Summer School in the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 16th, 2010


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

Around The Big East:

  • NCAA Sanctions: From a basketball perspective, the biggest story in the Big East this summer was up at UConn. The Huskies received a notice of allegations from the NCAA in May, informing them of eight major violations in the recruitment of Nate Miles. UConn will find out its final punishment from the NCAA in October, but the violations have already cost them two assistants — Beau Archibald and Brad Sellers, the son of former Husky star Rod Sellers. Jim Calhoun avoided the heavy artillery — getting grazed with a citation for “failure to monitor” the program, which is ironically what the best coaches need to do to succeed.
  • Coaches: The NCAA infractions weren’t the only reason Calhoun was in the news. Ailing health as he nears 70, impending NCAA sanctions, a team that is going to need some rebuilding, and the fact his contract was up made many believe Calhoun would hang ‘em up this summer. Wrong. He signed a five-year deal instead.  Calhoun had far from the worst summer for coaches in the Big East. Rick Pitino let the world — and every single opposing student section — know about his 15-second tryst on a restaurant table with one Karen Sypher. Bob Huggins fell, a result of being in Vegas the medicine he took on an empty stomach making him light-headed, and broke seven ribs. Fred Hill was run out of Rutgers, in part because he lost it on the Pittsburgh baseball team’s coaching staff. Through all of that, perhaps the worst summer was had by Bobby Gonzalez, who lost his job at Seton Hall, had the entire episode come out in the New York Timessued his former employer, was unable to receive credentials at the NBA Draft, and then find himself arrested for attempting to steal a $1,400 man-purse satchel. The three new coaches to the conference: Oliver Purnell left Clemson for DePaul; Mike Rice left Robert Morris to fill in for Hill at Rutgers; and Kevin Willard left Iona and took Gonzo’s spot at Seton Hall.
  • LOIs: Three Big East teams made headlines for issues with recruits signing LOIs. DePaul initially refused to release Walter Pitchford, Jr., from his LOI. He signed with Jerry Wainwright, who was at DePaul before Purnell was tabbed. After appealing both the school and the NCAA, DePaul finally released Pitchford. The same thing is currently happening to Joseph Young at Providence, who as of this writing has not yet been granted a release by the Friars. At MarquetteDJ Newbill was dropped from his LOI when Buzz Williams had the opportunity to bring in former top 100 recruit Jamil Wilson, a transfer from Oregon. All in all, Big East members did not shine bright this summer.
  • Back to Providence: Man oh man, did they have a rough summer. Two freshmen kicked out of school for beating up a student. Their star, Greedy Peterson, thrown off the team. Another player arrested.  Did Keno Davis have this much trouble in mind when he took the job two years ago?
  • Seton Hall Didn’t Fare Much Better: Aside from their coach being kicked to the curb, the Pirates had their best big man spend nearly a month in the hospital because he collapsed after finishing a workouts and saw Robert “Sticks” Mitchell get arrested for (get this) robbing eight people at gunpoint just two days after being kicked off the team.

Villanova stumbled towards the finish line last season. This year, Jay Wright’s troops are Rob Dauster’s favorites to take the Big East in 2010-11.

Power Rankings:

