Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On November Rituals, Head-Scratchers, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 13th, 2012

Brian Otskey is a regular contributor for RTC. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. In what seems to have become an annual November ritual, fans and members of the media tend to overreact in making bold statements about teams and players after just one or two games have been played. While I recognize that is the nature of the “what have you done for me lately?” society we live in, fans and the media alike must take a step back. While some early season wins may appear to be huge and some losses head-scratching, we all must remember that the college basketball season is a long, evolving process. The NCAA Tournament doesn’t begin for another four months. Most teams will play 12 non-conference games before they begin 16 or 18-game conference schedules.  It’s OK to say something nice about a team that came up with a great early season win or to be skeptical of a school coming off a loss you might never have expected, but making statements such as “Florida State is a bust because it lost to South Alabama!” is just plain foolish. While a loss like that certainly gives you pause, we’ve seen this movie before time and time again in November, especially as the college season has started earlier and earlier over the years. A loss to South Alabama is hardly a definitive indicator of how Florida State will perform in 2012-13. It’s just one of 30+ games the Seminoles will play this season. With that said, I do have a couple of questions about FSU. One, does the team miss the steady point guard presence of Luke Loucks from a season ago (nine assists, 17 turnovers against USA)? Two, is Leonard Hamilton’s defense not as strong as we are accustomed to seeing? South Alabama shot 9-of-15 from deep and Buffalo shot 50% overall from the floor in FSU’s second game on Monday. Those are examples of legitimate concerns, but not affirmative statements about how Florida State’s season will turn out. The Seminoles have plenty of time to come together and fix their weaknesses. Just don’t bury Florida State, or any other team for that matter, before Thanksgiving for crying out loud.

    How Much is FSU Missing Luke Loucks Right Now? (Reuters)

  2. There were quite a few of those aforementioned head-scratchers over the first four days of the season. In addition to Florida State, teams such as Mississippi State, Virginia, Rutgers, South Florida, Purdue, Drexel and Georgia all started the season on the wrong foot. Other schools including Oklahoma State, Texas and Providence struggled with inferior opponents but managed to hang on and win. In some circumstances like those faced at Mississippi State, Virginia, Georgia and Purdue, these are teams rebuilding after critical personnel losses. While it’s unfair to blast their November performance, these losses could be a sign of things to come. On the other hand, you could say a team like Drexel just had a bad night. The Dragons are a talented bunch and the overwhelming favorites in the depleted Colonial Athletic Association. Above all, however, the worst loss of them all belongs to North Texas. The Sun Belt favorites, who boast the talented Tony Mitchell, lost to Division II Alabama-Huntsville on Monday night. What does this mean? Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things but it underscores how important it is for teams to put forth maximum effort every time out. The instances in which a team can get away with an off night have shrunk over the years due to parity and better talent assembled on non-power six rosters. When trying to analyze a team at this early stage of the season, don’t dismiss a disappointing loss but don’t throw the team under the bus at the same time. There is a very long way to go. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Opening Weekend: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Posted by mlemaire on November 12th, 2012

College basketball tipped off Friday and as the weekend drew to a close, all but two Big East teams have played and only two of them lost. From Connecticut’s shocking win over Michigan State to South Florida’s disastrous debut against Central Florida, Big East fans who weren’t able to get to their televisions this weekend missed a lot of good action. Rather than recap each game individually or only focus on some of the games, we figured the best way to get the uninformed up to speed was with a broad look at some of the best and worst from conference programs this weekend.

The Good

UConn’s Surprising Victory in Germany Represented a Big East Highlight of the Weekend

  • Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie’s debut. The first year coach couldn’t have scripted a better start to his career than his team’s gritty 66-62 win over No. 14 Michigan State in Germany. Not only did the rookie head coach beat a legend in Tom Izzo, but his team played with passion and determination, especially considering they don’t have a postseason to look forward to. The good Shabazz Napier (25 points and zero turnovers) showed up for the Huskies and the defense held the Spartans to just 37.5 percent from the field for the game. Ollie isn’t going to earn a long-term contract after one game, but if he can get his team to play that hard all season, he may win over the decision-makers in Storrs.
  • Jack Cooley’s first game as Notre Dame’s offensive focal point. The team effort wasn’t great and if it wasn’t for the all-around performance of Cooley (19 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks) the Fighting Irish may have lost their season opener to Evansville. The obvious elephant in the room is that the Aces didn’t have anyone in their frontcourt remotely capable of dealing with Cooley’s size and strength, and that will definitely not be the case every week. But Cooley was ruthlessly efficient, active defensively and on the glass, and smart with the ball in the post. The Fighting Irish will need to be better on the perimeter if they want to meet expectations this season, but it is always nice to have an anchor in the post if they need it. Read the rest of this entry »
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After the Buzzer: On Aircraft Carrier Games, Kevin Ollie’s Debut, Top Five Dunks of the Weekend…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 12th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. It’s time to put all that preseason chatter on the backburner, and start drawing first impressions, because the 2012-13 season officially got underway Friday night. Unlike the murmuring fizz of an opening that usually christens a new college hoops campaign, we were treated to several high-profile clashes over the weekend. College basketball set out to establish a definitive starting point, and this year (more than any other in recent memory), it succeeded. There are inherent risks to overanalyzing single-game sample sizes, but even after just one weekend’s action, we were able to learn quite a bit about some of the teams headlining the opening weekend. 

Your Watercooler Moment. Stick to Dry Environments (or, Why Naval Ship Games Need to Only Take Place in San Diego).

Things Started Off Well, But Quickly Deteriorated With These Games

When inclement weather forecasts pushed the Syracuse-San Diego State game from Friday to Sunday, you knew this year’s slate of naval ship games were off to a bad start. That game, which concluded Sunday evening with Syracuse pretty much dominating the hometown Aztecs (62-49) in one of the Orange’s rare non-conference games outside the state of New York, was played under gorgeous 60-degree San Diego skies. The two other scheduled match-ups – Ohio State-Marquette in South Carolina and Georgetown-Florida in Jacksonville – did not proceed as planned, as both games were called off when officials noticed condensation developing on both playing surfaces. The Florida-Georgetown game tipped off and ran into the half with minimal fuss. Up the coastline, though, the slick playing surface aboard the USS Yorktown prompted coaches and players from Ohio State and Marquette to mop the court in the hope that some good old-fashioned clean-up work could diffuse mother nature’s influence on their much-hyped shipside season-opener. As both teams quickly learned, the condensation kept coming back, and officials then made the logical move of calling the game off. Spiritually, emotionally and patriotically, the outdoor aircraft carrier games are an excellent idea. Last season’s Carrier Classic, played before gorgeous vistas and naval troops, and featuring two of the nation’s most respected programs in North Carolina and Michigan State, was a definite win. And there have been few times when a college basketball non-conference game to begin the season has drawn so much national attention. It was a special night. Logistically, though, playing basketball games outdoors in November on the East Coast is fraught with risk, and event organizers learned as much Friday. If the aircraft carrier trend is to continue, the games must be played on the West Coast, where a more favorable late fall climate will increase the chances of staging contests without conflict.

Also Worth Chatting About. Give That Man a Contract (Or, Kevin Ollie Has His Squad Playing Hard).

Kevin Ollie Cannot Escape His Former Coach’s Shadow, But With Wins Like These, He May Not Have To (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The long-term status of UConn’s head coaching job remains unresolved for the moment, but we gained some clarity on the issue Friday night. Its leading candidate, former assistant Kevin Ollie, made a resounding statement to open his one-season job trial by knocking off Big Ten contender Michigan State 66-62 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The Huskies lost the core of last season’s underachieving yet talented team, including two first round draft picks (Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond) and two transfers (Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith). Backcourt mainstays Ryan Boatwright and Shabazz Napier carried the torch Friday night against the Spartans, with Napier pouring in 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting and Boatwright adding 13. Highly-touted freshman Omar Calhoun logged 25 minutes but finished with just one point, two rebounds and two assists. The season could not have begun in a better way for Ollie, who faces the massive burden of proving athletic director Warde Manuel he’s the right man for the job, the right personality to succeed the legend that preceded him in Storrs. There were concerns as to whether UConn would lack motivation this season, given their ineligibility for the postseason, but that was hardly the case Friday night. The Huskies played inspired basketball against a top-tier Big Ten foe known for its toughness and grit. If I were to grade Ollie’s job candidacy one game into the season, nothing less than an A+ would suffice.

