Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

After Pitt’s win on Monday night over UConn, I’m officially declaring the Big East a four team race between Georgetown, Pitt, Syracuse and Villanova as we prepare to kick off conference play. Here is a breakdown of why each team will and/or won’t win the conference:

Why They Will Win

  • Georgetown: Its a topic that has been beaten to death, I know, but the Hoya backcourt is just that good. Its more than just the individual talent of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark. Those three play so well together. They are just so in tune with each other on the offensive end of the floor. And, more importantly, John Thompson III has allowed them to play more in transition, taking advantage of the ability of this group to play in the open floor.
  • Pitt: The thing I love about the Panthers is just how in tune they are with what Jamie Dixon wants them to do. Every player on the team understands what his role is and how to execute in that role. Their offense is a thing of beauty to watch, which is not something you often hear said about Pitt. They run their plays, they get the look they want, and they ferociously attack the offensive glass.
  • Syracuse: Rick Jackson is a new man. He’s streamlined his body and become the most dominant big man in the conference. Think DeJuan Blair plus a few inches and minus a few pounds on the bench press. He anchors a front line that is has been as good as any in the conference and still is not at full strength. With Kris Joseph starting to round into form, the Orange seem to have hit their stride this season.
  • Villanova: The Wildcats are going to be in this thing the entire season. Why? Because this team defends. I’ve said it all season long. This group reminds me so much of the team that went to the Final Four in 2009. They have a number of versatile players, they can utilize a number of different lineups, and they have frontcourt depth. That’s not something that you would have said about the Wildcats last season.

Why They Won’t Win

  • Georgetown: I’m concerned about the Hoyas winning under pressure. As I said, this team is experienced, but they haven’t exactly experienced success under pressure. In 2009, this team crumbled under lofty expectations and finished below .500 in the Big East. Last season, the Hoyas seemed to lose every time people started talking about them, including in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Ohio. This year, there have been two games against elite competition where the Hoyas had the final possession and were losing. Both times, Hollis Thompson forced up a tough three pointer with plenty of time on the clock. The Hoyas were bailed out against Missouri when Kim English saved the ball under his own basket, but they weren’t so lucky in the loss to Temple.
  • Pitt: The Panthers are not as good defensively as they have been in year’s past. They are physical on the perimeter, they are big inside, and they rebound the ball, but they also allow a lot of open shots from the perimeter. Tennessee exploited that defensive weakness. Texas nearly did as well. Even UConn got and missed a number of good looks from the perimeter.
  • Syracuse: Are the Orange going to be able to score consistently against better defenses? Putting up 100 points on Colgate is nice. Scoring 53 against Michigan isn’t. They’ve looked better of late, but a lot of teams look good playing cupcakes at home. Which Kris Joseph and which Scoop Jardine show up during Big East play will determine how far this team goes.
  • Villanova: Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns have not been able to fill the leadership void left by Scottie Reynolds. They’ve also not played well in his absence, shooting a combined 38% from the floor and 22% from three. If those two continue to struggle, Villanova is going to be in trouble.

1. Georgetown (11-1) (3)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola MD 99-75, 12/23 @ Memphis 86-69

Next Week: 12/29 @ Notre Dame, 1/1 vs. DePaul

2. Pitt (13-1, 1-0) (2)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. UM Eastern Shore 97-64, 12/22 vs. American 61-46, 12/27 vs. UConn 78-63

Next Week: None

3. Syracuse (10-0) (1)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Iona 83-77, 12/20 vs. Morgan State 97-55, 12/22 vs. Drexel 93-65

Next Week: 12/28 vs. Providence, 1/1 vs. Notre Dame

4. Villanova (10-1) (5)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Delaware 78-59, 12/22 @ Monmouth 76-36

Next Week: 12/30 @ Temple, 1/2 vs. Rutgers

5. Connecticut (10-1, 0-1) (4)

Last Week: 12/20 vs. Coppin State 76-64, 12/22 vs. Harvard 81-52, 12/27 @ Pitt 63-78

Next Week: 12/31 vs. South Florida

The loss at Pitt will end up being a good thing for the Huskies. They needed to come back to earth. UConn is not a bad basketball team, especially with Kemba Walker on the court, but they certainly were not the fourth best team in the country. UConn looked bad against Pitt, but their younger players struggled in the Big East opener on the road against an actual top ten team. For the freshmen, it was their first Big East game ever, and it was also two days after Christmas. It is not yet time to panic with this team.

6. Notre Dame (11-1) (6)

Last Week: 12/19 vs. Stony Brook 88-62, 12/22 vs. UMBC 93-53

Next Week: 12/29 vs. Georgetown, 1/1 @ Syracuse

I really like this Notre Dame team. I like the pace they play at. I like their ability to execute offensively. I like that they have multiple lineups that can be effective. I like the number of different weapons they have. The problem? This team doesn’t force any turnovers. Playing great defense, forcing tough shots, and cleaning up the defensive glass is commendable. But the Irish will be that much better if they can start getting easy baskets off of turnovers.

7. Louisville (11-1) (7)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Gardner-Webb 78-49, 12/22 vs. Western Kentucky 114-82, 12/27 vs. Morgan State 104-74

Next Week: 12/31 @ Kentucky

Louisville slipped up against Drexel, as the Dragons were able to control the tempo and force Louisville into bad shots. So how do the Cardinals respond? By hitting 33-53 from three in routs of Western Kentucky and Morgan State, two teams expected to compete for their conference’s crown. Louisville may not have a star, but in those two games they had three guys (Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric and Preston Knowles) go for at least 25 points.

8. Cincinnati (12-0) (8)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Oklahoma 66-56, 12/21 vs. Miami OH 64-48, 12/23 vs. St. Francis PA 94-58

Next Week: 12/28 vs. DePaul, 12/31 vs. Seton Hall

I’m getting sick of writing this about Cincinnati. Their backcourt has been better than expected, their frontcourt is big, and they are undefeated against a Charmin-soft schedule. Come the New Year, we’ll finally start to get a grasp of how good this team is.

9. Marquette (9-3) (9)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Centenary 81-52, 12/21 vs. Mississippi Valley State 104-77

Next Week: 12/29 @ Vanderbilt, 1/1 vs. West Virginia

I say it every year, and then I sit back and watch as people disregard my advice until it comes to fruition — don’t count out Marquette. This is a scrappy team that competes as hard as anyone in the country. Once Darius Johnson-Odom finds his stroke, the Golden Eagles are going to be a team no one wants to play.

10. West Virginia (8-2) (10)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Cleveland State 74-63

Next Week: 12/29 vs. St. John’s, 1/1 @ West Virginia

I cannot figure out this West Virginia team yet, and I’m guessing Bobby Huggins hasn’t either. Casey Mitchell went for 20 ppg scorer to 20 mpg role player. Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli have had as many brain farts as post moves. Truck Bryant can’t stay out of trouble. There are a lot of pieces in Morgantown, the question is whether or not Huggins can put the puzzle together.

11. Providence (11-2) (11)

Last Week: 12/21 vs. Sacred Heart 84-76

Next Week: 12/28 @ Syracuse, 1/1 vs. St. John’s

Providence is going to be fun to watch this season. They run the floor, they shoot a lot of threes, and they score a lot of points. But will they play enough defense to win games in the Big East? Regardless, Marshon Brooks is a name you need to remember.

12. St. John’s (7-3) (14)

Last Week: 12/20 vs. Davidson 62-57, 12/21 vs. Northwestern 85-69

Next Week: 12/29 @ West Virginia, 1/1 @ Providence

The Johnnies may have had the best half of any game from any team this season when they went 16-20 from the floor in the second half against Northwestern. But can that half erase the memories of a 21 point second half lead they blew against Fordham?

13. Seton Hall (6-6) (12)

Last Week: 12/19 vs. NJIT 68-45, 12/22 vs. Dayton 65-69, 12/26 vs. Richmond 61-69

Next Week: 12/31 @ Cincinnati

The Hall’s season went from bad to worse when Jeremy Hazell was shot on Christmas Day. I just don’t think it is in the cards for the Pirates this season.

14. Rutgers (9-2) (13)

Last Week: 12/18 @ Monmouth 79-56, 12/23 vs. St. Peter’s 55-52

Next Week: 12/28 vs. UNC, 1/2 @ Villanova

The biggest news coming out of Piscataway this week was that the Scarlett Knights opted to redshirt Kadeem Jack. Jack is a top 50 recruit and has the potential to be a very good player down the road. No sense in wasting a year of eligibility on half of a meaningless season.

15. South Florida (6-7) (15)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. James Madison 61-66, 12/22 @ Cleveland State 62-69

Next Week: 12/28 @ Seton Hall, 12/31 @ UConn

Gus Gilchrist quit the team. Then he came back. How many people noticed?

16. DePaul (6-6) (16)

Last Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola IL 81-74, 12/22 vs. Florida Atlantic 71-62

Next Week: 12/28 @ Cincinnati, 1/1 @ Georgetown

DePaul won two games this week. With Big East play starting, it may have been the last two games they win all season.

Looking Ahead

Big East play is kicking off this week. I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for top 25 matchups, Big Mondays, Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery, Bob Huggins’ track suit, Jay Wright’s Gucci suit, Jim Calhoun’s scowl, the claims that the Big East isn’t the best conference because it’s too big, 3 am replays of Providence-Marquette on MASN, the trash talk between Georgetown and Syracuse fans, and, most importantly, arenas packed to the gills with drunk, screaming college students cheering on their team in games that actually matter.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference.

A Look Back

  • So the Big East came back down to earth this past week. It was bound to happen. The conference wasn’t going to boast seven undefeated teams all season long. While Syracuse, Louisville, and Notre Dame won marquee matchups, Georgetown, Pitt, Marquette, Providence, and Notre Dame (again) got knocked off this past week, and Villanova and West Virginia struggled against inferior opponents.
  • Player of the Week: Marshon Brooks, Providence: I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of people around the country that haven’t heard the name Marshon Brooks before because, you know, he plays for Providence. But it’s about time you start noticing this young man. In the past two weeks, there may not be a player in the country in more of a groove that Brooks. Since a 3-12 performance in a win over Wyoming on November 24, Brooks has been on fire, averaging 28.9 PPG and 8.2 RPG, collecting 11 steals and ten blocks, and shooting 55%/83%/46% over a six-game stretch. In the last week alone, Brooks averaged 31.3 PPG and 8.3 RPG as the Friars went 2-1, their lone loss a two-point decision on the road against Boston College.
  • Team of the Week: Syracuse Orange – The Orange’s win over Michigan State last Tuesday has been written about and discussed at length already, but it deserves mention once again. Granted, the Spartans are playing some poor basketball right now, but Syracuse still dominated them in the paint and completely flummoxed them with their zone. The Orange are just as good defensively as they were last season and may have an even better front line than last year’s team, headlined by the emergence of Rick Jackson as a double-double machine. They are still waiting on Kris Joseph to become a consistent scoring threat, and Scoop Jardine still has a tendency to make bad decisions, but the biggest issue standing between Syracuse and greatness appears to be their lack of perimeter shooting. Regardless, no team in the Big East is playing better basketball that the Orange right now.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

1. Syracuse (10-0) (5)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Michigan State 72-58, 12/11 vs. Colgate 100-43
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Iona, 12/20 vs. Morgan State

See above.

2. Pitt (10-1) (1)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Delaware State 70-42, 12/11 vs. Tennessee 76-83
Next Week: 12/18 vs. UM Eastern Shore

The Panthers took a pretty solid whooping at the hands of Tennessee last Saturday. Ashton Gibbs was completely taken out of the game by Melvin Goins, Pitt had no answer to Scotty Hopson defensively, and the Panthers were ineffective in finishing their second chance opportunities. To make matters worse, the game was in Pittsburgh. The tendency is to overreact to a beatdown like this, but I caution fans against doing that. I was able to watch the entirety of that game, and trust me, it had much more to do with how well Tennessee played than what Pitt was unable to do.

3. Georgetown (9-1) (2)
Last Week: 12/9 @ Temple 65-68, 12/12 vs. Appalachian State 89-60
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola MD

Like Pitt’s loss to Tennessee, I caution Hoya fans against getting too worried about Georgetown’s first loss of the season. For starters, it came on the road against a Temple team that is top-25 material, played as well as they have all season on the defensive end, and got a career performance out of Ramone Moore, who went for 30. Georgetown still has a terrific backcourt and still has one of the most impressive non-conference resumes in the country. With the schedule they are playing, they were bound to be tripped up. If anything, that game proved that even Georgetown is susceptible to being taken out of their game by Temple’s defense.

4. Connecticut (8-0) (3)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. FDU 78-54
Next Week: 12/20 vs. Coppin State

The Huskies have slowly dropped in the Power Rankings, as they were second two weeks ago. This may look even more ridiculous considering that UConn has risen to #4 in both of the polls. My defense? Well, it’s the same thing that has been written every time someone has written anything about UConn this season — do they have enough outside of Kemba WalkerRoscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb have been better the last two games, while Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi have come back to earth a little bit. The addition of 7’1 German import Enosch Wolf may help shore up UConn’s woes on the defensive glass, but I’m still not sold on this team.

5. Villanova (8-1) (4)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Penn 65-53, 12/12 @ La Salle 84-81
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Delaware

It’s a good thing that Corey Stokes decided to show up this week, as he was the Wildcats’ best player in both games this week, scoring 34 of Nova’s 65 against Penn before dropping 16 against La Salle. Corey Fisher seems like he is struggling with the pressure of replacing Scottie Reynolds. The skills are still there, as he’s still finding assists and getting to the foul line. His shots just aren’t dropping. He’s too good for that not to change.

7. Notre Dame 9-1 (6)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Kentucky 58-72, 12/11 vs. Gonzaga 83-79
Next Week: 12/19 vs. Stony Brook

Notre Dame’s past week has me confused. Ben Hansbrough carried the Irish to a 38-27 lead late in the first half against Kentucky, but he had just two of his 21 points the rest of the way and the Irish looked completely lost on the offensive end of the floor, going for 13 minutes of game time without a field goal. They did, however, look solid on the defensive end until Terrence Jones took over in the final five minutes. Against Gonzaga, the Irish led by double digits for much of the second half, but allowed the Zags to score 14 points in the final minute and cut a ten-point lead to just two.

7. Louisville (8-1) (7)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. San Francisco 61-35, 12/11 vs. UNLV 77-69, 12/14 vs. Drexel 46-52
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Gardner-Webb

While finals generally signal a slowdown in college basketball, there was plenty going on in Louisville. All in the span of a week, the Cardinals received a verbal commitment from Rodney Purvis, the nation’s #1 point guard in the class of 2012, scored a big win over UNLV, and lost to Drexel amongst reports that Rick Pitino will coach the Puerto Rican  national team. As for the Cardinals as they stand right now, nothing has changed about my opinion of Louisville since they beat Butler to open the season. When this team gets it going — when they are knocking down threes and forcing turnovers defensively — they can play with just about anyone in the country. When they don’t hit shots, as shown against Drexel, they will struggle. The biggest issue for Louisville right now? Their three-point shooters just aren’t all that good. As a team, they shoot 32.1% from deep (219th in the country) but 42.8% of their field goals are three balls (17th most in the country). Their top three in terms of attempts — Mike Marra (27.3%), Preston Knowles (34.7%), Peyton Siva (25%) — don’t shoot it well. Their best three point shooter, Kyle Kuric (42.1%), only takes a little over two per game. Think about this stat — in beating San Francisco, Louisville took more threes (36) than USF had points (35). They missed the same number of threes (26) as points they won by (26). I don’t know what that means, but it is kind of insane. (Note: The shooting stats were taken from KenPom before the Cardinals’ December 14 game against Drexel.)

