Set Your DVR: Week of 01.28.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 28th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Things are a little quiet this week with mostly match-ups between top and bottom teams in the conferences.  However, there are a few games that mean a lot to certain teams, including those in some of the smaller conferences. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Pittsburgh at #8 Louisville – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

Pitino looks to end a three game slide to in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday (AP)

Pitino needs to stop the bleeding at Louisville (AP)

  • Louisville is in an absolute must-win situation. They have lost their last three games and have struggled at crunch time with opportunities to win. Everyone keeps saying the Cardinals still could be the team to beat in March. However, history shows that teams that lose three games in a row during the regular season rarely win the title. Only four teams since 1980 have lost three games in a row and still managed to win the whole thing – 1982-83 North Carolina State, 1984-85 Villanova, 1987-88 Kansas, and 2005-06 Florida. Only one team in history has lost four games in a row and still won the tourney – Danny Manning and the Miracles (Kansas actually lost five straight at one point that season). The reality is that Rick Pitino‘s team is a poor shooting team and unless they get that corrected quickly, Louisville should not be considered a threat to win it all. Pittsburgh on the other hand seems to be turning things around. After starting 1-3 in conference play, they have managed to rattle off four straight wins. Both teams need a win to stay within two games of Syracuse and Marquette in the Big East. Pitt has improved their shooting and offensive rebounding in the last four contests and has been able to play tough defense without putting teams on the line. Keep a close eye on how Pitt does in the paint against Louisville shot blocker Gorgui Dieng. The Panthers are not a threat from three, so most of their points will come from inside the arc. For Louisville, they need to convert their turnovers into points by simply hitting shots. While Pittsburgh is not as long as Syracuse, Villanova, and Georgetown, they are not short. So Pitino’s crew needs to get to the basket for lay-ups and dunks. Shooting over the top is not a great way to break a shooting slump. Watch Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear, as their performance on the interior will be the key to Louisville breaking their losing streak.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.14.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 14th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Conference season has leveled the playing field as the remaining unbeaten teams have all lost. The Big Ten schedule is proving to be an absolute gauntlet and the Mountain West is nothing to sneeze at. Both leagues have stellar games this week along side a few other notable match-ups from around the nation. Let’s get to the breakdowns:

#1 Louisville at Connecticut – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

kevin ollie napier

  • The Louisville Cardinals are moved into the top spot in the nation after losses this weekend by Duke and Michigan and a loss by Arizona earlier last week. Their first game as #1 will be no easy contest as they head to Connecticut in a tough Big East road match-up. The Huskies are coming off a significant win at Notre Dame, which rarely loses at home, but it looks like UConn has their number, as they account for ND’s only two losses at home in the last two and a half years. UConn guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier will be the focus of this game, as they face intense pressure from the Louisville defense. Up to this point in the season, both players have protected the ball quite well, particularly Napier who is only giving it up on 11% of his possessions. They must be able to handle the press however in order to give the team a chance to win this game. Also, keep an eye on UConn’s Tyler Olander. He went 8-9 from the field against Notre Dame going for 16 points and 7 rebounds. He will be surrounded by very athletic big men on Louisville. UConn needs him to produce against Gorgui Dieng and company to take some pressure off the guards. The difference in this game may actually be Louisville on the offensive boards. The Huskies rank 298th in defensive rebounding percentage. With the Cardinals throwing Dieng, Chane Behanan, and Wayne Blackshear at the glass on the offensive end, it’s going to be tough for UConn to prevent second chance points. However, if they can limit turnovers, they have a shot to win at home.

