ACC M5: 12.17.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 17th, 2013

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  1. Testudo Times: Here’s a great film review of Roddy Peters in his recent game against Boston College. The in-depth look certainly supports my hypothesis that Peters has loads of potential on the offensive end. The play I found most interesting was the one where he picked apart the Eagles’ defense. It’s also rather alarming how easily the Eagles were picked apart by a freshman point guard, but that’s a post for another time. While he’s still not a shooter, Peters’ ability to get in the lane and find the open man is one that’s tough to teach. When he and Jake Layman develop more chemistry over time, they will be nearly impossible to stop.
  2. Syracuse Post-Standard: One big advantage Syracuse has over most opponents is on its front line, but you wouldn’t necessarily notice it from the stat sheet. Jim Boeheim wants to change that perception, though, by forcing the ball inside more. And he’s right if you look at Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman‘s numbers. The duo are hitting 72 and 68 percent of their field goals, respectively. Both are mostly scoring in the paint (through dunks and layups), but even if those numbers drop with increased possessions, that’s still a great pair of offensive options for the Orange.
  3. Boston Herald: Dennis Clifford received yet another setback in his potential return, which may end up forcing him to redshirt. He was originally scheduled to be back in action by now, but a source told Tom Layman that Steve Donahue is hoping to have Clifford back when conference play resumes the first week of January. Clifford has been dealing with nagging knee injuries since coming to Chestnut Hill, most recently trying to reduce the pain from arthritis in both knees. If he comes back the Eagles will be a much better team, as his shot-blocking will help to shore up the team’s interior defense. But at this point (and with this record), Donahue may be thinking about redshirting Clifford anyway and giving him the whole season to get back to 100 percent.
  4. Cardiac Hill: Stephen Gertz asks if Pittsburgh is better off without Steven Adams in the lineup. I’ll go ahead and posit no. Adams was the team’s most efficient rebounder (though Talib Zanna has stepped up significantly in defensive rebounding in his absence), most efficient shooter (albeit from close range), and an elite shot-blocker (an area Pittsburgh could decidedly use improvement). Also based on the success Adams has had in the NBA, I think he’s a much better basketball player this year than he was last season.
  5. WTVD: This story is head-scratching, but Will Graves – who was allegedly kicked off the 2011 North Carolina team for drugs – was recently cited for marijuana possession after consenting to let police search the house he rented from Roy Williams to finish his degree. First things first, major props to Williams for following through with Graves (who also worked part time for the Tar Heels as a video coordinator) and helping him finish his degree. But it’s not a good look for Graves.
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ACC Mega-Preview: Duke Tops Power Rankings

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 8th, 2013

Over the last two weeks, we have previewed each team individually to go with several more articles to get you ready for ACC basketball starting later today. Links to the previews can be found in each of the preseason power rankings listed below. Also look for our preseason conference awards later which will publish later today.

ACC Basketball Twitter Must-Follows (Chris): 

  • Part I (general ACC tweeters)
  • Part II (Maryland, Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh,  and Georgia Tech)
  • Part III (Virginia, Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Florida State, North Carolina, and NC State)

Early Season Tournaments (Brad):

  • Part I (Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Clemson)
  • Part II (Florida State, North Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse)
  • Part III (Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and Miami)

Seven Nonconference Games to Watch (Brad)