8. Cincinnati (9-0) (8)
Last Week: 12/11 vs. Utah Valley 92-72, 12/14 vs. Georgia Southern 99-54
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Oklahoma

Will the Bearcats play somebody already? They are 9-0 on the season, but they haven’t beaten anyone in the top 100 according to KenPom, and their only wins against teams rated better than 199th are against Dayton and Wright State. I’m reserving judgment on this team until they get a real test, and that may not be for another month.

9. Marquette 7-3 (9)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Texas A&M-CC 86-50, 12/11 vs. Wisconsin 64-69
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Centenary

Typical Marquette. Their three losses are by a combined 13 points. The same thing happened last season. The Golden Eagles played every good opponent tough, and once they figured out how to win and execute down the stretch, they started knocking off those tough opponents. I’m not worried about this team just yet.

10. West Virginia 7-2 (6)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. Robert Morris 82-49, 12/12 @ Duquesne 64-61
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Cleveland State

Did something happen between Bob Huggins and Casey Mitchell? It appears so, because the Mountaineers’ leading scorer managed just 35 minutes combined the past two games. He played only one second in the second half against Duquesne.

11. Providence 10-2 (12)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Boston College 86-88, 12/11 vs. Alabama 82-70
Next Week: None

It’s too early to say that PC is a potential NCAA Tournament team, not with their lack of quality wins. But with Marshon Brooks playing the way he has and Vincent Council and Bilal Dixon looking like they can be impact players in the Big East, this team has to be considered a sleeper to make a run in league play. The Friars open conference play at Syracuse and then with home dates against St. John’s and Pitt. I’ll reserve judgment on them until after those three games.

12. Seton Hall 5-4 (13)
Last Week: 12/11 @ UMass 78-51
Next Week: 12/19 vs. NJIT

Have the Pirates finally figured out how to play without Jeremy Hazell? The last two games, they have won by a combined 52 points and scored an average of 91.0 PPG. This team is playing defense this season. If the offense comes around, they’ll be climbing these power rankings. Seton Hall has talent.

13. Rutgers 7-2 (15)
Last Week: 12/8 vs. Marist 64-48, 12/11 vs. Auburn 63-54, 12/14 v. FDU 79-65
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Monmouth

The Scarlet Knights aren’t terrible this season, or at least is appears that way early on. They have a win over Miami FL and knocked off Auburn in a game that wasn’t nearly as close that the 63-54 final would indicate.

14. St. John’s 5-3 (11)
Last Week: 12/7 vs. St. Bonaventure 66-67, 12/11 @ Fordham 81-84
Next Week: 12/20 vs. Davidson

15. South Florida 5-5 (14)
Last Week: 12/12 @ Kent State 51-56
Next Week: 12/15 vs. Auburn, 12/18 vs. James Madison

16. DePaul 4-6 (16)
Last Week: 12/8 @ Indiana State 51-73, 12/11 vs. Ball State 77-79 OT, 12/14 vs. Milwaukee 61-47
Next Week: 12/18 vs. Loyola IL

The bottom of the Big East was awful this past week. St. John’s completely destroyed any kind of hope for this season by losing at home to St. Bonaventure and dropping a game on the road against Fordham (who won two games last season) after holding a 21-point lead. South Florida followed up a loss to Florida Atlantic where they scored 42 points with a loss to Kent State where they scored 51 points. DePaul was drubbed by Indiana State by 22 points (and had just 18 points at the under 16 timeout of the second half) and lost to Ball State. Yuck.

A Look Ahead

Aside from Drexel’s major upset to give Louisville its first loss at home, there are no interesting games played by Big East teams this week. None. The only game that comes close is when West Virginia hosts undefeated Cleveland State, and that is in very large part due to the finish those two had last year. Good luck on your finals, and enjoy your Christmas break, fellas.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC Correspondent for the Big East conference.

[Ed. note: this post was written prior to Tuesday night’s games]

A Look Back

Last week, I wrote about how the Big East had won a number of the early season tournaments.  Six, to be exact. Two other teams made the finals of their respective tournaments. I had this to say about it: But is it possible that, while looking at the Big East’s faults, we happened to overlook just how deep the conference is? Yes, apparently. I’m taking it a step further this week.

The Big East, as of today, might actually be the best conference in the country. There are 19 college basketball teams left without a loss on the season. Seven of them are members of the Big East conference — Pitt, Georgetown, UConn, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Louisville. Three more have just one loss — St. John’s, Villanova, and a 9-1 Providence team off to their best start since 1988.  True, the Big East has 16 teams, more than any other conference. But in comparison, the Big Ten and the Big 12, the two other leagues that can realistically join the conversation, have just two undefeated teams each.

I think we can all agree, however, that this is not the best way to determine the strength of a conference. Is RPI? Because the Big East has the No. 1 conference RPI according to RealTimeRPI.com. If you want to get even more in depth, Albert Lancada of ESPN put together a formula that incorporates four different computer rankings as well as both polls, and he found that the Big East was a close second to the Big Ten when it came to the best conference.

Honestly, I don’t love breaking down conference rankings. I think it is actually pretty boring, but it is a good discussion starter. Anyone that follows me on twitter knows how much I enjoy a good twi-scussion.  Even the most die-hard Big Ten and Big 12 fans have to admit that the Big East may currently be leading that discussion.

Player of the Week: Chris Wright, Georgetown. Team of the Week: Georgetown Hoyas

This week, its all about Georgetown, and not just because the majority of the Big East didn’t play anyone this week. It’s about time that we start to consider Georgetown as one of the favorites to win the Big East and to reach the Final Four. That’s what happens when you start the season 8-0 with wins against teams like Old Dominion, Missouri, NC State and Utah State. Only the Utah State game was at home. Last week, the Hoyas beat two completely different teams. On Tuesday, they went into Kansas City to take on the Tigers in what was the single most entertaining game of the young season, 111-102 (OT).

On Saturday, the Aggies came to town. After playing a methodical first half which saw USU’s offense execute to precision, John Thompson III threw on a press in the second half which the Aggies could not handle. Turnovers and easy baskets led to a 68-51 win over the WAC favorites despite Chris Wright being the only player that reached double figures for the Hoyas.

Georgetown beat two very good teams this week. Those two teams played styles that are at opposite ends of the basketball spectrum. Both teams were able to execute their game plans to a degree — Missouri got the game into an uptempo shootout, forcing turnovers and scoring in transition while Utah State was able to keep Georgetown from shooting threes (the Hoyas were 2-9 from deep) and kept the pace methodical – the Hoyas won both games.

Chris Wright was Georgetown’s most valuable player this week. Against Missouri, he had 21 points, ten assists, and hit the three that forced overtime with 0.3 seconds left. He also had 21 against Utah State, the only player to reach double figures in the game.

Deserving of a shout-out: Brandon Young, DePaul (because we all know none of you will make it down to the DePaul section of this post)

Quickly, name the best freshman in the Big East. I bet the name Brandon Young never came up, did it? Young is the fifth-leading freshman scorer in the country at 16.3 PPG. He averaged 24.0 PPG last week as DePaul actually won two games, knocking off Central Michigan and Northern Illinois. Against Central Michigan, Young exploded for 31 points, the second most for a freshman this season and the most for a DePaul freshman since Quentin Richardson. He also went 6-6 from three after going into the game 1-9 on the season.

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

1. Pitt 9-0 (1)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. Duquesne 80-66, 12/4 vs. Rider 87-68
Next Week: 12/8 vs. Delaware State, 12/11 vs. Tennessee

Brad Wanamaker had come back down to earth after a terrific start to the season, culminating in an ugly performance against Duquesne where the senior guard had four fouls and seven turnovers in just 16 minutes. He responded in a big way against Rider, scoring 16 points and dropping 11 dimes while turning the ball over just once. Ashton Gibbs is still playing terrific, efficient basketball. And Pitt’s front line is starting to come alive. Dante Taylor scored 21 points this week. Gary McGhee had 12 points, 13 boards, and 7 blocks against the Dukes. Nasir Robinson went for 14 in that game. Yeah. Pitt’s good.

2. Georgetown 8-0 (4)
Last Week: 11/30 vs. Missouri 111-102 OT, 12/4 vs. Utah State 68-51
Next Week: 12/9 @ Temple, 12/12 vs. Appalachian State

See above discussion of Team of the Week.

3. UConn 7-0 (2)
Last Week: 11/30 vs. UNH 62-55, 12/3 vs. UMBC 94-61
Next Week: 12/8 vs. FDU

Kemba Walker had another terrific week, putting 30 on New Hampshire before notching a triple double (24 points, 13 boards, ten assists) against UMBC. But the Huskies may have had their fatal flaw exposed this past week. Combined, the Huskies gave up over 30 offensive rebounds to two teams that should not be able to rebound with UConn. Alex Oriakhi is a horse inside, but he’s one of the only frontcourt players on that team with any strength. What happens when Roscoe Smith tries to box out Rick Jackson or Dante Taylor?

4. Villanova 6-1 (3)
Last Week: 12/3 vs. St. Joe’s 71-60
Next Week: 12/8 @ Penn, 12/12 @ La Salle

All of a sudden, the Wildcats have no depth. Nova was able to bounce back with a win over St. Joseph’s in one of the great college basketball rivalries, but they did it with Maurice Sutton out with ankle problems and Isaiah Armwood dealing with back spasms. Worse, however, is the fact that JayVaughn Pinkston got word this week that he will be forced to miss the entire season as a result of the fight he got in earlier this year. Throw in the struggles of Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns the last two games, and Nova had to get bumped down.

5. Syracuse 8-0 (5)
Last Week: 11/30 vs. Cornell 78-58, 12/4 vs. NC State 65-59
Next Week: 12/7 vs. Michigan State, 12/11 vs. Colgate

The Orange have yet to really put together an impressive performance this season. This week, the NC State team that lost to Wisconsin by 39 points went into the Carrier Dome and nearly beat the Orange. While they continue to struggle to find their range from three, we at least have a reason for Fab Melo‘s slow start — he’s playing with an injured achilles and a dislocated finger.

6. Notre Dame 8-0 (7)
Last Week: 11/30 vs. Indiana State 81-72
Next Week: 12/8 vs. Kentucky, 12/11 vs. Gonzaga

We will have to wait until next week to really get a feel for the Irish. The win over Wisconsin is nice, but the Badgers haven’t been the most impressive team here early in the season. Notre Dame will get Kentucky on the road before playing host to the Zags. It will be interesting to see how the Irish match up with a team as athletic as Kentucky or Gonzaga.

7. Louisville 6-0 (8)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. FIU 92-55, 12/4 vs. South Alabama 97-70
Next Week: 12/8 vs. San Francisco, 12/11 vs. UNLV

The Cardinals still haven’t done anything wrong, but they really haven’t had an opportunity to. The win over Butler is looking less impressive after the Bulldogs lost to Evansville. They will get a really good test on Saturday when UNLV pays the Yum! Center a visit.

8. Cincinnati 7-0 (11)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. Wright State 77-69, 12/4 @ Toledo 81-47
Next Week: 12/11 vs. Utah Valley

The Bearcats are, in fact, 7-0. But they also haven’t beaten much of anyone this season as Dayton is not as good as many believed they would be. The sad thing is that Cincy can realistically make it to the new year undefeated if they can handle Xavier on New Year’s Eve.

9. Marquette 6-2 (9)
Last Week: 12/4 vs. Longwood 96-65
Next Week: 12/7 vs. Texas A&M-CC, 12/11 vs. Wisconsin

Marquette needs to spend their Christmas break down time taking jumpers, because the Golden Eagles’ biggest issue right now is that they are shooting under 30% from beyond the arc. Once those jumpers start dropping, this will be a different team.

10. West Virginia 5-2 (6)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. American 71-50, 12/4 @ Miami FL 76-79
Next Week: 12/7 vs. Robert Morris, 12/12 @ Duquesne

Perhaps the biggest testament to the strength of this conference is that West Virginia is 10th in our rankings. Tenth! That’s what happens when the same team that battled Minnesota for 40 minutes for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off title loses to Miami. Casey Mitchell finally came back to earth, finishing just 5-15 from the floor after breaking the 25-point mark in five straight games.

11. St. John’s 5-1 (10)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. Wagner 69-61
Next Week: 12/7 vs. St. Bonaventure, 12/11 @ Fordham

The Johnnies have now won five in a row after knocking off Wagner 69-61. I hope you didn’t write this team off after their loss to St. Mary’s. DJ Kennedy, who has been struggling, came off the bench to score 20 points, a personal season high.

12. Providence 9-1 (14)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. Northeastern 77-72, 12/4 vs. URI 87-74, 12/6 vs. Brown 91-64
Next Week: 12/8 @ Boston College, 12/11 vs. Alabama

The Friars are off to their best start to a season in a long time. You always have to consider the competition and pace of play, but Providence currently sits 11th in the country in rebounds per game. Not bad for a team whose big knock in past year’s was their extreme guard orientation. If they win at Boston College, it’ll be time to start talking about the Friars.

13. Seton Hall 3-3 (12)
Last Week: Nothing
Next Week: 12/11 @ UMass

The Pirates didn’t play last week, but they still lost. Jeremy Hazell is out at least another month after having surgery on his broken wrist.

14. South Florida 5-4 (13)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. VCU 60-59, 12/4 @ Florida Atlantic 42-50
Next Week: 12/12 @ Kent State

It’s a shame South Florida had to go and lose to Florida Atlantic. I was just starting to like this team. They were coming off of back-to-back wins against Texas Tech and VCU, and did not have a bad loss on their resume.

15. Rutgers 4-2 (15)
Last Week: 12/1 vs. NJIT 66-54
Next Week: 12/8 vs. Marist, 12/11 vs. Auburn

Auburn vs. Rutgers on Saturday will air in 3D on ESPN, according to a tweet from Mike DeCourcy. With Auburn being one of nation’s worst Power Six teams and Rutgers struggling to generate interest even in their own fanbase, I’ll bet five people see it, and none in 3D.

16. DePaul 3-4 (16)
Last Week: 12/2 vs. Northern Illinois 86-84, 12/5 vs. Central Michigan 71-62
Next Week: 12/8 @ Indiana State, 12/11 vs. Ball State

Brandon Young’s status as an overlooked freshman was chronicled earlier in this space. As one of the nation’s lowest “Power Six” schools in KenPom’s rankings, there’s not much else to get up for with this group.

A Look Ahead

While some teams use the holiday season to feast on cupcakes, that’s not the case with the Big East. High-profile opponents this week include Michigan State (Syracuse), Tennessee (Pittsburgh), Kentucky and Gonzaga (Notre Dame), and Wisconsin (Marquette).