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Big East M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 31st, 2012

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Early in the season, one of the things that the 2012-13 Syracuse Orange seemed to have on the 2011-12 edition was reliable three-point shooting. James Southerland and Trevor Cooney can both act potentially as knock-down shooters for Jim Boeheim. Syracuse has struggled to score recently, and poor outside shooting is one of the main reasons for this lull. The Orange are now shooting 32% from behind the arc this season, and are just 5-of-33 since halftime of the win over Detroit. Boeheim acknowledges this issue, but doesn’t offer up much in the way of a detailed solution after Syracuse’s win over Alcorn State: “Well, it is what it is… Whatever the stats are, they don’t lie. Shooting stats don’t lie. Some people think they do. But they don’t.”
  2. With a dwindling lead against archrival Kentucky, Louisville’s Russ Smith started doing what he’s done all season – he made huge plays. Pat Forde describes how strange it is for Cardinals fans to think of Smith as their star, even this far into the season: “The improbable rise of Russ Smith as a s-s-s-star (hard to type with a straight face) has keyed everything Louisville has done last March and so far this season.” Louisville is right about where most people expected they would be, but Smith’s breakout has shifted the focus off of Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng, the players that people expected to lead the Cardinals to a great 2012-13 season.  Siva, Dieng, Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, and a slew of other Cardinals are still very dangerous college players, and when combined with the dynamo Smith, who is averaging a shade under 20 points per game, Louisville is set to make major noise come March.
  3. GoLocalProv sports writer Scott Cordischi thinks that Providence coach Ed Cooley needs to ‘cool’ it down with regards to calling out his players after games. When asked a question about LaDontae Henton’s stretch of 24 straight points for the Friars in a loss to Brown, Cooley ignored Henton’s offensive outburst and put down his defensive performance, calling it “awful.” Cordischi also notes that Cooley alluded to the team as soft with regards to Bryce Cotton’s injuries, and earlier in the year diminished a 13-assist effort by Kris Dunn in his first collegiate game, calling it “gross.” While many coaches in all sports use the media to motivate their teams, I can see where Cordischi is concerned that Cooley is being too negative with respect to his players. Losses to teams like Brown are frustrating, but those thing will happen with a young, raw team like Providence.
  4. The transfer of Malcolm Gilbert from Pitt to Fairfield may be disconcerting to some Panthers fans, but it isn’t coming as a huge surprise to Jamie Dixon. Gilbert has always wanted to play with his brother Marcus, who is a freshman forward for the Stags, and he will have a chance to do that next season by leaving between semesters. Pitt fans may worry about this becoming a trend for Dixon’s program after losing Khem Birch last season, but the guys at Pitt blog Cardiac Hill don’t seem to be too worried, as this transfer seems to be more about an opportunity elsewhere rather than an issue with Dixon or the Panther program.
  5. USF star Anthony Collins was taken off the floor on a stretcher after being kneed in the head while diving for a loose ball during a 61-57 win over George Mason. After the game, Stan Heath said that Collins had feeling in all of his extremities, which is obviously a positive sign, but it is always jarring to see a player taken out of a game like that, especially in today’s sports world where concussions and head injuries are so prominent in the public consciousness. The Bulls also lost Victor Rudd to a concussion in the second half, and are very banged up heading into Big East play.
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Can Louisville Adapt to a Life Without Threes?

Posted by Will Tucker on November 15th, 2012

Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent and a Big East microsite writer. He filed this report after Thursday night’s Louisville-Samford game.

Louisville overwhelmed Samford in all facets of the game tonight, 80-54, to advance to 2-0 and defend their #2 ranking. The box score and postgame highlights will depict a dominant display befitting of an elite team, replete with a 53-28 rebounding margin, a punishing 38 points in the paint, and numerically terrifying double-doubles from Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng. But any Louisville fan that watched the game and knows a lick about basketball (read: almost all of them) will temper the glowing conclusions you’d reach from a brief recap. Their team shot 1-8 from three in the first half, but elected to judiciously move the ball into the paint more often than jack up threes. When Samford finally packed the paint with a zone defense and served up wide open looks from beyond the arc in the second half, the Cards took the bait and went 6-23, finishing at a 23% that elicited increasingly frustrated collective groans from the 20,016 on hand at the KFC Yum! Center with each successive brick.

