Set Your TiVo: 12.14.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 14th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Cincinnati plays its first game since the Xavier brawl as Dead Week continues around the country. You should also keep an eye on the Iona/Richmond game at 3 PM but that one won’t be found on television.

Cincinnati at Wright State – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (**)

  • Cincinnati will only have six key contributors available when it heads to Wright State tonight. The Bearcats will be without Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, Ge’Lawn Guyn, and Octavius Ellis due to their suspensions stemming from the fight with Xavier on Saturday. Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon will have to step up in a big way for Cincinnati in order to win this game on the road. Wright State is not a good team, but the Bearcats have only one player taller than 6’5” available tonigt. For a team that can’t afford to speed up the game, that’s not a good combination for Cincinnati. Kilpatrick, Dixon, and point guard Cashmere Wright all can score, but the other Bearcats are all unproven. With Gates and company out, Cincinnati is missing a combined 22.2 PPG and 14.6 RPG in this game.
  • Wright State’s biggest advantages in this game are home court and height. Cincinnati’s players may be rattled playing a road game after the suspensions while the Raiders have three players 6’7” or taller, including 6’10” A.J. Pacher. He’s been plagued by foul trouble all season but if he manages to stay on the court for any extended period of time, Pacher will cause problems for Cincinnati in the paint. Billy Donlon’s top scorer is point guard Julius Mays, who is averaging 10.2 PPG. Wright State doesn’t score a lot of points due to its brutal offense but Mays does hit on 39.4% of his treys. Ordinarily, Wright State wouldn’t have much of a chance to beat Cincinnati. Given the Bearcats’ personnel issues, the Raiders have a solid chance this time.

Mick Cronin Will Need To Find A Way To Win Without His Best Players Tonight

  • Expect this game to be played at an incredibly slow pace. Both teams struggle to put the ball in the basket so this has the makings of a close game played in the 40s or 50s. For Wright State to win, it must assert itself inside from the start, limit Kilpatrick, and force some turnovers. The Raiders rank #35 in defensive turnover percentage, certainly a respectable number. Should this game come down to the wire, Cincinnati is actually a better free throw shooting team without the suspended players on the court. Kilpatrick, Wright and Dixon all shoot over 70% from the stripe. With all of the uncertainty around Cincinnati, we’re not sure how this game will play out. If forced to pick, we would give the slightest of edges to the home squad.

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Big East Morning Five: 12.13.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 13th, 2011