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference.

A Look Back

The Big East had been questioned coming into the season.  I did it myself.  They didn’t have their usual firepower up top. Their preseason player of the year candidates — the Austin Freemans and Corey Fishers and Kris Josephs of the world — barely make a peep on NBA Draft boards. And the bottom of the league? Don’t get me started on the bottom of the league.

But is it possible that, while looking at the Big East’s faults, we happened to overlook just how deep the conference is?  Yes, apparently.  The early season tournaments aren’t just an entertaining way to kick off a normally bland start to the college basketball season. They also act as a gauge, a way to measure how each respective conference stacks up against one another.

And the Big East was, in a word, impressive, in the 2010 installment of the early season tournaments:

  • UConn beat Wichita State and upset Michigan State and Kentucky to win the Maui Invitational.
  • Syracuse beat Michigan and Georgia Tech to win the Legends Classic.
  • Notre Dame notched wins over Georgia, Cal, and Wisconsin to with the Old Spice Classic.
  • St. John’s beat Arizona State in the finals of the Great Alaska Shootout.
  • Pitt won the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic by beating Maryland and Texas in NYC.
  • Georgetown won the Charleston Classic with a win over NC State in the finals.
  • Villanova lost to Tennessee in the finals of the Preseason NIT.
  • West Virginia beat Vanderbilt in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off before losing to Minnesota in the finals.

By my count, that is six tournament titles and two second places finishes. Both of the second place finishes came via loss to a top 25 team. With the exception of Louisville, who didn’t play in one of these tournaments, each of the Big East’s top eight teams finished either first or second in their respective tournament. The ESPN/USA Today poll currently has five Big East teams in the top 25, and eight in the top 29. The AP poll looks even better, as those eight teams are all in the top 27, with Notre Dame also sneaking their way into the top 25.

The top of the Big East is a far cry from where it was in 2009, when they sent five teams to the Sweet 16, three to the Elite 8, two to the Final Four, and logged three of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.  But with the depth of this conference — among the schools already listed, keep in mind Seton Hall is playing without Jeremy Hazell and with half of Herb Pope and Cincinnati just beat Dayton 68-34 — there is no reason we shouldn’t expect another season with eight or nine potential NCAA Tournament teams come March.

Player of the Week: Kemba Walker, UConn

It has to go to Walker, as much as I would like to pass the award elsewhere. Kemba absolutely took the college basketball world by storm out in Maui. Coming off of a 42-point performance against Vermont, the Huskies point guard put the team on his diminutive back and carried them to a Maui Invitational tournament title. He averaged 30.0 PPG, 4.0 APG, and 2.7 SPG during the event, leading his team to wins over then top ten teams Michigan State and Kentucky and into the top ten of both major polls.

Team of the Week: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Irish stormed through Disneyland, taking home the title in the Old Spice Classic held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex. Along the way, the Irish knocked off Georgia, Cal, and Wisconsin. There are a couple things that really impressed me about this team. For one, they are just as good defensively as they were last season. They held Wisconsin to 51 points two days after holding Cal to 44 points (and 5 in the first half!) The second thing that impressed me is the versatility they have in their lineup. The Irish can play big if they have too, using Tyrone Nash and/or Jack Cooley on the front line. But, as they did against Wisconsin, they can also go small, using essentially five perimeter players, with Carleton ScottScott Martin, and Tim Abromaitis on the front line. They also have a freshman point guard named Eric Atkins that proved his worth on this trip. He will allow Ben Hansbrough to play off the ball when need be. The third thing is their resiliency. The Irish were down 11 late in the second half to a good Wisconsin team before coming back and winning. Against Georgia, the Irish switched to a zone in the second half that helped then comeback from 12 down at the half.

Power Rankings: (last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Pitt 7-0 (1)
Last Week: 11/23 vs. Robert Morris 74-53, 11/27 vs. Penn 82-58
Next Week: 12/1 vs. Duquesne, 12/4 vs. Rider

Pitt looked like Pitt these two games. They smothered an overmatched opponent defensively, waiting for a big second half run to take control of the game. The Panthers are easily the best team in the Big East right now.

2. UConn 5-0 (9)
Last Week: 11/22 vs. Wichita State 83-79, 11/23 vs. Michigan State 70-67, 11/24 vs. Kentucky 84-67
Next Week: 11/30 vs. New Hampshire, 12/3 vs. UMBC

The only thing I want to elaborate on from above is that the Huskies role players have been pretty impressive. Shabazz Napier is a playmaking point guard that is a tough defender. Roscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb are both impressive athletes with enough skills to be capable thus far. And Niels Giffey is the kind of all-around talent — defends, shoots the three, handles the ball — that UConn has been missing the last few seasons. The question is whether it lasts.

3. Villanova 5-1 (2)
Last Week: 11/24 vs. UCLA 82-70, 11/26 vs. Tennessee 68-78
Next Week: 12/4 vs. St. Joe’s

Villanova is desperately in need of a leader. Against Tennessee, the Wildcats just simply could not get into any kind of a rhythm offensively with their three back court stars struggling. Corey Stokes and Maalik Wayns combined for 6-20 shooting from the field and six turnovers. And Corey Fisher? He finished the game 1-10 from the floor with five turnovers and just three points. Worst still, he didn’t seem like he wanted any part of the ball down the stretch. That’s not a good sign for the kid that was supposed to fill Scottie Reynolds shoes.

4. Georgetown 6-0 (3)
Last Week: 11/27 vs. UNC-Asheville 87-72
Next Week: 11/30 vs. Missouri in Kansas City, 12/4 vs. Utah State

Last week, we talked about how the Hoyas’ big men were playing better than expected. Well, this week, we should now talk about how the back court may actually be outperforming expectations. Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Jason Clark are averaging a combined 47.2 PPG and 11.1 APG. Wright and Clark are both shooting over 45% from three. Freeman? He’s hitting an obscene 57.6% of his triples.

5. Syracuse 6-0 (4)
Last Week: 11/26 vs. Michigan 53-50, 11/27 vs. Georgia Tech 80-76
Next Week: 11/30 vs. Cornell, 12/4 vs. NC State

The most important part of two more unimpressive wins for the Orange was that Kris Joseph finally looked like the player many of us thought he was going to be all season long. Joseph had 22 of the Orange’s 53 points in the win over Michigan, then Joseph scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half — after fighting foul trouble in the first half — in the title game against Georgia Tech.

6. West Virginia 4-1 (5)
Last Week: 11/27 vs. VMI 82-66
Next Week: 12/1 vs. American, 12/4 @ Miami

The Mountaineers played just one game since their impressive second place finish in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. In an 82-66 win over VMI. Casey Mitchell, once again, was the star, hitting for 25 points in the win. Kevin Jones hasn’t quite developed like many expected, but perhaps the bigger issue is that Truck Bryant was held out of the VMI game for “disciplinary reasons.”

7. Notre Dame 7-0 (8)
Last Week: 11/25 vs. Georgia 89-83 2OT, 11/26 vs. Cal 57-44, 11/28 vs. Wisconsin 58-51
Next Week: 11/30 vs. Indiana State

See above – Team of the Week

8. Louisville 4-0 (7)
Last Week: 11/27 vs. Marshall 80-66
Next Week: 12/1 vs. FIU, 12/4 vs. South Alabama

There’s not much more to say about Louisville than we already have said. They are 4-0 and have five guys averaging between 11.0 PPG and 12.0 PPG. Most surprising? Walk-on point guard Elisha Justice, averaging 7.0 PPG and 2.0 APG.

9. Marquette 5-2 (6)
Last Week: 11/22 vs. Duke 77-82, 11/23 vs. Gonzaga 63-66, 11/27 vs. Milwaukee 75-72
Next Week: 12/4 vs. Longwood

I’ve been high on Marquette all season long. They create quite a few matchup problems when they put their best lineup on the floor. But how impressive they were in a loss to Duke was erased in a close win over Milwaukee and a loss to Gonzaga. Marquette is always going to play close games, but until they start winning more impressively, the Golden Eagles have to slide.

10. St. John’s 4-1 (11)
Last Week: 11/25 vs. Ball State 88-83 OT, 11/26 vs. Drake 82-39, 11/28 vs. Arizona State 67-58
Next Week: 12/1 vs. Wagner

St. John’s looked like the St. John’s we expected this season. Playing four time zones to the west, the Johnnies rolled through the Great Alaska Shootout, capping their tournament victory with a come-from-behind win over Arizona State. St. John’s did it in the second half with a great press and on the back of 17.7 PPG from Justin Brownlee.

11. Cincinnati 5-0 (12)
Last Week: 11/24 vs. Savannah State 54-41, 11/27 vs. Dayton 68-34
Next Week: 12/1 vs. Wright State 12/4 @ Toledo

Cincinnati was flying far off of my radar, even with Sean Kilpatrick doing his best Lance Stephenson impression. But what the Bearcats did to Dayton? That just wasn’t right. The final doesn’t do that beatdown justice. The score at one point in the second half was 56-19.

12. Seton Hall 2-3 (10)
Last Week: 11/22 vs. Clemson 58-64 OT
Next Week: 11/29 vs. St. Peter’s

There’s not much to say about Seton Hall since last week. They still are operating without Jeremy Hazell, and Herb Pope still isn’t back into shape. The Pirates will be good, but we may have to wait until the Big East season to see it.

13. South Florida 4-3 (12)
Last Week: 11/23 vs. Liberty 60-43, 11/26 vs. BYU 75-77 2OT, 11/27 vs. Texas Tech 64-61
Next Week: 12/1 vs. VCU, 12/4 @ Florida Atlantic

The Bulls looked impressive when they took a very good BYU team to double overtime. The next night, they proceeded to beat Texas Tech, and while the Red Raiders may not be a tournament team, its still a nice win for USF. Jawanza Poland and Ron Anderson look like they may end up being pretty good players one day.

14. Providence 5-1 (14)
Last Week: 11/23 vs. La Salle 73-84, 11/24 vs. Wyoming 84-77
Next Week: 11/29 vs. Central Connecticut, 12/1 vs. Northeastern, 12/4 vs. Rhode Island

The Friars are 5-1, but they haven’t beaten anyone of substance. The only borderline team they have played was La Salle, who they lost to by 11 points.

15. Rutgers 3-2 (15)
Last Week: 11/23 vs. Norfolk State 83-57, 11/26 vs. St. Joe’s 70-76
Next Week: 12/1 vs. NJIT

It looked like the Scarlet Knights had bounced back from an opening night loss to Princeton. That is until they lost to A-10 cellar dweller St. Joseph’s.

16. DePaul 1-4 (16)
Last Week: 11/25 vs. Oklahoma State 56-60, 11/26 vs. Cal St. Northridge 66-88, 11/28 vs. Stanford 74-81 OT
Next Week: 12/2 vs. Northern Illinois

The good news is that DePaul looked competitive in their losses to Stanford and Oklahoma State. The bad news? Stanford and Oklahoma State are going to be spending a lot of time at the bottom of their respective conferences. The worse news? DePaul lost by 22 to Cal St. Northridge.

A Look Ahead

  • …way ahead. In 2012-13, TCU will jump ship to the Big East, as was reported Monday afternoon. With the conference growing to 17 teams in basketball (assuming no defections in the meantime), let the scheduling and logistical nightmares commence, not to mention nightmares on the basketball court – the Horned Frogs haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 1987.
  • Things cool down for the most part, now that the early season tournaments have wrapped up. The biggest highlights on the schedule for this week are a semi-road game for Georgetown, who faces Missouri in Kansas City, a visit to Syracuse from NC State, and another ACC-Big East date, as Miami hosts West Virginia. To dig a little deeper, VCU, whose performances against Tennessee and UCLA  turned a few heads in New York City, will make a trip to South Florida Wednesday.
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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010


Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference.

[ed note: this post was written before Tuesday’s games]

A Look Back

  • Seton Hall loses Hazell: The Pirates suffered a serious setback in their bid make the NCAA Tournament when leading scorer Jeremy Hazell broke his wrist in the Paradise Jam opening round against Alabama. Without Hazell, the Pirates lost back-to-back games, unable to break the 60-point barrier.
  • Jayvaughn Pinkston suspended: The Villanova freshman had an altercation at a party on November 6 which resulted in another student ending up in the hospital. Pinkston has been suspended from the team, and his return date is unknown.
  • Player of the Week: Kemba Walker, UConn: He scored 42 points against Vermont, which was enough to earn him consideration alongside West Virginia’s Casey Mitchell, who finally decided to show up to college basketball with a 31-point performance against Vanderbilt followed up by a 27-point performance in a loss to Minnesota. But after Walker’s second half performance against Wichita State, when he went for 29 second half points in a comeback win, there was no way he could be left out.

Power Rankings

1. Pitt (5-0)

Next Week: 11/23 vs. Robert Morris, 11/27 vs. Penn

The Panthers have officially become the hands down favorite to win the Big East, and one of a handful of teams that have proven themselves worthy for talk of having Final Four potential. The thing about Pitt this season is that they are incredibly balanced and legitimately go 11 deep. Everyone knows about Ashton Gibbs, and he proved that he is still their star by scoring 19 of his 24 points in the second half of the Panthers win in the title game of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament on Friday. But then there is Brad Wanamaker, the heady senior off-guard that has become Pitt’s best playmaker and a second scoring threat. Pitt’s front line goes five deep and are good enough that redshirt freshman Talib Zanna, the kid that outplayed Maryland’s Jordan Williams in the CvC opener, comes off the bench. With guys like Lamar Patterson and Gilbert Brown providing athleticism and versatility on the wing, there really isn’t much that this Pitt team cannot do.

2. Villanova (4-0)

Next Week: Preseason NIT 11/24 and 11/26

Villanova has yet to really be tested this season. Boston U. and Bucknell both gave the Wildcats a fight, but those are two tough low-major teams. Personnel-wise, there really hasn’t been many surprises for Villanova, either. Corey Fisher hasn’t quite found his stroke, but he’s still playing great. Maalik Wayns has become a terrific point guard in his sophomore season, but we expected that. Their big guys aren’t playing quite as well as I expected, but I might have expected too much out of them. We’ll get a better feel for Nova after they play UCLA and either Tennessee or VCU in the Preseason NIT.

3. Georgetown (5-0)

Next week: 11/27 vs. UNC-Asheville

The Hoyas have been impressive here early in the season. Their win over Old Dominion in Charleston is one of the better wins in the conference, and while the field of the Charleston Classic was overly tough, the Hoyas rolled through the tournament barely breaking a sweat. The back court, as expected, has been very good, but the talking point for this Hoyas team needs to be the front court. Many a writer said that the front court would be Georgetown’s Achilles heel, but they have looked pretty good here early in the season. Julian Vaughn is rebounding the ball and blocking shots, Henry Sims had a terrific nine-rebound, five-assist performance against NC State, Hollis Thompson is playing bigger than his size, and Jerrelle Benimon has been very active.