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

Duke Blue Devils 1. Duke (75): Unanimous selection for the top spot, Coach K hopes this year’s more athletic group of players can thrive at a faster pace of play. Duke is a national contender this season.
Syracuse Orange 2. Syracuse (67): Their loaded front court and a legendary coach will help make seamless transition to the ACC, bringing their length and vaunted 2-3 zone along with them. Frosh point guard Tyler Ennis is the difference between a very good team and a great one.
North Carolina Tar Heels T3. North Carolina (64): The development of the young frontcourt will be key for a team with plenty of upside, but a daunting non-conference schedule and the suspensions of PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald loom early.
Virginia Cavaliers T3. Virginia (64): ACC stars Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are back in Charlottesville. If the point guard position has more offensive output than last season, this team has all the pieces to be an ACC contender.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 5. Notre Dame (52)Mike Brey has to find a way to replace Jack Cooley‘s production in the post, but the Fighting Irish bring back one of the best backcourts in the ACC. The Fighting Irish look like a border-line top-25 team heading into the season.
Maryland Terrapins 6. Maryland (48): Losing Seth Allen for a spell and Alex Len to the lottery will hurt, but Dez Wells‘ brilliance and Maryland’s overall athleticism should propel them to new heights under Mark Turgeon assuming they can cut out some of their turnovers.
Boston College 7. Boston College (43): A veteran core and a bona fide star could take Boston College to the next level, provided Steve Donahue does something about the team’s dreadful defense. If Dennis Clifford is healthy, this team has a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Pittsburgh Panthers 8. Pittsburgh (41): The Panthers have three solid returning starters to build around, but will need their new big men to make an immediate impact after Steven Adams’ surprising decision to bolt for the NBA Draft. Also how will the new officiating rules affect Jamie Dixon‘s style?
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 9. Georgia Tech (31): The tandem of sophomores Robert Carter, Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt will prove even more effective as the Yellow Jackets look to make strides, but their young core is a few years away from making noise. Tennessee transfer Trae Golden should be an upgrade over Mfon Udofia at point guard.
NC State Wolfpack 10. NC State (29): TJ Warren could be one of the most talented players in the conference, but there is an enormous amount of departed experience to replace in Raleigh. Mark Gottfried‘s talented group of freshmen will be expected to contribute early and often.
Florida State Seminoles 11. Florida State (27): The Seminoles need last year’s newcomers to all make a big leap this year even to stay in the upper middle of the ACC. The key is getting back to elite team defense, though Okaro White is one of the better returning offensive wings in the ACC.
Miami Hurricanes 12. Miami (23): The best thing returning for the Hurricanes is head coach Jim Larranaga, an expert at putting pieces together to form a solid team. Unfortunately, the pieces leave a lot to be desired. Belgian star Manu Lacomte may surprise ACC fans, though.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 13. Wake Forest (19): For the first time since coming to Winston-Salem Jeff Bzdelik has experience, but do the Demon Deacons have the talent to finish above .500 and save his job? Conference expansion didn’t help.
Clemson Tigers 14. Clemson (11): A bad team is going to get worse as the program takes what is probably charitably going to be called “a rebuilding year.” Tune in for KJ McDaniels, whose shot-blocking makes him a good pick for ACC defensive player of the year.
Virginia Tech Hokies 15. Virginia Tech (6): Erick Green is gone, and there isn’t anyone stepping up to replace him on a team destined to rest in the ACC cellar this year. Things could be ugly for James Johnson‘s second season in Blacksburg.

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Season In Review: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by mlemaire on May 15th, 2013

If you are one of those glass half-full type of people, then you could easily point out that a season which saw Pittsburgh finish 24-9 and 12-6 in the Big East is a giant step forward from the year before when the Panthers went just 22-17 and 5-13 in the conference. But chances are that if you are a Pittsburgh basketball fan, you aren’t one of those glass half-full type of people and that is because all of Pitt’s regular season success has never translated into anything more than a single trip to the Elite Eight and a few Sweet Sixteen appearances. The Panthers were good enough to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, which likely saved coach Jamie Dixon from a wave of criticism this offseason, but it wasn’t exactly a triumphant return to the Big Dance. Advanced metrics loved the Panthers because of the team’s exceptional efficiency on both ends of the floor, but that didn’t stop them from shooting 35.1 percent from the field in a first-round clunker against Wichita State and departing from the NCAA Tournament in unceremonious fashion.

Preseason Expectations

Most pundits were cautiously bullish on the Panthers’ chances of rebounding from the 2011-12 debacle. Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson were both gone, but the team returned basically every other contributing player and also added Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler (15.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 46.1% FG as a sophomore with the Chippewas) and ballyhooed freshman center Steven Adams, a seven-footer from New Zealand who was universally considered an NBA talent. No one expected the Panthers to shock the world this season, but both the coaches and our writers had Pitt pegged as one of the top five teams in the conference, and during the regular season at least, they made us look smart.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

It Will Be Another Long Off-season For Jamie Dixon After Another Disappointing Early Exit From the NCAA Tournament.

