Takeaways from the Big East Opening DayPosted by George Hershey on January 1st, 2014
What an opener for the new Big East. The league had two overtime thrillers, there was an upset, and all three of the new members impressed. Here are some takeaways from a great day of hoops.
St. John’s vs. Xavier
St. John’s is great in transition, but struggles mightily in the halfcourt: The Johnnies rushed out to a big lead in the first eight minutes, in large part to their transition offense. They scored their first seven points in transition off of turnovers or running after rebounds. Throughout the game it was evident that the halfcourt offense was not working well and often times ended with a contested jump shot. The Red Storm made a push in the second half by pushing the ball up-court, but ended up settling for tough shots as the game winded down. D’Angelo Harrison, Rysheed Jordan, and Orlando Sanchez all are capable of running the break and Jordan had a great game as he got to the rim, hit some outside shots, and showed a nice pull-up jumper. Many talk about this team’s great talent, but their halfcourt offense is limiting their ability to use their athleticism. If the Johnnies want to win go from an under-achieving team to an NCAA Tournament one, they need to get out in transition, while they improve their offensive sets.
Seton Hall vs. Providence
Seton Hall can get out of the cellar in the new Big East: What a game! A great double overtime thriller on opening night. Seton Hall showed incredible fight and resolve yesterday as they saw their double digit lead dissolve in the final minutes. Some questionable calls did not help them in the extra sessions, but they made winning plays when it mattered. With starting center Eugene Teague our for the game, Kevin Willard was without his best post player. The Pirates forced the Friars into 14 turnovers, eight in the first half, which helped create most of the early offense. They limited Bryce Cotton to 1-8 from three and the Friars struggled all night to score. The win should give the team a ton of confidence going forward as Brian Oliver, Brandon Mobley, and Jaren Sina stepped up to make crucial baskets. Sina came off the bench in overtime to hit a three with two minutes left to spark the Pirates. Oliver was the player of the game as his hot shooting provided most of the offense in the second half and Mobley came up time after time, especially with his three free throws with a minute left. This team may have suffered injuries to every significant player thus far, but their win over a high quality opponent while shorthanded is impressive, and there is no reason they cannot build off this win.
DePaul vs. Georgetown:
Joshua Smith needs to produce more offensively: The big fella came in and dominated in his first game against Oregon, but since he was beaten up by Kansas, he has struggled mightily, and yesterday was no difference. Against a smaller and inexperienced front line, he only had five points and one assist, without even recording a rebound. There is no reason why Smith, who has been heralded as an excellent low post scorer since he arrived in UCLA, should not average at least 10 points during conference play. The Hoyas have struggled at times to score so far and Smith is a player who can provide instant offense. He also can create for his teammates by attracting double teams and finding them. Smith needs to get to the line, to get opponents in foul trouble and also get some easy points. The Hoyas have a good team with many pieces that make a winning team, but they could use a player you can dump it down to and let go to work on the block.
Villanova vs. Butler
Villanova is a better team when they run their offense through JayVaughn Pinkston: In their tough loss to Syracuse last week, the Wildcats struggled getting into the teeth of the defense and heaved 31 three-point attempts. For a team that is not great shooting from deep, that will almost never result in a win. Last night they took 16, but more importantly, they fed Pinkston all night. He could not be stopped down low and also forced help, freeing up the talented guards on the team. He scored with his back to the basket as well as attacking off the dribble, and even hit a mid range jumper. Some nights the shooting will be hot, but going forward, it’s best if Jay Wright focuses on working from the inside, letting his best player battle, so that the guards do not have to create all their own shots.
Marquette vs. Creighton
Creighton should be the favorites in the Big East: Creighton dismantled Marquette with 13 three-pointers and solid defense throughout. Marquette was unable to guard all of the Bluejays shooters as they focused on doubling down on Doug McDermott, leaving Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat open time after time. Creighton played tough, battling it out in their Big East opener, absorbing some punches, and fighting back. When Marquette slimmed the lead in the second half, going on a 9-0 run, Manigat and Wragge hit back-to-back threes to kill the hopes of the Marquette players. With one of the best players in the nation leading the way, and several other offensive threats, it will be hard for anybody to guard the Bluejays, who can run away from teams quickly. Their performance defensively will go a long way to giving them the confidence to shut down more of the top teams in the league.
Marquette has to be really worried about making the NCAA Tournament this year: Simply put, this team is not nearly good enough right now. They have talent, but they aren’t a winning team right now. They fail to do the little things to win close games. Poor outside shooting, turnovers, and bad defensive rotations are hurting this team. Buzz Williams is a great coach and will help this team get ready, but with plenty of tough games going forward, the Golden Eagles need to start improving quickly if Williams is not going to miss out on March Madness for the first time.
Some quick thoughts from yesterday’s action:
- Rysheed Jordan is starting to show why he was named Preseason Freshman of the Year. Another very impressive showing from the Philly native as he could not be stopped, getting into the lane constantly. He still has to slow down at times, but he should be a major force for the Johnnies going forward.
- Bryce Cotton has to be more consistent. He is a super clutch player and almost singehandely propelled the Friars to a win, but he missed seven threes and struggled to score while Seton Hall built their lead in the second half. Having said that, he did not receive much help outside of Tyler Harris, and there lack of guard depth does not help.
- Billy Garrett Jr., DePaul’s freshman point guard, is a special player and it’s going to be fun watching him run Oliver Purnell’s team for the next four years. He has a solid shot, but he doesn’t force it, and he gets into the lane, highlighting a nice runner. He plays smart and doesn’t force the offence very often.
- Gus Johnson had the analogy of the day, saying Kameron Woods’ long wingspan made him look like a condor.
- There’s something special about Hinkle Fieldhouse. Something crazy always seems to happen.
- Great hearing Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson call two of the games today.