  1. Cincinnati held a press conference to discuss the suspensions it issued to four players following the ugly brawl that occurred in the waning seconds of an almost equally hideous 76-53 loss to cross-city rival Xavier on Saturday. The precedings included remarks from head coach Mick Cronin, who noted the suspended players will have to earn their way back if they want to play once their suspensions end. Each of the four suspended players (Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, and Octavius Ellis received six games while Ge’Lawn Guyn will sit out one) were present to give their public apologies. Gates, who had one of the most active and high profile roles in the fracas throwing several punches, one of which bloodied Xavier’s Kenny Frease, appeared genuinely apologetic and regretful, ultimately breaking down in tears while taking questions. Particularly when noting references to his being a “thug” and a “gangster”. “I want to apologize really to the whole city of Cincinnati for my actions,” Gates said, “The actions that I displayed are not what I’m about. This is not what the University of Cincinnati is about. It’s not what my family’s about.” Gates, a senior, also said he feared his actions may have led to the end of his collegiate career.  Should all players earn their way back after six games, they would be available to play on January 4 at home versus Notre Dame, after missing just one Big East contest on New Year’s Day at #15 Pittsburgh.  The Bearcats’ first short-handed test takes place Wednesday at Wright State (4-6).
  2. A few people involved in Saturday’s Cincinnati – Xavier fight-marred game learned on Monday that they escaped further diciplinary action. That would be the game’s referees. Reggie Greenwood, the Atlantic 10 conference’s coordinator of officials confirmed that the game’s officiating crew–Mike Roberts, Tony Crisp, and Jeff Anderson–would not face punishment in connection to Saturday’s events. The trio was subject to criticism for their handling of the game, including strong commentary from Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin. “They were sent into an ambush,” Cronin said. “They had no idea they were walking into it.” Cronin indicated in a press conference on Monday that typically with heated rivalry games between Big East and Atlantic 10 teams (Cincinnati-Xavier, Providence-Rhode Island, Villanova-St. Joseph’s) at least one member of the officiating crew has experience with such games, but that was not the case on Saturday. He also said that there was conversation with the referees throughout the game about handing out technical fouls to minimize some of the outbursts and trash talking that had started prior to tip-off. Cronin indicated a referee told him to do so would include some of his players receiving techicals and that he urged the official to give technicals to anyone on his team that deserved one in order to prevent things from escalating.
  3. This week’s Big East awards are out and West Virginia’s Darryl “Truck” Bryant has earned Player of the Week honors. Bryant scored a career-high 27 points, including five threes, in a win over Miami on Saturday. He averaged 25.5 points and four rebounds in a 2-0 week for the Mountaineers. For the second consecutive time Providence forward LaDontae Henton took home Rookie of the Week accolades. Henton averaged 17.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in three Friar victories, including a career-high 21 points versus Boston College and a double-double (13 points and 12 rebounds) to go with five blocked shots against Bryant University. Leading the Honor Roll recipients this week is Seton Hall’s Herb Pope who is playing as well as anyone in the conference right now, averaged a double-double for the week (25.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG) in two Pirate wins. Rounding out the Honor Roll were DePaul’s Cleveland Melvin (21.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG) who had a career-high 30 poins to go with eight boards in a win over Chicago State, Louisville center Gorgui Dieng (16.0 PPG, 12.0 RPG) also scored a career-high this past week, netting 18 in a win over IUPUI, Marquette forward Jae Crowder (16.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG) who buried a game winning three-pointer in the Golden Eagles’ 79-77 victory over Washington, and Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley who stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 22.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in two badly needed Fighting Irish wins.
  4. The latest rankings are out and your Syracuse Orange (10-0) are the nation’s #1 team on the heels of Kentucky’s thrilling loss to Indiana on Saturday. This has to be especially sweet for Jim Boeheim and company given all of the non-basketball related news that has swirled around the program with the sexual misconduct against former assistant coach Bernie Fine story. Louisville (9-0) moved up one spot yet again this week to crack the top four.  Connecticut (8-1) knocked Harvard out of the polls with their victory over the Crimson last Thursday but it was not enough to improve their own raking, as they remain at #9. Marquette (9-0) and Pittsburgh (9-1) also stood pat at #11 and #15 respectively while Georgetown (8-1) jumped up two spots to #16 by virtue of taking down Howard on Saturday.  
  5. As for the latest in the Bernie Fine case, Onondaga District Attorney William Fitzpatrick participated in an online chat facilitated by a Syracuse newspaper, The Post-Standard.  Our personal favorite exchange in this chat had nothing to do with the case. A participant named “John” asked “Why are you doing this today? Isn’t enough, enough already?” To which Fitzpatrick cordially responded, “Don’t read it.” In terms of relevant content, Fitzpatrick revealed that he has not had any contact with the Fine family saying, “No, I have not attempted to interview the Fines out of respect for the federal investigation.” Fitzpatrick also clarified neither ESPN nor The Post-Standard would face charges for failing to turn over the now infamous recording of a 2002 phone call between one of the accusers, Bobby Davis, and Fine’s wife, Laurie. However, he reiterated a previous point that he would have liked to have seen Bobby Davis turn the tape over to authorities instead of any media outlet. Fitzpatrick went on to note that the length of the federal investigation should not be used to handicap the case as to whether or not they have collected or will collect enough evidence to arrest Fine.
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Checking In On… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. You can also find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Crosstown Knockout: Suspensions were handed down on Sunday for the embarrassing incident at the conclusion of Saturday’s Cincinnati/Xavier game, a 76-53 Musketeers victory. Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis each received six game bans while Ge’Lawn Guyn will sit out for one game. On the other side, Xavier suspended Dezmine Wells and Landen Amos (a walk-on) for four games while Mark Lyons will sit for a pair and Tu Holloway for one. As for Gates and company, six games doesn’t seem nearly enough, especially when only one of those is a Big East game (a probable loss at Pittsburgh to begin with). Mick Cronin’s comments certainly were interesting. The UC coach waxed poetic in the postgame press conference but didn’t follow those words up with strong actions. On the other hand, Cronin told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz that the suspensions were handed down by those above him in the Cincinnati administration. Even so, it would seem hard to believe the administration wanted to go easier on the players than the head coach. If Cincinnati wanted to be serious, it would have suspended Gates and the others for a large chunk of the Big East season and the rest of non-conference play, or simply kicked them off the team. Instead, this incident is yet another example of placing sports and winning games before justice and learning a life lesson. If this happened off the basketball court, Gates would likely have been charged with battery. Instead, Gates only has to sit six games against the steady diet of non-conference cupcakes Cronin has feasted on over the last two years. From the fight itself to the way the aftermath has been handled, this has been one huge embarrassment for both Cincinnati and Xavier.