  1. Villanova: While the Wildcats lose All-American Scottie Reynolds, Jay Wright‘s club (as always) will be more than fine in the backcourt. Corey Fisher, fresh off an alleged 105-point performance in a Bronx summer league, and Maalik Wayns will be as dynamic as any backcourt in the country and should be able to thrive in Scottie’s absence. Corey Stokes is still going to be a lights out shooter. Dominic Cheek and James Bell will be dangerous on the wings. Up front, the five-man rotation of Antonio Pena, Mouph Yarou, Isaiah Armwood, Maurice Sutton, and JayVaughn Pinkston gives Villanova a very deep, very talented roster for the upcoming season. The Wildcats should compete for the Big East title and, depending on how well some players develop (Armwood, Cheek, Wayns, Yarou) and how good a couple of freshmen are (Bell, Pinkston), Nova could very well make a run at the Final Four.
  2. Pittsburgh: The Panthers were the surprise of the Big East last season, and with the majority of their roster coming back this season, its tough to envision Pitt falling off. Pitt has almost reached the level of a Wisconsin — no matter who is on their roster, this is a team that is disciplined and well-coached to the point that they are always going to be competitive. As always, expect a gritty, defensive-minded team from the Panthers. An already-solid back court of Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Travon Woodall will be bolstered by the addition of freshmen Isaiah Epps, JJ Moore and Cameron Wright, as well as Lamar Patterson finally getting healthy. Gilbert Brown, who missed the first half of last season due to academic issues, will be back at the small forward spot. Brown had an inconsistent season in 2010, but showed flashes of some serious potential. Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson will bolster the front line, but the real x-factor on this team is going to be sophomore Dante Taylor. Taylor was one of the most highly-touted recruits last year, but it took him awhile to adjust to the Big East. If Taylor can live up to his promise, Pitt is a potential Final Four team. If not, this is still a club that will be competing for a league title.
  3. Syracuse: It is easy to look at the Orange and think that, with the players they lost (Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku), they will be down next season. Well, they might not win a Big East title, but they certainly will be in the mix atop the conference standings. Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine will anchor the backcourt, with freshman Dion Waiters providing an offensive spark as an off-guard. Kris Joseph should blossom into a dangerous weapon as a slasher on the wing, and if he can add some strength and a jumper this summer, could very well be in the running as a first-team all-Big East selection. Rick Jackson will be paired with Fab Melo, who Jim Boeheim has been raving about (he raved about Johnson last summer, and look how that turned out), in the frontcourt. With guys like CJ Fair, Mookie Jones, James Southerland and DaShonte Riley providing minutes off the bench, there is no doubt Syracuse will be a good team. How good — borderline top-25 or a potential Big East champ — remains to be seen. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Two-Week Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline Must Go

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2010

If you regularly read this site, you know that the early entry withdrawal deadline for the NBA Draft passed with much zero fanfare at 5 pm ET on Saturday afternoon.  Prospective draftees, many of whom were in the middle of exam periods at their schools, had a mere two weeks to make a final decision whether to take the plunge and give up their collegiate eligibility for the dream of NBA riches.  The two-week window for withdrawal is a new NCAA rule designed to engender program continuity and recruiting at the expense of the student-athletes they purport to care about.  The elephant in the room question is whether players on the fence about declaring for the draft had enough time to be able to properly consider and assess their draft prospects, and the short answer appears to be that they did not.  Surprise surprise

Let’s take a quick comparative snapshot of last year’s early entry pool versus this year’s.  The 2009 early entries had an additional five-plus weeks to work out for teams, attend the draft combine and communicate with scouts, coaches and family members before making a final call on the matter.  It’s quite possible that two months was too much time, but the salient point is that they had plenty of it from which to make an informed decision.  From a pool of 74 underclassmen who originally declared for the NBA Draft, nearly half withdrew resulting in a final total of 39 early entries, two-thirds (26) of whom were ultimately drafted.  This year there was a rough equivalent of 80 early entries, but only 30 of those players withdrew by Saturday afternoon’s deadline, leaving 50 hopeful underclassmen jockeying for positions in a 60-pick draft (see above list).  Keep in mind that there are numerous international prospects as well as seniors such as Luke Harangody, Damion James, Jarvis Varnado and Jerome Jordan who will also be chosen in late June. 

The key problems are apparent:

  1. NBA teams are not evaluating players yet.  As of last week, there were still eight teams playing games, and the others were still closing out their seasons.  According to Louisville head coach Rick Pitino who was trying to get information for his sophomore center Samardo Samuels, only one of the thirty NBA teams held player evaluations prior to this year’s May 8 deadline.  If the idea behind ‘testing the waters’ is for players to receive accurate evaluations of their game from professional scouts, then we’re at a loss in understanding how this date makes any sense whatsoever. 
  2. The Chicago Pre-Draft Camp needs to move.  This camp that takes place in late May/early June allows fence-sitting players to see how they stack up in drills and workouts against their peers rather than trying to patch together a guesstimate based on little more than rumor and third-hand information.  Obviously, the NBA does not care about appeasing the NCAA, but perhaps Stern & company could be persuaded to move it up by a couple of weeks to reach a happy medium.  Otherwise, if it doesn’t move, then the NCAA needs to give in and make the deadline fit the calendar of this camp. 

