O26 Weekly Awards: GW, Alan Williams & Green Bay…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 9th, 2013

It was a return to normalcy for many teams last week after the bevy of tournaments and showcases and neutral-court extravaganzas that marked the latter part of November in college hoops. Across the O26 landscape, some programs were able to play much-needed home games after weeks of travel, while others made trips to take on regional power conference foes or fellow mid-majors. Conference play even tipped off for one league in particular (we’re looking at you, MAAC). And while only a handful of schools took the court more than twice last week, there was plenty enough action in the opening days of December to hand out some superlatives to deserving performers.

O26 Team of the Week

Maurice Creek helped George Washington to an outstanding week. (Richard A. Lipski/Washington Post)

Maurice Creek helped George Washington to an outstanding week. (Richard A. Lipski/Washington Post)

George Washington. After capping off Thanksgiving weekend with an upset over 20th-ranked Creighton in the Wooden Legacy, the Colonials had every reason to be on letdown alert in a return home on Wednesday versus a maligned-but-talented Rutgers team. Instead, George Washington maintained its momentum by defeating the Scarlet Knights by six in an outcome that featured knock-down shooting and a 106-point second half. The team’s two star transfers again the led the way for head coach Mike Lonergan, with former Villanova forward Isaiah Armwood scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds, and Maurice Creek — the Indiana graduate who took to D.C. for his final year of eligibility — dropping in 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Yet, while that contest was relatively tight throughout, it paled in comparison to Sunday’s outcome at the Verizon Center in the BB&T Classic. Thanks to the late-game heroics of Creek, the Colonials edged out fellow capital-area opponent Maryland, 77-75, in a thrilling, impressive win that helped further solidify George Washington as a legitimate at-large (and A-10) contender. The Terrapins made a furious rally in the game’s final stages after trailing by 14 with fewer than seven minutes to play, turning GW over multiple times and eventually tying the game at 75 with a few seconds remaining. But in the game’s final possession, Creek worked his magic, drilling a clutch shot over Nick Faust to make it three straight victories for the Colonials, moving them to 8-1 on the year. With several more very winnable non-conference games on the slate before league play begins in January, Lonergan’s club has a great chance to continue its winning ways and put itself in the NCAA Tournament discussion for the first time since 2007. If that happens, its work this past week may be one big reason why.

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Big East M5: 12.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 4th, 2013

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  1. What was supposed to be a promising season for a young, talented Providence team has gone off the rails a bit as suspensions and injuries have reared their ugly heads. Ed Cooley lost Kris Dunn to injury for Sunday night’s showdown with national power Kentucky, while freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock remain suspended indefinitely. All three players, especially Dunn and Austin, were expected to be major contributors for a Friars squad looking for an NCAA berth, but for now Cooley has to dance with the players that brought him: ”I’m going to coach the team that’s on the bus.”
  2. So Feast Week was fun, right? Well next year’s slate of exotic star-studded tournaments should also be a good one. Georgetown and Butler have signed on to play in next year’s Battle 4 Atlantis, where they will have a chance to face North Carolina, UCLA, Florida, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and UAB.  This is the second straight year where there will be some potential for all-Big East tournament match-ups, after Creighton and Marquette nearly faced off in the finals of this year’s Wooden Legacy. Conference realignment is the gift that keeps on giving, it appears. While UNC, Florida, UCLA and the like are tough potential opponents, one Casual Hoya commenter looked on the bright side of this slate:gtown NE atlantis
  3. God’sgift Achiuwa hasn’t made a huge impact for St. John’s on the court this season — the forward is averaging 1.4 points in 7.7 minutes per game for the Red Storm — but he’s doing great things off the court in his community. ‘Gift’ is among 201 nominees for the 2014 Allstate NABC and WBCA Good Works Teams. A St. John’s release further details all of the great things that Achiuwa and the rest of the Red Storm are involved in around New York City:”In 2012-13 Achiuwa and members of the men’s basketball team participated in more than 131 hours of community service, volunteering their time at the St. John’s Bread and Life Soup Kitchen, the San Francisco Food Bank, the annual Red Storm Dribble For The Cure benefiting the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Men’s Shelter and in the Community Mayor program. The 2013 Dribble For The Cure raised $70,000 for pediatric cancer research in the New York area bringing its three-year total to $120,000.”

    While basketball is why we’re all here at Rush the Court, it’s always great to hear about the human stories and incredible acts of charity that so many of these players are involved with.

