Big 12 Weekly Primer: December 28-29

Posted by dnspewak on December 28th, 2011


  • #11 Mississippi State at #6 Baylor, Wednesday, 8 PM CT in Dallas (ESPN2)

Scott Drew's Team Is Flying High Heading Into Tonight's Game

At 12-0 and fresh off a Las Vegas Classic sweep of St. Mary’s and West Virginia, there’s not a whole lot left for Baylor to prove. The 6th-ranked Bears seem to have it all: dominant bigs, freakish athleticism, terrific dunkers and, most importantly, steady guard play. Junior college All-American Pierre Jackson, Boston College transfer Brady Heslip and junior A.J. Walton have formed a strong trio in the backcourt, and they’re helping Perry Jones and the crew lead the way in the paint. Cal transfer Gary Franklin has also impressed since gaining eligibility, as he’s turned the ball over just once in four games. That’s a striking contrast from last season, when Scott Drew wasted a boatload of NBA talent due to poor guard play and other issues. Baylor still has some work to do in the rebounding department, and it also turns the ball over a bit too much at times. But those are kinks Drew will work out during the course of the season, and they shouldn’t hold Baylor back against Mississippi State. In many ways, the Bulldogs are a mirror image of Baylor. They have a dangerous frontcourt duo in Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney, but Rick Stansbury’s guards have stepped up to help the Bulldogs to a 12-1 start. Dee Bost may be this team’s most important player as both a scorer and leader of the offense, and it’s going to be up to him to make smart decisions on a semi-neutral floor in Dallas tonight. Let’s not be silly here, though. This game will be won in the paint, and it all depends on which stars show up to play. Jones had a lot of questions to answer this season after a somewhat disappointing freshman season, but he has looked like a new man so far in 2011-12. That’s also an accurate description for Moultrie, who has embraced his role as the enforcer in Starkville after two modest seasons at UTEP. In his first year of eligibility, Moultrie has already recorded seven double-doubles, and he’s both getting to the line (6.0 attempts per game) and converting his free throws (88.3 percent). Against Jones, Quincy Miller, Quincy Acy and the other forwards with giant wingspans on the Baylor roster, Moultrie has a chance to prove his worth on national television.

The key individual matchup is… Dee Bost vs. A.J. Walton/Pierre Jackson/Gary Franklin. Jackson has not started a game this year, and Franklin just became eligible four games ago, but they’re both stealing time away from starter A.J. Walton at the point. It’s not a bad problem for Drew to have, since all three are playing reasonably well. It’s no secret who runs the show for Mississippi State, though. Dee Bost will likely attempt the most shots for the Bulldogs tonight, he’ll lead the team in assists and he will also be the most disruptive defensive presence on the floor. After all, he’s in the top-10 all-time in steals at Mississippi State, which means Walton, Jackson and Franklin better take care of the basketball. The elite forwards in this game cannot get to work unless the point guards play well. For Bost, that means taking good shots. When MSU plays well, it’s usually because Bost finds a groove and plays within the offense. But when Bost struggles– say, like his 2-9 effort in a loss to Akron or a 4-16 performance in a near-collapse at Detroit– this team is in trouble. It will be interesting to see who Drew leans on at his point guard spot. Franklin and Jackson actually played more minutes than Walton in the team’s overtime win against West Virginia, and Jackson starred in that game with 23 points and a tying three-point in the final minute.

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Checking In On… the Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 19th, 2011

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

  • Khem Birch Leaves Pittsburgh: In what was certainly a surprising development, Pittsburgh announced that highly-touted freshman Khem Birch would be leaving the program for personal reasons. No future destination for Birch was announced. The 6’9” freshman averaged 4.4 PPG and 5.0 RPG in 15 minutes per game for Jamie Dixon, including a season-high 15 points at Pennsylvania on November 25. Birch, a Canadian, was a five-star prospect out of Notre Dame Prep. Birch’s departure will be felt by a Panthers team still trying to find its identity. Pittsburgh remains a very deep team but has to get its defense in order to be able to win consistently once conference play begins.

