Big East M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 15th, 2012

  1. College basketball’s signing day isn’t quite as frenzied for recruitniks as football’s, in large part due to the early signing period, which allows schools to ink recruits early, thus securing their commitment and ending much of the signing day “will he or won’t he” speculation. Cincinnati pulled in a nice three-player class with the opening of the early signing period yesterday, including Summit Country Day guard Kevin Johnson, a lifelong Bearcats fan who has flown under the radar due to injury. Mick Cronin heaped a lot of praise on his future guard: “He fits the mold of a lot of our current players. He can play a couple of different positions and he’s good with the ball in his hands. He’s an extremely unselfish player. He can beat his man whenever he wants.”
  2. It’s fairly common for the coach of a top-ranked team to downplay its abilities, especially early in the year, in order to reel his team in. Rick Pitino did just that when describing Louisville’s rebounding issues heading into the “Battle 4 Atlantis”, a preseason tournament featuring Duke, Missouri, and Memphis: “We are not ready to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis for that type of competition,” Pitino said. “We are not ready yet because we’re not rebounding the ball well enough.” This may not all be motivational bluster from Pitino, however. Louisville has gotten outrebounded by Bellarmine in an exhibition game and Manhattan already this season.
  3. Much has been written about Notre Dame’s experienced starting line up. While a number of players on the Irish have been making an impact for a few seasons, point guard Eric Atkins is becoming the straw that stirs the drink in South Bend. Atkins has stepped into a leadership role for Notre Dame, driven by the failure of last year’s team to put away 10th seeded Xavier in the NCAA Tournament after holding a double-digit lead over the Musketeers. The once-carefree guard is all business this year: “I thought it would be beneficial for me — just being serious all the time, just trying to perfect everything I’m doing, being focused the whole time… in a game, I’m still smiling. But when it comes down to practice time and getting stuff done, I’m going to be serious.”
  4. Former Syracuse basketball players Fab Melo and Kris Joseph, both of whom were drafted by the Boston Celtics, have been sent to the D-League’s Maine Red Claws. Where the D-League used to be a death sentence for a player’s career, it has recently been more utilized as a minor league system for NBA teams to develop fringe talent. Melo is still a raw player with less than five years of formal basketball under his belt, while Joseph is behind Paul Pierce and former Georgetown great Jeff Green at the small forward slot in Boston. Both players should benefit from the increased playing time at that level more than they would riding the pine in Boston.
  5. The Big East will never quite be the same after the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry ends, or at the very least crosses conference lines, after this season. The rivalry is unique in that it is almost entirely based on mutual disdain from on-court events, rather than proximity or other factors that usually spurn hated rivalries. This season’s games promise to be especially heated, with both fan bases signing on for “the most vitriol-ridden, hate-spewing iteration of the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry ever seen in the 30-plus year history of the teams’ membership in the Big East Conference.”  The flames of the rivalry were fanned by an unusual source today – U2 front man Bono, who spoke at Georgetown today, and, among other things, called beloved Syracuse mascot Otto “a fruit” to the bemusement of the present Hoya faithful. This isn’t the first time that celebrities have pandered to Syracuse or Georgetown fans while on campus by putting down the other school.  During a basketball game at the Carrier Dome last season, Shaquille O’Neal uttered the popular Syracuse catch phrase “Georgetown still sucks” while promoting an anti-binge drinking campaign. At Syracuse’s 2012 commencement, screenwriter and Syracuse alumnus Aaron Sorkin discussed accepting the different viewpoints of others “unless they’re Georgetown grads, then they can go to hell.” Needless to say, that final game in the Big East rivalry on March 9 at the Verizon Center is going to be a fun one.
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Big East M5: 10.18.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on October 18th, 2012

  1. Big East Media Day took place yesterday and produced some excellent quotes. Ed Cooley stole the show with his dry and profane take on the Big East landscape. In response to his team’s last-place ranking in the preseason coaches’ poll, the Providence coach told the media “I like when we’re overlooked, we’re going to bite some asses.” Cooley also articulated his recruiting philosophy ––“I love the ‘us against the world’ mentality. I want guys that are edgy, pissed off” –– and praised Vincent Council as “the best point guard in the country.” Buzz Williams contributed a colorful metaphor of his own when he described Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom as “a really good drug for us… we became addicts to what they gave us every day.”
  2. The eccentric egos we’ve come to expect from Big East coaches were on full display when Rick Pitino and Jim Boeheim traded barbs at Media Day. Pitino, a vocal advocate of Big East basketball, downplayed the significance of losing Syracuse to the ACC, and wondered aloud “how many fans they’re going to bring to Tobacco Road.” After catching wind of Rick’s comments, Boeheim went off: “He’s full of s**t if that’s what he really said. If he was in the Big 12 like he wanted to be, he’d be saying the Big 12 is the best. That’s the bottom line…I’m really tired of him saying what Syracuse should be or should have done because they would have left in a heartbeat. Everybody knows it.” Pitino responded by reiterating his point that while they won’t replace the fan presence of the Orange, conference newcomers Temple and Memphis will bring comparable basketball quality to the table. He also quipped that “I think [Boeheim’s] full of s**t, so we’re both full of it.”
  3. Speaking of Pitino, the Louisville coach heaped praise on interim UConn coach Kevin Ollie during interviews yesterday. He characterized the hiring as a “no-brainer” and said “there’s not a coach in the country Connecticut can hire that’s better than Kevin Ollie. He’s extremely bright; his players are going to love him. Technically, he’s very sound… Overachiever as a player, college and pro.” Learning of Pitino’s flattering comments, Ollie keenly observed “He still cut me [from the Celtics roster]. I wasn’t that smart.”
  4. The Hartford Courant produced some thorough and nuanced coverage of Media Day, including a piece on UConn players being unfazed by low expectations, heading into the season ranked in the bottom half of the Big East. Said Tyler Olander, “[In 2010], we went from 10th [in the Big East] to number one in the country. Preseason is preseason.” It’s a message of blue-collar work ethic that Kevin Ollie –– the consummate journeyman during his 13 seasons with 12 teams in the NBA –– is surely emphasizing heading into an otherwise bleak season with no postseason prospects. What’s becoming increasingly obvious in the aftermath of Jim Calhoun’s retirement is how much this Huskies team seems to adore Ollie. It will be interesting to see how the players respond with both their collective pride and their coach’s job on the line this year.
  5. The same day Mike Aresco revealed that Madison Square Garden is extending its contract to host the Big East’s postseason tournament, the Washington Post revealed that the Verizon Center has placed a bid to host the ACC Tournament. The home floor of the Georgetown Hoyas, which had hosted the tournament in 2005, is an appropriate choice for a conference in the midst of northern expansion. But the idea of Syracuse and Pitt playing on Georgetown’s home court in the ACC Tournament also highlights the acute absurdity of conference realignment.
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More Fireworks in the Nation’s Capital? NCAA Selects Washington, D.C. as Last 2013 Regional Host

