Rushed Reactions: #9 Florida State 75, #1 Xavier 70

Posted by David Changas on March 19th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. David Changas (@dchangas) is in Nashville this weekend. 

Three Key Takeaways.

Florida State pulled off the second improbable comeback of the day in Nashville. (Christopher Hanewinkel, USA Today)

  1. There are no words, Part II. Okay, so this wasn’t a 22-point meltdown but it had to feel just as bad for Xavier Nation. The top-seeded Musketeers led by 12 points midway through the second half, and by nine when Chris Mack decided to take JP Macura out after the senior picked up his fourth foul. That proved to be a mistake. By the time Macura returned four and a half minutes later, the lead had dwindled to just two points with just over four minutes remaining. An 11-2 run for Florida State over the final 3:11 ultimately gave the Seminoles the five-point win. They led for a total of only one minute in the second half, but it was enough to complete the stunning comeback against the region’s top seed.
  2. A bad day for the city of Cincinnati. What happened here in Nashville today borders on the unfathomable. Had we not seen the first #16 over a #1 upset in the history of the sport two days ago, we certainly would be saying that two high seeds blowing substantial double-digit leads midway through the second half is the craziest thing in years. Both games had the feel of being decided well into their second halves, in large part because neither Nevada nor Florida State looked to be offensively in sync or capable of erasing such large deficits. It will take a long time for these two Cincinnati-based programs to recover from the March 18, 2018, disaster, and it’s fair to say that fans of both schools won’t want to see Nashville again for a very long time.
  3. Florida State’s balance was impressive. The Seminoles did not shoot the ball particularly well tonight – just 43.6 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from behind the arc – but they did have five players in double figures, led by 16 from Braian Angola. More importantly, though, was their ability to come at Xavier in waves on the defensive end. Their quickness and athleticism caused problems for the Musketeers all night long, and they were able to force them into 17 turnovers as a result. They also held Xavier, which came into tonight’s game with the nation’s seventh-best offense, to only 46.9 percent shooting. Florida State’s ability to pull off the upset without playing at its best is a tribute both to its athleticism and depth of its roster.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Xavier 102, #16 Texas Southern 83

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. David Changas (@dchangas) is in Nashville this weekend. 

 Three Key Takeaways.

J.P. Macura was on fire with his game, and his mouth, on Friday night. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

  1. A gritty effort by an outmanned Texas Southern team was not enough. As with seemingly every #1 vs. #16 matchup in the history of this event, this game was a complete physical mismatch. But that did not stop Mike Davis’ Texas Southern squad from doing everything it could to make this one close. The Tigers easily could have been blown out early, as they fell behind 13-4 just four and a half minutes into the game. But they fought back to go on an improbable 16-0 run to take a 20-13 lead at the 12:13 mark of the half. Unfortunately for them, Xavier answered with a 36-11 run before the Tigers scored the final six points of the half to trail by 12 at the break. In the second half, the Tigers melted down a bit, and were called for three technical fouls over the span of about two minutes midway through. Perhaps one of these days, the upset will finally happen, but it was never a possibility in this one.
  2. J.P. Macura was on fire, and he let everyone know it. Macura is the guy who is easy for everyone who plays him to hate. The 6’5″ senior came out on fire, as he went 7-of-9 from the field in the first half, including 4-of-5 from three-point range in scoring 18 points in the frame. In fact, he scored all 18 during a 10-minute stretch in the middle of the half, and that spurt was the difference in the ballgame, as the Tigers were never able to really get back in the game. Macura also spent most of the half jawing at Texas Southern players and hamming it up for the Xavier fans seated across from the Musketeers’ bench. No one can say that he doesn’t have fun playing the game, and Friday’s first half performance was among the best of his successful career. He finished with a career-high 29 points on 5-of-6 shooting from behind the arc.
  3. Trevon Bluett and Kerem Kanter weren’t bad, either. Macura was the show in the first half, but all-American Trevon Bluiett had a nice game as well, as did senior center Kerem Kanter. Bluiett ended the night with a “quiet” 26 points, while Kanter added 24. Along with Macura, the three accounted for nearly 80 percent of the Musketeers’ offense. For the night, Xavier shot 55 percent, and went 11-of-24 from three-point range. Granted, it came against an outmanned Texas Southern team, but for Xavier to go deep in this Tournament, it will need more performances like this from its big three going forward.