Khem Birch Left Pittsburgh, Which Shocked No One Familiar With The Commitment Issues Of Well-Traveled Young Phenoms

  • Cincinnati Responds In Impressive Fashion: After losing a bunch of guys to suspensions (including Yancy Gates) stemming from the brawl with Xavier, Cincinnati somehow put together its two best offensive performances of the season. The Bearcats scored 78 in a win at Wright State before throttling Radford with 101 points on Saturday. Maybe the suspensions were just what Mick Cronin needed to get his team focused. While the competition wasn’t great, Cincinnati all of a sudden looks like an improving team after this week.

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (11-0) — The Orange passed their first road test of the season, winning comfortably at NC State on Saturday. Dion Waiters led the way off the bench yet again with 22 points on 9-14 shooting while Kris Joseph added 21. Now that Syracuse has gotten by NC State without any trouble, the Orange could hold onto the top spot in the national rankings for quite some time. Jim Boeheim has some tricky games coming up against upstart Seton Hall, conference title contender Marquette and still-dangerous Villanova, but those are three games Syracuse should not lose. One area for the Orange to focus on in practice this week is defense. NC State shot 57.7% from the floor on Saturday. This week: 12/20 vs. Bucknell, 12/22 vs. Tulane.  Read the rest of this entry »
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Voices of the Big East: Volume III

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 16th, 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!

Fake Gimel Kept it Real

RTC’s Gerald Smith (a.k.a @fakegimel) picked up a few Twitter followers and one significant TV mention as a result of his insightful and instinctive coverage of the Cincinnati – Xavier brawl.

Not So Calm Before the Storm

Bulletin board material from Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, in a radio interview with Andy Furman of Real Talk 1160 WQRT, grabbed headlines and set an unfortunate tone.

Furman: “Are you better than Tu Holloway?”

Kilpatrick: “I’ll let the fans decide…”

Furman: “I need to know. No one’s listening. Just between you and me.”

Kilpatrick: “Yes I am.”

Furman: “Would Tu Holloway start for UC?”

Kilpatrick: “Would he, with the players we have now? I would say no.”

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Big East Morning Five: 12.16.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 16th, 2011

  1. The revolving door of healthy players at Louisville continues to spin as Rick Pitino announced freshman Kevin Ware will likely play Saturday against Memphis. A talented combo guard, Ware was a Tennessee commit until Bruce Pearl left, and a Central Florida commit until questions arose about his recruitment. It will take time, but Ware seems talented enough to make the rotation, although the Cardinals would likely prefer some frontcourt depth again.
  2. It seems petty for us to dissect a fun exercise like building a 2011-12 dream team, but we recognize it is good conversation fodder, so why not examine it. Pay attention to the rules before you read it, but only three Big East players are mentioned. Jeremy Lamb was in three out four pundits’ top eight players, and Dion Waiters and Ryan Boatright were both considered the best “true” bench players. It’s disappointing to see the conference so poorly represented, but its hard to argue with the selections. It’s early but the conference doesn’t seem as strong top to bottom as it has been in the past five years. But, again, it’s still early.
  3. When Xavier forward Kenny Frease reached out to Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates to clear the air after last weekend’s brawl, we softened our stance that the punishments weren’t harsh enough. It was easy to watch the brawl and think that some players and at least Gates deserved long punishments. But Frease is forgiving, Gates apologized, and that’s just as cool as story as they fight itself. Frease proves that he is one tough hombre, and Gates shows remorse. This is exactly why there is no reason to ban this matchup, just limit the trash talk.
  4. Credit to The Mikan Drill for highlighting one of the primary reasons Villanova has struggled early this season — its inefficient zone offense. The Wildcats are just 6-4, and BU exposed their lack of a legitimate three point threat or a true drive-and-kick guard. There are a lot of athletes on this team, so the Wildcats will always be competitive this season. But they just don’t seem to have the same offensive punch they had when they made the Final Four, and that’s why they continue to break down late in games and lose leads like they had against Temple.
  5. Raise your hand if you thought the primary player to replace Marquette‘s injured center Chris Otule was point guard Vander Blue. Now keep your hand raised if you knew that, right now, Blue was the team’s third-leading rebounder, and that statistic includes Otule. The question of Buzz Williams’ point guard controversy is pretty much over. Blue and Junior Cadougan can co-exist, even on the court together, and both will play crucial roles this season.
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2011