Louisville needs to utilize Chane Behanan to score more efficiently

Despite all the things this Louisville team does well (and several things they already do great), their first two games of the 2012-13 season have exposed just how badly they lack a reliable three-point threat. Tonight’s contest refuted any notion that this Louisville team may achieve even average outside shooting. Rick Pitino had displayed uncharacteristic concern over his wings’ jump shots in his postgame press conference last Sunday, after former McDonald’s All-American Wayne Blackshear and transfer Luke Hancock combined to shoot 3-14 from beyond the arc against Manhattan. Tonight, they delivered a dismal 2-18 (11%) performance from outside, while streaky shooter Russ Smith (4-7 3FG) was the only one who salvaged Louisville’s team stat of 7-31 from long range. Blackshear and Hancock, both billed as capable jump shooters, have looked noticeably frustrated in the first two games of the year. Pitino tonight related Hancock to a hitter in a slump, forcing his shot in a fruitless effort “to make contact.” Blackshear, for his part, seems headed in the right direction, appearing much more assertive and confident as he built a somewhat inefficient stat line of 13 points and five rebounds tonight.

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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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Cards Roll After Slow Start: Notes and Observations

Posted by Will Tucker on November 11th, 2012

Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent and a Big East microsite writer. He can be found on Twitter @blrdswag

The Louisville Cardinals officially kicked off their season this afternoon with a decisive victory over Steve Masiello’s shorthanded Manhattan team. There were several intriguing narratives heading into today’s game, in which Rick Pitino’s squad sought to validate their lofty preseason ranking and answer some lingering questions about their player rotation and offense. Here are a handful of the most compelling storylines and some conclusions we can draw from the Manhattan game:

The Cards Scrapped Their Way to a Big Victory on Sunday

  • Manhattan’s odds of pulling off an upset in Louisville took a major blow hours before tip off, when it was revealed that star senior George Beamon (19 PPG) would sit out today with an ankle injury. This made it even more difficult to gauge the Cardinals. The overwhelmed Jaspers turned it over 27 times under the duress of Louisville’s athletic full-court press –– the most Louisville has forced since 2004. Masiello admitted after the game that even had Beamon played and everything had gone right for them, his team would have still lost by a comfortable margin.
  • The most anticipated competition heading into the season was at the power forward position, where embattled sophomore Chane Behanan returned today after serving a suspension for both of Louisville’s exhibition games. Pitino opted to start promising freshman Montrezl Harrell, who played extremely well in both preseason contests, but both players split minutes and spent much of the first half on the court at the same time after Gorgui Dieng picked up two fouls in the first two minutes. Harrell certainly didn’t appear eager to forfeit his place in the starting lineup, recording six points, four rebounds, a block and a steal, all the while exhibiting the unrelenting motor that recruiting analysts had raved about during his high school career. For his part, Behanan seemed to respond well to the challenge, grabbing a team-high nine rebounds, eight points, and a career-high three steals in 24 minutes. The game didn’t definitely determine the picture at the four spot going forward, but it seems unlikely Behanan, the MVP of last season’s NCAA Tournament West Regional, will tolerate the indignity of being displaced by a freshman for long. That kind of motivation can only be a good thing for Louisville fans. Read the rest of this entry »
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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #1 Louisville

Posted by mlemaire on November 11th, 2012

It is truly a testament to the coaching ability of Rick Pitino that last season’s offensively challenged Louisville team made the Final Four after finishing the regular season seventh in the conference. The Cardinals had trouble scoring and dealt with a rash of injuries all season, and yet when most of the dust had cleared, there was Pitino and his team, scrapping with an overpowering Kentucky team in the Final Four. In the end, Kentucky was too much, but now the roles have reversed. The team in Lexington has a lot of questions to answer, while the team in Louisville returns four of its top six scorers, including the reigning conference defensive player of the year and one of the favorites for this season’s conference player of the year. Assuming some of the team’s underclassmen progress as expected and most of the team can stay healthy, there are very few squads in the country who can match the Cardinals’ combination of talent and depth. Now it will be up to Pitino and his staff to put all the pieces together. There are still plenty of questions about where the offense will come from and the roster’s one weakness may be its lack of an accomplished outside shooter. But the Cardinals’ defense was the most efficient in the country last season and it should be almost as good if not better this season. Anything less than a return trip to the Final Four will probably be viewed as a disappointment, especially if that team in Lexington makes it back instead.