The Good

Despite the disappointing finish, there are plenty of team-wide positives Dixon can point to this offseason. For starters, the Panthers’ trademark defense returned with a flourish. After finishing outside the top 150 in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2011-12, the Panthers leaped all the way back into the top 20 in that category by creating turnovers and contesting shooters on every possession. The offense was even more efficient, finishing just outside the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency thanks in large part to the team’s terrific offensive rebounding, taking care of the basketball, and insistence on scoring inside of 20 feet. Also, he very much looked the part of a freshman point guard at times this season, but James Robinson (6.1 PPG and 3.5 APG in just 26.6 MPG) is going to develop into an excellent floor general for Dixon as quickly as next season. Neither Woodall nor Lamar Patterson took their games to the next level, but they were still the only two consistent offensive threats on the roster. Even Adams (7.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 57.7 FG%) proved himself to be an excellent prospect, although he didn’t exactly set the conference ablaze like so many had predicted.

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Draft Deadline Winners and Losers: Big East Edition

Posted by mlemaire on May 3rd, 2013

The deadline to declare early entry for the NBA Draft has passed and as is apt to be the case with a league as good as the Big East, there were a number of teams in the conference that were waiting down to the wire to see who they would lose to the professional ranks and who they would get to keep on campus for one more season. 45 players officially announced they were declaring for the NBA Draft and six of those players came from the Big East. Here is some brief on analysis on which teams are feeling good about who they got back, and which teams were left wishing for just one more year. And yes, we do realize some of these teams won’t be in the Big East next season, but we are nostalgic and are looking into the past for as long as we can.

Winners:

Louisville

Russ Smith's Return Makes The Cardinals A Trendy Repeat Candidate (AP Photo).

Smith’s Return Makes The Cardinals A Candidate To Repeat (AP Photo)

Gorgui Dieng knew his stock wasn’t going to get any higher and so he headed off to the NBA, but Louisville expected that. What they likely didn’t expect was that All-Big East guard Russ Smith would announce his return to school, especially after his father was quoted as saying his son was as good as gone. Smith immediately becomes an early favorite for Big East Player of the Year honors and his play-making and shot-creating ability will be even more important to the Cardinals’ success now that Peyton Siva has graduated. The Cardinals defense will undoubtedly take a step back without Dieng, but Montrezl Harrell is ready to be a starter and don’t sleep on Stephan Van Treese, who showed signs in the NCAA Tournament of becoming more than just a serviceable backup.

Providence

There is no doubt that Ricardo Ledo could help the Friars next season and you could easily make the argument Ledo would be the most talented player on the team from the first day of practice but it is still good news that Ledo declared for the NBA Draft and is leaving the program without having played a single minute. It’s nothing against Ledo, who was only forced on to a college campus because the NBA barred their gates and has clearly had the NBA on his mind since he graduated high school, but in order to rebuild Providence for the long haul, coach Ed Cooley needs to build a foundation and one-and-done players like Ledo don’t help. The Friars have a chance to plant their flag near the top of the new Big East, and if Ledo came back, he would absolutely make the Friars better, but there is no guarantee  there would be enough shots to go around with chucker Bryce Cotton as his backcourt mate. There is also no chance that Ledo would be back for his junior season, which means a year of development for Ledo would be a wasted opportunity to get valuable experience for another guard. Ledo has always had his eye on the NBA and good for him, he shouldn’t have been dropped onto a college campus in the first place, now the program and fans can let him go and focus on the improvement of his classmates who will be back – Joshua Fortune or Kris Dunn.

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Big East M5: 04.04.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on April 4th, 2013