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Rivalry Week – the Out of Conference Edition: Throughout the East, in the years before the rise of the conferences, the season was the warm-up for the season ending finales – games with the local rivals. The conferences changed that dynamic, as teams from the same media markets found themselves locked in races for conference titles that increasingly translated into NCAA postseason bids. And local rivals find their matches relocated to the earliest parts of the season. As the fall semester (or quarter) winds into final examinations, the weeks leading in have become the non-conference equivalent of “Rivals Week,” and had ESPN looked at the A-10 schedule, they would have found over one-third of conference members squaring off with their most-often faced local opponents.
  • Brawl City: Xavier and Cincinnati have played 79 times, meeting annually since 1947, in what has become known as the “Cross Town Shootout”. Though Xavier won three of the last four meetings, last season’s 66-46 Bearcat rout at Fifth Third must have gone to Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick’s head. In what will no doubt become a teaching point for future Mick Cronin teams, Kilpatrick, in the run-up to the game, opined on local radio that Xavier’s All-American candidate, senior guard Tu Holloway, was probably not good enough to start on the Cincinnati team. Bad move, Sean. The 2011 A-10 Player of the Year responded with a stellar 17-point performance that include going 5-for-10 (1-of-5 three-pointers, 4-of-5 two-pointers) from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line to go with a game-high six dimes. In the post game press conference the clearly agitated Holloway told the assembled scribes that “you do your talking after the game, not before…”. If only Holloway had followed his own advice. With less than 30 seconds to play, during what most likely would have been Cincinnati’s last possession of the game, the obviously incensed Holloway, still in the game for reasons unknown, passed by the Cincinnati bench (the 1:30 mark in the video below), and taunted the Bearcat bench with, “this is MY CITY”.

  • Additionally: As Cincinnati freshman guard Ge’Lawn Guyn, Holloway’s defensive assignment, put himself between Holloway and the bench, the two went chest-to-chest and Holloway raised his arms as if to strike Guyn. Xavier freshman forward Dezmine Wells, however, beat him to it, throwing the first punch in a bench clearing brawl that has to be the low point in this season. Xavier senior center Kenny Frease suffered a black eye (and no doubt a ripping headache the day after), the result of a sucker punch from Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates and a kick to the head delivered by Cincinnati center Cheikh Mbodj. Both Cincinnati players were suspended for six games. Cronin and the Cincinnati AD also suspended freshman forward Octavius Ellis for four games, and Guyn for one game. Xavier doled out suspensions to Wells (four games), Landen Amos (four games), junior guard Mark Lyons (two games) and Holloway (one game). Cincinnati holds a 58-41 edge in the series. The other four rivalry games may have been every bit as intense, but no centers were harmed in the playing of the games. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 15th, 2011