2011-12 Record: 30-10, 10-8

2011-12 Postseason: NCAA Tournament Final Four, lost to Kentucky 69-61.

Rick Pitino Has Louisville Poised To Make A Repeat Run To The Final Four

Schedule: Just a quick glance at the Cardinals’ non-conference slate should make it plainly obvious that Louisville will have little trouble with the opposition in the early part of the season. A December trip to Memphis and the home bout with Kentucky right before the New Year represent what should be the only two challenging non-conference opponents Louisville will face. As for the conference schedule, aside from a four-game stretch in the middle of January where a home date with Syracuse is sandwiched between road games at Connecticut and Villanova and then Georgetown, the rest of the conference slate should be manageable for a team as experienced, deep, and physical as the Cardinals.

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Big East Summer Capsules: Louisville Cardinals

Posted by mlemaire on August 1st, 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 Louisville.

1. The rotating door was busy this summer, and some folks don’t like it.

Is Pitino Running Lesser Players Out Of Town To Make Room For New Ones?

Cardinals coach Rick Pitino is no stranger to controversy and criticism, and this summer was no different as a multitude of injury-laden reserves left the program raising concerns about Pitino’s roster management strategy and questions about whether he is cutting ties with less important players to make room for new ones. Before the end of last season news broke that reserve forward Jared Swopshire would transfer so he could play right away in his final collegiate season. Then, just two days after highly touted recruit Montrezl Harrell signed with the Cardinals and people began to wonder where the extra scholarship would come from, backup and injury-prone big man Stephan Van Treese announced he was leaving also only to reverse course later that month. That reversal came just a week after another injury-prone reserve, Rakeem Buckles, announced he would transfer to Florida International, once again freeing up a scholarship that Van Treese happily took back.  There is absolutely no evidence that Pitino forced any of these players out and it’s entirely possible these players saw the writing on the wall and transferred to a place where they could find more playing time. But perception is also a big deal, and if recruits perceive that Pitino is jettisoning lesser talents to make room for younger players, it will certainly make them think twice before they sign on with Louisville.

2. Just how good can Louisville’s frontcourt become?

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Red Hot Louisville Rides Its Winning Momentum

Posted by rtmsf on February 21st, 2012

Bill Hupp is an RTC correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp). He filed this report following Louisville’s 90- 82 road OT win over DePaul on Saturday.

Rise of the Redbirds

They came by the busload, making the five-hour trek up through Indianapolis and then northwest to the Chicago suburb of Rosemont. Saturday may as well have been “Occupy Allstate Arena” because the red-clad Louisville fans undoubtedly outnumbered DePaul supporters. They roared when Russ Smith was swiping steals and finishing tough drives, when Peyton Siva was driving deep into the lane and finding Chris Smith, when Kyle Kuric slipped to the left corner and buried trey after trey. Ah yes, this was Louisville basketball. After starting the season like a house afire (12-0), Louisville dropped five of its next seven games, the low point being an ugly 31-point drubbing at the hands of Providence. With Saturday’s 90-82 overtime win at DePaul, however, the Cardinals have now won seven of their last eight, the only loss coming at home by a single point to #2 Syracuse. Even with Chane Behanan struggling with the flu and Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva in foul trouble on Saturday, Louisville (21-6, 9-5 Big East) still managed to erase a 10-point halftime deficit to earn the win. They have the talent to play with anyone in the country, but there are a few keys that can help the Cards continue their roll and enter the postseason with momentum.