  4. Butler wasn’t picked by many to finish very high in the Big East this season, but the Bulldogs have done a great job managing a tough schedule thus far. Indy Star took a look at how each of the Big East teams have fared so far this season, and how the Bulldogs stack up, relatively speaking. At 5-2 with the ’2′ being a two-point overtime loss to LSU and a near take-down of a star-laden Oklahoma State team, Butler has impressed: “Butler accomplished something in Orlando, even if it won’t show up in their season record: They proved they can play with anyone in the country. Simply put, they looked like an NCAA Tournament team, and that’s something few expected to hear about this Bulldog team.”
  5. Villanova is the talk of the conference right now coming off an impressive Battle 4 Atlantis win over a possible national championship contender in Kansas and another ranked team in Iowa. The Wildcats have a deep group of talented perimeter players, headlined by Kansas-game hero Ryan Arcidiacono and swingman James Bell, who is having a breakout season, but Jay Wright believes it is Rice transfer Dylan Ennis who has made all the difference for his club: ”He shocked me. He played with great composure. He didn’t force shots. He was really impressive.” Ennis averaged 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists at Atlantis — his first three games of the season — and was especially effective from long range, knocking down eight of his 12 three point attempts.  Nova’s schedule now becomes very Philly-centric, with games against Penn, Saint Joseph’s, and La Salle over the next few weeks, but the biggest match-up for Ennis comes on December 28 when he travels to the Carrier Dome for a showdown with his little brother Tyler, who has been excellent so far this season as the starting point guard for the Orange.
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Reviewing the Performance of ACC Teams in Feast Week: Part II

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 3rd, 2013

Today we will review the final six early season tournaments involving ACC teams. To see the recap we did covering the first seven such events, click here. The ACC completed a successful Feast Week with two more championships giving the conference a total of five titles in 13 tournaments. This performance should give the ACC some momentum going into this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. With another good week, perhaps the conference will overcome the negative impact from some of those bad early non-conference losses.

Syracuse Wins EA Maui Invitational for the Third Time. (Photo: mauiinvitational.com)

Syracuse Wins the EA Maui Invitational for the Third Time.
(Photo: mauiinvitational.com)

Syracuse became the second ACC newcomer to win an early-season tournament by beating #18 Baylor 74-67 in the finals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational on Wednesday night. That followed wins over Minnesota, 75-67, and California, 92-81. Senior C.J. Fair was named the tournament MVP while averaging 18 points for the three games and tallying 24 in the finals. Also impressive was freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who scored 28 in the semifinals over Cal, and had an outstanding 18 to two assist-to-turnover ratio for the tournament. With the Orange’s third Maui championship along with Pittsburgh’s title in the Progressive Legends Classic, the new ACC schools are serving notice that they are ready to compete at the top of their new conference.

Duke did not fare as well in the other marquee Feast Week event, the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York’s Madison Square Garden. After beating Alabama 74-64 in Wednesday’s semifinals, the Blue Devils fell to #4 Arizona, 72-66, in Friday’s championship game. Coming into the week Duke’s defense had been struggling mightily and was the focus for improvement by Mike Kzyzewski. The Devils did look much better on that end of the court against good competition, but another glaring issue has not been resolved. Duke is still searching for production from its primary big man position – Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson combined for only two points in a total of 69 minutes over the two games.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Arizona State in the Wooden Legacy

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: Don’t look now, but Arizona State may have, to date, the best resume in the Pac-12. They’ve taken care of business against the dregs of their schedule; they scored a solid road win over an underachieving UNLV team; and they grabbed a good win over Marquette earlier this week. With Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall making for a great one-two punch in the backcourt and with nearly everybody else on the roster performing better than average thus far, this is one fearsome offensive team.

Jahii Carson And Arizona State Should Have A Wildly Entertaining Thanksgiving Night (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

Jahii Carson And Arizona State Should Have A Wildly Entertaining Thanksgiving Night (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