Player of the Game. J.P. Macura, Xavier. The first half run was all the Musketeers needed to make a Texas Southern upset an impossibility and Macura was the catalyst for that surge. Read the rest of this entry »

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Trick-or-Treat: Burning Questions for Five Big East Teams, Part II

Posted by Joe Papandrea on October 30th, 2015

Happy Halloween! Yesterday Part I of our “Trick or Treat” piece was published where we asked and answered a burning question for five teams in the Big East. Today it’s time for the top half of the league, as projected by the conference’s coaches. Let’s get right to it!

Providence: Will the Friars find a sidekick to join their Batman Kris Dunn?

Ben Bentil might be that key player for the Friars to compliment their star. (Getty)

Ben Bentil might be that key player for the Friars to complement their star. (Getty)

Treat: Kris Dunn was ridiculous last season and he is a consensus preseason First Team All-American after spurning the riches of the NBA. He will be Ed Cooley’s Batman, but in order to punch a third straight NCAA Tournament ticket this season, the Friars will need a Robin to step into that number two role previously held by LaDontae Henton. The smart money is on Ben Bentil. The 6’9” sophomore averaged a modest 6.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last year, but showed flashes of being a force in the paint. The power forward had back-to-back double doubles in the Big East Tournament, going for 14 points and 13 boards against St. John’s in the quarterfinals and then 12/10 against Villanova. Look for that strong finish to carry over to this year and for Bentil to help alleviate some of the pressure off of his star point guard’s shoulders.

Xavier: Can the Musketeers find a point guard to replace Dee Davis?

Trick: Chris Mack has proved his worth at his alma mater in his first six seasons by boasting a 65.4 percent winning rate. Only once in his career has Xavier won fewer than 20 games in that span so it is foolish to bet against him. However, with Dee Davis’ graduation, this team is severely lacking a floor general. Davis played just under 33 minutes per game and averaged 6.0 assists to only 2.4 turnovers per game. This year’s squad will look to fill the hole with three guys: Myles Davis, Larry Austin Jr., and Edmond Sumner. Davis is a natural two, Austin Jr. only played 4.3 minutes per game last year; and Sumner missed 25 games with knee injuries. If Sumner, a former top 100 recruit, can stay healthy, he seems to be the best fit for Mack, but that is a big if when you are dealing with knee issues. Read the rest of this entry »

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Previewing the New Big East Tournament

Posted by George Hershey on March 12th, 2014

The Big East Tournament kicks off tonight and it will be the first year without original members Syracuse and Connecticut. Taking their place are new members Creighton, Xavier, and Butler, which are expected to have plenty of fans making the trip to NYC. Listen to RTC’s Big East Tournament Edition podblast featuring Brian Otskey for a great preview.

Big East Bracket

What to Expect: Villanova and Creighton lead the group as the top two seeds, but the 3-7 seeds are looking to make a run that could secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova could secure a #1 seed if they win, while Creighton also is fighting for a top seed. Xavier, St. John’s, Providence, and Georgetown need some wins this week to strengthen there resume, but with several of the bubble teams playing each other early, their hopes of dancing next week will wither. Fans of the Big East are probably hoping that Villanova and Creighton do not win so that the conference gets another team in the tournament, but it will not be easy for any of those bubble teams. Fox Sports 1 will televise every game with  Gus Johnson, Bill Raftery,and Erin Andrews on site to report all the action, which is sure to bring plenty of excitement and drama after a great regular season.

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Big East NCAA Bracket Watch

Posted by George Hershey on February 6th, 2014

With a little over five weeks to go until Selection Sunday, most Big East teams have about eight games left before the Big East Tournament to solidify their standing for the NCAA Tournament. Eight teams have somewhat realistic hopes of making it into the 68-team field, but all but two still have plenty of work to do if they want to impress the selection committee. Here we will take a look at each of the 10 teams with a quick snapshot of what they have done, where they are, and what they need to do to hear their name called on March 16.

Steve Lavin and company have lots of work to do if they want to be dancing in March. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

Steve Lavin and company have lots of work to do if they want to be dancing in March.
(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

#6 Villanova, 20-2 (8-1)

  • Key Stats: #4 RPI, #7 Pomeroy, #7 BPI, #14 Strength of Schedule
  • Projections: Lunardi #2 seed; RTC #2 seed; Bracket Matrix #2 seed
  • Good Wins: #8 Kansas, #17 Iowa, Providence, Xavier
  • Bad Losses: None

Villanova is all but a lock at this point. The Wildcats started the season with two huge wins in the Bahamas against Kansas and Iowa and they continued their great play into conference play. Their only two losses are understandable — at Syracuse and against a Creighton team that could have beaten the Knicks that night. They have rolled through conference play and look like they will have no problem the rest of the way. The one game remaining that can help solidify a #2 seed will be at Creighton on February 16. Going 8-1 or even 7-2 with a potential loss to St. John’s or Providence should be enough to finish with no worse than a #3 seed, leaving the Wildcats in a great position for March.