Rick Pitino and Louisville Have Given Redbird Nation A Lot To Cheer About Lately. (Getty)

  • Louisville needs Peyton Siva to stay out of early foul trouble. He loves being active at the top of their trademark 2-3 zone, but when he accumulates silly reach fouls early, he gets relegated to the bench. That disrupts Louisville’s offensive rhythm and flow because Smith doesn’t play as quickly as Siva. Russ Smith is a talented scorer off the bench, but he’s more of a two-guard than a point guard. He has a habit of over-dribbling at times and doesn’t distribute the ball nearly as well as Siva.
  • Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith must continue to stay hot from beyond the arc. Louisville’s offense becomes a little one-dimensional when Kuric’s distance shooting is taken away. Against DePaul, Kuric buried five three-pointers on his way to a season-high 25 points. If Kuric and/or Smith are hitting treys, that loosens up the defense for Siva and Smith to penetrate and get to the basket.
  • The sooner that freshman stud Wayne Blackshear can get comfortable and integrated into the team, the better. He hit a few shots early against DePaul, but then looked a little lost and didn’t play much in the latter stages of the second half. It’s hard to say how much Blackshear will be able to give Louisville in his return from a torn ACL. But there’s a reason he was expected to contribute immediately, and his return only gives Louisville more size and weapons on offense.
  • Gorgui Dieng must be a threat on defense and offense. He will always be a force on the boards and the defensive end (leads the Big East with 3.3 blocks per game). But as Rick Pitino pointed out after the game, Dieng needs to be willing and able to hit the mid-range jumper, especially when a team goes zone against Louisville. His ability to do that only increases the potency of Louisville’s attacks.
  • Difficult games against Pittsburgh and at Syracuse still await Louisville before postseason play begins. If they can avoid foul trouble and maximize their offensive efficiency, the Cardinals should enter the Big East Tournament flying high.

A Quick Look Back

Louisville made it a point to acknowledge the fans after the thrilling victory over DePaul:

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Big East Morning Five: 02.17.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 17th, 2012

    1. Super swatter Nerlens Noel, the #1 high school prospect in the class of 2012, spoke about his recruitment yesterday in a radio interview with Jeff Goodman on SiriusXM’s Inside College Basketball.  While it is anticipated Noel will sign during the April signing period, he stressed that he is not going to rush his decision. “I don’t really have a timeframe,” Noel told Goodman. “I just want to make sure I get in all my visits to these schools. However long that takes.” As far as what he is looking for in a school Noel said,”“Just a good program where I can go and play and be comfortable with the coaching staff, the whole program,” Noel said. “I know I can develop as long as I’m there, as a player and a person.” The interview led to a brief bit of controversy with regard to Noel’s list. On February 1 when Noel announced his intent to reclassify to the class of 2012, he released a list of seven finalists: Syracuse, Connecticut, Providence, Kentucky, Florida, Georgetown, and North Carolina. Yesterday on Goodman’s show Noel named only six, omitting Providence. The shockwaves created in the Ocean State almost caused the pineapple overlooking Providence’s Federal Hill to crumble to the ground. Noel, who will visit Kentucky this weekend, later confirmed via Twitter that he is still considering the Friars.
    2. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is getting in on the “Linsanity” and says those who think his former player, currently injured Knick star Carmelo Anthony, and Jeremy Lin, perhaps you have heard of him, will not be able to coexist when Anthony returns should Melo-out. Boeheim appeared on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and summed it up this way, “For somebody to assert that Carmelo Anthony can’t play with somebody it’s the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever heard.” Boeheim went on to say he experienced Anthony as a team player citing their 2003 National Championship run. In an interview with Stephan A. Smith on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” Anthony also made strong comments in response to the allegations he is a selfish player, “That’s like a slap in the face. None of my teammates I’ve ever played with would say that I was a selfish player. Nobody.”
    3. Perhaps lost in the ‘Nerlensanity’ is Chris Obekpa, another highly regarded class of 2012 big man being who is being courted by a number of Big East suitors. Obekpa is a 6’8” center who attends New York’s Our Savior New American and has Big East scholarship offers from Connecticut, Cincinnati, DePaul, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, and West Virginia. Like Nerlens Noel, Obekpa is best known for his shot blocking ability and defensive prowess. Obekpa’s stock has risen mightily by virtue of a great summer on the AAU circuit as well as some dominating prep performances this season. He is ranked nationally by both ESPN (50) and Rivals.com (105). Obekpa will reportedly take an unofficial visit to Connecticut this weekend and has already visited Georgia Tech, Providence, Seton Hall, and St. John’s.
    4. ESPN’s latest power rankings were released yesterday so let’s take a look at how the Big East is trending. Syracuse remains firmly entrenched in the #2 hole as they continue to firm up a one seed in the NCAA tournament. Georgetown’s close loss did not hurt their positioning, and justifiably so, as the Hoyas remained at #9. There are few coaches doing a better job than Marquette’s Buzz Williams who has his Golden Eagles, winners of nine of their last ten, getting primed for post-season play. That momentum is reflected in the power rankings as Marquette jumped up four spots to #11. Louisville has shaken off a bit of a mid-season funk and is back in the thick of it as the Cardinals surged eight spots to #15. Notre Dame is probably the story of the year in the Big East and speaking of coaches doing a great job, say hey Mike Brey. Winners of seven in a row, the Fighting Irish vaulted five notches to #20.
    5. It was approaching midnight on Thursday.  A Morning 5 hung in the balance.  Four items were complete.  The fifth proved elusive. Then it happened.  Thank you @CardChronicle for tweeting this great Louisville Courier-Journal story by C.L. Brown about Cardinals freshman Wayne Blackshear’s encouraging and discouraging path to Louisville. The discouraging part is well-documented as Blackshear was not able to appear in a game for Louisville until last weekend due to a series of setbacks. He was named a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school in Chicago but was not able to play in the game due to a left-shoulder injury. As he was recovering from the resulting surgery, Blackshear also waited for the NCAA Clearinghouse to approve his academic qualification. Shortly after he received clearance both academically and physically he tore the labrum in his right shoulder which was the injury that ultimately held him out for the better part of this season. The encouraging part of Blackshear’s story his mother’s influence in keeping him focused and grounded. “I’d always tell him, ‘You didn’t do nothing, that was nothing. I’ll tell you when you do something,’” she told the Courier-Journal. “I just didn’t ever want him to think he arrived, because he’s got a long way to go.” Yes he does but he clearly has a good guide.
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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 13th, 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