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  1. After a disappointing single season in Pittsburgh, Jamie Dixon says 6’5″ shooting guard Trey Ziegler is transferring again in hopes of finding “a chance to be more involved” in his final year of eligibility. Ziegler failed to replicate the production he’d demonstrated in two seasons playing for his father at Central Michigan, registering career lows in almost every major statistical category. Ziergler probably wasn’t going to thrive at Pitt next year, but with only six scholarship players returning, he would have provided much needed depth and experience in the backcourt off the bench. Cardiac Hill notes Ziegler is the sixth player to transfer from Pitt in two years.
  2. Less than two weeks after insisting he would return for his sophomore year, Pitt center Steven Adams reversed course Tuesday and announced he would declare for the NBA Draft. Adams’ draft projection fell from top five in the preseason to mid-to-late first round after his production (7.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG) failed to reflect his athletic, punishing 7’0 frame. Even before an underwhelming freshman campaign,  Jamie Dixon had evidently alluded to a “four-year plan” Adams had envisioned for himself, which included getting his master’s degree at Pitt. But Adams is one of 18 children, and Dixon implied the wish to provide for his family outweighed Adams’ ambitions in school: “It’s tough, I think he really loved it here. He loved his teammates… I know what he was saying but I also know what his family was saying at the same time.” With Dante Taylor graduating and Marcus Gilbert transferring, Talib Zanna is the only real frontcourt presence Dixon returns next year.
  3. On the topic of reversing coarse, Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti fired Mike Rice less than 24 hours after publicly defending his basketball coach on ESPN. Pernetti was contrite in a statement on Rice’s release: “Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate [Rice], but I was wrong.” The loose end here is confusion over the involvement of President Robert Barchi, who distanced himself from the scandal yesterday when a spokesperson reiterated that Barchi hadn’t seen the damning practice footage until Tuesday. The problem? Pernetti had initially implied to ESPN that the president was aware of the tapes’ content in December and signed off on his efforts to “rehabilitate” Rice. Don’t be surprised to see Barchi throw Pernetti under the bus and weather the storm. Meanwhile, Adam Zagoria reports that Bob Knight is a long-shot candidate to replace Rice. Which is so unconscionable that it must be a late April Fool’s joke.
  4. USA Today and Forbes have updated the usual financial stats on program revenues and coaching salaries, and Sean Keeley at TNIAAM points out that Syracuse is getting a seriously good deal with Jim Boeheim. The Orange coach ranks number 17th (on a list that omits several more highly paid coaches), raking in $1.9 million per year in base salary. That’s less than Big East peer coaches JTIII ($2.2 million), Jay Wright ($2.3 million), and Rick Pitino ($4.8 million). Looking at Forbes’ comparison of basketball program revenues in the Final Four, Keeley observes that while Boeheim and John Beilein earn about the same salary, Michigan basketball earns just over a third ($9.9 million) what Boeheim’s program makes ($26 million).
  5. Yesterday the leftovers of the Big East were finally named the American Athletic Conference. The UConn Blog is pleased with the inoffensive title, which lends itself to the edgier AmeriCon abbreviation and should, if nothing else, put a stop to the geography jokes everyone suffered through last year. “It’s fine. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s not worse, and on the scale of UConn‘s conference realignment news, that makes this a resounding victory.”
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ACC M5: 04.03.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 3rd, 2013

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  1. Baltimore Sun: And then there were none. The ACC’s 2012-13 season officially came to a close Tuesday night when Maryland lost to Iowa in the NIT semifinals. The bright lights at Madison Square Garden (and the Hawkeyes’ press) forced 17 Maryland turnovers, which led to 27 Iowa points. Iowa also opted to use zone, which makes perfect sense against a team with a group of guards who struggle beyond the arc. Thus ends a frustrating season for the Terrapins, who couldn’t overcome its youth in the backcourt. The Terps’ season ended on a high note with a strong ACC Tournament performance before making the biggest stage of the NIT.
  2. Streaking the Lawn: Brian Schwartz has a good breakdown here of areas where Virginia players need to improve this offseason. Tony Bennett’s team has a lot of talent coming back next year, but the Cavaliers also need to improve in many ways. First and foremost, they need someone to step up and play point guard. But the biggest place to look for improvement is from this year’s freshmen. The young Cavaliers struggled defensively this year, which isn’t a surprise give how different Bennett’s system is from most high schools. At a minimum things look very good moving forward in Charlottesville.
  3. Orlando Sun-Sentinel: Miami will take a big step backwards next year, that much is certain. But if Jim Larranaga can make something positive of a year where he potentially loses all five of his starters (four to graduation, one to the NBA Draft), it could be good for the program going forward. The good news is Miami’s success (and proximity to Lebron James and Dwyane Wade and apparently an endless supply of awesomely garish shoes) this year should provide positive results on the recruiting trail going forward.
  4. Keeping It Heel: With the ACC now out of the postseason, it’s time to start looking ahead to the ACC’s new members. Coach K came out and said what we all know: “It makes us the most powerful basketball conference, I think, ever.” That sounds about right. And while the coming change makes me and other fans nostalgic, the prospect of more Duke-Syracuse and Louisville-North Carolina games should make up for it very quickly.
  5. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh had a rough couple of days. After getting bounced in the Round of 64, the Panthers also lost Trey Zeigler to transfer (the second of his college career) and Steven Adams to the NBA Draft. Adams averaged over seven points and six rebounds a game in a promising freshman campaign. Zeigler was less important, but his loss still won’t help Jamie Dixon’s process of building a conference contender next season.
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Rushed Reactions: #9 Wichita State 73, #8 Pittsburgh 55