#12 Creighton, 18-3, (8-1)

  • Key Stats: #8 RPI, #3 Pomeroy, #12 BPI, #27 SOS
  • Projections: Lunardi #3 seed; RTC #3 seed; Bracket Matrix #3 seed
  • Good Wins: @ #6 Villanova, California, Arizona State, Xavier
  • Bad Losses: None

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Three Up, Three Down in the Big East

Posted by George Hershey on January 27th, 2014

Every Big East team played on Saturday. Some had impressive outing, while others fell flat and disappointed. Here we highlight some of the positives and negatives from the weekend’s action with Three Up, Three Down.

Three Up

The Providence Role Players, Including Denton, Are Stepping Up

The Providence Role Players, Including Denton, Are Stepping Up

  1. Providence’s Supporting Cast. Coming into the season the emphasis was placed on senior scoring machine Bryce Cotton. In the non-conference slate, the team fared well but started with a poor 0-2 mark in conference play with a bad home loss to Seton Hall and a blowout defeat to Villanova. In those early losses, players like LaDontae Henton, Kadeem Batts, Tyler Harris and Josh Fortune had rough performances. They turned the ball over too much — 15 from the starters vs. Villanova — played poor defense, and failed to make the key plays that win games. More recently, Providence has been on a roll and these players are the primary reason for the difference. In the Friars’ win on Saturday against Xavier, four starters had at least 10 points with Henton dropping 23, Harris and Batts scoring 12 each, and Fortune hitting a key three as he was fouled to stymie a Xavier run. Carson Desrosiers was also very impressive on the defensive end, with six blocks against the Musketeers. Providence has now won five in a row to move to 5-2 in league play, good for third place in the conference standings. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 01.15.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 15th, 2014

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  1. Georgetown will be playing undermanned tonight when the Hoyas travel to Cincinnati to play Xavier. Joshua Smith is still battling academic issues and Jabril Trawick will miss his second straight game after he broke his jaw against Providence last week. The Hoyas were impressive in their overtime victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, but Xavier poses a tougher test as they are 8-1 in their last nine games after a loss to Creighton on Sunday. Xavier has a very good frontcourt and will likely look to exploit Georgetown’s relative lack of size. Moses Ayegba and Reggie Cameron will have to step up and play more than the 10 minutes they have averaged so far this season. Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera must continue their own exceptional play, but not having their big men to help space the floor will make finding open shots more difficult.  
  2. Xavier lost its first game after an eight-game winning streak, but the Musketeers are ready to face Georgetown after taking away several positives from their close loss to Creighton. They had trouble guarding Doug McDermott and didn’t shoot their free throws well (59%), but the team was happy about the perseverance they showed throughout. Center Matt Stainbrook said, “it [showed] a ton of resiliency and the fact that we can all have short-term memories. You learn from your mistakes, but when it comes to misses or stuff that’s not favorable for us, we have a really short-term memory.” Going forward in conference action, Xavier will need that short memory to keep fighting when momentum is not on their side, like they experienced on Sunday when Creighton was simply unconscious from deep.
  3. Luke Fischer‘s transfer was officially announced on Monday when he began classes at Marquette; yesterday he spoke to the media. He has already begun practicing and assistant coach Jerry Wainwright sounded excited about working with the new big man. Fischer has 11 months until he can suit up, but Wainwright says he will have an instant impact on the Golden Eagles. Fischer will match up against Davante Gardner and Chris Otule in practice, giving the centers a break from each other and a new challenge on both ends. The league has several centers similar to Fischer, but few like Gardner and Otule, so they will have a player to practice against that will more closely replicate games. In other Marquette news, Paint Touches takes a look at the freshmen so far, discussing those who are coming into their own and becoming significant contributors. Cracked Sidewalks has five charts that show why Marquette should be better than it has shown this season. The Golden Eagles seem to be rounding the corner every other game, but have yet to beat a team ranked higher than themselves.
  4. The Big East may not be as strong at the top this season with only two teams currently in the Top 25, but the league has tremendous depth. While Villanova and Creighton have moved up to #6 and #20 in the latest AP poll, the rest of the league may not be ranked but there are no really bad teams this year. In years past, teams like Syracuse and Louisville were national title contenders, but the league also suffered South Florida, DePaul, Rutgers, and Providence perennially struggling to win more than a few games. As of last night, seven of the 10 conference teams were ranked in the top 70 in Ken Pomeroy’s latest rankings, and DePaul was the lowest at #130, a number likely to rise after beating St. John’s. So far, the league has only had six blowout wins, showing the relative parity among all of the teams. This had led to a ton of excitement on numerous Big East campuses this season.
  5. ESPN had a series of posts on the best venues in college basketball, and not surprisingly, Hinkle Fieldhouse, home to the Butler Bulldogs, was included. Eamonn Brennan wrote about the history of the building, including most famously being where the “Milan Miracle,” the game that inspired the making of the movie, Hoosiers, occurred, and the incredible atmosphere in the building. He gives a great description, “You ascend the same blue-tinged concrete concourse to find your seat. You see the same afternoon sunlight shine down at the same angle through the same windows on the same, original wooden floor, the oldest in college basketball.” Hinkle seems to be a magical place as there constantly outstanding games there, including five overtime periods already this season. The Big East has some great venues with the Cintas Center, Bradley Center, and CenturyLink Arena among them drawing some of the largest crowds in the nation.
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Is the Big East Really Only a Three-Bid League Right Now?