4. Syracuse (4-0)

Next Week: Legends Classic 11/26 and 11/27

The Orange are 4-0, yes, but it’s not been an impressive 4-0. In four games, the Orange have probably played a grand total of 40 minutes of impressive basketball — the second half of their wins against Northern Iowa and Canisius. Their latest effort? A 63-60 win over a William & Mary squad that lost to Virginia by 24. The Orange had to come back from four down with three minutes to go. Maybe Jim Boeheim was right when he called this his most overrated team at Syracuse. They remind me a bit of the 2007-2008 team. Those Orange added freshmen Donte Greene and Jonny Flynn to the likes of Andy Rautins, Paul Harris, and Eric Devendorf, and while they were a preseason top 25 team, early struggles continued and the Orange eventually were headed to the NIT. With this club, the issue seems to be that no one wants to be the star. Kris Joseph was expected to be the guy, but he’s been up and down through four games. Scoop Jardine is talented, but not talented enough to be taking 17 or 18 shots a night on a consistent basis. Freshmen Fab Melo and Dion Waiters haven’t quite become the players they were expected to be, either. There aren’t many shooters on the roster, and as a result, the Syracuse offense has looked stagnant and out of sync early in the season. These are solvable problems, but do the Orange have the pieces to solve them?

5. West Virginia: (3-1)

Next Week: 11/27 vs. VMI

The Mountaineers had a disappointing loss to an underrated Minnesota team in the finals in Puerto Rico, which capped off a pretty impressive start to the season. Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant have both gotten off to slow starts, but that fact has been mitigated by the emergence of Casey Mitchell. Mitchell went for 31 points and 27 points in the last two games in Puerto Rico and has become the perimeter scorer that WVU has been sorely missing.

6. Marquette: (4-1)

Next Week: 11/23 vs. Gonzaga (in Kansas City), 11/27 vs. UW Milwaukee

I feel like I am the only person that has been talking about this Marquette team from the beginning of the season. They have a very good backcourt with Junior CadouganDwight BuycksDarius Johnson-Odom, and Vander BlueJimmy Butler, who might be the most underrated player in the Big East, and Jae Crowder are going to cause matchup problems every night. And they have a couple of capable big men to run out there. Don’t want to listen to me? The Golden Eagles gave Duke all they could handle Monday night. This is a tough, scrappy team that is going to play hard for 40 minutes and will be in every game they play this season.

7. Louisville (3-0)

Next week: 11/27 vs. Marshall

After the top six in the Big East, there is a noticeable drop off. While I am not completely sold on the Cardinals yet, it would be unfair not to rank them atop this second group. They smacked Butler at home and their roster makeup — deep, athletic, long, and a lot of perimeter shooters — perfectly suits the style Rick Pitino wants to play. Is it ironic that they rarely have the ball in their hands for more than 15 seconds? 

8. Notre Dame (4-0)

Next week: Old Spice Classic 11/25-11/28

We may not get a real gauge on the Irish until their December 8 date with Kentucky, so until then we have to base the Irish on what we have seen. That’s a team that is 4-0 without having two of their best scorers — Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin — playing well yet. Ben Hansbrough has been terrific, and freshman point guard Eric Atkins will be very good with time.

9. Connecticut: (3-0)

Next week: 11/23 vs. Michigan State in Maui

Kemba Walker has looked like an All-American. Remember when everyone thought he would be one and done? Alex Oriakhi is averaging a double-double while serving as the Huskies’ token block machine (11.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG to go with 2.7 BPG). They have some light weaponry after Walker and Oriakhi, but let’s withhold further judgment until after they square off against #2 Michigan State in Maui.

10. Seton Hall: (2-3)

Next week: 11/29 vs. St. Peter’s

The Hall will be higher than this before the season ends. They are a much different team defensively this season. But with Jeremy Hazell out with a broken wrist and Herb Pope far from game shape, the offense just isn’t up to snuff.

11. St. John’s: (1-1)

Next Week: Nov. 25 vs. Ball State

I’m still expecting good things out of the Johnnies this season, but after seeing St. Mary’s lock them up defensively, I am beginning to have some doubts creeping in. If Steve Lavin can make half as much noise on the court as he has on the recruiting trail, the Red Storm will be on their way up.

12. Cincinnati: (3-0)

Next week: 11/24 vs. Savannah State, 11/27 vs. Dayton

The wins haven’t been that impressive. Freshman Sean Kilpatrick has been. With Deonta Vaughn and Lance Stepenson out of the fold, the Bearcats look as vanilla as it gets, with a non-con schedule to match.

13. South Florida: (2-2)

Next week: 11/23 vs. Liberty, 11/26 vs. BYU

Jawanza Poland will be one of the most entertaining players in the Big East to watch, while Gus Gilchrist is among the most quietly consistent bigs in the conference. They’ll miss Dom Jones, but help is on the way for next season in the 7’2, 285-pound person of high school senior Jordan Omogbehin

14. Providence: (4-0)

Next Week: 11/23 vs. La Salle

The Friars don’t really have any impressive wins. 4-0 is 4-0, however, and guys like Marshon Brooks, Vincent Council and Bilal Dixon have played well. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Friars; We’ll see how Keno Davis tweaks his offense throughout the year.

15. Rutgers: (2-1)

Next Week: 11/23 vs. Norfolk State, 11/26 vs. St. Joe’s

The loss to Princeton was a blemish, but beating Fairfield and Miami are both pretty decent wins for Mike Rice. Like St. John’s, Rutgers is having a lot of success in living rooms, but until those players arrive, they can only work with what they have, which isn’t much.

16. DePaul: (1-1)

Next Week: 76 Classic 11/25-11/28

DePaul put up 114 points on Chicago State and then lost to Western Carolina, which exemplifies their search to find an identity. Oklahoma State in the 76 Classic and either Virginia Tech or Cal State Northridge await the Blue Demons.
A Look Ahead

Preseason Tournaments: All the good stuff will be happening in the preseason tournaments.

  • Notre Dame is playing in the Old Spice Classic, where they face Georgia in the opening round.
  • Villanova gets UCLA in the Preseason NIT semifinals.
  • Syracuse faces Michigan in the Legends Classic opener.
  • DePaul will be playing in the 76 Classic Thanksgiving Day, opening up with Oklahoma State and either Virginia Tech or Cal State Northridge on Friday.
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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on February 26th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin Is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Barring an improbable collapse or an unforeseen run through Madison Square Garden, there are just six Big East teams that are still sitting somewhere on the bubble.

Syracuse, Villanova, Pitt, Georgetown, and West Virginia are all playing for seeding and a double-bye in the Big East Tournament. South Florida, Providence, Rutgers, DePaul, and St. John’s are all playing for pride and, well, pride.

That leaves the six teams sitting in the middle of the league — Marquette, Louisville, UConn, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, and Seton Hall — with a shot at dancing. Commencing Big East Bubble Breakdown.

Marquette:
  • 18-9, 9-6; RPI: 54, SOS: 65
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 2-6, 3-7, 6-7
  • Best Wins: Xavier, Georgetown
  • Worst Losses: DePaul
As has been the case all season long for Marquette, their inability to win close games early in the season has been a killer. The Golden Eagles’ RPI does not properly represent how well this team has played this season. None of their nine losses have come by more than nine points, and seven have come by less than five points. It seems like Marquette’s luck is starting to turn a corner, as they have now won their last four close games, including Wednesday’s buzzer-beating W at St. John’s. Marquette gets Seton Hall on the road and Louisville and Notre Dame at home before heading to the Big East tournament, where it looks as if they will get a first round bye. Win three more games, and Marquette will lock up a bid.

Louisville:
  • 18-10, 9-6; RPI: 42, SOS: 9
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-5, 2-6, 6-9
  • Best Wins: UConn, Syracuse
  • Worst Losses: Western Carolina, St. John’s
Louisville is in a tough spot. They have a solid RPI bolstered by very good strength of schedule, but they have not really beaten anyone this season. The win at Syracuse is as good as it gets, but after that, their best W is against a UConn team that could lose their last four games by 20 points and no one would be surprised. If the eye test matters to anyone, Louisville will pass with flying colors. They have a very good front line, anchored by Samardo Samuels and the suddenly-dangerous Jared Swopshire. Their backcourt, which has been inconsistent this season (although there have been some injuries), is as talented on paper as any in the conference save Villanova. Louisville has a tough schedule down the stretch, but that means that they will have three chances to really improve their resume — at UConn and Marquette (who are both fighting for a bubble spot as well), and at home for Syracuse (who will likely be playing for the Big East title and will be looking for revenge). Lose all three, and Louisville is in trouble. But if they win all three and make some noise in the Big East Tournament, and this is a team that could be a top six or seven seed.

Connecticut:

  • 17-11, 7-8; RPI: 40, SOS: 2
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 3-5, 3-6, 9-9
  • Best Wins: Texas, Villanova, West Virginia
  • Worst Losses: Providence, Michigan
The Huskies are coming along at the right time. Since Jim Calhoun returned from his illness, UConn is 3-1 with wins over Villanova and West Virginia. Overall, UConn is in a similar boat to Louisville, as their lofty RPI is, in large part, a result of the tough schedule they have played. UConn brings up an interesting question – how will the committee handle the seven games Jim Calhoun missed? With him, the Huskies are 14-7. Without him, they are 3-4 with a loss to Providence. But UConn also beat Texas without him and lost to Cincinnati in terrible fashion without Calhoun. The Huskies get Louisville at home and South Florida and Notre Dame on the road. Win their last three and their first game in the Big East, and this team wins.

Cincinnati:

  • 16-11, 7-8; RPI: 59, SOS: 29
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-3, 4-6, 6-11
  • Best Wins: Maryland, Vanderbilt, UConn X 2
  • Worst Losses: St. John’s
Cincinnati is in a really tough spot. Before beating DePaul, the Bearcats had lost four of their last five games and seven of their last eleven. And now they are sitting at 59th in the RPI without a good conference win under their belts. They will get three chances at getting one in their last three games, as they go on the road to face Villanova, get Georgetown at home, and play West Virginia on the road as well. As I said, the Bearcats are in trouble.

Seton Hall:

  • 16-10, 7-8; RPI: 52, SOS: 18
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-7, 3-9, 6-10
  • Best Wins: Cornell, Pitt
  • Worst Losses: South Florida
You know, Seton Hall’s resume is not as bad as many people think it is. They have a couple of nice wins, beating Cornell on the road and knocking off Pitt and Louisville at home. They do have 10 losses, but of those ten, the only one that can be considered a “bad” loss came in overtime at South Florida during that two week stretch when South Florida was pretending they were good. The Pirates play three more regular season games – Marquette at home and Rutgers and Providence on the road. If they can win all three of those, a task which is far from improbable, the Pirates will head into the Big East Tournament at 10-8 in the league with a very real chance of being able to play their way into the tournament.

Notre Dame:

  • 18-10, 7-8; RPI: 72, SOS: 63
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-7, 3-9, 6-10
  • Best Wins: West Virginia, Pitt
  • Worst Losses: Loyola Marymount, Northwestern, Rutgers

Call me crazy, but is Notre Dame playing better basketball without Luke Harangody? Since the all-american went out with a knee injury against Seton Hall, ND has looked downright scary at times. They lost to Louisville on the road in double overtime most recently they just put a whooping on Pitt at home. Without ‘Gody on the floor, ND seems to play better defense and move the ball better. The rest of the team also seems to be a bit more aggressive, knowing that they don’t have to get the big fella touches. In the three games ‘Gody has been out, Tim Abromaitis has up his average to 23.3 PPG in the last three. Ben Hansbrough is averaging 16.3 PPG. Tory Jackson is averaging 13.7 PPG, and scored 25 the night ‘Gody was hurt. Clearly, Notre Dame is a better basketball team with Luke on the floor, and they are going to need him if the Irish are to navigate a difficult stretch run — at Georgetown, UConn, at Marquette. With the losses ND has this season, they probably needed to sweep those three games and pick up at least one win in the Big East tournament for a shot at an at-large.

PLAYER AND TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kemba Walker and the Connecticut Huskies

Since we last checked in with you guys, UConn has gone on a tear. The Huskies have been left for dead a number of times this season, but I think that even the most diehard UConn fans at given up hope after an embarrassing loss to Cincinnati at home. Its one thing to lose at home, its another thing to get upset at home. But to lose the way UConn did was a downright disgrace. They didn’t play with any heart or emotion and showed no energy on either end of the floor. Should I even mention that it was Calhoun’s first game back from an illness? The performance was bad enough that just about everyone at the game questioned whether or not Calhoun had lost this team.

With Villanova looming on the horizon, most had written off the season. But at Villanova, the Huskies — and specifically Kemba Walker — woke up. Walker went for 29 points and a team-high nine boards to lead UConn to an upset win. Five days later, UConn went to Piscataway and knocked off Rutgers. And just this past Monday, the Huskies held off a tough West Virginia team down the stretch, running their winning streak to three games and giving UConn fans a real reason to hope for the postseason this year.

In the three wins, Walker averaged 22.0 PPG, shot 7-15 from three, and got to the line an incredible 36 times. He’s turning into a leader for the Huskies, something they have been waiting for all season long.

POWER RANKINGS

The Final Four Contenders

1. Syracuse (26-2, 13-2)
2. Villanova (23-4, 12-3)

The Sweet 16 Contenders

3. West Virginia (21-6, 10-5)
4. Pitt (21-7, 10-5)
5. Georgetown (19-7, 9-6)

The We-Passed-The-Eye-Test-ers

6. Marquette (18-9, 9-6)
7. Louisville (18-10, 9-6)

The You-Don’t-Want-To-Play-Us-ers

8. Connecticut (17-11, 7-8)
9. Seton Hall (16-10, 7-8)

The Sleepers

10. Cincinnati (16-11, 7-8)
11. Notre Dame (18-10, 7-8)

The Deep Sleepers

12. South Florida (16-11, 6-9)
13. St. John’s (15-12, 5-10)

The Rest

14. Providence (12-15, 4-11)
15. Rutgers (14-14, 4-11)
16. DePaul (8-19, 1-14)

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on February 12th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

The top of the Big East is stacked.  Syracuse is a legitimate national title contender. Villanova may end up as a 1 seed, and West Virginia and Georgetown both look destined to 2 seeds. Hell, Pitt might even be able to play their way into a top four seed if they can figure out their issues down the stretch.

So like I said, the top of the Big East is stacked.  But what about the rest of it?

Once you get past Pitt, the Big East basically turns into one giant question mark. Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame, South Florida, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, UConn. What is the difference between these seven schools? Do any of them actually deserve a bid?  After Louisville lost to St. John’s last night, they probably don’t. The reason why might be a little different than you think.

Clearly, none of those seven teams are great teams, and some would struggle to even put them in the pretty good category. But they also aren’t terrible. They are all rated somewhere between 42d (Louisville) and 66th (Marquette) in the RPI. According to Kenpom, Marquette is 18th, Louisville 23rd, and the other five teams are sitting somewhere between 50th and 73rd.

The problem becomes separation. The seven teams in the middle of the Big East are all pretty average, meaning that during Big East play, they are going to beat up on each other. Usually, the MO for teams in the middle of the major conferences is to defend your home court against the teams you should beat, squeak out a couple on the road, and then hope you can topple one of the big boys in the league. If you can get to .500 or better in the major conferences with a couple of decent wins and a marquee win, that generally is enough to earn an at-large berth.