Posted by AMurawa on March 21st, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent. Andrew is covering the Salt Lake City pod of the West Regional this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Out-Tough. One of the concerns I had for Wichita State coming into the game was their ability to hang with Pitt, one of the nation’s best rebounding teams, on the glass. Despite being undersized almost all the way across the board, it was the Shockers who, shockingly, owned the glass. They grabbed 34.4% of their own misses and turned those boards into 14 points. The Shockers also earned their way to the line more than twice as much as the Panthers, getting to the line 41 times and converting 33 of their attempts from back there. And, perhaps most importantly, even as Pitt senior guard Tray Woodall admitted, the Shockers “got to most of the loose balls.” In a battle of two teams whose identity is based around toughness, the winner here was the team that was the toughest.

    Cleanthony Early was outstanding for the Shockers. (AP)

    Cleanthony Early was a big reason why the Shockers advanced to the third round. (AP)

  2. Sometimes You Just Gotta Make Shots. It’s easy to look at the stat sheet and say, oh, Pitt was awful. But the Panthers got what they wanted at times on offense, getting into the lane and creating more shots in the paint than anywhere else. All told, 28 of their 54 shot attempts came within five feet of the basket, and yet, the Panthers missed 13 of those 28 attempts. Even worse, the Panthers only made six shots all day from outside of five feet, going 6/26 on jumpers. Sometimes it’s a real simple game; you gotta make shots.
  3. Not A Thing Of Beauty. As you could have anticipated when this game first showed up in the bracket, this game was not exactly the type of game that is going to bring in a ton of new fans. Not that it wasn’t well played at times – it was, with both teams running good offense and playing hard-nosed defense – but it was rough and tumble, physical under the hoop and out at the perimeter. And, with neither team featuring many great jumpshooters or finishers, even when that good offense resulted in good looks, often those good looks went awry. In the end, the teams combined for 3-of-37 shooting (8.1%) from behind the arc and a 38.3 eFG%.

Star of the Game. Malcolm Armstead, Wichita State. Armstead did everything for the Shockers today, leading all scorers with 22 points, handing out five assists and even chipping in on the boards with four, including a couple offensive rebounds. And on a night where it seemed like just about everybody else had trouble shooting the ball, Armstead made 6-of-14 shots from the field and knocked down all nine of his free throws. Armstead didn’t limit his contributions to the offensive end either, as he was a key cog in helping to harass Pitt’s starting backcourt of Tray Woodall and James Robinson into 3-of-20 shooting and a seven turnovers. While Armstead gets the slight nod, his teammate Cleanthony Early also deserves mention, as he threw in 21 points and, normally more comfortable on the wing, helped out with seven rebounds, including three on the offensive end.

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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by mlemaire on March 21st, 2013

Jamie Dixon’s club is back in the NCAA Tournament after a dismal 2012 season but this year hasn’t been without its bumps and bruises. The advanced metrics love Pittsburgh and think the Panthers are one of the top 10 teams in the country, but a junk non-conference schedule and troubling conference losses caused the Panthers to slip all the way down to a No. 8 seed and their path starts with a polished and veteran Wichita State team and  could lead through No. 1 Gonzaga next.

Will This Finally Be The Year Jamie Dixon Can Silence Some Critics?

Will This Finally Be The Year Jamie Dixon Can Silence Some Critics?