Looking at the list of early entries above, we see more than a few names who are likely to be incredibly disappointed come draft night — from Bassett to Young and numerous faces in-between, we wonder if these players would have made the same decision if they’d actually been able to, you know, test the waters, as the original concept of the rule was intended. 

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Re-assessing the Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline

Posted by rtmsf on May 5th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

Just over a year ago, the NCAA Legislative Committee voted to scale back the amount of time that players who apply for early entry to the NBA Draft have to withdraw their names from the draft and retain their college eligibility, a change that went into effect this season. Where last year undergraduates who had not hired agents had until June 15 to pull back out of the NBA draft, this year the limit for such a decision is May 8, a deadline that, among other things, also conflicts with academic responsibilities (including finals) for many of those 80 U.S. collegiate undergraduates who have declared for the draft. With NBA teams only allowed to begin working out draft prospects beginning on April 29 and with undergraduates needing to come up with a final decision by May 8, many of the benefits of “testing the waters” rule have been eliminated.

Yes, Let's Make It Harder for Players to Get Informed

The theory behind the rule that allows for undergraduates to declare for the draft and then reconsider and return to school has been that the players will get a chance to work out for NBA teams, talk to general managers and scouts and get a feel for how the NBA perceives their game — what are their strength and weaknesses, what can they work on, and, perhaps most importantly, where they might get drafted. However, with the window for these players to get input from NBA teams reduced to just over a week, players may only get a chance or two to meet with NBA teams, if at all. According to an ESPN poll released last week, of the 19 NBA teams that responded, only two – the Lakers and the Blazers – had any plans to hold workouts for potential draftees prior to the May 8 deadline. And according to BYU head coach Dave Rose, whose star guard Jimmer Fredette is among those still weighing his draft options, “A lot of teams told us they’re going to start working out guys on the ninth of May,” the day after the deadline. Quite simply, for the players among the list of early entrants who have not yet hired agents and who are looking for a little guidance from NBA scouts on their decision, there is little or no help coming.

So, why was this rule even put in place? According to the NCAA, the extension of the deadline into June was “intrusive on academic performance during the spring and increased the potential for outside individuals to have a negative influence on the well-being of student-athletes.” However, for a player like Butler forward Gordon Hayward, who took final exams on Friday, Saturday and Monday, he had exactly four days to gauge the level of interest of NBA scouts. His plans: meet with a couple of agents to figure out the whole process and work out with a trainer in Indianapolis to get a little stronger. For Hayward, he is likely a first-round lock regardless of whether he does or does not work out for any NBA teams, but the point of the rule in the first place is to give guys like him an opportunity to gather as much information as possible in order to make his decision. Giving the kid four days directly after his finals wrap up neither eliminates the potential intrusion on his academics nor decreases outside influences from having a negative impact on his decision. In fact, it would seem that the limit on the amount of interaction that these players have with NBA talent evaluators would be more likely to have a negative impact, giving them less of a realistic look at their NBA chances and perhaps allowing them to fall back on the accolades of less-established talent evaluators (i.e., their family and friends) telling them that they are superstars.

We Thought the NCAA Wants Student-Athletes to Graduate?

The change in the rule began with a recommendation from ACC coaches last year, and coaches are the ones who this rule change benefits the most (although, frankly, it doesn’t really even benefit them much). The theory goes that if coaches can get a definite answer from players on the fence about going to the NBA, they can better plan for the next year, possibly recruiting additional players to take the place of early departees.  However,  even by May 8, the pickings for coaches that lose players early to the draft are slim at best. At this point, just five of the Scout’s Top 100 recruits for the 2010-11 season are still unsigned (two of whom, Terrence Jones and Luke Cothron have verbal commitments elsewhere, and at least one of the remainders, Kadeem Jack, now appears headed to prep school). Even if a coach gets bad news in late May that an undergraduate will indeed be staying in the draft, they’re not typically going to be able to replace a player with that kind of talent so late in the game. Andy Kennedy, the Ole Miss head coach whose Terrico White is among the early entry candidates, confirmed such a notion, saying “the shortened window isn’t going to help regardless” of whether he remains in the draft or not.