  1. A short-handed Cincinnati took to the floor last night for the first time since Saturday’s brawl-marred contest against rival Xavier. Despite being without Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, Octavius Ellis, and Ge’Lawn Guyn, the Bearcats (6-3) had no trouble dispensing of Wright State (4-7) on the road 78-58. In another bit of good news, Cincinnati learned prior to the game that no legal action would be taken in response to the brawl and ESPN’s Andy Katz caught up with Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin to get a follow-up assessment. Cronin mentioned in the player apology press conference on Monday that those suspended would have to earn their way back into the line-up once their stated penalties were completed. Cronin elaborated that there are specific steps that need to be completed before getting back on the floor. In addition to the initial apology, the players will have to complete community service followed by another apology. All four players also took part in an anger management session on Wednesday.
  2. Mike Waters of The Post-Standard had a good piece on the resurgence of sophomore Syracuse center Fab Melo.  Melo came to upstate New York with expectations bigger than even his seven-foot frame could live up to and he summarily disappointed, averaging just 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. While those numbers were clearly not good, it was the 9.9 minutes per game that stood out the most. Talent was not the issue for Melo, it was fitness. He lost 30 pounds in the offseason and it, along with more realistic expectations perhaps, has made all the difference. “He wasn’t able to run up and down the court last year,” coach Jim Boeheim said, “so it was hard to keep him out there.” Now that Melo is not fighting fatigue from the start of the game he can focus on the job at hand. While his numbers this season are not glitzy (6.7 PPG 5.1 RPG 2.6 BPG), he is shooting 51.8% from the floor and his minutes are up to 22.3 per game for the ultra-deep Orange. More importantly a more active Melo is an ideal basket protector in the back of that famed Syracuse zone. He has more blocks in ten games this season (26) than he had all last year (25). “Now I’m not afraid to make mistakes anymore” said Melo. “I just go there and I play basketball. Last year, I was afraid to make mistakes. I went on the court with my mind blocked. I couldn’t do anything.” Weight down. Confidence up. A disheartening combination for Syracuse opponents.
  3. Speaking of Syracuse, hopes are high for the #1 Orange causing some, namely Carmelo Anthony, to speak about just how far this team can go. Of course, Anthony knows a thing or two about this subject, taking the Orange to a national championship in 2003, defeating Kansas 81-78 in the final, in his one-and-done freshman year at Syracuse.  (The other?) Melo told Adam Zagoria of he thinks the sky is the limit, “I think they can win it all,” Anthony said. “I’m biased, you might not agree with that. They have the talent, they have the team.”  Well, he is biased, and he should be. It’s his school and the Orange have national tile potential. Zagoria noted that Anthony texted Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine when he heard the news about the Orange’s #1 ranking this week.  Talk about a little ego stroke! Anthony also noted that it did not seem the team was distracted by the Bernie Fine scandal, which may be its toughest opponent to date despite playing teams like Stanford and Florida.
  4. Another great comeback story this year is that of Seton Hall forward Herb Pope. Just for Pope to be back healthy and at full strength after suffering a potentially life-threatening heart ailment two off-seasons ago would have been a story, add in what Pope has accomplished so far and the big guy flat out commands attention. As’s Luke Winn noted, the health issues not only impacted Pope physically, but took their toll mentally leading him to take part in therapy. It has clearly been a long hard road back, but back Pope is, and back big time.  He leads the Big East in scoring at 21.8 points per game to go with 11.3 rebounds and has been a fixture on the weekly Big East awards so far this year. Pope has been recognized in each of the four weeks of honors so far this year, taking home Player of the Week honors once and receiving Honor Roll accolades the other three. Pope has inserted himself on the short list of bona fide Big East Player of the Year candidates and most importantly has led the Pirates to an 8-1 start. Next up for Pope and the Hall is a home date with Mercer on Sunday.
  5. In its quest to add Navy as a football only member, The Big East received a vote of confidence from Navy’s Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk on Wednesday when he remarked, “Everyone in Navy’s chain of command is comfortable [with the Big East] and the direction it’s going”. When the move occurs appears to be more a matter of logistics than anything else. Of course, television contracts stand at the forefront. Navy has various agreements that run through the 2018 season and is working with the Big East to sort through it all. This does not mean Navy will need to wait until 2019 to move. It is likely more a function of Navy being able to honor the agreements, while being able to incorporate a Big East schedule. There was initial speculation that Navy and Air Force would make themselves a package deal to the Big East provided they felt there was overall conference stability. Air Force subsequently recommitted to the Mountain West, but Gladchuk indicated that has no bearing on Navy’s future plans and that he felt stability has been restored with the recent additions of Boise State, Houston, Central Florida, Southern Methodist and San Diego State.
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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’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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