Region: West
Seed: No. 8
Record: 24-7 (12-6 Big East)
Matchup: vs. Wichita State in Salt Lake City

Key Player: As Yankee great Reggie Jackson would say, Tray Woodall is the straw that stirs the drink for the Panthers. The dynamic point guard hasn’t broken out the way some expected him to this season, but he still leads the team in scoring (11.8 PPG), assists (5.2 APG) and three-point shooting (38.2% 3FG), in addition to his ball-handling and offense-running responsibilities. His ability to create for the rest of the team and handle the bulk of the possessions for the Panthers will be crucial if they want to get out of their half of the bracket and make it to the Sweet Sixteen. Woodall played well down the stretch (with the exception of a “meh” effort in the Big East Tournament loss to Syracuse) and if he can keep the momentum rolling and maintain his confidence, Pittsburgh has a legitimate shot at knocking off Gonzaga in the Third Round.

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March Madness Serves as an NBA Showcase for Big East Stars

Posted by mlemaire on March 20th, 2013

It’s hard not to feel like performances in the NCAA Tournament tend to artificially inflate players’ draft stock. It’s true that the increased weight of the games and pressure on players can help bring out the best in some prospects, but sometimes it seems like scribes and scouts tend to erroneously overdo it and conflate NCAA Tournament success with NBA success. That said, there will be plenty of NBA eyeballs on the NCAA Tournament this year, and there are a number of Big East prospects with NBA potential hoping to use the Big Dance to boost their stocks. Picking guys like Otto Porter and Michael Carter-Williams is too easy, as they have relatively assured NBA futures. We are more concerned here with the Big East players who truly have something to gain from their performances this March.

A big NCAA Tournament could have Gorgui Dieng shooting up NBA Draft boards.

A big NCAA Tournament could have Gorgui Dieng shooting up NBA Draft boards.

Gorgui Dieng (Louisville): Dieng is already a surefire pro prospect thanks to his NBA-ready defensive abilities, but those who think the junior is a defense-only big man haven’t been watching the Senegal native play this season. Dieng’s progression on offense was slowed somewhat this season by a hand injury, but he is an improved passer, a reasonable free throw shooter, and shows impressive touch from inside 15 feet. Dieng will potentially get an early chance to prove his ability against an old foe if the Cardinals advance to play Missouri and Alex Oriakhi, and there are potential match-ups looming with Mason Plumlee or Adreian Payne down the road. If Dieng helps lead Louisville to the Final Four and plays well in those marquee games, he could slip into the back end of the lottery.

Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati): Kilpatrick is another player who could leave early for the NBA Draft if he thinks he has nothing left to accomplish with the Bearcats, but he may be on the outside looking in as the NCAA Tournament gets under way. There is no doubting his scoring and shooting ability, but his size and length give scouts pause so he will need to work on his ball-handling if he wants to make it at the next level. Kilpatrick has the type of gutsy attitude and moxie that are perfect for the NCAA Tournament, and he has a chance to go toe-to-toe with another NBA prospect in the first round when the Bearcats play Creighton and Doug McDermott. If Kilpatrick can lead the Bearcats past the Bluejays and then play well when matched against another NBA hopeful guard in Duke’s Seth Curry, he may impress enough scouts to earn some looks in the second round for his scoring ability and mature game. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big East Tournament Day Three: Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 14th, 2013

The quarterfinals are here, which means the Big East tournament is in full swing, and the top four seeds will get their chance at the league as-we-know-it’s final crown.  Georgetown and Cincinnati open today’s festivities at Noon, followed by a 21st century ACC donnybrook between Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

#9 Cincinnati

Cincy

The Bearcats knocked off Providence 61-44 yesterday afternoon.

No. 9 seed Cincinnati had a strong showing against Providence yesterday afternoon, defeating the Friars 61-44 behind 17 points from Sean Kilpatrick and 15 points and 10 rebounds from JaQuon Parker.

Next game: Cincinnati will look to upset top seeded Georgetown at Noon.

  • Best Case: Cincinnati nearly took down Georgetown at Fifth Third Arena in February, losing a tight one, 62-55.  Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright were a combined 3-of-15 from three point range in that one; if Cincinnati’s guards can knock down some shots from the outside they should not have much of an issue keeping up with Georgetown’s scoring.  Consistent guard play is the key for the Bearcats; if Kilpatrick keeps up his solid play and Wright finally returns to the level that he was playing at before he missed time due to injury, Cincinnati can make a run in this tournament.
  • Worst Case: The Bearcats get frustrated against Georgetown’s probing Princeton offense and Otto Porter flashes his normal brilliance, and the Hoyas run away with a double-digit victory.  Cincinnati’s next conference tournament game is played in front of 4,000 fans at the Izod Center against Tulane.