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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.

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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #11 Providence

Posted by Will Tucker on October 18th, 2012

Friars coach Ed Cooley made waves in the national recruiting scene last summer when he snagged five-star point guard Kris Dunn out from under Jim Calhoun and other elite suitors. Providence looked like a Big East Contender days later, when Cooley convinced Ricardo Ledo to shun offers from the likes of UConn, Kentucky, Louisville and Syracuse in favor of the hometown program. But that blockbuster recruiting class may never materialize on the court, after Ledo was ruled ineligible to play next season by the NCAA and Dunn had shoulder surgery that could sideline him for most of the season. Despite these disappointing setbacks, Cooley fields a team that managed to beat vulnerable Louisville and UConn teams last year, and acquitted themselves well in several close loses. Bryce Cotton, Vincent Council, and highly touted Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson will carry the load until Dunn arrives.

2011-12 Record: 15-17, 4-14
2011-12 Postseason: None

Bryce (aka Ice) Cotton: great name, great responsibility. (credit Friarblog.com)

Schedule

The Friars benefit from a manageable non-conference schedule, highlighted by UMass, Mississippi State, Boston College and Rhode Island. Cooley’s squad should enter a brutal Big East schedule with an attractive record, but early losses against Louisville and Syracuse in the first half of January will temper their confidence. Despite a scheduled home-and-home with Syracuse, Providence’s conference slate has limited exposure to this year’s heavy hitters. Winnable two-game series against Seton Hall, UConn and Villanova punctuate the 2012-2013 schedule.

Who’s In

Preseason First Team All-Big East point guard Vincent Council (39 mpg, 15.9 ppg, 7.5 apg) is complemented by productive upperclassmen LaDontae Henton (37 mpg, 14.3 ppg) and Bryce Cotton (39 mpg, 14.3 ppg). That nucleus should give the Friars the physical tools and experience necessary to anchor a serviceable Big East team. The returning starters are complemented by blue chip Connecticut point guard Kris Dunn, who could become conference Rookie of the Year despite being sidelined early in the season by rehab from shoulder surgery. 6’5” 3-star Hampton, Virginia sharpshooter Josh Fortune brings additional length to the Friars’ wings. But Cooley’s greatest recruiting coup to date also happens to be the roster’s biggest question mark; Providence’s prodigal son and major NBA prospect Ricky Ledo is academically ineligibility this fall. If his NCAA appeal goes well and he gains eligibility in the second semester, Providence could easily finish strong and break into the top half of the conference. PC also gains an injection of frontcourt talent in Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson. A promising 4-star power forward recruit out of high school, Johnson only played seven cumulative minutes before getting in hot water for a violation of team rules and eventually transferring. Johnson remains an unproven commodity, which is a common thread when looking over Providence’s frontcourt.

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Big East M5: 10.17.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on October 17th, 2012

  1. The biggest news of the morning is the release of the preseason Big East coaches’ pollLouisville was almost unanimously pegged as the conference top dog as the Cardinals received 14 of 15 first-place votes. The other first-place vote went to Notre Dame even though the Fighting Irish ended up behind Syracuse in the overall voting. Peyton Siva was tabbed as the preseason conference player of the year, and joined by teammates Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan on the First Team and Honorable Mentions lists, respectively. Syracuse (CJ Fair and Brandon Triche) and Notre Dame (Jack Cooley and Jerian Grant) each placed two players on the team.
  2. To piggyback on the Media Day honors and rankings, it’s pretty wild for a player on the last-place team make the First Team All Big East list. If anything, it demonstrates the respect shared around the league for Providence senior Vincent Council, who has become somewhat of a conference institution despite his team’s performance over his tenure. But this evaluative disparity also underscores the opinion that Ed Cooley’s star freshmen won’t be around enough to make any real traction. As FriarBlog speculates, Providence hasn’t placed a player on the preseason First Team since Ryan Gomes in 2004.
  3. Georgetown will apparently square off on October 28 against North Carolina, in what is being uncomfortably described as a “secret scrimmage.” The Hoyas made the same trip a year ago, under an NCAA provision that allows a team to replace one of its preseason cupcakes with another Division I team so long as the game is privately held and no official score is kept. The lost (and newly found) Dream Team practice tapes have nothing on these games.
  4. UConn issued a press release on Tuesday announcing that the school has secured the initial funding necessary to break ground on a new basketball facility. In light of a $2 million gift from Mark and Rosalind Shenkman, the UConn Foundation revealed that it has raised 75% of the $32 million it needs to complete construction, and that the remaining $8 million will be sought through financing. The creatively named UConn Basketball Development Center will abut Gampel Pavilion on the former site of the now-razed Memorial Stadium. The new facility should foster a greater sense of geographical continuity for UConn basketball.
  5. Highly touted class of 2013 point guard Roddy Peters made his college decision yesterday morning, electing to take his talents to Maryland to play for Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins. Georgetown and Rutgers were among the impressive list of recruiting also-rans, which additionally included Kansas and UCLA. On Thursday, Georgetown gets another opportunity to bag a top-50 recruit when Memphis big man Johnathan Williams III makes his college choice.
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Big East Summer Capsules: Providence Friars