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 9th, 2014

The Big East survived conference realignment to become the No. 3 league in terms of conference RPI and KenPom.com at this point of the season. Despite those lofty rankings, the league really only has three teams that sit comfortably on the right side of the bubble as of today. How is this possible? The short answer is that while it is true that the Big East failed to pick up a bunch of notable wins, it also avoided the awful resume-killing losses which weigh down a league’s RPI rating. As a matter of fact, the Big East has just five losses against teams outside the RPI top 100 teams. Let’s take a look at where all 10 teams stand in terms of NCAA Tournament chances with two months remaining in the regular season. From first to worst:

Jay Wright Has Lost His Magic Touch at Villanova (Photo credit: H. Rumph Jr/AP Photo).

Jay Wright and Villanova has bounced back nicely this season. (AP)

Villanova: 14-1, 3-0 Big East

  • Projected Postseason: Villanova is a lock to make the NCAA Tournament after an 11-1 non-conference run which featured wins against Kansas and Iowa on a neutral court. Right now, the Wildcats project to be a No. 2 seed.
  • Best Case Scenario: Jay Wright’s team gets through Big East play with no more than three losses and wins the Big East Tournament. A record of roughly 26-4 would put Villanova in contention for a N0. 1 seed. The Wildcats would need Syracuse to falter in order to earn the No. 1 seed in the East Regional hosted in New York City.
  • Worst Case Scenario: It turns out Villanova isn’t as good as its non-conference performance suggested. Villanova loses six to eight games in the Big East and winds up a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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Big East M5: 01.08.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 8th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Only a few days after announcing his departure from the Providence basketball team, Brandon Austin has decided to transfer to Eugene to play for Dana Altman and Oregon. The impact of his loss has already been discussed, but Brendan McGair of the Woonsocket Call takes a look at Ed Cooley‘s burden after Kris Dunn was hurt in an exhibition game and the school’s administration suspended two of his players. He points out that Cooley’s job has gotten much more difficult on his quest to transform Providence back into a basketball power. Now in his third year, Cooley has shown he can recruit at a high level but his teams have failed to win enough games to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. As if things couldn’t get any worse after a 30-point pasting at Villanova on Sunday, Cooley’s house suffered some damage after catching fire earlier this week. Luckily he and his family were safe.
  2. Villanova picked up its second commitment in the class of 2015 with Delaware shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo choosing the Wildcats over Syracuse. DiVincenzo has good size and will probably play shooting guard for Jay Wright’s squad. He can shoot the ball very well, has great athleticism, and looks like a good passer and facilitator. He is the second highly ranked player coming to Villanova next year, and he appears to be a great fit as someone who will be able to learn from Ryan Arcidiacono as a freshman.
  3. Big East teams are finally gaining some respect from Top 25 voters. Villanova rose three spots to eighth in the latest AP poll while Creighton is now 23rd in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Xavier also received some votes for the first time this season, as the Musketeers have impressed with recent wins over Cincinnati, Butler, Alabama, Wake Forest and St. John’s. Xavier hosts Marquette on Thursday and will travel to Creighton for a big tilt on Sunday. Georgetown could also work its way into the rankings over the next two weeks with upcoming games against Butler and Xavier. Reid Forgrave of FoxSports.com thinks that the Big East will improve come March and that some teams — Creighton, Villanova — are setting themselves up nicely while others — Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence — are digging themselves holes.
  4. Creighton was able to pull out a tough win against DePaul last night, but the bigger news of the night for the Bluejays was the injuries sustained by the team’s two best players. Grant Gibbs came down awkwardly at one point and was unable to make it off the court under his own power because of what looked to be a knee injury. He did not return and the severity of the injury is still unknown, but he is expected to undergo an MRI today. Doug McDermott dealt with a shoulder problem all night after running into the Blue Demons’ Sandi Marcius; the NPOY candidate finished the game and said he was fine afterward, but he was clearly hurting throughout. Losing Gibbs for any period of time would be a huge blow to the Bluejays’ long-term success, as Gibbs as the point guard runs one of the nation’s most efficient offenses. Over the summer, Gibbs received a surprising sixth year of eligibility so losing him would be a tragedy for Greg McDermott’s team. Here’s hoping that Gibbs and McDermott both recover quickly from their respective injuries. 
