share this story

Big East M5: End of the World (And I Feel Fine) Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 21st, 2012

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. The system that Buzz Williams has put into place at Marquette has generally done a good job of preventing major letdowns after the Golden Eagles lose significant contributors. However, this year’s Marquette squad has struggled at times, especially during Wednesday’s loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay. What looked to be a solid core that includes Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan, Davante Gardner, Jamil Wilson, and Chris Otule has really struggled to score this year, with only Blue and Gardner averaging double figures in points at just over 12 per game each. The Eagles are 162nd in the country in scoring this season, at 68.6 points per game
  2. Many coaches contend that some of the best games for a developing team are the ones that count in the win column but feel like losses. Jim Boeheim’s 900th career victory sure felt like a loss in many ways, and he will find plenty of teachable moments in Syracuse‘s near-collapse against Detroit. This was the first game all year where the Orange really had their backs against the wall, and that situation provides good feedback to Boeheim and his coaching staff. “These are things that usually you don’t learn from games that you win, but usually players almost need to lose a game to really think about things such as ‘this is what we have to do’ and I think this game feels more like a loss. It’s good to get one that feels like it but isn’t and I think we’ll be able to look at some plays.”
  3. The Kevin Ollie situation seems to be wearing on UConn, as evidenced by comments made by Shabazz Napier following a Thursday practice: “Warde (Manuel), our AD, we all know what he’s doing… After (beating) Michigan State, I felt like he was going to get this job, but sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. I’ve kind of come to terms that, no matter what we do, it’s not going to be in our hands. We can win as many games as we want, I still don’t believe it’s going to be in our hands where he’s going to give him a job.” With no postseason prospects to look forward to, the chance to win long-term job security for Ollie is one of the tangible things that the Huskies have to play for this year; but if new athletic director Manuel is really that difficult to win over, it will be interesting to see how the team reacts.
  4. One of the major categories that hurt USF early on this year was their mediocre efforts on the glass. Enter: Victor Rudd. After seeing the Bulls get dominated in the rebounding department through the first few games of the year, Rudd took it upon himself to excel in this area and he is now averaging 8.2 boards per game, good for third in the Big East. Rudd’s rebounding prowess, coupled with improved play from Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and Anthony Collins, has helped the Bulls recover from a slow start. USF has won four of its last five games, with the only loss coming to a ranked Oklahoma State squad.
  5. According to Blue and Gold Illustrated‘s Wes Morgan, Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant has a bruised back and may miss the Irish’s game against Niagara tonight. After scoring 14 points the last time out, Grant left Notre Dame’s game against Kennesaw State after a collision with an Owls player. Grant, who is second on the Irish in scoring this year, would be a big loss if he misses extended time, but Mike Brey’s squad should not have any issue with a 5-6 Niagara squad tonight with or without him in the lineup.
Share this story