To Many, Saturday's Brawl Between Xavier And Cincinnati Signifies A New Low For College Basketball (USAT)

  • West Virginia and Marquette Involved in Thrillers: The Mountaineers ventured to Wichita, Kansas, and took on Kansas State in what was essentially a road game despite it being played away from the Little Apple. Bob Huggins was able to defeat his student, Frank Martin, but it took two overtime periods to do so. It was a thrilling game full of big shots and lots of toughness. It was very important for West Virginia to add a quality road win to its resume and while the Wildcats may not be as good as last season, this win could make a big difference if the Mountaineers find themselves on the bubble come March.  Marquette took on Washington at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night and found itself in a dogfight with the Huskies as UW took the early lead. Marquette fought back to take a three-point halftime lead when the game really ramped up. The high level of play led to numerous lead changes in an up-and-down affair that eventually came to an end when Jae Crowder knocked down a three from the corner to win it for the Golden Eagles, one of only nine undefeated teams remaining in college basketball as of this writing.
  • Big East Continues to Disappoint:  It’s still very early but it’s also hard not to notice that the conference may be looking at eight NCAA Tournament teams in a best case scenario. The Big East lost six games this past week, three by the dregs of the conference but three others by teams considered to be NCAA contenders. It was an awful week for Villanova as it blew two chances for quality wins away from home, losing in New York to Missouri and across town in Philadelphia to Temple. The Wildcats have lost four of their past five games and have zero wins of note on their resume to date. If Villanova doesn’t win at St. Joe’s this coming week, it may have to go 10-8 in conference play just to even be considered for the Tournament. Meanwhile, Cincinnati sits at 5-3 after the Xavier loss with key players in trouble due to the brawl. The Bearcats’ best win is a road victory over 4-5 Georgia, a bottom-tier SEC team. With no quality wins and two ugly losses already on their resume, the Bearcats probably have to beat Oklahoma on December 29 and go 10-8 in league play to have any chance.
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IV

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 12th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish on Mondays throughout the season. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED… Tom Crean taking a giant step forward with his Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday. Having taken over a disastrous situation in Bloomington, no one deserved that finish more than Crean against the Kentucky Wildcats. Christian Watford’s rainbow swish as the buzzer sounded is one giant recruiting tool for the future, and the only thing better would have been Gus Johnson’s voice on the call. What a game, and what a relief for Crean after several years of frustration.

Christian Watford's Game-Winner Represents IU's Renaissance

I LOVED… seeing Madison Square Garden for the first time. I made it to MSG for Saturday’s Washington/Duke matchup, and there is a different type of atmosphere in that historic arena that takes hold the moment you get your ticket scanned and step inside. Players on both teams were bouncing up and down as soon as they stepped on the floor, which isn’t something you always see at a neutral location. The crowd is basketball-savvy, and you can’t help getting caught up looking at the retired Knicks greats in the rafters. As Coach K said after the game: “I love playing at Cameron, but outside of Cameron, Madison Square Garden is the place.” Very cool.

I LOVED…UCLA coach Ben Howland making a gutsy call by getting rid of Reeves Nelson. It’s a tough situation when one player is setting a terrible example, but your team is still probably better off with him on the floor. We talked about Nelson a couple weeks ago and I questioned whether Howland was going too easy on him, but this is a decision that obviously places principles ahead of short-term benefits. It could be a rough year in LA for Howland, but the Bruin program will be better off in the long run.

I LOVED… trying to decide about Washington freshman guard Tony Wroten. I actually got to watch Wroten play in high school because he went to my alma mater in Seattle, and he’s been a top-5 prospect in his class since about age 14 (he likely would have been top-3 without a football knee injury as a junior, but he seems to have fully recovered). Anyone who caught Washington/Duke saw what I’m talking about – Wroten is usually too showy, at times the best scorer on the floor, at times the best passer on the floor, at times the most selfish on the floor, often times the most unmotivated on the floor, the most exciting, the most excited, and almost always a turnover waiting to happen.

It can be mesmerizing to watch though (when it’s not infuriatingly aggravating), and it will be interesting to see how Lorenzo Romar will develop this uber-talented frosh. If he refines his game and focus, he could be up there with the best in the nation.