Posted by mlemaire on July 19th, 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. First up is Providence.

1. Setbacks to the much ballyhooed 2012 recruiting class.

Questions About The Eligibility Of Ricardo Ledo Continue To Swirl

First it was five-star guard Kris Dunn announcing he would miss at least five months after surgery to repair a torn labrum. Then it was fellow point guard recruit Ian Baker tearing his ACL, which will likely keep him out for all of next season. Throw in the continued eligibility concerns about top shooting guard Ricardo Ledo and Providence fans have reason to be concerned about their once highly-anticipated recruiting class.  Ed Cooley continues to remain positive that Ledo will become eligible, and the Friars still have enough backcourt depth to survive the absences of Dunn and Baker, but it is still a major disappointment considering the hype surrounding this recruiting class and the hope it gave to the program’s future.

2. The Big East didn’t do them any favors when it came to scheduling.

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Two of Nation’s Top Point Guards Facing Potentially Serious Injuries

Posted by EJacoby on June 25th, 2012

It’s been well documented that the point guard position was not a strong suit of Division I basketball last year, and the same applies for the incoming class of freshmen players. The last thing we need is for some of the country’s elite lead guards to suffer setbacks this offseason heading into 2012-13, but it appears that’s exactly what has happened over the past week. NC State’s rising junior Lorenzo Brown is set to undergo knee surgery this week, and incoming Providence stud Kris Dunn suffered a recent shoulder injury that could require surgery as well. Brown’s procedure is notable as only ‘exploratory’ and should not leave him sidelined for more than several weeks, but knee surgeries are never good news for quick guards. It often takes far longer than the required rehab time before a player returns to 100% health and regains the trust to rely on his knee for all the cuts required during games. Dunn’s status, meanwhile, remains unknown but could become a far more serious issue that requires several months of rehabilitation. Both players could also end up fine for the upcoming season — still over four months away — but their teams could also become affected during parts or all of the year.

Lorenzo Brown is a versatile guard for NC State and hopes to avoid a serious knee injury after exploratory surgery this week (AP Photo/C. Burton)

Brown averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game as a sophomore last season for a late-surging Wolfpack team that made a strong run to the Sweet Sixteen. The heady guard has terrific size at 6’5″ that enables him to see the floor well and defend at a high level; he even averaged half a block per game last year. He’s the leader of a preseason top 15 team who led the squad in minutes played last season. Luckily, Mark Gottfried’s team also has incoming McDonald’s All-American freshman Tyler Lewis as its backup point guard, but he is not ready or able to handle all the responsibilities that Brown does — Lewis would fit much better as a rotating reserve to start his career. Hopefully, Brown’s surgery doesn’t reveal anything particularly damaging and the veteran can re-join the team long before the season starts, but having a procedure to “discover the source of pain” leaves reason for temporary concern.