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Morning Five: Cinco de Mayo Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 5th, 2010

  1. Kentucky’s John Calipari is the news gusher that keeps on giving.  After a single year of work in Lexington, the school is already discussing a contract extension with the coach that would (ostensibly) keep him at UK until he retires.  Of course, Kentucky could give him a 1000-year contract and it would be relatively meaningless if he has his eyes on coaching a superstar like Lebron James in the League someday.  Last evening’s buzz is on the heels of rumors that the Chicago Bulls were interested in trying to lure the Squid back to the NBA.  Would the chance to coach Derrick Rose again (and no threat of vacated wins) and Lebron and D-Wade as free agents be enough to move on to Chicago?  You never know.
  2. This is pretty amazing if you think about it.  Long before the endless griping about a 96-team tournament and the subsequent decision of the NCAA to opt out of its current television deal with CBS in favor of a new joint deal with CBS and Turner Sports, the Blinking Eye Network approached ESPN to take the Big Dance off its hands.  In fact, facing up to as much as a $50M loss in 2010, CBS was willing to pay ESPN to take it off their hands.
  3. Bad decision, FTW, Alex.  Louisville’s Samardo Samuels has hired an agent and is locked into the NBA Draft even though most experts have him as a fringe second rounder at best.  Remember this from a few weeks ago?  It feels to us like Samuels just wants the hell outta dodge.
  4. Will the last player in the state of Iowa leave the lights on?  Iowa’s Aaron Fuller, an all-Big Ten honorable mention selection who averaged 10/6 in 2010, will resurface at USC for Kevin O’Neill, and Iowa State junior Charles Boozer will transfer out of Ames after a weekend incident where he is alleged to have assaulted a woman outside his apartment complex.
  5. If you can name the two current head coaching jobs still available, you likely already have your application in — Mt. St. Mary’s and Chicago State.  Thanks to Seth Davis’ wrap-up of this spring’s coaching carousel, we now know that factoid and you do too.  Check out the rest of his piece for a breakdown of the good and bad from this year’s version.
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Impact Of Undecided Early Entries On The College Hoops Landscape

Posted by zhayes9 on April 30th, 2010

With the NBA Draft deadline moved up to May 8 this year, we’ll be able to formulate next year’s college basketball landscape sooner than ever before. The decision of many on the fence could dramatically alter the style, roster and makeup of everyone from Kentucky to Richmond. For many of these super-talents such as North Carolina’s Ed Davis, the decision was probably made a long time ago. But for those like fellow ACC foe Malcolm Delaney of Virginia Tech, their status is very much up in the air for 2010-11. He’s just one of many upcoming decisions that could change the outlook of an entire conference.

Many columns dealing with early entries dissect whether the decision was smart or short-sighted, whether the choice to enter their name was the proper call for their careers. Personally, I don’t care so much about their personal career paths, but about how their decision affects college basketball. Instead, the focus of this column will be on how each early entry to put their name in the draft changes their respective schools’ chances when winter approaches.

Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky)- Many around the Kentucky program believe Orton and Bledsoe are history, but refraining from signing with an agent leaves the door slightly ajar. If one or both return to Lexington, the Wildcats vault ahead of Tennessee as the SEC favorites. Returning to school would be even more beneficial to Orton, a player that didn’t establish himself playing behind Cousins and Patterson, but only showed glimpses of his superb athleticism, defensive prowess and developing low-post moves. Pair Orton in the post with Swiss import Enes Kanter and John Calipari is in business. Put Bledsoe with Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb or Darius Miller and the same holds true. Calipari’s loaded class certainly screams reload rather than rebuild, but the returns of Bledsoe and/or Orton would vault expectations even higher.

Gordon Hayward (Butler)- The “babyfaced assassin” (h/t Gus Johnson) might have the toughest call of any early entry this spring. A relative unknown to casual fans just one year ago, Hayward burst onto the scene with a stellar NCAA Tournament, leading the charge behind Butler’s miraculous run to the national title game. Thanks to a late growth spurt, Hayward possesses guard skills in a 6’9 frame and may even go in the latter half of the lottery should he keep his name in the field. Butler would also drop to a ranking similar to the one they enjoyed in October last year. If Hayward returns, it would be a crying shame if Butler isn’t the #2 team ranked preseason behind Duke. The only starter departing is glue guy Willie Veasley. That’s right: Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored and Matt Howard would all return to school for another March push.