  • Big East Adds Memphis: While conference realignment is unfortunately all about football, the addition of Memphis to the Big East Conference is a boon for basketball. With the league losing Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, it needed a strong basketball program to limit the damage of three venerable programs departing. Memphis is perhaps the best the Big East could do from a basketball perspective and the Tigers will begin competing in the conference in the 2013-14 academic year. While the Big East cannot replace a program with the stature of Syracuse, Memphis is arguably at least as good, if not better, than Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Temple would be the next logical choice from a basketball perspective but Villanova has long been rumored to be firmly in opposition to the Owls joining the league. Conference realignment is a new reality and won’t end any time soon. Expect some more dominoes to fall over the coming months and years.
  • West Virginia Reportedly Settles: Just 36 hours after Memphis joined the Big East, West Virginia reportedly settled with the Big East on an exit agreement, although no official announcement was made. If the Charleston Daily Mail report is correct, West Virginia will leave the Big East on July 1 of this year in order to join the Big 12 Conference. The reported agreement says that WVU will pay the Big East $11 million, with the Big 12 contributing $9 million. Big East bylaws require all member institutions to give 27 months notice before leaving the conference. If the Mountaineers do leave the conference, the Big East will have 15 basketball members for next season (2012-13) before expanding again in the summer of 2013. Of course, West Virginia’s early exit could pave the way for agreements with Syracuse and Pittsburgh, allowing those schools to leave early for the ACC. In a worst-case scenario, the Big East will have 13 basketball teams in 2012-13. One thing is for sure, this story is far from over. Stay tuned.
  • NCAA Denies Connecticut’s Waiver Request: In what was another good move by the increasingly tough NCAA, the governing body denied a request by Connecticut to retain eligibility for the 2013 NCAA Tournament in exchange for self-imposed penalties. Those penalties included forfeiting revenue and playing a shorter schedule. The Huskies would not quality for next year’s tournament because of their low APR rating, below the four-year minimum requirement of 900 or two-year average of 930. UConn will appeal the decision, one that, if denied, could have a huge effect on the basketball program in Storrs. Will Jim Calhoun stick around? Will recruits want to come there and knowingly sit out a year? Many questions still need to be answered as the Connecticut basketball program enters a period of uncertainty.
  • Win Number 880 for Jim Boeheim: The Syracuse legend now stands alone in third place on the all-time Division I wins list behind Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight after Syracuse beat Georgetown last week. Number 880 is one better than Dean Smith, a legend in his own right at North Carolina. While it is unlikely that Boeheim can catch Krzyzewski since both will keep winning, the Orange coach can pass Knight early next season, especially if Syracuse goes on a deep NCAA Tournament run. It’s so rare to see an athlete or a coach stay at one school for his entire career in sports these days but that’s exactly what Boeheim has done. The Hall of Famer has been at Syracuse as a coach since 1969 and played for the Orange from 1962-66. What a truly remarkable career spanning 50 years (and still going strong).