Big East M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 30th, 2012

  1. The SEC/Big East Challenge got off to a competitive start last night with the conferences splitting four matchups and each conference scoring a decisive and impressive victory. St. John’s and Notre Dame each scored easy victories for the Big East while Marquette was blown out by Florida and Seton Hall lost a competitive tilt with LSU. The game of the evening was Notre Dame’s thorough dismantling of No. 8 Kentucky, 64-50. It was billed as a battle between youth and experience, athleticism and discipline, and after the Wildcats got off to a quick start, it quickly became apparent which traits would prevail. The young Wildcats struggled to find a rhythm in their first true road test and really look nothing like last season’s juggernaut, at least in the early part of the season. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish rebounded from a slow start and finished the game shooting 48 percent from the field and 53 percent from behind the arc. The low point for the Fighting Irish may have been when their fans RTC’d as the final buzzer sounded. The Fighting Irish are an experienced and talented team, so beating a bunch of freshmen still figuring out how to play together doesn’t count as a true upset, especially when they won so handily. Even guard Jerian Grant lamented the post-game celebrations telling reporters that the team expected to win the game. The fans should have expected that too.
  2. On the flip side, after Notre Dame handled Kentucky easily, Marquette had a chance to really put the Big East in the driver’s seat as they squared off against No. 7 Florida, and unfortunately, they ended up falling flat on their face. Coach Buzz Williams, ever the candid quote, called the 82-49 drubbing the worst loss of his career and said his team was “really bad in every way.” Williams knows his team better than anyone else, but some credit should go to the Gators, who look like one of the best teams in the country in the early part of the season. Yes, the Golden Eagles, with the exception of junior guard Vander Blue (20 points and four rebounds), were dreadful on both ends of the floor. But Billy Donovan’s club has experienced talent and depth up-and-down the roster, and Marquette is still trying to adjust to life without stars Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. It is clear Marquette is not as good as it was last year, and I think if the two teams played again in February the Gators would still win, but I would also bet that if that were to happen, we would see a different MU team than the uninspired club we saw last night.
  3. The other statement win for the conference came when the Red Storm stomped coach Frank Martin and South Carolina, 89-65 in New York. The Gamecocks’ lackluster defense allowed D’Angelo Harrison (26 points on 8-of-13 shooting) and his teammates to shoot nearly 57 percent from the floor for the game as the Johnnies controlled the game from the opening tip and overwhelmed the undermanned South Carolina squad. Steve Lavin‘s club is making noise like it could be a really good team as the season progresses, especially if Jakarr Sampson continues to blossom into a star and talented forward Orlando Sanchez gains his eligibility. The team’s two losses (to Murray State and Baylor) are respectable ones, especially for a team full of underclassmen just starting to play together, and the talent and upside of the roster is tremendous. They are deep and athletic across the board, even more so if Sanchez comes back, and they will only get better as the season goes on. Maybe the Lavin rebuilding project is further along than some think.
  4. The national contender that no one is talking about amidst this conference realignment hullabaloo is Georgetown. It makes sense since the Hoyas fields an FCS football program, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that while the Big East is crumbling, one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball remains. Coach John Thompson III didn’t seem too worried when he was asked about the changes, saying that change was inevitable in this day and age and that he didn’t want to get too caught up especially with Tennessee coming to town tonight. He also deflected questions about whether Georgetown would consider breaking off from the conference with other basketball-first programs like Marquette and Villanova to form their own conference built around basketball supremacy. It’s perfectly fine for Thompson III to focus on basketball since he will have very little influence on the direction the school takes, but school administrators and decision-makers should be very concerned about what the next step for their program is. They have a compelling product on the basketball court and multiple excellent athletic programs — albeit ones that don’t make as much money — and riding out the storm in a show of loyalty to the Big East sounds nice and all, but it could leave Georgetown in an unenviable situation should other programs like Connecticut and Cincinnati defect as they so desperately want to.
  5. DePaul appears to be on its way to another NCAA Tournament-less season, something that has become all too common in the last two decades for the Blue Demons, and to make matters worse, they still play in an outdated Allstate Arena that apparently is a real hassle for students and city-dwelling fans to get to. This piece is an excellent look at not only DePaul’s options when it comes to switching arenas when the lease with the Allstate Arena runs out after 2015, but also whether that will make any difference in the program’s long road back to respectability. One option being championed by the likes of Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is a rent-free stay at the United Center, which seems nice until you start imagining what the United Center would look like for an early season thriller between DePaul and Austin Peay. The other, more tantalizing option is a new arena closer to campus that has the backing of none other than city mayor Rahm Emmanuel. The idea is the definition of preliminary and as the article pointed out, the new arena doesn’t solve the on-court woes, but it opens the door for improvement in student and fan turnout at the very least.
Share this story

Big East M5: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on November 29th, 2012