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Big East Morning Five: Cincinnati-Xavier Fallout Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 12th, 2011

  1. It is never a dull weekend in the Big East. Only this season, the basketball has been taking a backseat. At this point, even if you don’t follow college basketball, you have some idea what went on between Cincinnati and Xavier Saturday. Yesterday, both teams announced the suspensions that were a result of one of the nastier brawls in recent college basketball history. As always, the blogosphere reacted nearly immediately, and most of it was negative. It might be redundant but the national site here at RTC had an excellent take on hollow talk in press conferences that many have accused Mick Cronin of in the wake of yesterday. Bearcats Blog actually did a frame-by-frame breakdown of the actual brawl and we used it to weigh in on the penalties. So we broke it down by each player’s punishment and called it an excuse for a Morning Five.
  2. As the person who did the most real damage Saturday, it’s stunning that Yancy Gates only got six games, including just one conference game. It was in the heat of the moment and both teams were mixing it up, but whether it’s a public sidewalk or a basketball court, you can’t be allowed to sucker-punch someone in the face. Everyone saw that punch in slow motion. It was brutal, it was malicious, it was flush in the face, and it came from a man who stands 6’9” and is a chiseled 250 pounds. I am surprised he will get to play again this season.
  3. I think Cheik Mbodj deserves a little bit more sympathy and only a little bit. There is nothing more cowardly then trying to stomp on a man while he is down and then fade into the background like Mbodj did. But if you watch closely, his kick is pretty cowardly as well. It didn’t look like much. If anything, Mbodj should feel embarrassed watching himself in that video, because he did nothing until Kenny Frease was already on the ground. It was pathetic, but it didn’t seem to do any damage. It probably deserved at least ten games and the sincere public apology that Cronin is promising.
  4. Octavius Ellis is the winner of ignominious “only Bearcat player involved that no one bothered to identify yesterday” award, but he might have played a bigger role than most realize. It was Ellis that ended the first half jawing with Xavier’s Mark Lyons and those two tangled again at the end of the game with Ellis instigating. Which brings us to the real crux of this paragraph, which is, how in the world did Ellis get involved with Lyons in the first place? Cronin said the Musketeers were talking trash to the Cincinnati bench, but either Ellis has a quick temper or Lyons was going after him directly. I could be wrong, but I have never seen anyone that angry over trash-talk. He probably deserved ten games as well given how many punches he threw and perhaps an explanation we definitely won’t get.
  5. The only punishment that seems reasonable… almost, was the one given to Ge’Lawn Guyn. He was definitely provoked by Tu Holloway into the staredown that started the fracas, but it seemed non-physical until Dez Wells decked him. If Guyn had done nothing else, he might have escaped without a suspension. But he was so incensed at being blindsided he lost control. If you watch closely he is in the back being held by a coach, then he breaks free and at 21 seconds, he attacks Brad Redford who is literally the last man off the Xavier bench. He seems to keep looking for a fight and even breaks free again to aid Ellis. He got pushed, but that doesn’t mean he gets to run around picking fights with anyone in the opposing uniform. Give him two games.
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Morning Five: 12.12.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 12th, 2011