Avery Bradley (Texas)- Sources told Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman that Bradley was likely to stay in the Draft, and quite honestly I can see why. Teams that are looking for a backup point guard with the ability to defend and attack the basket will be flocking towards Bradley near the mid-first round. Findlay Prep point guard Cory Joseph committing to Texas last week takes some pressure off of Rick Barnes if Bradley should opt to stay in the draft. The Longhorns grossly underachieved with Bradley, Dexter Pittman and Damion James; with all three departing, expectations can’t possibly be sky high for Texas, although Kansas, Texas A&M and Baylor should all take steps back this season. Texas is a top-15 team regardless of last season should Bradley, Joseph, Dogus Balbay, J’Covan Brown and Jai Lucas round out a loaded backcourt. I suspect Bradley has played his last game in burnt orange, though.

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Morning Five: 04.21.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 21st, 2010

  1. The pickings are getting a little lean on the NBA Draft front, as Louisville’s Samardo Samuels, Oklahoma’s Tiny Gallon and Nevada’s Luke Babbitt all declared yesterday.  Babbitt has the best shot at becoming a first rounder, as Gallon and Samuels are not considered by most experts to be in that range.  By our count, these three players make a total of 62 early entries for thirty guaranteed first round spots in the June 24 NBA Draft.  Although the May 8 withdrawal deadline is a complete and utter joke, we hope that many of these players will find the proper counsel needed to make an informed decision about their realistic prospects.
  2. This situation involving the new women’s head coach at Missouri could get interesting.
  3. The three reasons that Kyle Singler decided to buck the trend and return to school despite being a guaranteed first round pick?  1) Duke; 2) improvement; 3) his senior year.  If he played anywhere other than Duke, everyone would be holding this kid up as everything that’s great about college basketball.
  4. Keep an ear to any choice quotes coming from Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney today, as he will be holding a press conference in Arizona as part of the annual BCS meetings.  Question we’d pay a reporter to ask: why, sir, must you and your ilk try to ruin everything?
  5. Butler’s Brad Stevens will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Chicago Cubs’ May 10 game against the Florida Marlins, and as if that weren’t enough, he’ll also lead the crowd in the singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch.  Afterward, Stevens will save a kitten from a tree outside the stadium and offer a homeless man a job.  Seriously, though, good for him so long as he does a little better with the pitch than the Prez did
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What We Have Here… Is a Failure to Communicate.

Posted by rtmsf on April 21st, 2010

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, in a press conference Monday morning:

My goal for [Samardo Samuels] next year is to leave next year same as Mashburn whatever year that was ’92 or ’93. That’s my goal for him, get through this junior year, get your rebounds up to 9.5 run the floor those things then it’s his time to go.

From the Jamaica Observer very early Tuesday morning:

Samardo Samuels, who hails from the home of Usain Bolt in Trelawny, Jamaica, has entered this year’s NBA Draft.

Samardo May or May Not Get Those Rebounds Up to 9.5 Per Game

So who’s right — newspaper or coach?  The Jamaica Observer, of course.  Louisville blog Card Chronicle documents the back and forth yesterday through Adam Zagoria’s tweets.  Interesting stuff, and clearly great evidence of how well Coach P communicates with his players.  To his credit, Pitino now says that he’s “100 percent” behind Samuels’ decision to test the waters of the NBA Draft.  That is, until he returns, at which time he’ll be 100 percent behind him returning.

Lord only knows what he’s telling superstar prep guard Marquis Teague (rumored to be leaning Louisville with his decision pending Thursday).

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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Evening

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Friday evening games.

7:10 pm – #8 Gonzaga vs. #9 Florida State  (Buffalo pod)

This is a very tough game to call, so let’s start with what we know about it.  The Zags, no stranger to cross-country travel, come into Buffalo after an 11-day layoff where St. Mary’s took Mark Few’s team behind the woodshed and beat them handily in the WCC Tournament championship.  Florida State comes in having dropped its quarterfinal game against NC State in an effort that had their fans shaking their heads in disgust.  So needless to say, both teams are looking for a fresh start here.  The Zags are always dangerous, and this year’s squad led by Matt Bouldin and Elias Harris has the offensive firepower to score with just about anyone in America.  Merely an ok three-point shooting team, they tend to rely on the drives of Harris and mid-range game of Bouldin to create offense.  However, they don’t tend to respond well to teams that crowd and push them around, but unfortunately, FSU is just such a team.  The Seminoles enjoy the nation’s top defensive efficiency, and while they have the opposite problem of finding points, they should have no problem putting the clamps down on the Zag scoring options.  The question here comes down to whether the FSU defense, anchored by 7’1 Solomon Alabi and 6’9 Chris Singleton’s combined four blocks per game, is better than the Gonzaga offense, and we think that it is.  And as up/down as the Seminoles were in the ACC, they never came close to losing to the likes of Loyola Marymount and San Francisco, as Gonzaga did this year.