  1. While fans are rejoicing in Louisville, the Connecticut fan base is not taking it nearly as well and for good reason. The decision to grab the Cards, while potentially only one of a few moves the ACC may make in coming years, leaves the Huskies as the premier athletic program in the Big East. The problem is, they really, really don’t want to be in the Big East anymore, because being the premier athletic program doesn’t exactly speak well to the programs left over and the programs coming in. Now UConn is left to pick up the pieces and console a fan base that sees the writing on the wall as long as their favorite team remains in the slowly decaying Big East. At the end of the day, the fact that Louisville has not one but two excellent money-making programs on its roster probably shifted the balance in their favor. The Huskies have some time to figure out their next move, but the people in charge better start thinking about it right now.
  2. Good news for Marquette today as coach Buzz Williams announced that junior guard Vander Blue would be ready to go when the Golden Eagles square off with No. 7 Florida in the SEC/Big East Challenge. The once-highly touted recruit sprained his knee in the Maui Invitational and luckily for Williams’ club, the injury wasn’t serious and he will return to action immediately. The Golden Eagles are going to need Blue’s athleticism, defensive and scoring ability against the Gators’ ballyhooed backcourt. Blue has been the team’s second-leading scorer thus far (11.4 PPG) and while he has contributed much category juice elsewhere, he is undoubtedly one of the team’s most talented players, and they will need his steady hand if they expect to beat Florida.
  3. Syracuse really couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season from its sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Buried on the bench last season because the Orange were incredibly deep in the backcourt, Williams has embraced his new starting role and has burst out of the gate, leading the nation in assists and nearly leading in steals as well. Of course Jim Boeheim’s club hasn’t exactly played a murderer’s row of opponents yet, so Carter-Williams’ numbers will likely regress some. But even so, the sophomore has proven he is plenty talented enough to hold his own once conference play begins and it is not exactly a secret how important he is to Syracuse’s success this season. He still turns the ball over a little more often than Boeheim would probably like, but that will even itself out as he gets more experience running the team. For now, the Orange and its fan base should feel pretty good about its new point guard.
  4. I am entirely too lazy to look back through my Morning Fives from last season but I seem to remember highlighting a very similar article last season, one in which a reporter highlights that Cincinnati has an excellent basketball team that struggles to draw fans to watch them play. The good news is that coach Mick Cronin and the program’s administration are well aware of the attendance issues, but the bad news is that there isn’t really a definitive plan on what to do about the problem. Cronin has a whole bag of excuses that includes lack of quality seating at his home arena and the fact that Cincinnati is a pro city and not a college town, but the fact of the matter is that crosstown rival Xavier isn’t drawing well either. It’s a real shame too because the Bearcats have the look of an excellent team and should be a real contender once March rolls around. There is no doubt the team will draw better when it plays higher-profile opponents, but hey, folks in Cincinnati, your local college has an excellent product to view, so go view it.
  5. The Bearcats aren’t the only team with attendance issues as Providence coach Ed Cooley has resorted to basically groveling to fans to get them to come out and watch the Friars play. Of course it would be a lot easier to convince oneself to go watch Providence if they were as good as Cincinnati, or even if Kris Dunn or Ricardo Ledo were suiting up. But the Friars have only a few scholarship players and while watching Bryce Cotton shoot the lights out is entertaining, Providence is not going to be very good this year, and fans don’t usually turn out to watch crappy teams lose to conference foes. Of course this is also another case where Providence has played exciting competition, and while Mississippi State rolls into town this weekend, fans probably won’t really turn out in earnest until conference play begins.
Share this story

Big East M5: 11.21.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on November 21st, 2012