#5 Syracuse

C.J. Fair continues to act as a steadying presence for Syracuse.

Syracuse struggled down the stretch of the regular season, but a strong second half propelled them to a 75-63 win over Seton Hall. The Orange dropped their game at The Pete earlier this year, but were without forward James Southerland. Will an Orange-friendly crowd and Southerland’s three-point prowess make the difference for Jim Boeheim’s squad?

Next game: Syracuse faces No. 4 seed Pittsburgh in the 2:00 PM slot.

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Big East M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 20th, 2013

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  1. Ed Cooley says he hasn’t mentioned the possibility of any sort of postseason berth to his Providence team. “I’m just trying to go a game at a time and that’s not coach-speak. That’s reality,” he said, “We’re still fragile. We just have guys trying to believe right now.” While it may be poor etiquette for any coach to broach that topic when his team is below .500 in conference play, it’s fair game for fans. By late last night, all but 10% of 345 respondents in a Providence Journal poll believed the Friars would make either the NIT (72%) or NCAA Tournament (18%). Any discussion of the latter is premature unless the Friars pull off the upset at Syracuse tonight. But Kevin McNamara suggests that prolonged early injuries to Vincent Council and Kris Dunn could constitute a “special circumstance” with the selection committee, should the Friars play their way onto the bubble. We evaluated the outlook for Providence in their final five games in yesterday’s Big East Burning Question.
  2. It’s not all roses in Syracuse, as Jared E. Smith over at TNIAAM presents three alarming trends that have come to the surface since Cuse’s watershed victory at Louisville. Despite leading the Big East with 8 assists per contest overall this season, Michael Carter-Williams has only averaged 4.3 APG in the past six games, and his team is 1-3 when he fails to dish out 5 assists. Smith identifies other culprits in the poor three-point defense from the back end of Boeheim’s zone and a chronic inability to produce the prolific transition offense to which Orange fans are accustomed. Syracuse is producing half as many transition points as last year’s team, and consequently entered last Saturday’s Seton Hall game averaging 8 PPG fewer than their predecessors. Cuse plays two of the league’s hottest teams this week in Providence and Georgetown, so it’s an inopportune moment to grapple with the issues Smith highlights.
  3. Notwithstanding the Scottie Reynolds shot that knocked his team out of the 2009 Elite Eight, Jamie Dixon may have been at his “most inconsolable” as a Pitt coach after his team’s collapse to Notre Dame on Monday night. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook predicts Pitt will achieve the modest requirements to wrap up their NCAA invite, but says they’re clearly just as “capable of blowing the bid.” The loss only confirmed the alarm raised in last week’s 10-point loss to Marquette: “[Pitt] is trending the wrong way at the worst time of the season.”
  4. Speaking of Pitt, Cardiac Hill wonders whether the infusion of blue chip talent coming out of high school next year will influence the length of Steven Adams’ career in Pittsburgh. Adam Zagoria had quoted an anonymous NBA GM who extolled the 2014 draft class and called this year’s group “historically weak” (when can we take that annual refrain out back and euthanize it, by the way?). This prompted CH to ask: “If Adams doesn’t take a huge step forward, one could wonder if he’d be better of coming out this season or waiting until 2015 if next year’s class is as stacked as the GM claims.” It’s an interesting dilemma, and from a broader perspective it’s a kind of cynical calculus necessitated by the one-and-done rule.
  5. Though Cincinnati as a team is 14th in the league in free throw shooting percentage, Mick Cronin claims it’s more an issue of the wrong players getting to the line. “If [Sean Kilpatrick] or Cash [Wright] shoots all of our free throws, I like our chances,” said Cronin, who lamented, “Your bigger guys are the ones who tend to get fouled.” Therein lies the problem, for Cincinnati, whose star guards are the only starters that shoot better than 66%. For their part, Justin Jackson and JaQuan Parker have hit 54% of 156 combined free throw attempts. Despite struggling in many other facets of his game, sixth man forward Titus Rubles’ 67% foul shooting offers a situational substitute should Jackson become a liability late in a game.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Notre Dame/Louisville, Kansas, Creighton and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 12th, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. At 10:54 PM on Saturday night, with Louisville up comfortably over Notre Dame late in the second half, I tweeted the following: “This might be the worst Saturday prime time game ever.” Alas, college basketball found another way to make me look stupid. Jerian Grant’s insane final minute lit a fire underneath what was until then quite a boring game. We know what happened in the end. It was one of the more bizarre games I’ve ever seen and turned into an edge of your seat thriller in the blink of an eye. The longest regular season game in Big East history, in addition to being supreme entertainment, taught us some important things about both teams. The most important takeaway for me was how bad Louisville is in late game one possession situations. I wasn’t stunned by Russ Smith’s antics but the fact that Rick Pitino refused to call a timeout not once, not twice but three times when his team could have won the game with a basket absolutely shocked me. This is not the first time Louisville has played poorly down the stretch of a close game. Against Syracuse, the Cardinals folded in the final minute and the Orange took advantage in a big way. Even in a win against Pittsburgh, Louisville didn’t exactly put on a clinic on how to close out a game. This is a pattern of sloppy play and could come back to bite Louisville in the NCAA Tournament. As for Notre Dame, the fight it showed in overtime was sensational. The Irish never quit despite being out-manned up front after foul trouble forced Jack Cooley and reserve big man Tom Knight out of the game. Garrick Sherman made his case for more minutes and could be a valuable player off the bench down the stretch for Mike Brey’s team. Notre Dame isn’t a great team but the Irish proved in the overtime periods that they can hang around the top 25 and win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament.