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Handicapping Next Season’s SEC/Big East Challenge Matchups

Posted by EJacoby on June 4th, 2012

The Big East sent more teams (nine) to last year’s NCAA Tournament than any other conference, while the SEC compiled the best winning percentage (.769) during the Big Dance. The two leagues are squaring off next season in the second annual SEC/Big East Challenge, whose matchups were announced on Friday. With plenty to offer in the form of juggernaut teams and program traditions, the idea of this event should provide great intrigue to the non-conference season, something the Big Ten and ACC have done in their cross-conference challenge for the past 14 years. Next year’s slate doesn’t look nearly as enticing as some were hoping for — UConn, Louisville, and Missouri aren’t participating, while Syracuse is in but wants out – and our SEC microsite broke down the lack of headline games on the schedule. Nonetheless, we can’t overlook this event that allows for top conference teams to play true road games against other power leagues. Last season, Georgetown played at Alabama in one of the most entertaining games of the entire non-conference slate, and that game didn’t garner much publicity at all. The Big East came away victorious, 8-4, in last year’s event. Here’s what the 2012 SEC/Big East Challenge presents us.

Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish Like Their Chances Against the National Champs Next Year (AP Photo)

Youth vs. Experience, Kentucky at Notre Dame (Nov. 29) – Notre Dame returns all five starters from last season; Kentucky returns none. But both teams have high hopes next year, as the Fighting Irish bring back the entire core from a team that went 13-5 in the Big East while the National Champion Wildcats showcase the nation’s number two recruiting class of SEC-ready stars. Both programs have decorated pasts with loyal fanbases; each team is ranked in the RTC preseason Top 25. What’s not to love about this matchup? A Kentucky-Syracuse game would have garnered more hype, but this matchup could produce a better game. Who wins out, the young guns or the vets? We should get a great read on the new crop of UK freshmen in this their first real road test.

Seeking Sweet Revenge, Marquette at Florida (Nov. 29) - These two teams squared off in last year’s Sweet Sixteen, when the Gators ended the Golden Eagles’ season and Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom’s careers. Buzz Williams’ boys are looking for revenge in Gainesville, though both teams will look a lot different from last season. Florida loses its own pair of stars (Erving Walker, Bradley Beal) but Kenny Boynton and Patric Young are back to form one of the nation’s most threatening inside-out duos. Each team must call on a host of young players that showed promise last year but have to step into more prominent roles in 2012-’13. There’s plenty of intrigue in this one, though Florida is the strong favorite at home.

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Providence: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by mlemaire on April 19th, 2012

Our apologies for plagiarizing borrowing the ideas of our colleagues over at the Pac-12 microsite, but we liked their post-mortem team breakdowns so much that we decided to replicate them with our conference. So over the course of the next two weeks, we will break down each team’s season, starting from the bottom of the conference standings. Next up is Providence.

What Went Wrong

If you were one of the few dreamers who thought Providence could make a run to the NCAA Tournament this season, then you probably thought a lot went wrong. But if you were realistic about new coach Ed Cooley‘s first season in charge of the Friars, then you probably weren’t too disappointed in the way the season went. Basically the Friars cruised through a relatively easy out-of-conference schedule before being exposed by the better teams in the Big East.

It didn’t help that Kadeem Batts was suspended for the first semester of the season and there were grumblings about discontent in the locker room which led to a number of key transfers. On the court, the defense was the primary issue as the team finished 212th in defensive efficiency and 13th in the conference in scoring defense. Offensively the team had plenty of weapons, but they didn’t shoot it very much from behind the three-point arc and they were much too inconsistent, especially against better defensive teams.

What Went Right

LaDontae Henton Was A Revelation For The Friars This Season (credit: Providence Journal)

Although perception and opinion can change quickly in college basketball, Cooley’s hiring brought a lot of energy and optimism for a program lacking both after the Keno Davis era. Snagging big man LaDontae Henton after arriving at Providence proved to be an excellent move as the freshman was a consistent double-double threat and should only get better next season. Point guard Vincent Council missed one game for undisclosed reasons but for most of the season he was one of if not the best point guard in the Big East, and the development of sophomore wings Bryce Cotton and Gerard Coleman should give the Friar faithful plenty to look forward to, especially considering how loaded the backcourt will be next season. Batts was only okay after his return from suspension, but he and rising sophomore Brice Kofane give the team some interior depth heading into next season as well.