But this season, no one is beating the best teams in the Big East. Beating Villanova and Syracuse are season-changing wins, but Villanova has only lost to Georgetown and Syracuse has only lost to Pitt.* Wins over Georgetown or West Virginia aren’t quite marquee wins, but even those are hard to come by. The Hoyas lost to South Florida and Marquette, while WVU dropped a roadie to Notre Dame.

*Think about this. Let’s assume that Pitt had lost to Syracuse. They would then be 16-7 overall and 6-5 in the conference with wins over UConn, Cincinnati, Louisville, DePaul, St. John’s, and Seton Hall and losses to Seton Hall and South Florida. Is that really all that different from Louisville, who is 15-9 and 6-5 with wins over South Florida, Providence, St. John’s, Cincinnati, UConn, and Rutgers and losses to St. John’s and Seton Hall?

The issue isn’t that the middle of the Big East is terrible. They aren’t.  The problem is that they aren’t good enough, and that Syracuse and Villanova are too good, for the teams needing a marquee win to get that marquee win.

Let’s take a quick look at what those seven teams need to do to earn a bid (RPI numbers don’t include games from Thursday night):

  • Louisville: The Cardinals’ decent RPI (42) will no doubt take a hit after they lost by 19 to St. John’s on Thursday. With just a 1-6 record against the RPI top 50 (to be fair, they have wins over UConn (RPI 51) and Cincinnati (RPI 52) in addition to the win over South Florida) and losses to Western Carolina and by 22 to Charlotte, the Cardinals desperately need a couple of wins to bolster their resume. They will get the chance, as they play Syracuse twice and get Georgetown at home. My guess is that Louisville needs to go 5-2 over their last seven games for a shot at the tournament.
  • South Florida: Its weird talking about South Florida being on the bubble. They have a couple very good wins (Georgetown, Pitt) and just one terrible loss (Central Michigan). More than anything, the Bulls just need to add some depth to their profile, meaning they just need to pick up some more wins. I think USF has a good chance to earn a bid if they can get 10 wins in the league, assuming they don’t drop one to Providence or DePaul.  Beat Villanova on the road, and the Bulls will get in with a .500 league record.
  • UConn: The Huskies are in big trouble. They have just one quality win (Texas), and even that win is looking less and less impressive. Their RPI (51) is only remaining respectable because their SOS is so high. But UConn will have plenty of chances to boost their resume as five of their last seven games come against teams with a RPI of 52 or better, including Villanova and West Virginia.
  • Cincinnati: The Bearcats, despite the lower RPI, may actually be in better shape than UConn. They have a great win over Vanderbilt and another good win against Maryland, but Cincy hasn’t done anything on the road this season and absolutely needs to pick up a couple more quality wins. Cincy will have their shot to close out the season, as they head to West Virginia, get Villanova at home, and play at Georgetown.
  • Notre Dame: The Irish lost to Seton Hall on Thursday night, which may have all but done them in. ND is now 6-6 in the league and 17-8 overall, but their only really good win is against West Virginia. The Irish played such a weak schedule in the non-conference that they didn’t leave themselves much room for slip-ups like losing to Rutgers or Loyola Marymount.
  • Seton Hall: By beating Notre Dame, Seton Hall also keeps their thin hopes alive. The Pirates are like the Huskies. They don’t really have any horrible losses, but they haven’t really beaten anyone either. The Pirates only play one more game against teams outside of the bottom four in the league. They will likely have to win out for a chance to play in the tournament.
  • Marquette: The Golden Eagles are an interesting case. With so many close losses, they are fairly high on Kenpom’s rankings, but sport a 66 in the RPI. They also have a couple very nice wins – Georgetown and Xavier – but not much else. 5-2 down the stretch, with a couple good wins, will get Marquette in.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Kris Joseph, Syracuse

Don’t look now, but Jospeh, who is the Orange’s sixth man, has become the second leading scorer for the Cuse. We said he would be the x-factor for this team, and it looks like he has become just that. He’s long and athletic like Wes Johnson, he can get out and run the floor in transition, he attacks the rim, and he makes plays on the defensive end. This past week, he averaged 15.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg. His two threes against Cincy sparked a late run.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Georgetown Hoyas

The Hoyas certified themselves as a Final Four contender by going 2-0 this past week, including a beatdown on then-#2 Villanova. Georgetown jumped out to a 50-31 lead at the break on the strength of hot shooting from three, and sealed the game by controlling the ball offensively and hitting their free throws. In the other game this week, Georgetown went on the road Providence and avoided an upset by overcoming a halftime deficit. Austin Freeman continued his fantastic play, averaging 21.0 ppg for the week while Greg Monroe posted averaged of 15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, and 9.0 apg.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Syracuse: 24-1, 11-1

Last Week: 2/7 @ Cinci 71-54, 2/10 vs. UConn 72-67

Next Week: 2/14 vs. Louisville, 2/18 @ Georgetown

2. Villanova: 21-2, 10-1

Last Week: 2/6 @ Georgetown 90-103, 2/8 @ West Virginia 82-75

Next Week: 2/13 vs. Providence, 2/15 vs. UConn

3. Georgetown: 18-5, 8-4

Last Week: 2/6 vs. Nova 103-90, 2/10 @ Providence 79-70

Next Week: 2/14 @ Rutgers, 2/18 vs. Syracuse

4. West Virginia: 19-4, 8-3

Last Week: 2/6 @ St. John’s 79-60, 2/8 vs. Nova 75-82

Next Week: 2/12 @ Pitt, 2/17 @ Providence

5. Pitt: 18-6, 7-4

Last Week: 2/6 vs. Seton Hall 83-58, 2/8 vs. Robert Morris 77-53

Next Week: 2/12 vs. West Virginia, 2/18 @ Marquette

6. Marquette: 15-8, 6-5

Last Week: 2/6 @ Providence 82-79

Next Week: 2/13 vs. South Florida, 2/18 vs. Pitt

7. Louisville: 15-9, 6-5

Last Week: 2/6 vs. Rutgers 76-60, 2/11 @ St. John’s 55-74

Next Week: 2/14 @ Syracuse, 2/17 vs. Notre Dame

8. Notre Dame: 17-8, 6-6

Last Week: 2/7 vs. South Florida 65-62, 2/11 @ Seton Hall 87-90

Next Week: 2/14 vs. St. John’s, 2/17 @ Louisville

9. South Florida: 15-8, 5-6

Last Week: 2/7 @ Notre Dame 62-65

Next Week: 2/13 @ Marquette, 2/16 vs. Cincinnati

10. Cincinnati: 14-9, 5-6

Last Week: 2/7 vs. Syracuse 54-71

Next Week: 2/13 @ UConn, 2/16 @ South Florida

11. UConn: 14-10, 4-7

Last Week: 2/6 vs. DePaul 64-57, 2/10 @ Syracuse 67-72

Next Week: 2/13 vs. Cincinnati, 2/15 @ Villanova

12. Seton Hall: 13-9, 4-7

Last Week: 2/6 @ Pitt 58-83, 2/11 vs. Notre Dame 87-90

Next Week: 2/14 vs. Louisville, 2/18 @ Georgetown

13. Providence: 12-12, 4-8

Last Week: 2/6 vs. Marquette 79-82, 2/9 vs. Georgetown 70-79

Next Week: 2/13 @ Villanova, 2/17 vs. West Virginia

14. St. John’s: 13-10, 3-8

Last Week: 2/6 vs. Louisville 60-79, 2/11 vs. West Virginia 74-55

Next Week: 2/14 @ Notre Dame, 2/17 vs. Seton Hall

15. Rutgers: 12-12, 2-9

Last Week: 2/6 @ Louisville 60-76, 2/8 vs. Caldwell 70-62

Next Week: 2/14 vs. Georgetown, 2/16 @ DePaul

16. DePaul: 8-15, 1-10

Last Week: 2/6 @ UConn 57-64

Next Week: 2/14 @ Seton Hall, 2/16 vs. Rutgers

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2010


Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Pitt started the Big East season on fire. They won five straight out of the gates, including a three game road trip in which they took down Syracuse, UConn and Cincinnati.  But after a loss to West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl, the Panthers have dropped four of their last five games to fall to 6-4 in league play, just a half-game in front of Louisville and a game in front of South Florida, Marquette, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame.

So what happened?  How did Pitt go from the darling of the national media to a team in free fall?

Its simple. They can’t score.  Through five Big East games, the Panthers were averaging 74.0 ppg. In their last five, that number has dropped to 60.3 ppg. When the Panthers were 5-0, Ashton Gibbs was averaging 20.0 ppg, shooting 52.0% from the field, and hit 16-22 threes. In his last five games, he’s averaging just 13.4 ppg while shooting 26.4% from the field and 6-29 from deep.

Don’t put it all on Gibbs, however. He isn’t the only one struggling. Brad Wanamaker is averaging just 9.6 ppg over the last five games, including being shut out against the Mountaineers. Jermaine Dixon sprained his ankle in the St. John’s game and missed the Panther’s loss to South Florida. Dante Taylor hasn’t scored in four games, and Travon Woodall has just eight points in that span. Gary McGhee, Pitt’s 6’10, 260-lb center, couldn’t hit a layup if his life depended on it. There is no reason someone should go 3-11 from the field when they don’t take a shot outside of two feet from the rim. Nasir Robinson has scored 23 points in five games in his 26 point outburst against Louisville. Gilbert Brown is really the only guy playing well offensively right now, and even he has been painfully in consistent. He scored 20 and was 8-9 from the floor in the loss to Georgetown, but scored just 16 points on 3-13 shooting over his next two games. After dropping 25 in the loss to South Florida, Brown was shut out against West Virginia.

Its really that simple. The biggest reason that Pitt was thought to be down this season was their lack of firepower offensively. There isn’t anyone on this roster that is considered a go-to scorer. Even Ashton Gibbs, who has been one of the most improved players this season in the Big East, is more of a secondary scoring option. He’s not great at creating his own shot, especially against a set defense, and it is starting to be exposed.  But Pitt has never exactly been known as a team with tremendous offensive prowess. They aren’t going to be scoring 85 points a game and beating teams in a shootout.  Pitt’s success hinges on their ability to defend, which is something they haven’t exactly been doing great of late either. Their four losses have been some of their worst defensive performances of the season.  What is a good way to go on a losing streak?  Struggle to score the ball while playing shoddy defense.

Other News and Notes

  • I told you South Florida was going to be good, didn’t I? Believe it or not, USF is now on the bubble. They are 15-7 and 5-5 in the Big East. Their RPI is in the mid-40s. They have wins over Pitt and at Georgetown (not that it makes a difference, but that win came just three days after the Hoyas smacked Duke). While the Bulls are just 2-4 against the RPI top 50, they are 6-6 against the top 100. They have one ugly loss against Central Michigan, but that can be somewhat excused as it was their first game playing without Gus Gilchrist. Speaking of Gilchrist, the 6’10 center who was averaging 18.8 ppg and 7.4 rpg before suffering a severe high-ankle sprain is scheduled to return against either Notre Dame or Marquette. With their schedule down the stretch (they only play one game at Villanova against a team with an RPI higher than 48 and a winning record in the Big East) and Gilchrist’s pending return, if USF could get to ten Big East wins and 20 wins on the season, which may actually be shooting low, they have a very good chance at getting a bid.
  • Jeremy Hazell was pulled late in Seton Hall’s loss to Villanova on Tuesday. Hazell had scored 32 points, but also had thrown up three terrible shots in a row. Bobby Gonzalez benched him with 4:06 left and the lead only at 11. Many speculated that it was the result of poor shot selection by Hazell, but Gonzo cleared it up during the Big East conference call by saying that Hazell “didn’t run back on defense” and that he did “not join his teammates in the huddle.”
  • Did any team in the league have a stranger week than Georgetown? On Saturday, the Hoyas beat the snot out of Duke in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated. Four days later, the Hoyas became the fourth victim in South Florida’s run. And, as you should be accustomed to by now, Chris Wright struggled in the loss and flourished in the win. He has yet to score double-digits and lose this season.
  • Want another crazy prediction? Marquette is going to make the tournament. The hardest of the hard-luck losers this season (their five Big East losses have come by a total of eight points, and their three non-conference losses were by one, four, and nine points), Marquette has won three straight Big East games to get to 5-5 in the league. They have a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way, as they don’t play any of the Big East’s big four, they get Pitt at home, and play just one of their four road games against a team in the RPI top 50 (Cincy).
  • Cincinnati, on the other hand, won’t make the tournament. And it isn’t due to a lack of talent as much as it is a lack of coaching. Or effort. Or something. Because in a game they needed Thursday night against Notre Dame, the Bearcats were embarrassed. Luke Harangody had 37 points and 14 boards as Cincy was outrebounded and out-toughed. By Notre Dame. Cincinnati is a team that is supposed to pride themselves on their toughness, their defense, and their board work. Notre Dame is a finesse team. It looks like the Bearcats may have given up on the season.
  • Villanova’s schedule gets a whole lot tougher over the next month, starting this week. On Saturday, they head to Georgetown before going to West Virginia on Monday. Don’t be surprised if the Wildcats are in third place in the conference come Tuesday. That said, going 2-0 over that stretch could all but seal a #1 seed come Selection Sunday.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Dominique Jones, South Florida

Jones went for 37 points on Sunday against Pitt and 29 points Wednesday against Georgetown. He’s averaging 35.0 ppg in the Bulls’ four-game winning streak. In those four games, he is shooting 61% from the floor and has gotten to the free throw line (…wait for it) 63 times! I think the best way to describe Jones’ game is that he attacks the rim with ruthless efficiency. He’s too strong to be defended by smaller guards, and too quick to be guarded by small forwards. He goes right almost every time he puts the ball on the floor, and yet teams are still struggling to slow him down. Up next for Jones is Notre Dame, a team that ranks 255th in defensive efficiency, far and away the worst in the Big East. Could Jones go for 50?