    Rick Pitino's team needs to sure up its play at the end of close games (AP)

    Rick Pitino’s team needs to sure up its play at the end of close games (AP)

  2. The Notre Dame/Louisville game was just one of many fantastic finishes this week. It all got started last Tuesday night with a high level thriller between Ohio State and Michigan that went to overtime. Wisconsin had two crazy finishes, the first a double OT win over Iowa and the second was a fantastic game against Michigan on Saturday highlighted by Ben Brust’s half court heave to force overtime. Oklahoma State and Baylor went to an entertaining OT session while Indiana and Washington lost on buzzer beaters. Illinois had no business winning that game but it just proves how wacky college hoops is this year. I believe Indiana is the best team in the nation but the Hoosiers aren’t head and shoulders ahead of anybody. They’re simply the best of a large group of very good teams. Parity in this sport is at an all time high. I shake my head when I hear someone say the regular season doesn’t matter or they don’t even watch college basketball because the level of play isn’t great. Those people will never get it, although they will get to see a nutty NCAA Tournament if the regular season is any indication. I have never seen such a wide open year than this one. You know who might have had the best week? NCAA referee John Gaffney. He worked Michigan/Ohio State, Illinois/Indiana and then did two games on Saturday, one of which was Notre Dame/Louisville. That’s one heck of a week.
  3. You would be hard pressed to find a team that had a better week than Illinois. The Fighting Illini began the week at 2-7 in Big Ten play, losers in six of their last seven games with games against Indiana and Minnesota coming up. John Groce’s team turned it on at the right time and came away with two huge wins for their NCAA Tournament chances. Even at 4-7 in conference play, Illinois looks to be in the tournament as of now thanks to the two wins last week along with victories over Butler, Gonzaga and Ohio State. It was the D.J. Richardson show against Indiana as he almost singlehandedly brought them back late in the game. Illinois was able to make shots against the Hoosiers and turn them over, resulting in extra possessions. It was a different recipe against Minnesota as Illinois used strong three point shooting and solid defense, the two primary reasons for their January meltdown, to knock off the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. That was in was arguably just as big as Indiana because Illinois needed to get a quality road win in conference. It remains to be seen where the Illini will go from here but they have a great chance to get back to .500 in league play with games against Purdue, Northwestern and Penn State upcoming before a big time showdown with Michigan on February 24. Four of Illinois last six games are on the road so it would be well advised to take care of business over this softer stretch. Read the rest of this entry »
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