Posted by EJacoby on May 17th, 2012

The 2013 NCAA Tournament will be a milestone, marking the 75th all-time ‘Big Dance’ since Oregon won the first one in 1939. A lot has changed over the years, and it’s much harder to win the Tournament in its current 68-team format than it was for the Ducks in a total field of just eight schools then. In “a concerted effort to include cities with a rich history to help mark the milestone,” according to the new VP of NCAA Championships, Mark Lewis, the committee selected Washington, D.C. as the final host of the 2013 Regionals. The nation’s capital joins previously selected Los Angeles, Indianapolis, and Arlington, Texas, as the four regional locations, with Atlanta hosting next year’s Final Four. The Verizon Center in DC has played host to several classic tournament games in recent history, and the NCAA hopes to recreate that magic next year.

George Mason Provided Fireworks in Washington, D.C. in 2006 (Washington Post)

“In the end, we think celebrating 75 years of one of the country’s favorite sporting events in our nation’s capital and a great basketball city is fitting,” said Lewis, whose committee’s decision came down to Syracuse, Brooklyn, Madison Square Garden (Manhattan), and the District of Columbia. It would have seemed fitting for MSG, the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” to have won on this criteria of rich history, but the arena faced scheduling conflicts with its priority tenants, the Knicks (NBA) and Rangers (NHL). The Verizon Center, while not nearly as historic a venue, is a more frequently-used arena for college games, serving as the primary home court for Georgetown and hosting a number of other games such as the BB&T Classic. The Hoyas will be the official host of this site and as such will be unable to play in that venue during next season’s Tourney.

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Chronicling the Georgetown-Syracuse and Duke-Carolina Rivalries

Posted by EJacoby on February 8th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor to RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

Two of the four or five greatest rivalries in college basketball resume this evening in one of the best nights of the regular season. Georgetown-Syracuse is the longest powerhouse rivalry of the Big East, while the battle for Tobacco Road is one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. Here’s a look at their histories:

Georgetown Hoyas vs. Syracuse Orange:

Georgetown and Syracuse Have Been Elite Rivals Since the Days of Patrick Ewing and Long Before (SI Photo/A. Hayt)

  • Last 5 Years – Recently, Syracuse holds a 6-4 edge in meetings since 2007. Each team has won at least once on the other’s home floor, with the road team actually winning the past three games of the series and the home team winning the previous seven. The Hoyas made the Final Four in 2007.
  • Last 10 Years – Going back further in the decade, the Orange were more dominant, holding a 12-7 total lead in the past 10 years of games. They won five in a row at one point from 2003-05, which includes their 2003 National Championship season.
  • Last 30 Years – Syracuse holds a 36-31 overall advantage in all matchups since 1980, with a total average score of 71-71 in those games. Pretty crazy. They are also in a 6-6 tie during this span in Big East Tournament matchups. Each team holds one National Championship during this time, as Georgetown got theirs in 1984. The Hoyas have four Final Four appearances, the Cuse with three. This is a truly juggernaut rivalry of Big East supremacy.

Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels:

Duke vs. Carolina: Rivalry, Defined (SI Vault)

  • Last 5 Years - North Carolina has a 6-5 edge in meetings since 2007, with each team having been crowned National Champions once during this recent history. Carolina made the Final Four in both 2008 and 2009, while Duke was the champion in 2010. Home court advantage is nearly a non-factor recently, as the road team is 5-6 in this period.
  • Last 10 Years - Duke was the much more dominant team earlier in the past decade, going 8-3 in the rivalry from 2002-06. Each team reached the Final Four, with UNC crowned as National Champions once again in 2005. Overall, Duke leads 13-11 in the past 10 years with each team taking four road games.
  • Last 30 Years - North Carolina holds a slight 38-36 edge in all matchups since 1980, with a total average score of 78-78 in the games. Again, an incredibly close matchup here. Duke has gotten the better of the Tar Heels during their ACC Tournament matchups, holding an 8-3 edge during this span. Incredibly, each team has made exactly 11 Final Four runs and won four National Titles during the past 30 years. That’s why this is the best rivalry in the game.

Tonight, Georgetown and Duke are the road teams in these games. Syracuse and Carolina are each the higher-ranked team and are expected to win, but things never go as planned in intense rivalries like these. This could be one of the final times that the Hoyas and Orange meet as Big East rivals, as Syracuse is headed to the ACC by the 2014 season and possibly before then. It will be awesome tonight, so tune in to the ESPN double-header starting at 7:00 PM ET.

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