  1. As you may have heard, there was a small fracas at the end of the Xavier-Cincinnati game on Saturday. The two schools suspended four players each for their actions with the suspensions ranging from six games (for Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj) to one game along with unspecified community service obligations. While there are a handful of fans and media members who are saying that the schools did a good job handling the punishments, it seems like a vast majority have been quite critical of the relatively light suspensions especially after what they believed they were hearing from Mick Cronin in his post-game press conference (a topic we wrote about yesterday). Although it has been discussed ad nauseum within the college basketball world, don’t be surprised if this is one of the major stories on sports radio and all the talking head TV shows even if does get buried under Tebow-mania.
  2. It took him long enough, but Ben Howland finally decided to kick Reeves Nelson off the UCLA basketball team on Friday. It does not appear that there was another specific incident that led Howland to finally get rid of Nelson, but instead it appears that it was more the result of a series of discussions that Nelson had with Howland and how Howland felt Nelson was responding to his punishment. We are not sure if this decision will finally spark a lifeless Bruin team as they struggled on Saturday to beat a mediocre Penn team at home. We aren’t sure where Nelson will end up next or if he will ever live up to his potential (our guess: no), but it might be instructive to see how he responded to his dismissal.
  3. On Saturday, Georgetown announced that highly touted freshman center Tyler Adams would be out indefinitely while undergoing tests to work up a potential cardiac abnormality. While we don’t know what Adams is being worked up for, the most likely reasons are for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy or an arrhythmia. We probably don’t need to tell you that cardiac conditions can be serious, but if you missed our prior post on the increased incidence of sudden cardiac death in Division I men’s basketball players it is worth a read. It goes without saying that basketball should be a distant secondary concern for Adams at the time and we hope that whatever triggered this work-up was an isolated event and not a significant medical problem not so much for his basketball career as for the rest of his life.
  4. While Kansas picked up a big victory at home on Saturday against a Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State team, they also suffered a blow when it was announced that Tyshawn Taylor had torn his meniscus in his right knee earlier in the week and would be undergoing surgery. According to reports, the surgery, which is a fairly simple procedure, went well and Taylor is expected to be out for three weeks. Until he returns a relatively young Jayhawk team will have to learn to adjust to life without their talented, but mercurial leader, who himself has had trouble with turnovers this season. This majority of the point guard duties will probably be handed over to Elijah Johnson or one of the younger players on the team like Naadir Tharpe. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, they don’t really have another tough opponent until January 16 (five weeks from now) when they play Baylor.
  5. We are always surprised when a coach resigns in the middle of the season and even moreso when it is an established coach so when Northern Arizona‘s Mike Adras abruptly announced that he was stepping down on Friday we were shocked. Adras, who compiled a 193-170 record in 13 seasons at the school, led the team to its second NCAA Tournament appearance ever in 2000, but had not been back to the NCAA Tournament since then and his team started this season 2-7. Adras had very little to say in the school’s official release other than the usual generic stuff about being proud of what he accomplished and leaving to pursue other undisclosed opportunities. Interestingly, Adras never actually told his players about his decision to leave and as of this writing apparently has not talked to the team about it, which makes it seem like he may have actually had a little push from the administration to help him with his decision to resign. For the time being, 70 year-old Dave Brown will act as the interim head coach while the school begins its search for a permanent replacement.
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ATB: Crosstown Brawl Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 12th, 2011

On Saturday afternoon, one of the ugliest incidents in recent college basketball memory occurred near the end of the 2011 Crosstown Shootout rivalry game between Cincinnati and Xavier. From the trash talk before the game to the first round of suspensions that were handed down Sunday, it has been a crazy 24-plus hours already. With much of the broader sports nation focused on the holiday season and the NFL this weekend, we thought it would be worth a brief rundown of how we got here for those who may have missed it.

The Crosstown Shootout Devolved Into Chaos Saturday (ESPN)

The Set-Up.

As our now world-famous correspondent Fake Gimel (@fakegimel) noted in his game recap, the Crosstown Shootout rivalry is naturally filled with quite a bit of emotion and in this year’s edition, those emotions bubbled over. In addition to the pre-existing animosity between the schools just from being local rivals, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick added some bulletin board material when he suggested on a local radio station that Xavier’s All-America candidate Tu Holloway would not start for the Bearcats. Of course, such a statement is an absurd suggestion, but when you are in a rivalry sometimes something as idiotic as that fans the flames. Despite the pregame hype and the taunts of Xavier students as the Musketeers took command of the game, it was a spirited but relatively clean game aside from a halftime incident where XU’s Mark Lyons was confronted by Cincinnati’s Octavius Ellis before officials broke it up.

The Incident.

While we cannot comment on what was being said on the court between the players on both sides leading up to the altercation, reports indicate that things escalated when Holloway began to chatter at the Cincinnati bench in the waning seconds of the game. A few Bearcats responded and then things went downhill. Quickly.

Our first view is the general television view that many of you had.

While that looks bad enough, this view from the student section makes it look even worse.

Bearcats Blog does a frame-by-frame review of the incident that’s worth a look too.

The Aftermath.

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It’s Not About Winning The Press Conference

Posted by nvr1983 on December 11th, 2011

Immediately after yesterday’s horrendous brawl during the Crosstown Shootout, there were calls from throughout the college basketball world for significant suspensions to be handed out to players from Cincinnati and Xavier. The two players who received the most criticism were Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj for their vicious attack on Xavier’s Kenny Frease. Gates was caught on camera punching Frease in the face and Mbodj was seen stomping on Frease while he lay defenseless on the floor. To be fair, Xavier is not without blame as they appeared to be the team that escalated the incident from a verbal one into a physical one and it was Musketeer All-American guard Tu Holloway who gave us a memorable “body bag” comment after the brawl.