TEAM OF THE WEEK: West Virginia

Its really South Florida, but I’m sick of writing about the Bulls, so I’m giving West Virginia the team of the week award. The Mountaineers have gone 2-0 since you last checked in with us, beating Louisville on Saturday and knocking off Pitt in the Backyard Brawl on Wednesday. WVU has now won five straight games since they lost three of five. The biggest reason for their resurgence has been the play of Truck Bryant. Bryant was banged up earlier in the season, but has started coming on of late, playing really solid basketball. He knocks down open jumpers, he can get in the lane and draw a foul, he can create shots for his teammates, and he does so without turning the ball over. Over his last five games, Bryant is averaging 11.8 ppg, 4.8 apg, and has turned the ball over just eight times.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Villanova: 20-1, 9-0

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Seton Hall 81-71

This Week: 2/6 @ Georgetown, 2/8 @ West Virginia

2. Syracuse: 22-1, 9-1

Last Week: 1/30 @ DePaul, 2/2 vs. Providence

This Week: 2/7 @ Cincinnati, 2/10 vs. UConn

3. West Virginia: 18-3, 7-2

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Louisville 77-74, 2/3 vs. Pitt 70-51

This Week: 2/6 @ St. John’s, 2/8 vs. Villanova

4. Georgetown: 16-5, 6-4

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Duke 89-77, 2/3 vs. South Florida 64-72

This Week: 2/6 vs. Villanova, 2/9 @ Providence

5. Pitt: 16-6, 6-4

Last Week: 1/31 @ South Florida 61-70, 2/3 @ West Virginia 51-70

This Week: 2/6 vs. Seton Hall, 2/8 vs. Robert Morris

6. Louisville: 14-8, 5-4

Last Week: 1/30 vs. West Virginia 74-77, 2/1 vs. UConn 82-69

This Week: 2/6 vs. Rutgers, 2/11 @ St. John’s

7. Marquette: 14-8, 5-5

Last Week: 1/30 @ UConn 70-68, 2/3 vs. DePaul 80-69

This Week: 2/6 @ Providence

8. South Florida: 15-7, 5-5

Last Week: 1/31 vs. 61-70, 2/3 @ Georgetown 72-64

This Week: 2/7 @ Notre Dame

9. Notre Dame: 16-7, 5-5

Last Week: 1/30 @ Rutgers 73-74, 2/4 vs. Cincinnati 83-65

This Week: 2/7 vs. South Florida, 2/11 @ Seton Hall

10. Cincinnati: 14-8, 5-5

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Providence 92-88, 2/4 @ Notre Dame 65-83

This Week: 2/7 vs. Syracuse

11. Providence:12-10, 4-6

Last Week: 1/30 @ Cincinnati 88-92, 2/2 @ Syracuse 68-85

This Week: 2/6 vs. Marquette, 2/9 vs. Georgetown

12. UConn: 13-9, 3-6

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Marquette 68-70, 2/1 @ Louisville 69-82

This Week: 2/6 vs. DePaul, 2/10 @ Syracuse

13. Seton Hall: 12-8, 3-6

Last Week: 2/2 @ Villanova 71-81

This Week: 2/6 @ Pitt, 2/11 vs. Notre Dame

14. Rutgers: 11-11, 2-8

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Notre Dame 74-73, 2/3 vs. St. John’s 84-72

This Week: 2/6 @ Louisville, 2/9 vs. Caldwell College

15. St. John’s: 12-9, 2-7

Last Week: 2/2 @ Rutgers 72-84

This Week: 2/6 vs. West Virginia, 2/11 vs. Louisville

16. DePaul: 8-14, 1-9

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Syracuse 57-59, 2/3 @ Marquette 69-80

This Week: 2/6 @ UConn

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

With Georgetown, Pitt, West Virginia, and UConn all coming down to earth in the last few weeks, Syracuse and Villanova have established themselves unequivocally as the favorites in the Big East.

But who is better?

It depends on how you look at them.  Going strictly by the numbers, its Syracuse. They are first in the country in the RPI, and third according to KenPom. They’ve done so playing the fourth-most difficult schedule in the country. They won at West Virginia and handily beat Georgetown at home despite digging a 14-0 hole. They are 4-0 on the road, beat Cal and UNC in MSG early in the season, and also beat Florida in Tampa. Their sole loss on the season was to Pitt.

Their length has made their zone almost impenetrable. They deflect passes and force turnovers, and are able to convert those turnovers into points as well as anyone in the country. Offensively, they play an incredibly smart brand of basketball, rarely taking a bad or forced shot. Want proof?  They shoot, as a team, 53.4% from the floor, and have an effective field goal percentage of 59.3, second best in the country.  It makes sense that Syracuse’s name is being thrown around when talking about the Final Four and the national title. They’ve had a fantastic season.

But Villanova has been great this year as well.  In fact, they have a better record than Syracuse, as they are 8-0 in the league. They have five wins against the RPI top 50, and nine against the top 100. Their only loss is to Temple, which doesn’t look nearly as bad as it did when they were beaten. They’ve played more games (11) away from home than they have at home (10), and are 10-1 in those games. While their efficiency numbers are lower than you would expect from a team in the top five (KenPom has them at 13th), a big reason for that is their poor defensive efficiency, which is 71st in the country. But that number has been steadily climbing (they were 95th a month ago), and is made up for by a potent offensive attack.

Those numbers will only get better as Villanova continues to play at full strength. Reggie Redding, the Wildcats’ best perimeter defender, wasn’t eligible until after the Temple loss. Mouph Yarou is back from a bout of hepatitis, giving Villanova some depth in the paint.  Head-to-head, this game would be a toss-up. Villanova has shooters and penetrators in their backcourt that thrive against a zone. Syracuse has the size inside and the discipline offensively to pick apart the Wildcat defense. I don’t think I’m the only one that would say the winner of this game would be a toss-up, depending on who got hot and where the game was played.

Having said that, if I had to bet on one of these two teams to win the Big East, I would put everything I own on the Orange.  In a heartbeat.  You see, Villanova has yet to really play the meat of the Big East. In February, not only will Villanova have to play Georgetown, Syracuse, Pitt, West Virginia, and Cincinnati, they will have to play all five of them on the road.  Going 3-2 in that stretch would be quite an accomplishment.  And that’s not it. The Wildcats also have to UConn and West Virginia again at home. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone with a tougher schedule down the stretch than Villanova.

Syracuse doesn’t exactly play cupcakes the rest of the season. They get Louisville twice, UConn and Villanova at home, and travel to Georgetown and Cincinnati. But that is a far cry from what the Wildcats finish the season with. Its not crazy to predict the Orange to go 9-1 over their last 10 games, putting them at 16-2 in the conference.  Can Villanova match that?  The most intriguing part in all of this is that Villanova and Syracuse only play once this season, on Feb. 27th. Seeing as the winner will hold the tie-breaker if the two teams should finish the season with identical records, in all probability that game will be the de facto Big East championship game.

Think the Carrier Dome will be packed for that one?

Other News and Notes

  • UConn has had a weird couple of weeks. They lost at Michigan before finding out that Jim Calhoun was going to be taking an indefinite leave of absence. They then beat St. John’s and #1 Texas at home, before looking lost in a 15-point defeat at the hands of Providence. The problem for UConn at Providence was the lack of a leader. When the Friars put a late run on the Huskies, they folded. Their offense stopped moving, they settled for contested jumpers and headlong drive into the lane, and lost all aggressiveness on the defensive end and on the glass. Could that have been different if Calhoun was on the sidelines? Who knows, but unless someone on that Husky roster becomes a leader a la AJ Price, UConn now looks headed for the NIT, while the win over Texas looks like a fluke.
  • Another interesting tidbit from UConn’s last two weeks: in their loss to Michigan, the students rushed the Crisler Arena floor. When UConn beat Texas, their fans stormed the Gampel Pavilion court. But after losing to Providence, Frair fans RTC’d the Dunk. Has that ever happened before?
  • In Georgetown’s 15 wins, Chris Wright is averaging 16.8 ppg as opposed to 6.5 ppg in their four losses. Pretty standard, considering Wright is one of Georgetown’s top scorers. But where it gets interesting is that Wright is averaging 6.5 apg and just 1.3 turnovers in the Hoyas’ four losses, a 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. In their 15 wins, he is averaging 3.5 apg and 2.9 t/o’s. Not exactly ideal point guard numbers. But Chris Wright isn’t exactly your prototypical point guard, and Georgetown doesn’t exactly run your prototypical offense. The Hoyas’ playmaker is Greg Monroe. The offense runs through him at the high post, which means that Wright isn’t needed to be a great distributor or facilitator as much as he’s needed to be a guy that can score. And if he’s proved anything this season, its that he certainly has that ability.
  • The top five in the Big East are all, barring a collapse down the stretch, a lock to make the Dance. But after that, the question marks begin to mount.
  • UConn has a win over Texas to give their resume some credibility, but after that their best “win” is probably close losses to Kentucky and Georgetown. The only reason they are in the conversation right now is the fact they’ve played the toughest schedule in the country, bolstering what is a top 30 RPI. The Huskies have a lot of work to do if they want to ensure a bid.
  • Louisville is just 1-5 against the RPI top50, with that one coming against Cincinnati, who is 49th. Their best win out of conference? East Tennessee State, who is 128th. Louisville will have plenty of chances the rest of the season – they play six of their 11 games against teams in the RPI top 30.
  • Cincinnati is in a little better shape than Louisville. They are 3-5 against the top 50, including a win over Vanderbilt that gets more and more impressive. They don’t really have any terrible losses, either, as their worst is a loss at St. John’s (a game they absolutely pissed away). If the Bearcats can take care of business in games they should win, their season will be decided in the final week, as they go to West Virginia, get Villanova at home, and go to Georgetown.
  • Notre Dame has a lot of work to do. They lost their only top 100 nonconference matchup to Northwestern, while also losing to Loyola Marymount. Notre Dame’s biggest issue is that they don’t have the opportunities that other teams do – only two of their ten games are against the top five in the league.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK and TEAM OF THE WEEK: Dominique Jones and South Florida Bulls

For the first time in their Big East tenure, South Florida has won back-to-back games, beating Providence in overtime on Saturday before knocking off Seton Hall on Thursday night in another overtime game. I’ve been touting Dominique Jones all season long in this space, and this week he backed me up. Against Providence, Jones had the best all-around performance of the Big East season (sorry, Scottie Reynolds, but its true), as he scored 46 points (on 15-23 shooting), grabbed 10 boards, and dished out 8 assists as the Bulls overcame a 12 point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation to force the OT. Against Seton Hall, Jones scored six of his 28 points (on just 9-16 shooting) in overtime, also adding 4 boards and 3 assists. On the week, he averaged 37.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, and 5.5 apg while shooting over 60% from the floor.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Syracuse: 20-1, 7-1

Last Week: 1/23 vs. Marquette 76-71, 1/25 vs. Georgetown 73-56

Next Week: 1/30 @ DePaul, 2/2 vs. Providence

2. Villanova: 19-1, 8-0

Last Week: 1/23 @ St. John’s 81-71, 1/27 vs. Notre Dame 90-72

Next Week: 2/2 vs. Seton Hall

3. West Virginia: 16-3, 5-2

Last Week: 1/23 vs. Ohio State 71-65, 1/26 @ DePaul 62-46

Next Week: 1/30 vs. Louisville, 2/3 vs. Pitt

4. Georgetown: 16-4, 6-3

Last Week: 1/23 vs. Rutgers 94-68, 1/25 @ Syracuse 56-73

Next Week: 1/30 vs. Duke, 2/3 vs. USF

5. Pitt: 16-4, 6-2

Last Week: 1/24 @ Seton Hall 61-64, 1/28 vs. St. John’s

Next Week: 1/31 @ USF, 2/3 @ West Virginia

6. Louisville: 13-7, 4-3

Last Week: 1/24 vs. Cincinnati 68-60

Next Week: 1/30 @ West Virginia, 2/1 vs. UConn

7. Cincinnati: 13-7, 4-4

Last Week: 1/24 @ Louisville 60-68

Next Week: 1/30 vs. Providence, 2/4 @ Notre Dame

8. Notre Dame: 15-6, 4-4

Last Week: 1/23 vs. DePaul 87-77, 1/27 @ Villanova 72-90

Next Week: 1/30 @ Rutgers, 2/4 vs. Cincinnati

9. UConn: 13-7, 3-4

Last Week: 1/23 vs. Texas 88-74, 1/27 @ Providence 66-81

Next Week: 1/30 vs. Marquette, 2/1 @ Louisville

10. Marquette: 12-8, 3-5

Last Week: 1/23 @ Syracuse 76-71, 1/26 vs. Rutgers 82-59

Next Week: 1/30 @ UConn, 2/3 vs. DePaul

11. South Florida: 13-7, 3-5

Last Week: 1/23 vs. Providence 109-105 OT, 1/28 vs. Seton Hall 76-74 OT

Next Week: 1/31 vs. Pitt, 2/3 vs. Georgetown

12. Seton Hall: 12-7, 3-5

Last Week: 1/24 vs. Pitt 64-61, 1/28 @ South Florida 74-76 OT

Next Week: 2/2 @ Villanova

13. Providence: 12-8, 4-4

Last Week: 1/23 vs. South Florida 105-109 OT, 1/27 vs. UConn 81-66

Next Week: 1/30 @ Cincinnati, 2/2 @ Syracuse

14. St. John’s: 12-8, 2-6

Last Week: 1/23 vs. Villanova 71-81, 1/28 @ Pitt 53-63

Next Week: 2/2 @ Rutgers

15. DePaul: 8-12, 1-7

Last Week: 1/23 @ Notre Dame 77-87, 1/26 vs. West Virginia 46-62

Next Week: 1/30 vs. Syracuse, 2/3 @ Marquette

16. Rutgers: 9-11, 0-8

Last Week: 1/23 @ Georgetown 63-88, 1/26 @ Marquette 59-82

Next Week: 1/30 vs. Notre Dame, 2/2 vs. St. John’s

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on January 23rd, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin Is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Jeremy Hazell can score.

No one has questioned that. Ever.

He’s averaging 22.9 PPG. He put 41 on West Virginia. He’s hit 30 four times.

No, the issue for Hazell isn’t putting up points. Its how he gets his points.

Prior to Thursday night’s game against Louisville, an argument could have been made that Hazell was the most selfish player in the Big East, if not the entire country. Yes, Hazell is an outstanding three-point shooter, but he only makes 32.5% of his attempts from deep.

Why?

Because Hazell has a bit of a problem with shot selection. He has a knack for hitting some incredibly tough shots, but far too often he forces quick shots, challenged shots, early in a possession. There is nothing wrong with taking a tough shot at the end of a shot clock, or the end of the game, or even when you’ve knocked down three or four jumpers in a row – your proverbial heat check.

But there is something wrong with taking the number of forced jumpers that Hazell was taking early in the season. Take a look at some of the shooting performances Hazell has had this season:

  • In a win over Monmouth, Hazell scored 26 points, but was 9-23 from the floor and 5-14 from three.
  • In a loss at Temple, Hazell finished with just 11 points while shooting 4-17 from the field and 1-11 from three.
  • Hazell’s two best scoring outputs of the season came in back-to-back losses against West Virginia and Syracuse, when he went for 41 and 38 points, respectively. But in those two games combined, Hazell was just 26-64 from the floor and 10-34 from three.
  • Hazell scored just 13 points on 5-20 shooting, 2-8 from three, in a loss at UConn.

And while he has had his economic scoring performances, those are, for the most part, few and far between.

Now fast forward to Thursday’s game against Louisville. Seton Hall picked up a win in a do-or-die game for the Pirates at-large hopes as they played arguably their best basketball of the season.

While there were some line-up changes – most notably using Keon Lawrence strictly off of the ball – the biggest difference was Hazell and his shot selection. The 6’5 junior finished the game with 25 points, but he only needed 12 shots to do so, hitting nine and making 3-6 from deep. He played 39 minutes, and in those 39 minutes, Hazell took just a single bad shot.

And it was an awful shot. With just four minutes left on the clock and the Hall up 12, Hazell airballed a deep three with a good 30 seconds on the shot clock after the Pirates had broken the Louisville press.

Doris Burke, who was doing the color for the game, ripped him. The twitterati ripped him. No doubt Bobby Gonzalez ripped him.

(Side note: Burke is a very underrated commentator. She really knows the game, she breaks it down in an insightful manner, and she does it in a way that makes what she is explaining seem very basic. Bill Simmons may disagree, but Burke should be spending more time away from the sideline.)