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Big East Evening Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 28th, 2012

  1. We missed yesterday, so you are getting a double dose of Big East news this morning because we feel bad. We start with the scouting report on Louisville, based on the opinions of opposing coaches, and put together by the good folks at CBS Sports. The information isn’t exactly new if you have been following the Cardinals all season. Take care of the ball against their press, try to slow down their transition attack, keep Peyton Siva out of the lane, and you will have an excellent chance of winning the game. The good news for Kentucky is, that their defense is so good, Louisville should only be able to score in transition and off of turnovers. So assuming that Marquis Teague can handle the press, and assuming Kentucky’s athletes get back and set up defensively, they should be able to handle the Cardinals with relative ease.
  2. You didn’t think we were going to make it a whole week without a borderline insane story about the fervent passion of Louisville and Kentucky fans did you? In fact, we didn’t even make it through half the week before news broke that two fans got into a fight while awaiting treatment at a dialysis center. You really can’t make this stuff up. If you want to look on the bright side, this is part of what makes college sports so awesome. It may be a wild generalization, but fans of professional sports teams don’t care half as much about their teams as these folks in the Bluegrass State. And the passion for Alabama and Auburn football is on an entirely different level. I am setting the over/under on the breaking of more crazy stories like this at two, which won’t count fallout from the outcome of the game, which is sure to bring out only the best in both team’s fan bases.
  3. In predictable and also understandable fashion, the media has jumped all over the “hated rivals” storyline. Luckily, there is only one columnist angry enough to really put perspective on the whole rivalry, and that is noted flame-fanner Gregg Doyel. His column isn’t long, and it doesn’t make any profound points, but it does succinctly sum up just how insane this game will be.
  4.  The list of Big East players headed to the NBA Draft continued to swell yesterday as Georgetown forward Hollis Thompson announced he would forgo his senior season and hire an agent. Thompson tested the waters last season before withdrawing his name and from the looks of John Thompson III‘s comments, this decision is hardly surprising. The real question is whether Thompson will end up drafted. I understand the move, because his stock isn’t likely to rise dramatically even if he has an excellent senior season, but right now he looks like he will need to get lucky to stick with a team. He does have the skill set and size to be an NBA small forward, but he hardly dominated collegiate competition, so how can he be expected to make an impact at the next level?
  5. Our pal Jeff Goodman over at CBS Sports has released his initial transfer list and there are some interesting names worth noting. First, the list is what alerted me to the news that Notre Dame guard Alex Dragicevich is transferring out of South Bend, a blow to Mike Brey’s program which was going to rely more heavily on his outside shooting next season. The list also reminded me of one of the more interesting Final Four storylines and that is that Louisville forward Jared Swopshire already announced he won’t be back next season, but for now he is playing meaningful minutes on a team eyeing a national championship. Thanks to playing time and the scholarship numbers game, Swopshire will be looking for a new home. But for now, we are sure he is relishing the position he is in.
  6. Speaking of Goodman and transfers out of the Big East, soon after the list was published, Goodman tweeted that Providence sophomore Gerard Coleman was a likely candidate to transfer out of the program. Assuming Vincent Council stays in school and both highly touted freshman guards arrive on campus in time for next season, the Friars’ backcourt was looking awfully crowded. But if Coleman does indeed transfer, coach Ed Cooley loses quite the luxury. Coleman’s play tailed off in the second half of the season, but he is a quality scorer and is physical enough to give Cooley a legitimately dangerous three-guard lineup. On the other hand, his departure will open up more playing time for Ricardo Ledo and Kris Dunn, which can really only be a good thing, assuming the duo is as good as advertised.
  7. As an unabashedly biased Villanova fan, I have spent a good deal of words explaining that Wildcats’ guard Maalik Wayns would be silly to enter the NBA Draft this season, so it’s only logical that Wayns made it final recently, announcing plans to hire an agent and forgo his senior season on the Main Line. Look, players enter the draft for a litany of reasons, so saying he made a stupid decision without knowing his true reasons is rather presumptuous of me. That said, Wayns is looking like a second-round pick at best, and a great senior season probably could have given his draft stock a much-needed shot in the arm. Despite his penchant for taking terrible shots and making questionable decisions, Wayns would have been a huge help to ‘Nova’s rebuilding efforts next season, but now they will need to look elsewhere for that leadership.
  8. Not everyone in West Virginia is spitting on the Big East on their way out the door. Charleston Gazette columnist Mitch Vingle penned a letter to Big East basketball that reads like a breakup letter from a guy who is already regretting the split. He uses some personal reflections mixed with classic personalities from the conference to show plenty of awesome things about the conference and its rich basketball history. The sad thing is, the Big East will miss West Virginia too. Yes, of course they will miss their football tradition and revenue, but the Mountaineers are a quality basketball program, and no amount of SMU and Central Florida will change that. The Mountaineers made their choice, choosing money over tradition, and now so many of us will be left to cling to memories that may never happen again.
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Big East Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 27th, 2012