Mick Cronin Did A Great Job In The Press Conference Yesterday

However, once the press conference started (first tweeted by our own Fake Gimel), a large portion of the public and media were appeased by the thoughtful (or well-rehearsed) comments of Mick Cronin and Chris Mack. Throwing in phrases like “no excuses,” “grow up,” “full responsibility,” “zero excuse,” and “represent an institution of higher learning,” Cronin won praise from many media members including CBS’s Gary Parrish — trust us, there were more, but we aren’t digging through Twitter to find those responses — for the way he handled the press conference (full video here). Perhaps it was a sincere belief that Cronin would in fact do “the right thing,” which many believed was at least to hand out a pair of 10-game suspensions and potential dismissal from the team for Gates and Mbodj. It turns out that the punishments fall well short of that, as those two players and Octavius Ellis were each suspended for six games and Ge’Lawn Guyn was suspended for one game. All four players will also have to serve some form of community service.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.09.11 to 12.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 9th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It is road test Saturday as Kentucky and Ohio State face strong tests in Bloomington and Lawrence while a fierce intra-city rivalry plays out on the hardwood in Cincinnati. Also, Duke faces a challenge from Washington at MSG while Wisconsin and Gonzaga look to get back on the right track on their home floors. [Editor’s Note: There will be no Set Your TiVo on Monday due to the barren nature of that night’s schedule as most schools transition into finals week. We will resume on Tuesday.]

#6 Duke vs. Washington (at New York, NY) – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (***)

Duke is Back at MSG For Another Great Game (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

  • Duke returns to Madison Square Garden for the second time this year to take on a Washington team that also will be playing its second game in the building after a thrilling game against Marquette on Tuesday night. This game will be up-tempo and you can expect guard-heavy Duke to try to take advantage of Washington’s inability to defend the three-point shot. Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly can all knock down the triple at a high rate and they’re the reasons why the Blue Devils rank #19 in that department. They’ll be shooting against a Huskies defense that ranks a paltry #262 (37.1%) against the trifecta. The Huskies used a zone at times against Marquette earlier this week. That may be effective at stopping Duke inside, but the Blue Devil guards can shoot right over it. If Lorenzo Romar goes man-to-man, his team will have to fight its way through the tremendous screening action that is a huge part of Duke’s offense, allowing shooters to get open with ease. If Duke knocks down its threes, it’ll be a long early afternoon for Washington.
  • The defensive matchups don’t look good for Washington, so you would have to think the Huskies will need to put up a lot of points in order to win. They certainly can do that against Duke’s perimeter defense, but the key will be Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox making a bunch of threes to offset the barrage that may come from the Duke shooters. Washington has the height and athleticism necessary to neutralize and even take advantage of Duke in the paint with Aziz N’Diaye and Darnell Gant which will force the Blue Devils to make shots. Offensively, UW’s guards have to be able to penetrate to open up some outside shots while getting N’Diaye and Gant some easy buckets around the rim. That means Abdul Gaddy and (especially) Tony Wroten can’t turn the ball over. The freshman is certainly talented but he turns it over more than four times per game.
  • This is a big chance for Washington (4-3) to snag a crucial victory with hardly anything of note left on its non-conference schedule. Washington must rebound the basketball and push the pace as much as possible. The Huskies do a very good job on the boards, outrebounding Duke by an average of 10 RPG coming into the game. The Huskies need to be tough around the basket on both ends of the floor and should not be afraid to foul Mason Plumlee when he receives the ball in the post. Plumlee is a 42.3% foul shooter and should be in for a battle around the basket. While Washington may not be able to defend the three-ball straight up, the Huskies’ length and athleticism has the potential to bother Duke’s guards. Rivers can break down a defense at will but Curry is susceptible to shaky ballhanding and turnovers. If Washington can rattle Curry and put points on the board, they’ll be in the game for the long haul. We’re looking for a closer than expected game but still have to favor the Blue Devils because of their three-point shooting and the partisan crowd sure to fill Madison Square Garden.

Cincinnati @ #7 Xavier – 12:30 PM EST Saturday on ESPN2 (****)