But while ripping him for taking a poor shot with a big lead late in the game, you must also commend him. Hazell’s mindset is “shoot, shoot, shoot, score, score, score”. He has always looked for his best shot first, and the best shot for the team second. But tonight, it was different. Louisville chased Hazell around all night, for the most part having a defender in his jock everytime he caught the ball.

What happened as a result is that driving lanes opened up. Post up opportunites became available. And for maybe the first time in a game I’ve seen Hazell play, he didn’t take it as a personal challenge. He didn’t try to prove that he could score despite an opponent’s game plan centering around slowing him down. If he didn’t have a shot or a lane to drive on the catch, he moved the ball. This meant that guys like Jordan Theodore, who played a fantastic game, going for 17 points and 4 assists on a season-high 11 shots, and Keon Lawrence and Eugene Harvey had an opportunity to take advantage of those driving lanes.

Seton Hall has a lot of talent on their roster. How much? Well, that’s tough to say, but I think I’m far from the only person that believes this team is much better than their 11-6 (2-4 in the Big East) record would indicate.

Tonight, the Hall played their best game of the season and picked up arguably their biggest win of the season. The reason why is that Jeremy Hazell, the most talented player on a talented roster, gave his teammates the opportunity to show how good they are.

Hopefully, he will learn from that.

Other news and notes:

  • Believe it or not, but Greg Monroe is currently the third leading scorer for Georgetown. Why? Because Austin Freeman is averaging 19.6 PPG over the last eight games while Chris Wright is posting 18.8 PPG over that stretch. That’s not to say Monroe isn’t important. In fact, it is pretty tough to argue against Monroe being their most valuable player. He’s their best rebounder, their best post defender, and without a doubt the player that the Hoyas run their offense through. Watching him work out of the high post – find cutters, putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim – is a thing of beauty. But what Georgetown didn’t have last season was potency on the offensive end, and both Freeman and Wright and developed into guys that can go for 20 on a given night. More importantly, they have become players that can create their own shots in the half court. Hell, Pitt is one of the best defensive teams in the country, and Wright was getting to the rim at will on Wednesday night. I know Georgetown runs a system, and I know JT3’s goal is to get the best shot for the team, but there are times when, as a coach, you need to say “f*** it, here’s the ball, go get me a basket”. Right now, the Hoyas have two guys that can do that.
  • The Big East is being touted as a very good conference again this season, but the teams in the middle of the pack have quite a bit of work to do to guarantee themselves a bid to the tournament. The top five – Villanova, Syracuse, Pitt, West Virginia, and Georgetown – can be considered all but locks at this points. But after that, who is a tournament team? Notre Dame? Cincinnati? UConn? Louisville? Seton Hall? Marquette? Granted, .500 in the Big East, as long as there are a couple of good wins sprinkled in, should be enough to garner a bid this season with the Pac-10 down, and outside of Seton Hall and Marquette, every team listed is at least .500 in the league. But for the fans of the teams on the bubble, don’t sleep easy just yet. Combined, those six teams have amassed just four tournament quality wins (excluding games between two of the listed teams): Cincinnati’s win over Maryland, UConn’s win over William & Mary, and Marquette’s wins over Xavier and Georgetown. That’s shaky ground to stand on.
  • Congratulations must be given to DePaul, who got five points from Mike Stovall in the final 9.7 seconds of the game, including a fadeaway jumper with 0.7 seconds left for the win, as they picked up their first regular season Big East win since the 2008 season. As for Marquette, this is just another in a season’s worth of tough losses. Their four losses in Big East play have come by a total of six points, and their three losses in the non-conference were by a total of 14 points.
  • “I feel like during the game, we gave up. And we can’t get better, we can’t improve, if we give up on games. The high school I went to, no matter what the score is you gotta play till the game’s over and I felt like we just gave up at the end.” That quote is from Rutgers freshman Dane Miller, who had 26 points, 8 boards, and 6 assists in a 94-68 loss to Villanova. That’s not a good thing to hear.

TEAM OF THE WEEK:  Syracuse Orange

The Orange solidified their status as one of the Big East elite as they beat both West Virginia and Notre Dame on the road this week, improving to 5-1 in the conference and 18-1 on the season, with their only loss coming to Pitt. The guy that impressed me the most this week was Brandon Triche. Triche had a terrible start to the game against West Virginia, but made a number of crucial plays during the game-deciding run. For a player that wasn’t ranked in many top 100 lists coming out of high school, Triche is now averaging 10.4 PPG and 3.2 APG, starting at the point for the #5 team in the country.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:  Scottie Reynolds, Villanova

Is there a conference that has more player of the year candidates? Wes Johnson, Luke Harangody, Jerome Dyson, Da’Sean Butler, Ashton Gibbs, Lazar Hayward, Greg Monroe. But the favorite right now hasto be Scottie Reynolds. If the numbers he’s posted this season – 18.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.4 APG – aren’t enough, the plays he made down the stretch at Marquette, against Louisville, and against Georgetown (among other) may change your mind. For the week, Reynolds averaged 18.0 PPG, but it was his 27 point performance, on 8-15 shooting, and tiebreaking basket against a Georgetown team that had overcome a 17 point lead that earned him the nod.

POWER RANKINGS:

(Side note about the power rankings: Yes, I know that Pitt beat Syracuse, and I know that Georgetown beat Pitt, which should mean that Georgetown is ranked above Pitt and Pitt above Syracuse. But, for that to happen, Syracuse would then be the fourth best team in the Big East. They aren’t the fourth best team in the Big East, in fact I think they are the best team in the Big East. So instead of ranking the teams – at least 2-4 – based on head-to-head wins, I’m sticking with putting them in order of who I think is the best.)

1. Villanova: 17-1, 6-0

Last Week: 1/17 vs. Georgetown 82-77, 1/20 vs. Rutgers 94-68

Next Week: 1/23 @ St. John’s, 1/27 vs. Notre Dame

2. Syracuse: 18-1, 5-1

Last Week: 1/16 @ West Virginia 72-71, 1/18 @ Notre Dame 84-71

Next Week: 1/23 vs. Marquette, 1/25 vs. Georgetown

3. Georgetown: 14-3, 5-2

Last Week: 1/17 @ Villanova 77-82, 1/20 @ Pitt 74-66

Next Week: 1/23 vs Rutgers, 1/25 @ Syracuse

4. Pitt: 15-3, 5-1

Last Week: 1/16 vs. Louisville 82-77 OT, 1/20 vs. Georgetown 66-74

Next Week: 1/24 @ Seton Hall, 1/28 vs. St. John’s

5. West Virginia: 14-3, 5-2

Last Week: 1/16 vs. Syracuse 71-72, 1/20 @ Marshall 68-60

Next Week: 1/23 vs. Ohio State, 1/26 @ DePaul

6. Cincinnati: 13-6, 4-3

Last Week: 1/16 vs. Notre Dame 60-58, 1/20 vs. South Florida 78-70

Next Week: 1/24 @ Louisville

7. Connecticut: 12-6, 3-3

Last Week: 1/17 @ Michigan 63-68, 1/20 @ St. John’s 75-59

Next Week: 1/23 vs. Texas

8. Notre Dame: 14-5, 3-3

Last Week: 1/16 @ Cincinnati 58-60, 1/18 vs. Syracuse 71-84

Next Week: 1/23 vs. DePaul

9. Louisville: 12-7, 3-3

Last Week: 1/16 @ Pitt 77-82 OT, 1/21 @ Seton Hall 77-80

Next Week: 1/24 vs. Cincinnati

10. Marquette: 11-7, 2-4

Last Week: 1/17 vs. Providence 93-63, 1/20 @ DePaul 50-51

Next Week: 1/23 @ Syracuse, 1/26 vs. Rutgers

11. Seton Hall: 11-6, 2-4

Last Week: 1/21 vs. Louisville 80-77

Next Week: 1/24 vs. Pitt

12. Providence: 11-7, 3-3

Last Week: 1/17 @ Marquette 93-63

Next Week: 1/23 vs. South Florida

13. St. John’s: 12-6, 2-4

Last Week: 1/17 vs. DePaul 67-47, 1/20 @ UConn 59-75

Next Week: 1/23 vs. Villanova

14. South Florida: 11-7, 1-5

Last Week: 1/16 vs. Rutgers 73-64, 1/20 @ Cincinnati 70-78

Next Week: 1/23 @ Providence

15. DePaul: 8-10, 1-5

Last Week: 1/17 @ St. John’s 47-67, 1/20 vs. Marquette 51-50

Next Week: 1/23 @ Notre Dame, 1/26 vs. West Virginia

16. Rutgers: 9-9, 0-6

Last Week: 1/16 @ South Florida 64-73, 1/20 vs. Villanova 68-94

Next Week: 1/23 @ Georgetown, 1/26 @ Marquette

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on January 15th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin Is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Let me paint you a picture.

Pitt is loaded. They have the Big East player in the post, an all-conference 20 PPG scorer on the wing, and a senior leader at the point running the show. They have depth, balance, quality role players, and one of the most unappreciated coaches in the game.

That was last season.

This season its a different story.

DeJuan Blair is gone. Sam Young is gone. Levance Fields is gone.

Before the season started, the consensus seemed to be that with those three went Pitt’s hopes of an NCAA Tournament trip. Nothing the Panthers did before the start of Big East play changed that assumption. Not coming back from a 13 point second half deficit against Wofford. Not an ugly, two overtime win over Duquesne. Not the 47 points they scored against New Hampshire. Not the loss to Indiana in Madison Square Garden.

But there’s something we didn’t take into consideration.

Jamie Dixon isn’t like most coaches.

Jamie Dixon doesn’t rely on talent to win. He doesn’t need a roster full of McDonald’s all-Americans. In fact, when Dixon brought freshman Dante Taylor into the program, he was Pitt’s first McDonald’s all-american since Bobby Martin and Brian Shorter joined the Panthers in 1987.

What we ignored was the fact that Dixon develops players. He grooms the kids that are overlooked by other programs to fit his system. Like Keith Benjamin and Ronald Ramon and Tyrell Biggs and even Levance Fields and Sam Young before them, guys like Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Gary McGhee bided their time last year. They played their limited minutes while practicing every day against some of the best players in the country, while learning how to defend, execute, and carry themselves like Big East champions.

Now that Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown are back in the rotation, now that this Pitt team is finally complete, we are finally seeing just how good the Panthers are; just how good of a program and system that Jamie Dixon runs.

Pitt’s team is built on toughness, defense, and execution on both sides of the ball. While we pointed out in the preseason that the Panthers had flaws this year — they don’t have any sure-fire lottery picks, they don’t have a dynamic playmaker at the point, they don’t have anyone that can go out and get you 25 points on a given night — what we didn’t point out was that they have a group of kids that bought into what Dixon was selling.

Like every team in Dixon’s tenure, this year’s Panthers defend. They rebound. They get seemingly every loose ball. They run their offense until they get an open look or a lane to the rim. They hit big shots. They demonstrate the physical toughness and the mental make-up required to compete with more talented teams, and to beat them on the road.

And they have just enough natural talent to get by.

Proof?

How about a 4-0 start in the Big East.

Three of those wins came on the road — in Syracuse, in Cincinnati, and in Hartford. All three are difficult places to play, and all three were NCAA tournament caliber teams.

When playing the cream of the Big East crop, there will be few games where the Panthers will be considered the more talented team on the floor even with their run the last two weeks. But rest assured, the Panthers will come away with more than their share of wins.

If the Big East was a car show, Jamie Dixon would be me and Pitt would be my 1995 Honda Accord. While the Jags breakdown, and the Lambo’s get speeding tickets, and the Corvette’s are traded in for newer models, and the Hummers guzzle gas, my Accord keeps getting the job done. The paint may be chipped on the side, the AC may be broken, there may be four blown out speakers that are useless because I don’t have a CD player and the radio antenna was ripped off, but you better believe that Accord gets me where I need to go and gets me there on time, all on 30 miles-per-gallon.

And while Pitt may not be the most aesthetically pleasing basketball team to watch, Dixon keeps steering this team right where it wants to be.

Atop the Big East standings.

Other notes from this week

  • I think it is safe to say we have the choke of the year, possibly in the country. Up 50-48 with 15 seconds left, Cinci’s Rashad Bishop took the ball out of bounds under St. John’s basket. He thought he had Deonta Vaughn open deep, but pulled a Pennington and underthrew the baseball pass. It was picked off by Dwight “Buckets” Hardy, who was fouled, making both free throws. With the game now tied and just 8.5 seconds on the clock, Lance Stephenson threw an inbounds pass away, which was stolen by Hardy who, again, knocked down two free throws. Vaughn missed a three at the buzzer that would have won it as the Bearcats snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
  • Speaking of “Buckets” Hardy, one thing I’ve noticed in watching, and attending, a lot of these games is the number of fantastic nicknames in this conference. You know about Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson, but how about Jamine “Greedy” Peterson of Providence, Stanley “Sticks” Robinson of UConn, Robert “Sticks” Mitchell of Seton Hall, or Darryl “Truck” Bryant of West Virginia. I know there are more out there, as well.
  • Pitt wasn’t the only team getting to 100% as the season progressed. Villanova has now played six games with Reggie Redding, who has been exactly what we expected – 10.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.8 SPG. Take away a two points/seven turnover debacle in Monday’s yuck-fest against Louisville, and those numbers are much more impressive. Nova also got Mouph Yarou back. Yarou had been out with Hepatitis B, but came back on Jan. 6th against DePaul. While his numbers have been less than stellar as he works his way into the rotation, what has impressed about Yarou is his conditioning (Wright is on record saying Yarou is in better-than-expected shape). If Yarou can provide some strength on the glass and on defense, he could end up being a very nice complement to Antonio Pena. All of a sudden, with these two in the line-up, Villanova got a lot more physical.
  • Samardo Samuels was a monster against Villanova. He finished with 21 points and seven boards, hitting every shot he took (4-4 from the floor, 13-13 from the line) and blocking four shots. The problem? Louisville was too concerned about shooting threes to consistently get Samuels the touches he deserved in the paint. The Cardinals will be at their best when they play inside-out, because if Samuels is scoring and defenses are helping down on him (which will more often than not be the case), it will get the Louisville guards better looks on the perimeter.

CO-PLAYERS OF THE WEEKScottie Reynolds, Villanova, and Austin Freeman, Georgetown

Georgetown was dead in the water against UConn. The Huskies had absolutely imposed their will on this game, forcing Georgetown into turnovers and poor shot selection while making it a glorified pick-up game. In other words, they were playing Husky basketball. In Jim Calhoun’s words, it was UConn’s best half of the season. But during the break, Georgetown regrouped and came out more focused on the offensive end. They started to run their offense, to work through their sets, and as a result got much better looks at the rim. It just so happened the majority of those looks came with the ball in Austin Freeman’s hands. Freeman would go on to score 28 of his career-high 33 points in the second half (his previous career high was 21). For the week, Freeman averaged 23.0 PPG  as the Hoyas went 2-1.