  1. Just when it looked as though we had some tenuous grasp of the complexion of this year’s Big East, these early-season tournaments rolled around and threw a healthy dose of chaos into the equation. UConn followed its marquee debut win against Michigan State with a loss to New Mexico in the Virgin Islands; Depaul soundly beat by Wichita State in Mexico; Georgetown shocked an oblivious viewing public with a superb performance in Brooklyn, falling short in overtime against the top-ranked team in the nation. Marquette, having had their hearts ripped out when Rotnei Clarke hit the biggest shot of the nascent season, rebounded last night with an emphatic 89-62 win over a reeling Mississippi State team. Marquette blog Paint Touches points out that Vander Blue has shown huge improvement in Maui in his two biggest areas of weakness––outside shooting and patience in the lane. He’s racked up 39 points and hit 5 of 8 three pointers against Butler and MSU. Marquette fans should feel relieved that Blue (11 PPG, 3 RPG) and Davante Gardner (14.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG), the two players widely regarded as wildcards headed into the season, have shined on their way to a 3-1 record.
  2. In a very surprising development, Florida coach Billy Donovan revealed last night that his athletic department has reached out to Georgetown in hopes of arranging a makeup date for the second half of their ill-fated maritime opener on November 9th. While the much-anticipated juggernaut matchup had been abandoned at halftime with no plans to resume, Donovan and AD Jeremy Foley probably feel they could use the RPI injection from a Hoyas team that already has a top-15 win under its belt. Donovan spoke enthusiastically about the possibility of a rematch, identifying a few dates in early January that could work for the Gators: “Both teams agreed to play before the year started. Let’s just play a game and help each other out here.”
  3. Yesterday, St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Steve Eighinger filed a profile on hometown product Cameron Biedscheid, who’s putting together a productive freshman campaign at Notre Dame. The versatile 6’8 forward is averaging 6.3 PPG and has firmly established himself in Mike Brey’s seven-man rotation. The most salient quote from the Biedscheid provides a glimpse of the selfishness and mutual trust that seems to pervade the Irish locker room this year: “Coming in, I knew we had a lot of veteran guys on our roster…I knew just from playing in practice with them that they would have my back out there. I knew they would talk me through everything and make sure that I was doing the right things on the floor.”
  4. Joseph Santoliquito at CBS Philadelphia writes that Villanova’s freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono leads his team in scoring and assists less than a year after surgery to repair a herniated disk cost him his entire senior season. Arcidiacono credits a persistent optimism and healthy sense of detachment as responsible for his incredible recovery: “I never think about my back injury. To me, I never had back surgery. When people ask how my back is doing, I ask, ‘What back?’ The surgery never honestly took place. I had some doubts, but I found out I was strong enough to get through it and get back to where I was.” Jay Wright sees shades of a prolific former point guard in the freshman’s unwavering confidence: “Scottie Reynolds was the same way as a freshman…Reynolds has a record for nine turnovers in a game, but only because he wouldn’t stop after the second or third turnover. He just kept coming, and coming. I think Arch will be the same kind of kid. I think he’ll have some bad nights, but his bad nights will be from trying to do too much, and I like that.” Arcidiacono had the first such night of his young college career yesterday, shooting 3-11 (1-8 from long range) in Villanova’s embarrassing 75-57 home loss to Columbia. It’s no doubt better to gain the instructive perspective of a humbling loss early in the season, and utilize lessons learned once the games gain significance after the New Year.
  5. Lastly, Rick Bozich at the Courier-Journal yesterday published a story about a community-based boarding school in a depressed West Louisville neighborhood that will break ground this week a gym named in honor of Darrell Griffith, UofL’s most famous Doctor of Dunk. “No matter what athletic ability that you have, you’ve got to have an education,” said Griffith, who first dunked a basketball at the defunct Virginia Avenue Elementary School on whose former site the West End School now sits. “You’ve got to find your way in life. And it starts at this level.” Said fellow Cardinal alum Junior Bridgeman, who helped fund the $2 million structure: “If you’re going to hold up someone and say, ‘He’s from here. Look what he became in life and look what he accomplished in life.  It’s not a matter of where you’re from.’ You couldn’t have a better person than Darrell Griffith. It’s great that we can honor him that way. He deserves it and the kids need to know about him.” It’s a profoundly encouraging account of former college athletes taking an active role in community stewardship, and a welcome reprieve from the shallow avarice of conference realignment that’s gripped Louisville this week.
Share this story

The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East Summer Capsules: Marquette Golden Eagles

Posted by mlemaire on August 6th, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Marquette.

1. Will the Golden Eagles get Todd Mayo back and when?

Marquette Needs Todd Mayo To Provide Scoring, Too Bad He Is Suspended Indefinitely. Photo: Getty Images

As a freshman last season, Todd Mayo showed moments of brilliance for Marquette. Sure, he was a streaky shooter who took some questionable shots and turned the ball over a lot for a guy who doesn’t work with the ball in his hands all that often, but he was also a freshman, and a very talented one. Coming into next season, many have pegged Mayo as the team’s breakout offensive star thanks to the increased touches he is likely to see with Darius Johnson-Odom gone and the assumption he would improve his game over the course of the summer. Those plans have been put on hold for now though as in late June news leaked that coach Buzz Williams had suspended Mayo indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Since then, absolutely no information has been released about what the violation was or how long Mayo will be suspended, but some have speculated the sophomore will miss a large chunk of time if he even returns at all. Williams wouldn’t have suspended Mayo indefinitely unless it was warranted, but this is a disappointing turn for both Mayo and the program. The 6-foot-3 guard had the look of a breakout player poised to become one of the more versatile offensive weapons in the country and his team definitely needed that scoring punch. Now everyone will just have to wait until the powers that be decide Mayo has served his punishment or that he is not worth the trouble, and who knows how long that wait will take.