  • The Crosstown Shootout is one of the perennially underrated rivalries in the game. While the teams aren’t always great, the basketball is intense between two schools that don’t particularly care for one another. Xavier is the better team but can’t afford to take the Bearcats lightly. The Musketeers needed second half rallies to defeat Vanderbilt and Purdue before going on the road and winning at Butler this past Wednesday. Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons do most of the work for this team but the X-men will need an interior presence against Cincinnati big man Yancy Gates. Gates is a load inside but Kenny Frease should be able to match up with him, at least on the defensive end. If Chris Mack’s squad can limit Gates, who is struggling with only 15 total points scored in his last two games, Xavier will be well on its way to a win at the Cintas Center.
  • Cincinnati plays terrific defense but Mick Cronin’s team really struggles to score. The Bearcats have a stunning lack of depth for a team that is supposed to contend for an upper tier finish in the Big East. Since it is putting up only 64 PPG, Cincinnati has to win games with its defense. The good news is Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon can hit from deep with some level of consistency but they’ll face their toughest test to date against a Xavier defense allowing only 25.5% shooting from the three-point line. If the shots don’t fall, Cincinnati doesn’t stand much of a chance, especially if Gates continues his lackluster play of late. To win, the Bearcats must shoot well but they also have to control the glass and the pace of the game. Holloway loves to push the ball, penetrate and get to the line where he’s an 86.2% shooter. He averages nearly ten free throw attempts per game and it’s vital that Cincinnati keep him off the charity stripe if it is to win.
  • These teams are similar with regards to their defense and toughness but Xavier is a more talented and deeper version of Cincinnati. Playing in front of a raucous home crowd, it’s hard to see the Musketeers dropping this game. For the Bearcats to have a chance to pull it out, Gates has to be the player he was towards the end of last season when he was putting up 20+ points a night. In addition, Cashmere Wright can’t be turning the ball over at the rate (3.3 per game) he has so far this season. We may be making a mistake since it is a rivalry game, but Xavier by 10-15 points seems like a good bet.
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Big East/SEC Challenge Face-Off: Cincinnati @ Georgia

Posted by mlemaire on December 2nd, 2011

Gerald Smith: When Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie left Georgia early for the NBA Draft, they packed up all the shooting accuracy with them. They contributed roughly 45% of all field goals made last season which powered Georgia to a 45.2% shooting pace last year. This season the Bulldogs are shooting just 38.4% from the floor in seven games. Freshman guard and 2011 McDonald’s All-American Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (13.6 PPG, 5 RPG) is doing his best to shoulder the scoring burden. Caldwell-Pope and the Bulldogs needs more help from senior guard Dustin Ware, who’s experiencing a drop-off in production from last season (7.9 PPG, 43.5% 3FG, 3.5 assists per game) to this season (6.8 PPG, 35.0% 3FG, 1.9 assists per game). Georgia’s frontcourt duo of forwards Donte’ Williams (7.6 PPG, 40% FG, 56% FT) and Marcus Thornton (3.4 PPG, 22% FG, 50% FT) leave a lot to be desired.

Georgia does a good job on defense but doesn’t have enough speed and strength to stop the more talented teams. Xavier and California both plowed the bulldogs with speedy guards.

Prediction: Cincinnati 71, Georgia 63

Ware Needs to Get a Few More Shots to Fall This Season

Patrick Prendergast: Cincinnati came into this season with elevated expectations as they returned their top four scorers from year’s 26-9 NCAA Tournament team that won eleven Big East games and finished sixth in the conference.  Perhaps the Bearcats have rested on their laurels a bit too much as they have disappointed in the early going, sitting at 4-2 including a 56-54 loss to Presbyterian. For Cincinnati to be successful they need to feed the beast, 6’9″ 260-pound center Yancy Gates (14.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG), and work inside out to open up the three-guard attack of Sean Kilpatrick (13.8), Dion Dixon (12.5 PPG), and Cashmere Wright (10.0 PPG).  Part of Cincinnati’s early issues lie in the fact that Dixon and Wright are lagging last years scoring pace (17.0 and 16.5 PPG, respectively).

Like Georgia, Cincinnati will use the shot clock on offense and play tough on defense, where they are allowing just 53 points per game. Cincinnati should have the horses to prevail in this one, especially if Gates gets consistent touches.

Prediction: Cincinnati 64, Georgia 54

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Voices of the Big East: Volume I

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on November 21st, 2011

Voices of the Big East is an ongoing feature intended to capture the essence of the conference through the words of those involved and those impacted. This will come in the form of quotes, Tweets, videos and anything else we feel like sticking in here. It’s perfect for you multitasking short attention-spanners. If you find something you think is a candidate for this feature send it to us and we might even give you credit!

The Blue Hose – Who Dey?

Cincinnati center Yancy Gates, after the No. 20 Bearcats were upset by Presbyterian 56-54 on Saturday.

“You just take it as a learning experience. Probably some guys think we’re better than we are. Hopefully it will humble us as a team.”

(Associated Press)

It’s All About The Benjamins

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim speculating to the Syracuse Post-Standard on why Bobby Davis would be telling his story of alleged abuse now.