Scottie Reynolds, on the other hand, solidified himself among the best player’s in the country with the most efficient display of clutch shooting I’ve ever seen. Villanova, down 17 points at one time in a first half that saw them turn the ball over 17 times, turned the tables on Louisville in the second 20 minutes, and Reynolds was the reason why. He scored 30 second half points, 36 on the game, while shooting just 9-10 from the floor, 13-17 from the line, and making all five attempts from three. For the week, the Wildcats went 3-0, and Reynolds averaged 24.0 PPG in the three games.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Clearly, the team of the week was Pitt, but seeing as I’ve already wasted the majority of this column on the Panthers, I’m giving the Irish the nod. All-in-all, the Irish are not a bad team. They have the most productive player in the conference in Luke Harangody. They have two solid shooters/scoring options on the perimeter in Tim Abromaitis and Psycho-B Ben Hansbrough. They have a veteran point guard in Tory Jackson. They have some talent coming off the bench. But what the Irish didn’t have was a win to justify their record. They got that on Saturday, as they hit their first nine shots and opened up a 25-4 lead on West Virginia before the Mountaineers decided to start playing. While Notre Dame wasted away just about all of that cushion when WVU got hot (they hit 9-19 from deep in the second half), Harangody scored a big bucket with three minutes left to answer a Dalton Pepper three and put the Irish back up, 69-66. After getting some key stops down the stretch, the Irish can now add claim a resume win.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Villanova: 15-1, 4-0

Last Week: 1/6 vs. DePaul 99-72, 1/9 vs. Marquette 78-76, 1/11 @ Louisville 92-84

Next Week: 1/17 vs. Georgetown

2. Pittsburgh: 14-2, 4-0

Last Week: 1/13 @ UConn 67-57

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Louisville

3. Syracuse: 16-1, 3-1

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Memphis 74-57, 1/10 vs. South Florida 82-65, 1/13 @ Rutgers 81-65

Next Week: 1/16 @ West Virginia, 1/18 @ Notre Dame

4. Georgetown: 13-2, 4-1

Last Week: 1/6 @ Marquette 59-62, 1/9 vs. UConn 72-69, 1/14 vs. Seton Hall 85-73

Next Week: 1/17 @ Villanova

5. West Virginia: 13-2, 4-1

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Rutgers 86-52, 1/9 @ Notre Dame 68-70, 1/13 @ South Florida 69-50

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Syracuse

6. Connecticut: 11-5, 2-3

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Seton Hall 71-63, 1/9 @ Georgetown 69-72, 1/13 vs. Pitt 57-67

Next Week: 1/17 @ Michigan

7. Louisville: 12-5, 3-1

Last Week: 1/6 @ Providence 92-70, 1/9 vs. St. John’s 75-68, 1/11 vs. Villanova 84-92

Next Week: 1/16 @ Pitt

8. Notre Dame: 14-3, 3-1

Last Week: 1/9 vs. West Virginia 70-68

Next Week: 1/16 @ Cincinnati, 1/18 vs. Syracuse

9. Marquette: 10-6, 1-3

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Marquette 62-59, 1/9 @ Villanova 76-78

Next Week: 1/17 vs. Providence

10. Cincinnati: 11-6, 2-3

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Cal St. Bakersfield 87-58, 1/9 @ Seton Hall 76-83, 1/13 @ St. John’s 50-52

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Notre Dame

11. Providence: 11-6, 3-2

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Louisville 70-92, 1/9 vs. Rutgers 94-81, 1/14 @ DePaul 79-62

Next Week: 1/17 @ Marquette

12. St. John’s: 11-5, 1-3

Last Week: 1/9 @ Louisville 68-75, 1/13 vs. Cincinnati 52-50

Next Week: 1/17 vs. DePaul

13. Seton Hall: 10-6, 1-4

Last Week: 1/6 @ UConn 63-71, 1/9 vs. Cincinnati 83-76, 1/14 @ Georgetown 73-85

Next Week: N/A

14. South Florida: 10-6, 0-4

Last Week: 1/10 @ Syracuse 65-82, 1/13 vs. West Virginia 50-69

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Rutgers

15. Rutgers: 9-7, 0-4

Last Week: 1/6 @ West Virginia 52-86, 1/9 @ Providence 81-94, 1/13 vs. Syracuse 65-81

Next Week: 1/16 @ South Florida

16. DePaul: 7-9, 0-4

Last Week: 1/6 @ Villanova 72-99, 1/14 vs. Providence 62-79

Next Week: 1/17 @ St. John’s

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

It has been a long time since there was a good college basketball team in the NYC metro area.  Unless you consider Storrs, CT, in the NYC metro area.

This season was supposed to be different. Seton Hall had added transfers Herb Pope, Jamel Jackson, Jeff Robinson, and Keon Lawrence to a solid core. St. John’s was bringing everyone back, including one of the most underrated players in the league in DJ Kennedy. Rutgers lost Corey Chandler, but with Mike Rosario returning alongside Gregory Echinique and Hamady Ndiaye, the Scarlet Knights were expected to be much more competitive in the league.

The non-conference season seemed promising. They combined to go 28-7 before the Big East season, which included wins over Temple, Siena, and Cornell, three teams that could very well be playing in the Tournament.  Hell, it seemed like both the Pirates and the Johnnies had a good shot at making a run to the Dance.

But a week into league play, these teams have yet to win a game, going 0-5. What’s worse is that four of those five losses have come at home.  So what happened?

For starters, injuries have played a big role. St. John’s is just getting Justin Burrell back after a sprained ankle held him out for a couple weeks, and still hasn’t had Anthony Mason, Jr., who is battling hamstring problems. Rutgers lost Gregory Echinique for the season to an eye injury. And if you look closer, four of those five losses came against teams that look destined to be dancing. In each of those four games, the loser wasn’t blown out as much as outlasted.

But the bigger issue may a bit more subtle. You see, winning is a skill; a learned trait. It takes experience, it takes leadership, and it takes smarts. It’s the ability to understand time and score, knowing when to step on the gas and when to rein it in offensively and run some clock. Its knowing what is a good shot, and the ability to run your offensive sets and get those good shots.

After watching any (or all) of these games, do you believe that Seton Hall, St. John’s, or Rutgers knows how to win a close game?

I don’t.  Can the same be said for Marquette?

The Golden Eagles were written off by a lot of people before the season started, but after an impressive showing at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, it seemed like Buzz Williams’ team might be better than some of us thought.  But Marquette has had just as much trouble in close games. They are currently sitting at 9-5 on the season, losing those five games by a combined 17 points, three of which came on the final possession.  Two of those losses came in Marquette’s first two Big East games, as Da’Sean Butler and Scottie Reynolds both hit game-winners in the final seconds.

What does this all mean?

Well, what we know for sure is that Marquette is much better than expected, Seton Hall has a ton of talent, and that St. John’s is good (they beat Temple in Philly, and regardless of what Kansas did on Saturday, beating this Temple team in Philly is impressive) and will only get better when Mason returns.

Maybe this says more about the Big East conference as a whole than anything about a specific team.  Maybe this proves what we expected – that the Big East is incredibly balanced this season.  Maybe this shows us that the difference between finishing 12-6 and 6-12 in the league, the difference between making the Tournament and heading to the NIT, isn’t a matter of talent. Its a matter of leadership, of experience, of smarts.

Maybe the difference is simply having guys that know how to win these close games.

Other Notes

  • Of the 16 teams in this conference, there are only three that I am ready to write off: Providence, Rutgers and DePaul. One team that you may notice missing from that list is South Florida. Yes, the Bulls have started Big East play 0-2. No, the Bulls don’t have many impressive wins this season (their best are UVa and San Diego). But keep in mind that Stan Heath’s club is currently missing two of their best players – Gus Gilchrist, their leading scorer who has missed the last six games and will be out for about another month with a severely sprained ankle, and Anthony Crater, an Ohio State transfer that was suspended after he became eligible in mid-December. The Bulls are not a deep team – without Crater and Gilchrist they basically go five deep – but a seven man rotation headlined by Crater, Gilchrist, Jarrid Famous and Dominique Jones, one of the best kept secrets in the country, the Bulls will make a lot of believers.
  • UConn might be the best team in the conference in transition. Kemba Walker can lead the break as well as anyone, Stanley Robinson may be the best in the country at finishing above the rim, and Jerome Dyson attacks the rim like a running back hitting the hole on third and short. That said, where UConn will struggle is in the halfcourt until Walker learns how to run a team and an offense. Far too often, the Huskies pass the ball around the perimeter for 30 seconds, ending a possession with a headlong drive at the rim. UConn had the same problem last season, but AJ Price was excellent at taking the ball with 10 seconds on the shot clock, beating his defender, and either finding a big man at the rim or setting up an iso on the wing. Walker can’t do that. He also hasn’t developed Price’s best shot – the 10 foot pull-up. Walker isn’t going to be finishing at the rim against a set defense in this league, but he is quick enough to get into the paint any time he wants. Until Walker becomes the on-court leader that Price was, the Huskies will continue to struggle.
  • Another UConn note: has Gavin Edwards been the most surprising player in the conference this year? Probably not, but there are few that have impressed more people than Edwards. He is the Huskies’ only real threat to score in the post on anything other than a catch-and-dunk, he rebounds the ball well, he plays smart defense, and he doesn’t make mistakes. Hell, he has played well enough to garner attention from the NBA. I guarantee not one person thought this kid had a shot at the league after his first two seasons.
  • West Virginia’s point guard issues were exposed by Pitt. They couldn’t run any offense in the second half, committed far too many live-ball turnovers, and as a result dug themselves into a big hole as Purdue got layup after layup. But we knew that was going to happen as the Mountaineers dealt with injuries to Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla. The bigger concern may have been on the glass. Granted, there are few teams in the country as adept at boxing out as the Boilermakers, but WVU still managed just seven offensive rebounds. With how much this team struggles in the halfcourt offensively, they aren’t going to win many games without easy second-chance points.
  • We’ll talk about Pitt in a bit, but if you’re a Cuse fan, don’t read all that much into the loss to Pitt. I guarantee that Jim Boeheim will put a stop to that lackadaisical defense very quickly, and there won’t be too many games where the Orange goes 1-13 from deep while their opponents shoot 10-24.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Ashton Gibbs, Pitt.  Pitt thrust themselves back into the Big East conversation with wins over Syracuse and Cincinnati this week. (Oh, and should I mention they were both on the road? Well, they were.) And Gibbs was the biggest reason why, averaging 21.5 ppg. He wasn’t just scoring points either, he was scoring important points. Against the Orange, he knocked down a number of big threes in the second half as the oft-scoring-deficient Panthers posted 53 points to overtake the Cuse. In the Cincy game, Gibbs hit the important free throws down the stretch as the Bearcats were trying to mount a comeback. With Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown back for the Panthers, this team has a number of weapons on the perimeter and is playing as well as any Jamie Dixon-coached team has. But it is Gibbs’ leadership and scoring ability that is going to determine how far this team goes. When he’s efficient, they are good. When he isn’t, just go back and rewatch the Indiana loss to see what happens.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Pittsburgh Panthers.  I don’t like doing this. I don’t like giving the POTW and the TOTW awards to the same program. But who else deserves this? Georgetown went 2-0 this week, but beating St. John’s at home and DePaul shouldn’t get you a TOTW. Villanova won at Marquette, but is that anywhere near as impressive as Pitt winning at Syracuse and Cincinnati? West Virginia and Louisville both lost marquee non-conference games. Everyone else had a loss during the week. Marquette was two good defensive possessions away from being 2-0 with wins over two of the Big East favorites, but as it stands they went 0-2 on the week.  Which leaves us with Pitt. In the paragraph above, you already learned about Pitt’s two impressive road wins. Perhaps the key for the Panthers this week was their two mid-season additions. Jermaine Dixon scored 21 big points against Syracuse, while Gilbert Brown had 13 of his 17 points in the second half to hep the Panthers pull away from Cincy. What this means is that Pitt now has four or five legitimate scoring threats on their perimeter. While neither Dante Taylor, Nasir Robinson or Gary McGhee will be confused with an offensive force in the paint, the three provide toughness, defense, and the ability to finish at the rim. All of a sudden, the Panthers have enough offensive firepower to allow them win games with their defense. Is this just a flash in the pan, or is Pitt for real? I’m leaning towards the latter after this week.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Syracuse: 13-1, 1-1

Last Week: 1/2 vs. Pitt 72-82

This Week: 1/6 vs. Memphis, 1/10 vs. South Florida

2. Villanova: 12-1, 1-0

Last Week: 1/2 @ Marquette 74-72

This Week: 1/6 vs. DePaul, 1/9 vs. Marquette

3. West Virginia: 11-1, 2-0

Last Week: 1/1 @ Purdue 62-77

This Week: 1/6 vs. Rutgers, 1/9 @ Notre Dame

4. Pitt: 13-2, 3-0

Last Week: 1/2 @ Syracuse 82-72, 1/4 @ Cincinnati 74-71

This Week: N/A

5. Georgetown: 11-1, 2-0

Last Week: 12/31 vs. St. John’s 66-59, 1/3 @ DePaul 67-50

This Week: 1/6 @ Marquette, 1/9 vs. UConn

6. UConn: 10-3, 1-1

Last Week: 12/30 @ Cinci 69-71, 1/2 vs. Notre Dame 82-70

This Week: 1/6 vs. Seton Hall, 1/9 @ Georgetown

7. Cincinnati: 10-4, 2-1

Last Week: 12/30 vs. UConn 71-69, 1/2 @ Rutgers 65-58, 1/4 vs. Pitt 71-74

This Week: 1/6 vs. Cal St. Bakersfield, 1/9 @ Seton Hall

8. Louisville: 10-4, 0-1

Last Week: 12/30 vs. South Florida 73-52, 1/2 @ Kentucky 62-71

This Week: 1/6 @ Providence, 1.9 vs. St. John’s

9. Marquette: 9-5, 0-2

Last Week: 1/2 vs. Villanova 72-74

This Week: 1/6 vs. Georgetown, 1/9 @ Villanova

10. Notre Dame: 13-3, 2-1

Last Week: 12/30 vs. Providence 93-78, 1/2 @ UConn 70-82, 1/5 vs. South Florida 74-73

This Week: 1/9 vs. West Virginia

11. South Florida: 10-4, 0-2

Last Week: 12/30 @ Louisville 52-73, 1/5 vs. Notre Dame 73-74

This Week: 1/10 @ Syracuse

12. St. John’s: 10-4, 0-2

Last Week: 12/31 @ Georgetown 59-66, 1/3 vs. Providence 74-59

This Week: 1/9 @ Louisville

13. Seton Hall: 9-4, 0-2

Last Week: 1/2 vs. Virginia Tech 94-103 OT

This Week: 1/6 @ UConn, 1/9 vs. Cincinnati

14. Providence: 9-5, 1-1

Last Week: 12/30 @ Notre Dame 78-93, 1/2 @ St. John’s 74-59

This Week: 1/6 vs. Louisville, 1/9 vs. Rutgers

15. Rutgers: 9-4, 0-1

Last Week: 1/2 vs. Cincinnati 58-65

This Week: 1/6 @ West Virginia, 1/9 @ Providence

16. DePaul: 7-7, 0-2

Last Week: 1/3 vs. Georgetown 50-67

This Week: 1/6 @ Villanova

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