  5. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated wrote his annual Stock Report piece, taking a look at 63 teams and deciding whether to buy, sell, or hold each going forward. Davis mentions seven Big East teams in his piece. He is optimistic about all three of the league’s new members — Xavier, Butler and Creighton —  as he rates them all a buy. Davis gives Georgetown a hold as the Hoyas have a tough stretch upcoming, but they have proven capable thus far. He gives three teams a sell, with Villanova leading that group because he thinks they won’t be able to keep up their tremendous play all season. He also is selling Marquette because they have been unable to score effectively, and he thinks St. John’s has been terribly disappointing with its over-reliance on D’Angelo Harrison and several bad losses so far this season. Overall, there were some positive signs for most of the teams and this was a fun read for fans.
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Big East M5: 11.29.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 29th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. ESPN.com published its third big board for the NBA Draft next summer and the Big East was represented by two players, Doug McDermott and Semaj Christon. McDermott was ranked 20th by Chad Ford, who raves about offensive efficiency and McDermott has definitely impressed thus far this season, averaging 27.5 points on 55 percent shooting. His offensive game is multifaceted as he can shoot the ball at a high level, get to the rim off the dribble, and also has several nice moves in the post. His lack of athleticism and the hype surrounding the freshman and sophomores in the class is pushing his stock down, but another very strong season could help him make his case for a high pick next June.
  2. Villanova breezed by USC yesterday with some help from Dylan Ennis for the first time this season. Ennis transferred in from Rice last season, but his first season with the Wildcats has been delayed because of a broken hand. He scored 14 points on an efficient 4-of-5 shooting, while adding great energy off the bench. The Wildcats will play Kansas today in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in what will be a very difficult game. Jay Wright saw several of his key players step up against the Trojans, but Ennis will provide a steady hand in the backcourt off the bench and his scoring could be an added asset for an already good team.
  3. Xavier lost a heartbreaker to Iowa last night in the Bahamas. They ended up losing the game in overtime, but the Musketeers’ best player, Semaj Christon, could not play the final 15 minutes while suffering from cramps. He exited the game with 10 minutes left in the second half and Xavier leading 52-40. He was tended to by the coaching staff to the side of the bench, but with a minute left in regulation he returned to bench, giving hope that he would return to the action. He stood in front of the bench for the rest of the game as the Musketeers lost their upset bid in the extra period. Xavier has a rematch with Tennessee today, and after beating the Volunteers by four last month at home, Chris Mack will need Christon to be ready for this one. Xavier went on a five-minute scoring drought after Christon exited, proving how importance the super sophomore is for the Musketeers’ offense.
  4. What small, Catholic school’s basketball program does not have any top 100 recruits, just left a mid-major conference, and arguably has the best offense in college basketball? You could probably figure out that the program is Creighton. John Gasaway wrote an interesting article about the Bluejays’ explosive offense, led by Greg McDermott and his two time All-American son, Doug. The Bluejays have averaged 1.26 points per possession in their first four games and have scored at least 40 points in their first nine halves. A key to their high scoring is having four players who can shoot the three effectively, with a pass-first point guard running the system. This puts pressure on the opposing teams’ big men to get out and defend the perimeter, which has resulted in the  Bluejays’ shooting 46 percent from deep, a remarkable number. The article is a great read and well worth the time.
  5. After going 4-1 on Thursday, Big East teams are involved in seven more games today. Highlighting the day will be Butler taking on Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic and Villanova playing Kansas in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Both teams will see two of the most exciting and best players in all of college basketball, Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins. Today will be each team’s best chance for a huge upset this season, but a loss would still set them up well for a good third-place game. The weekend could also see Marquette meet Creighton in the finals of the Wooden Legacy, if both win their games today. That would be a great game as both teams are playing well right now. Nobody has been able to stop Creighton yet, but Buzz Williams will throw some wrinkles at McDermott if they do in fact meet.
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