The Skinny:  The Zags this year aren’t quite as good as they usually are, and they’re facing a team that will shut down their biggest strength.  FSU wins this one by eight points to get a date with Syracuse.

7:15 pm – #7 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Georgia Tech  (Milwaukee pod)

Here’s another one that’s got people confused.  For good reason, too.  All year long we’ve been waiting on Georgia Tech to do something with all that talent, and now they’re playing better basketball, just in time.  Oklahoma State’s showing against Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament will cost them some support, but we’re going to excuse that performance.  That was a tired basketball team, playing their third game in a six day span with K-State at the end of it — and the Wildcats were coming off of a five-day rest.  Georgia Tech is going to go inside to Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal like crazy, but when the Yellow Jackets actually shoot the three, they shoot it well.  Defending the three is a glaring OSU weakness, so it will be interesting to see how often Georgia Tech eschews their big men in favor of launching it from the arc, because those shots will be there.  So…good outside shooting, great inside players…sounds pretty good for Tech, right?  The question will be whether or not they can get to that point in their offense.  Georgia Tech ranks in the bottom twenty of Division I teams in terms of turning the ball over.  Can the Jackets, then, find a way to keep James Anderson from shredding them or Keiton Page from raining threes?

The Skinny: Oklahoma State won’t have to exert too much energy guarding the three, since Tech’s propensity to turn the ball over will take care of some of that.  The Cowboys have been getting more and more help from their role players, and we feel 9-7 in the Big 12 is better than 7-9 in the ACC this year.  It’ll be a great first round game, but we like Oklahoma State in a close one.

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Big East Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2010

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

Season in Review

The Big East regular season ended on Saturday, and I think it is safe to say that the league had a bit of an unpredictable season. Don’t believe me? Show me a season preview that had Syracuse winning the league, Pitt getting a double-bye, UConn playing on Tuesday, and with South Florida and Notre Dame finishing above UConn and Cincinnati.  See? Unpredictable.

But what does that mean? Was the Big East better from top to bottom than it was last year? Did teams like Marquette, USF, and Notre Dame benefit from a down year?   The one thing that is for sure is that the top of the Big East is nowhere near the top of last year’s Big East. Five Sweet 16 teams and three No. 1 seeds is a pretty phenomenal feat. But last year the conference only sent seven teams to the tournament, and there is a very good chance that number will be surpassed this season.

The way the Big East bubble is shaping up right now, five teams are in – Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pitt and Georgetown. Louisville and Marquette should be ok, but a loss on Wednesday and things could get dicey depending on how the rest of the bubble plays out. If Notre Dame happens to lose their first Big East Tournament game (to either Seton Hall or Rutgers), then the Irish could be in trouble as they will likely be right on the cut line.  That gives us eight that are reasonably safe.

It is possible, however, for the Big East to get two more teams in. If today was Selection Sunday, then Seton Hall may actually be in the tournament. While they have 11 losses, the average RPI of the team’s that have beaten the Pirates is 26 and they have not lost to a team with an RPI below 64. Add into that mix that the Pirates have wins over Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt, at Cornell and an RPI of 53. Its not a great profile, but its a very weak bubble this year. That could be enough.  The other team that still has a shot of an at-large bid is UConn, simply because the Huskies have more good wins than most of the bubble teams. That said, they also have 14 losses. UConn will likely need to make it to the Big East semis for any kind of real shot at a bid.