First Round Preview: Fittingly, the Sun Devils kick off play in Fullerton on Thanksgiving Day against arguably the most fearsome offensive team in the nation, Doug McDermott’s Creighton squad. Now in his senior year and even with opponents going out of their way to game plan for him, McDermott just keeps marching along — knocking down threes, scoring in the paint, getting to the line and just generally making buckets — he’s scored more than 30 points in half of his games this season and is averaging 27.5 PPG on the season. But while McDermott is clearly the straw the stirs the Bluejays’ drink, there are plenty of other options to keep opponents honest. Fellow senior Ethan Wragge has drilled 14 of his 25 (56%) attempts from behind the arc. Junior point guard Austin Chatman has knocked down 58.3 percent of his threes and is third on the team in scoring with an 11.0 PPG average despite mostly looking to get teammates involved. And senior Grant Gibbs is once again the glue guy for this squad, averaging just four points a game but handing out almost six assists per night and providing the best individual defense on the team. However, we’ve seen this story from Creighton before: great O, poor D. For the Bluejays to really be considered a threat on the national stage, they’ve got to step it up defensively, and in this area the Sun Devils will give them quite a test. Ideally, as a college basketball fan, you’d want to see this game turn into a second half shootout, with McDermott and Carson trading blows on opposite ends of the floor. But from a coaching perspective, both Greg McDermott and Herb Sendek will be more interested in how their respective defenses compete against elite offensive competition. Either way, avoid the turkey hangover to tune in for the nightcap on Thursday evening.

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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 26th, 2013

Happy holidays everyone! Feast Week is upon us, and the Big East has been performing pretty well across the board so far this season. There appears to be a lot of parity in the conference, and a few surprise teams like Xavier and Providence look like they may be real contenders this season. Let’s jump into the previous week of action.

Power Rankings

Xavier is Creeping up the Power Rankings Behind Semaj Christon

  • 10.) DePaul (3-2), LW (10): DePaul looks like it might be a solid step up from where it has been the last few seasons, but last night’s game against Wichita State shows there’s still a lot of opportunities for improvement.
  • 9.) Seton Hall (4-2), LW (8): The Pirates have a penchant for close games. Four of their six games have been decided by single figures, including both of their losses: a 77-74 double-overtime heartbreaker to Mercer, and an 86-85 loss to Oklahoma.
  • T-7.) Butler (4-0), LW (9): Butler is still undefeated by the narrowest of margins, winning an overtime thriller against Vanderbilt and a one-point game against Ball State last week. Khyle Marshall and Kellen Dunham are keeping the Butler offense afloat, each by averaging 15.8 points per game.
  • T-7.) St. John’s (3-1), LW (5): Phil Greene IV had a big week for the Johnnies, scoring 16 and 22 points in tight wins over Bucknell and Monmouth, respectively. Greene’s contributions in the backcourt have been very important for a St. John’s team that is struggling to score.
  • 6.) Providence (6-1), LW (6): The Friars had as good of a week as anyone, winning three games over solid competition before dropping last night’s Paradise Jam championship to Maryland. The frontcourt combination of Kadeem BattsLaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris has been as effective as any in the league in the early part of the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Trick or Treat: The Big East Schedule Edition

Posted by Todd Keryc on October 31st, 2013

In a little more than a week, the 2013-14 college basketball season will begin. Before it does, let’s take a closer look at the Big East schedule using today’s holiday to break it down.

TRICK: Non-Conference Play Will Mean More to Big East Teams This Season: You may have heard by now that a few prominent teams left the Big East this offseason. Of the top 10 teams from last year, six of them have left for other conferences. That includes two Final Four teams and five NCAA Tournament teams, with UConn’s APR issues being the reason for their exclusion, not their performance on the court. The departure of these perennial powerhouses means Big East teams will be missing important opportunities this year to register key wins against highly-ranked opponents. This puts added pressure on them to schedule serious non-conference games and to make those outings count, rather than relying on league play later on. Georgetown took note and did something smart, scheduling Michigan State for a neutral site game on February 1 in New York. They also have big non-conference games early against Oregon in South Korea and on the road at Kansas.

Thompson Got the Memo on Non-Conference Scheduling This Year

Thompson Got the Memo on Non-Conference Scheduling This Year

TREAT: A Chance to See A Couple of Old School Big East Rivalries: While most Big East fans were heartbroken when some of the league’s biggest names walked away, there is still the chance to see a couple of old match-ups unfold in non-conference play. Next week, Boston College visits Providence in their annual New England meeting, a rivalry that continued even when BC left for the ACC in 2005. On December 8, fans of New Jersey basketball will see their two premiere programs meet again as Seton Hall heads to Rutgers. The two biggest match-ups for Big East fans both involve old friend Syracuse. The Orange returns to its downstate home, Madison Square Garden, to take on longtime rival St. John’s on December 15. Then, on December 28, Syracuse is at home and will take on familiar foe Villanova.

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