“Here’s why,” he said. “The Penn State thing came out and the kid behind this is trying to get money. He’s tried before. And now he’s trying again. If he gets this, he’s going to sue the university and Bernie. What do you think is going to happen at Penn State? You know how much money is going to be involved in civil suits? I’d say about $50 million. That’s what this is about. Money.”

‘Deep’ Thoughts by Jim Boeheim

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim commenting on how to divvy up playing time between his talented four-guard rotation of: Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters and Michael Carter-Williams.

“It’ll give you people something to talk about as to who should be playing, but they all will be playing. Whichever one plays good then he’s the one who should be playing the most. That’s the way it’ll be all year.”

 

New sheriff in FRIARTOWN returns to his old stomping grounds

First year Providence head coach Ed Cooley on returning to Fairfield last Monday to play his former team

“It will be emotional. I have a great amount of respect for those kids. We recruited them and I’ve seen them grow into men. I’ve seen how they’ve been able to impact the community down there, but at the end of the day they are the absolute enemy. When the ball goes up, I don’t give a damn about them. I care about the Friars. Go Friars.”

“I love those kids. I’ll give them all a hug then we’ll try to rip their hearts out.”

(Providence Journal) 

Tell us how you really feel Mike Rice

After his team lost handily to Miami, Rutgers coach Mike Rice didn’t hold back in his assessment of his team. He will also — apparently — had a relatively lonely walk to the bus.

“Austin was the only guy who had any purpose or discipline on our team. Dane Miller was soft. Gilvydas (Biruta) was rushed. Austin was the only person I’d like to walk to the bus with me.”

 

The PITTS, Yins’All!

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon on Wednesday’s upset loss to Long Beach State.  Surprisingly Snoop Dogg could not be reached for comment but fo’ shizzle he was happy.

So Much Drama in the LBC

 

“We knew when we scheduled Long Beach State that they were very good and we wanted to play an experienced team. We knew how good they were. I anticipated us being a much better team at this time and obviously we are not where I would like us to be.”

Guys who are supposed to be back on the shot aren’t doing that when they are supposed to be, but the same guys aren’t doing it in practice either. It’s a new thing for a couple of guys. We got beat every which way and when you get beat like we did it is execution or could be construed as effort.”

 

I Scream, You Scream…But Not Like She Screams!

St. John’s missed like 452 free throws in the waning minutes of their 58-57 loss (yes they could have won by 451) to Billy Kennedy’s Texas A&M Aggies.  If you have problems waking up in the morning we suggest using this video as your snooze alarm.

Jeff
Goodman (@GoodmanCBS)

11/18/11 6:37 PM
I’m not kidding when I say this. Billy
Kennedy’s daughter, Anna Cate, should get the game ball. She was the
difference-maker in this one.

If you count getting arrested for throwing eggs at cars, in high school I got my name in the paper once

Providence 2012 signee & cover boy Kris Dunn.

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Focal Point: Yancy Gates

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on November 17th, 2011

Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates is the most important player on the Big East team with the largest increase in expectations entering the 2011-12 season. Gates is a preseason All-Big East Second Team selection, but in reality there is virtually no ceiling for his personal accolades this year. A postseason all-Big East First Team selection is within reach, as is the potential for Big East Player of the Year consideration when all is said and done.

Head coach Mick Cronin‘s Bearcats are coming off a 26-9 overall record last year, including a sixth-place, eleven-win Big East campaign, capped by Cincinnati’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in Cronin’s tenure.  An appearance that ended with a third round loss to eventual champion Connecticut. The breakout season, along with the return of the team’s top four scorers from a year ago, has garnered a national ranking (No. 20 in the latest Associated Press poll), and an upper echelon fifth-place Big East prediction, while fans and national pundits alike are looking for more overall.

Gates Has Potential To Reach Great Heights

Now a senior, Gates represents the total package. The personification of power and physicality, yet, despite some stormy patches in his career, nimble enough to dance between rain drops. The 6’9″, 260-pound (it’s the new 285) forward is wide-bodied and broad-shouldered to the point his uniform number seems like 3444 as opposed to 34. (Can you imagine veteran Big East referee Tim Higgins calling a foul on Gates and signing 3-4-4-4 to the scorer’s table?) Gates also possesses perimeter skills — which he loves to show off — that are impressive for a player of his size. But to gain the consistency that has eluded him for most of his collegiate career, Gates has to resist the urge to complicate matters when the game can come so simply and easily for him. Read the rest of this entry »

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