2. How will they replace Jae Crowder?

With Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan,Trent Lockett, and potentially Mayo all returning to campus with another season of experience under their belts, the backcourt should be one of the team’s strengths, even with the news that junior college transfer T.J. Taylor is leaving the program for personal reasons. The real question will be how the Golden Eagles plan to replace their do-everything forward and reigning conference player of the year, Jae Crowder. Crowder was second on the team in scoring, first on the team in rebounding and steals, and was an irreplaceable defender because of his athleticism and versatility. The onus now falls on forwards Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson. Both players were leaned upon heavily last season, and each showed flashes of their potential, especially Gardner who finished third on the team in scoring (9.7 PPG) despite starting just 19 games. Unless  Williams got hit on the head and changed his philosophy, the Golden Eagles will still be a stingy defensive team without Crowder, where Gardner and Wilson will really need to step up is on the offensive end of the floor and on the glass. The team has perimeter weapons, but in order to keep the defense honest, they will need one of their bruising forwards to become a consistent offensive threat. The presumptive favorite to fill that role best is Gardner, but he will need to stay healthy to make that happen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 21st, 2012

  1. The good news for Georgetown was with their NCAA Tournament second round victory over Belmont the Hoyas snapped a two-year NCAA one-and-done streak.  The bad news?  A third round loss to #11 seed North Carolina State meant another early tournament upset exit at the hands of a double-digit seed.  Of course this type of thing falls right into the wheelhouse of doomsday embracing fans and nay saying media but, as this Bleacher Report piece by Bryan Toporek aptly points out, to call for John Thompson III’s head at this point would not only be premature, it would be foolish.  Thompson has led the Hoyas to six twenty win seasons in the last seven, including a Final Four appearance in 2007.  He has consistently brought in high level recruits and players that fit his system well and is one of three finalists for Nerlens Noel, the nation’s best high school senior and a potential game changer.  Lastly, even if one could put the previous points aside and still want Thompson III to go, who do you replace him with?  The grass is not always greener on the other side.
  2. This just in.  College kids party. That is why it comes as no surprise to find out that six Marquette players, who are not of drinking age, received citations for being in a nightclub back on January 29. The players: Todd Mayo, Vander Blue, Jamail Jones, Juan Anderson, Derrick Wilson, and Jake Thomas were not believed to be drinking.  Head coach Buzz Williams acknowledged the issue was dealt with later the same day as January 29 was a Sunday.  Reading between the lines it sounds like Williams handled it the old fashioned way with some good old intense physical fitness early on a Sunday morning.  It is not known if the February partial game suspensions of Mayo, Blue as well as Junior Cadugan and Darius Johnson-Odon during Marquette’s February 24 game at West Virginia were related to the nightclub incident. This is also not expected to impact any of the players’ status for the Golden Eagles sweet sixteen contest against Florida on Thursday.
  3. The University of Rhode Island has hired a young upstart coach in Danny Hurley away from Wagner to be its head coach and revive a struggling program that has not been heard from nationally for awhile.  College basketball fans in southern New England only have to look back a year, and a short distance up route 95 north, to when Providence hired Ed Cooley with the same goals in mind. Providence and Rhode Island have a great and long standing interstate rivalry, so it is likely that the comparisons between Hurley and Cooley will be fodder for discussion in the Ocean State for some time to come as their journeys are now aligned. Further, as this article by Kevin Farrahar of friarbasketball.net outlines, Friar fans should be happy about Hurley’s hire because it gives more cachet to the rivalry, especially if both coaches have overall success, and is good for the suffering state of college basketball in Rhode Island on the whole.  Further buzz will be created by the news that Danny’s brother Bobby, the former Duke star, apparently will join him in Kingston as an assistant rather than moving into the head role at Wagner as had been rumored.
  4. Marquette received a verbal commitment from a hometown star yesterday as Milwaukee’s Dominican High School point guard Duane Wilson, a member of the class of 2013, pledged for the Golden Eagles.  Wilson is ranked 128th nationally by Rivals.com and an ESPN.com grade of 92 (out of 100).  “The main reason that made me go to Marquette was coach Buzz Williams,” Wilson told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “That was my first scholarship offer and they stayed on me. I just really liked his attitude. He gets the best out of his players all the time and they just play hard.”  The highly recruited Wilson chose Williams and Marquette over the likes of Missouri and Memphis among others.
  5. The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) announced its All-America teams yesterday and the Big East checked in with three honorees spanning the second and third teams.  West Virginia senior forward Kevin Jones (19.9 PPG, 10.9 RPG) and Syracuse senior forward Kris Joseph (13.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG) were named to the NABC’s second team. Marquette senior forward Jae Crowder (17.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG), who edged out Jones for Big East Player of the Year honors, received third team All-America honors.  The first team consisted of: Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Draymond Green (Michigan State), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Thomas Robinson (Kansas), and Jared Sullinger (Ohio State).
Share this story

Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 27th, 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

  • Temple In Big East Talks: The Big East may have a new all-sport member as early as this fall if the reports are true that the Temple Owls are in discussions about joining the conference.  Adding Temple to the mix would be terrific for Big East basketball. While Syracuse is irreplaceable, you could make an argument that Temple and Memphis offset the departures of West Virginia and Pittsburgh. The enhanced stature of these two programs in the Big East will help fuel recruiting and could easily make them equal to what WVU and Pitt are right now. Temple will make its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance next month, its 30th in a storied history. The Owls have made two Final Fours and five Elite Eights, better than both Pittsburgh and West Virginia (WVU has two Final Fours, Pitt has one). Memphis has been to more Final Fours and Elite Eights as well, although two were vacated (1985 and 2008). All in all, I’d argue that the Big East hit a grand slam with Temple and Memphis, should this all go through. The league simply couldn’t have done better given the constraints it faced.
  • Punching Your Ticket And Voiding It In The Same Week: One could argue that Seton Hall and Cincinnati punched their NCAA Tournament tickets with wins over Georgetown and Louisville, respectively, last week. However, both squads lost over the weekend (to Rutgers and South Florida), wiping out the good vibes from huge home wins earlier in the week. As of right now, the Pirates and Bearcats are likely still in the Tournament, but in much more precarious positions than before. In late-season college basketball, nothing is ever a sure thing until all the games are played. A team’s status can change at a moment’s notice.  

Syracuse Senior Scoop Jardine Helped Lead The Orange To A Title-Clinching Win Over Connecticut. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (29-1, 16-1) – The men in orange just keep moving right along, picking up two more wins this past week. Finding a way to win is so cliché, but it has been the theme with this group over the last few weeks. Syracuse has moved its record to 29-1 with seven of their nine wins since the loss to Notre Dame coming by ten points or less. In the win over South Florida, Syracuse overcame 35% shooting and a 20-7 Bulls run to start the game by going on a massive 26-0 run that started about midway through the first half and bled deep into the second. Kris Joseph struggled shooting, but Scoop Jardine picked him up by scoring 15 points. Joseph rebounded in a big way with 21 points at Connecticut while Fab Melo added 11 points and nine rebounds. This team has more weapons than any in the nation, allowing the Orange to overcome off nights by some of their key players. More importantly, Syracuse out-rebounded UConn, 39-35. That’s significant because of what the Huskies bring to the table in their front court and Syracuse’s awful rebounding numbers that have persisted throughout the season. With the win at UConn, Syracuse officially clinched the Big East regular season title, something everyone knew was going to happen as early as when the calendar flipped to January. This week: 3/3 vs. #23 Louisville.
  2. Marquette (24-5, 13-3) – There are teams more talented than Marquette out there, but you will not find one with a greater will to win than this bunch of Golden Eagles. You might as well call them their old nickname, the Warriors, because that’s exactly what they are. Jae Crowder made his case for Big East Player of the Year last week in grand fashion, totaling 53 points in two wins over Rutgers and West Virginia. Crowder dominated West Virginia’s Kevin Jones in their head-to-head matchup and may have moved in front of Jones in the POY race in the process. Crowder certainly plays for a better team and that has to enhance his case even more. Despite Buzz Williams suspending Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan for the first half against West Virginia and Todd Mayo for the second half, Marquette rallied yet again to pull out a victory. I don’t understand the half-suspensions. Sit them down for the whole game if you want to make a statement, but that’s beyond the point. The Golden Eagles shot 50% for the game and forced 19 WVU turnovers, helping to offset 16 Mountaineer offensive rebounds. In the win over Rutgers, Marquette forced 21 turnovers and Johnson-Odom added 21 points alongside Crowder’s 27 as the Golden Eagles shot 54% overall. MU can close out the Big East regular season in grand style and finish with a 15-3 record if it takes care of two tough games in the coming week. This team has a legitimate chance to win the Big East Tournament and go deep in the NCAA’s. This week: 2/29 @ Cincinnati, 3/3 vs. #9 Georgetown. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story