Josh Pastner Looks Forward To Embracing A More Challenging Change of Scenery In The Big East

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (25-1, 12-1) – The Orange dispatched their chief rivals in the Big East, Georgetown and Connecticut, in vastly different ways last week. Against the Hoyas, Syracuse needed overtime to put away a team that out-rebounded them 48-30 and slowed the pace to limit SU’s transition attack. Kris Joseph led Syracuse with a career-high 29 points and Fab Melo had six blocks as the Orange won by three in the extra session. Neither team played well, but Jim Boeheim picked up his 880th career win, moving ahead of Dean Smith and into sole possession of third place on the all-time list. Against Connecticut, the Orange broke open a close game in the second half with a 22-6 game-ending run. Syracuse shot much better (59%), including a scorching 63% from beyond the arc. Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair combined for 32 points and 16 rebounds off the bench while Scoop Jardine added 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting. It seems like Joseph is emerging as the go-to guy for this team, a question that had yet to be answered for the better part of the season. Syracuse faces a quick turnaround with a Big Monday game at Louisville, a team that has beaten them seven consecutive times. This week: 2/13 @ Louisville, 2/19 @ Rutgers. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Morning Five: 02.13.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 13th, 2012

  1. Connecticut is one step closer to a 2013 NCAA tournament ban for not meeting Academic Performance Rating (APR) standards. The NCAA denied the school’s appeal of the regulatory body’s previous ruling that Connecticut did not achieve the minimum score needed to participate. As part of its appeal Connecticut, who has already lost two scholarships due to APR issues, proposed self-correction by offering to give up regular season non-conference games, post-season revenue, and limiting contact with recruits. Tournament bans are part of more stringent APR rules and penalties as a result of changes made last year. Most notably the overall minimum APR required to avoid consequences was raised from 900 to 930. Scores are compiled over a two-year period. As a point of reference, Connecticut’s score last year that cost them the two scholarships was 826. So now Connecticut has two, albeit fleeting, glimmers of hope. First, they will file an appeal of the appeal with the NCAA Division I Committee on Academic Performance Subcommittee on Appeals and await another ruling. Second, it is possible the NCAA will alter the start of period used to determine omissions from next year’s tournament. Currently the 2009-10 year marks the starting point which means Connecticut would still be hurt by the year that factored into their previous score of 826. Should the current rules and ruling stand pat, it could have serious long term implications for the Huskies. With no chance at NCAA tournament play, the current roster could find itself in flux as NBA draft entry decisions of certain first-rounders Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb may opt to leave and recruiting will suffer. Not to mention potential impact on the future of head coach Jim Calhoun, who has missed games this season due to suspension and is currently out indefinitely for health reasons.
  2. Many of the 33,430 in attendance at the Carrier Dome on Saturday for #2 Syracuse’s win over Connecticut had to divide their attention between the action on the floor and one very high profile (and topped) spectator in Nerlens Noel.  Noel, as has been widely publicized, recently reclassified to the class of 2012, released a list of seven finalists and Syracuse is believed to be one of the leading contenders for his services. Noel attended the game along with his Tilton School teammate, and highly regarded class of 2013 recruit in his own right, Goodluck Okonoboh. Okonoboh also holds a scholarship offer from Syracuse. This was not Noel’s first trip to Syracuse. He attended the Orange’s Midnight Madness event in October, but Saturday likely served as the more impressive visit given the reception he received from the fourth largest crowd in Carrier Dome history. In addition to chants and signs dedicated to Noel, several students paid homage to the 6’10” star’s hairstyle by donning paper flat-top hats. After the game Noel and Okonoboh were welcomed into the Syracuse locker room and spent time with Orange assistant coach Mike Hopkins.