The Big East Conference released their all-conference teams today, and there isn’t much there that I disagree with. (Note: there are six players on the first team because one of those six will win POY; POY, COY, and ROY will be announced on Tuesday between Big East Tournament sessions)

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Set Your Tivo: 02.28.10

Posted by THager on February 28th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

#24 Richmond @ Xavier – 1 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Jordan Crawford and Xavier Look to Take the A10 Title

If there are still fans who don’t realize the importance of this game, they need to look no further than the recent comments by Xavier head coach Chris Mack on the message boards at Xavierhoops.com:

“Our team needs you loud. If you’re just going to come to the game to watch, give your tickets up. Heck, you can WATCH from home. I want our arena rocking!! Calling all PARTICIPANTS. This isn’t a marketing ploy. This is your head coach, sitting at his home computer asking for the best fans in the country to come alive for 40 game minutes on Sunday LIKE NEVER BEFORE.”

There is a good reason why Mack is so excited for this early game.  With eight consecutive wins, Richmond has not only cracked the top 25, they have actually taken the lead in the A-10 standings.  If the Spiders win their last three games against Xavier, Dayton, and Charlotte, their tournament stock could make a huge jump.  The Musketeers have won four games in a row and are tied with the Spiders for the Atlantic Ten lead.  Richmond comes in ranking only 90th in offensive efficiency, and they are going to have to hit their open shots, as they won’t get many second chance opportunities against the best rebounding team in the conference.  Xavier has a dynamic offense that ranks 10th in efficiency and features future NBA pick Jordan Crawford.  Xavier has won 22 consecutive games at home, and if they are able to hold Kevin Anderson in check, it looks like Richmond may lose its place atop the A-10.

Louisville @ Connecticut – 2 pm on CBS (****)

Both of these teams were in trouble of missing the tournament a few weeks ago when they met up.  Louisville survived that game, but with losses against St. John’s and Georgetown since then, their at-large status is still in doubt.  UConn, due to two improbable wins over Villanova and West Virginia, is playing their way back in the tournament.  RTC said before UL’s last game that they were going to have to get production from somebody other than Samardo Samuels and Edgar Sosa.  The Cardinals only had four points from their bench in that game, so Louisville is still going to need some more balance if they are going to beat a hot team like Connecticut.  The Huskies’ offense features four double figure scorers, but rank just 61st in offensive efficiency, largely due to a poor assists to turnover ratio.  Louisville’s defense ranks just 68th in the country, and they have allowed their last five opponents to shoot over 40% from the field, which will not cut it at the XL Center.  The Cardinals started the year just 1-6 on the road, but have won their last two road trips (including a win over Syracuse) so perhaps they have figured out what was plaguing them earlier in the season.  With Connecticut ranked 40th in the RPI and Louisville at #41, this game could be the difference in who is among the last four in and who is among the first four out.  Given UConn’s recent upsets, look for them to continue their surprising run toward a potential NCAA berth.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.23.10

Posted by THager on February 23rd, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

#13 Georgetown @ Louisville – 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)

For how large the gap is between their rankings, Georgetown is not that much better of a team than Louisville.  Georgetown is still aiming for a #3 seed in the Tournament, while Louisville still has some work to do.  However, Louisville is a game ahead of the Hoyas in the Big East standings, and with a victory tonight they will have more wins on the year than Georgetown.  UL has all the momentum, as they are coming off of three straight conference wins and the Hoyas have not won since February 9.  Louisville’s main concern will be guarding the Hoyas, as the Cardinals’ #80-ranked defense will be going up against a Georgetown team that shoots 50% from the floor as a team.  They Hoyas are trying to rebound from a rough performance against Syracuse in which they missed 40 shots and Julian Vaughn was held scoreless.  The Cardinals have a solid offense as well, ranking ninth in offensive efficiency, but they are going to need more help from players other than Samardo Samuels and Edgar SosaJerry Smith is their third leading scorer, but he hasn’t scored more than seven points in a game since February 6.  The Hoyas have lost two straight games, but their second half performance against Syracuse may indicate that they have come out of their slump, and they should get back on track tonight.