  1. Syracuse’s super sixth man Dion Waiters is not going to wait around for his starting slot next season with the Orange as Waiters announced he will be entering the NBA Draft.  The athletic 6’4” guard will sign with an agent, eliminating any possibility of returning for his junior year.  Waiters did not start a game this season for Syracuse but was widely regarded as the team’s most talented player.  He posted averages of 12.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 24.1 minutes per game while being named the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year and making All-Big East Third Team.  There could be quite a bit of roster turnover this offseason as Waiters joins departing seniors Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, while fellow sophomore Fab Melo, who was suspended for the NCAA Tournament due to academic issues, may be soon to follow Waiters into the NBA draft.
  2. Another Big East guard, Providence’s Vincent Council, ended speculation that he might be leaving school to turn pro when he told Brendan McGair of the Woonsocket (RI) Call, who reported via Twitter,  “I wasn’t really thinking about leaving (Providence College) at all.”  It had been said Council was considering foregoing his senior year and that academics may have been a driver.  An All-Big East Third Team selection this past season, Council averaged 15.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and a conference best 7.5 assists per game. The 6’2” New Yorker figures to be one of the top returning Big East point guards in what should be an entertaining backcourt next year as the Friars welcome in top 25 recruits Ricardo Ledo and McDonald’s All-American Kris Dunn.
  3. There are so many storylines around the Louisville versus Kentucky Final Four matchup there could be a two-week Super Bowl-type hype period to analyze and dissect.  While everyone loves some good old-fashioned overkill, the good news is we only have until Saturday to anticipate how this historic match-up might play out.  Certainly the head coaches are at, or near, the forefront of it all and as Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel points out, Louisville’s Rick Pitino will enjoy playing the underdog role in an effort to perhaps tighten Kentucky coach John Calipari and his team up a bit.  While there is no question the pressure rests on Calipari and Kentucky, it is hard to fathom the magnitude of the moment getting by either team.  As much as Pitino might love his side to play loose, he and his team both know the margin for error will be thin on Saturday.
  4. Plane ticket from Kentucky to New Orleans? $500-$1800.  Hotel room in New Orleans? $400-$600 per night.  Ticket to see Louisville take on Kentucky in the Final Four? $377.  A chance to see one of the most anticipated match-ups in college basketball history?  Well…pricey!  If this weekend is any barometer of the economic state of our country things are progressing nicely.  Despite the price tag demand is high for all of the above and supply is getting low as basketball crazy residents of the Bluegrass state have been more than willing to pony up. Getting to New Orleans is one thing.  Plane seats are limited and anything involving a gas powered vehicle, whether car, SUV or bus comes with the pain of surging gas prices.  What to do when one gets there is another. As of yesterday there were only about 2,200 of New Orleans’ 22,000 hotel rooms available even with hotels setting four-night minimums. It is great to go to a big game but will also be interesting to see if television sales in Final Four markets increase this week as people decide to ditch the planes, trains, and automobiles and use that money to purchase a longer-lasting Toshiba.
  5. The Associated Press revealed its All-America teams yesterday and while the Big East cannot boast any first teamers, the conference was well represented overall.  Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder of Marquette (17.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG) and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones (19.9 PPG, 10.9 RPG) represented two of the six players who received second team honors while Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb (17.7 PPG, 4.9 RPB) took home an honorable mention distinction.  Members of the first team included: Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Draymond Green (Michigan State), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Thomas Robinson (Kansas), and Jared Sullinger (Ohio State).  Robinson was a unanimous selection.
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