  3. It appears the legal wrangling between West Virginia University and the Big East will be coming to an end as reports indicate a settlement has been reached that will allow West Virginia to depart for the Big 12 in July, which will allow them to play Big 12 football next season. According to the reports, a total of $20 million will be paid to the Big East with $11 million coming from the university and the remainder from the Big 12. West Virginia has already paid $2.5 million to the Big East of what was originally a $5 million exit fee. The conference has since agreed to increase its exit fee to $10 million. The settlement came after a Rhode Island court ordered mediation on the heels of lawsuits filed by West Virginia and the Big East against one another over timing requirements for the move. Big East bylaws call for a 27-month notice period, but West Virginia thought it should be able to leave right away despite being part of the process that resulted in the clause. It is presumed that Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who are headed to the ACC and have yet to officially challenge the current notice period, will now want similar treatment to that of West Virginia. If that happens, the Big East will be left with five football playing schools for the 2012-13 season while they await the arrival of Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, Navy, and Southern Methodist at different periods over the next few years.
  4. Georgetown’s Otto Porter may not yet resonate in the consciousness of the casual college basketball fan but the versatile 6’8”, 205 pound freshman forward has been far from unnoticeable, especially among opposing players and coaches. In fact, as this interesting Southeast Missourian piece by Kevin Winters Morriss points out, Porter has enjoyed the overall transition to college ball and college life alike. While somewhat under the radar, Porter has put together a standout inaugural campaign for the twelfth-ranked Hoyas (19-5, 9-4). The lack of attention is perhaps due to the fact that Porter has done most of his damage in a reserve role, and that suits him just fine. He is still third on the team in minutes at 28.7 per game, fourth in scoring at 8.8 points per game and first in rebounding at 7.0 per game.  The Missouri native underwent a similarly lowish-profile recruitment despite absolutely dominating his high school competition. This was in large part because he elected not to play on the image is everything AAU circuit. In fact, Porter’s first trip in an airplane came when he visited Georgetown as a high school senior. A few short months later he was on his way to China with his new Hoya teammates. Despite the apparent degree of his adjustment, Porter appears to be mature beyond his years as evidenced by the praise of his coach, John Thompson III, “He came in and he understands how to compete at this level and understands that every part of the game matters. A lot of kids these days, they come in [and] all they think about is shots and scoring. Otto is someone that takes pride in rebounding, in defense and tips and deflections and talking on defense. I would love to sit here and say I was a part of that, but he walked in the door understanding just how to compete at this level.”
  5. Can we be the first to say that Louisville’s Wayne Blackshear is ready to shoulder the load?  It has been a long and winding road for the highly touted freshman guard, but he finally made his Cardinals debut on Saturday and may find himself a key cog down the stretch as Louisville positions itself for post-season play. Blackshear has been out all year after suffering a torn labrum in his right shoulder during practice last October in what was feared at the time to be a season ending injury. The newcomer faced a couple of additional obstacles in his quest to wear Cardinals’ red as the torn labrum came only shortly after Blackshear was cleared to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse, which was just after he was able to resume basketball activity upon recovering from surgery on his other shoulder. Blackshear, who did not know he would play on Saturday until head coach Rick Pitino told him so in pre-game warm ups, provided a solid contribution in the Cardinals 77-74 comeback win over West Virginia, logging 13 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes of action. He hit the first shot he took, a three-pointer, en route to three treys in the game. In a post-game interview Blackshear predicted it would take another couple of weeks before he gets back to 100 percent, citing continued strength work on his shoulder as well as simply needing time to round into overall basketball shape.
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