#6 Kansas State @ Texas Tech – 8 pm on ESPN360 (**)

The Wildcats have quietly been working towards a potential #2 seed the last few weeks, winning their last five games against the bottom of the Big 12.  Texas Tech, who has lost three straight games to most likely kill their at-large tournament hopes, is now among the worst teams in the conference.  Had the Red Raiders pulled out their recent games against Oklahoma State and Texas, they would have looked like a much more formidable opponent at 18-8, so this game won’t likely be a blowout.  Nevertheless, the Red Raiders are going to have to step up their defense if they want to keep this game close.  Their defense, which ranks #97 in efficiency, has allowed their last four opponents to shoot over 40% from the field, including a road game against Baylor in which they allowed the Bears to make 55% of their shots.  Kansas State, led by Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, features four legitimate scorers and ranks in the top 10 in offensive efficiency, so they will likely capitalize on any defensive miscues that Texas Tech makes.  Although the Red Raiders don’t have the best offense by any stretch, they shoot almost 39% from the three-point line, and can at least keep the game within reach if they hit their shots.  Against Baylor, they made 8 of their 13 three-pointers, so this game may largely hinge on their three-point shooting.  KSU has a solid defense, and given that Texas Tech dropped their last two home games, I don’t think the home crowd will play much of a factor tonight.

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ATB: Purdue Silences the Villain’s Teammates

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2010

Boilers Continue to Ride JaJuan Johnson#4 Purdue 60, #12 Ohio State 57.  Something had to give tonight, as Matt Painter’s Purdue team came into their visit to central Ohio riding a seven-game winning streak, and Thad Matta’s OSU team was riding their own six-game run (nine if you include only conference games).  The game started out similar to the last one, with Purdue running out to a sizable lead, although this time Robbie Hummel didn’t have 29 points at the halftime break.  But in stark contrast to their previous encounter, Purdue was able to hang onto their lead after the half in large part due to the dominance of their center JaJuan Johnson and his 24/7/3 assts on 11-17 FGs.  It’s been said in this space before, but it needs to be noted again.  Since Painter called out his team’s toughness, and in particular that of his big man, JJJ has been the best center in the Big Ten, averaging 20/8/2 blks in his last eight games.  When he plays to his capabilities as he has in the last four weeks, Purdue is Final Four-good.  When he doesn’t, as was the case in the previous game against the Buckeyes (4/5 on 2-5 FGs), they’re a Sweet Sixteen-level team.  Robbie Hummel didn’t even need to score tonight (4/4), which shows how important JJJ is to his team’s offense.  The strategy to allow Buckeye star Evan Turner to get his (29/7/5 assts) generally worked, as nobody else for Matta’s team was able to produce (9-27 FGs for the rest of the team).  Still, this game wasn’t decided until the last few seconds when Purdue’s Chris Kramer seemingly swooped out of nowhere to block a fast-break attempt by William Buford, leading to a rushed three at the horn for Jon Diebler that bounced off.  The Boilermakers with this huge road win move to 10-3 in the Big Ten, a half-game behind Michigan State, while OSU drops to 10-4, a full game behind the Spartans.  Both teams will have games with MSU in the next two weeks.

Huge Win in C-bus for Purdue Tonight

Bubbly Games.

  • Louisville 91, Notre Dame 89 (2OT).  This was the game of the night, both in play and relative importance, as both teams came into this one fighting for their bubble lives this evening.  The Cards can breathe a little easier after outlasting the plucky Irish behind the best game of sophomore Samardo Samuels’ career (36/6/2 blks in 45 minutes).  It was looking ugly for the home team in the first OT, however, as Notre Dame scored the first seven points of the period.  Reginald Delk’s huge three and-1 cut the lead back to three and gave UL enough energy to come back and force the second overtime.  In that period, ND’s Tim Abromaitis (who otherwise played a great 29/5 game) made a couple of important mistakes that essentially sealed the game for Louisville.  The Cards should be safely on the warm side of the bubble after this week, but with games against Georgetown, Marquette and Syracuse looming, you never know with this team.  Notre Dame has now lost five of seven, and will need a few upsets down the stretch to get back into the picture.
  • Penn State 81, Northwestern 70.  Simply an incomprehensible loss for a team like Northwestern fighting for its NCAA Tournament life tonight.  Penn State came into this game 0-12 in the Big Ten, and left Evanston with its first win in league play (in relatively easy fashion!) against the Wildcats.  All five PSU starters scored in double figures and the team shot 56% from the field, but where Northwestern really got killed tonight was on the boards (-17).  The Wildcats are now at 6-8 in the Big Ten race, but with a road game coming up at Wisconsin, they’d probably need to win all three remaining conference games and have a good showing in the B10 Tourney to even put themselves back in the NCAA conversation.

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