Xavier on the Cusp of Returning to the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2014

Brian Otskey is reporting from the Big East Tournament all week

After missing the NCAA Tournament last year for only the second time since 2000, Xavier head coach Chris Mack made it clear to his team what the goal was this season. “Every time we play a game from day one, from game one up until tonight, we always wrote the four letters in the top right of the white board [in the locker room] that said NCAA’ because deep down that’s been a goal of these guys,” said the fifth year Musketeers coach. On a day that saw more dramatics reminding us of moments from years gone by in this event, Xavier was all business in taking care of Marquette and solidifying itsNCAA Tournament hopes. Xavier’s 68-65 win over Marquette was number 21 on the year for Mack’s squad and should be enough to ensure the Musketeers return to the NCAA Tournament next week. Xavier was out-shot and out-rebounded by the pesky Golden Eagles but it was able to get to the free throw line regularly and surprisingly won the turnover battle, two things Marquette head coach Buzz Williams said were key reasons why his team failed to advance to Friday night’s semifinal round. “We turned the ball over too many times in a lower than normal possession game,” said Williams. He was absolutely right as his team failed to take advantage of a Xavier club that ranks near the bottom of the Big East in both offensive and defensive turnover percentage.

Xavier Won Its First Big East Tourney Game Last Night

Xavier Won Its First Big East Tourney Game Last Night

In particular it was Justin Martin who provided a spark for Xavier in the win. He shot the ball very well en route to a 19-point performance and did not turn the ball over once. This was a physical game contested heavily in the paint, your typical grind it out Big East style of game that didn’t feature many transition opportunities. Xavier was buoyed by the return of Matt Stainbrook, who suffered a sprained MCL in the team’s loss at Seton Hall on March 3. Stainbrook only played 15 minutes but contributed eight points and gave the Musketeers a much-needed presence in the paint on both ends of the floor. Marquette tried to mount a charge at the end but a questionable shot by Todd Mayo sealed the deal. After the game, Williams actually asked the assembled media how the NIT selection process works, claiming he was not familiar with it.

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Big East M5: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on February 20th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. St. John’s has been rolling, winning again in a rout of Butler on Tuesday, but they got some bad news prior to that game. Chris Obekpa, a shot-blocking machine, will be out for between 10-14 days due to an injured ankle he suffered in practice and will miss crucial games against Villanova and Xavier. Head coach Steve Lavin said about the matter: “Chris is a central part of what we do on both ends of the court. Our team will have to step up collectively in his absence.” The team will obviously miss his inside defensive presence, but with the way the Johnnies have been playing, they can still pull out two big wins in the coming week. The team has plenty of depth and God’sgift Achiuwa and Orlando Sanchez can fill in down low as capable replacements.
  2. Butler continues to struggle and Tuesday’s loss was another tough defeat to swallow for Brandon Miller’s team. After leading at the half by three, they were run out of the gym by the Red Storm, ultimately losing by 25 points. The team began conference play with a string of losses, but they were still fighting (several games went to overtime). Now, however, the Bulldogs are getting blown out in nearly every outing.  Zak Keefer takes a look at what has gone wrong with this storied program. Kameron Woods was suspended prior to Tuesday’s game and Rene Castro declared he would be transferring away from the program last week. There is considerable instability within and surrounding this program right now, a major cause for concern. Miller has respect from his peers, but losing seasons don’t wear very well at Butler, even given the uptick in competition.
  3. Villanova took another team’s best shot and responded with a double-overtime victory on the road at Providence on Tuesday. ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan takes a look at the team’s response to getting ripped apart by Creighton for the second time this seasson. As one of the premier teams in the Big East, the Wildcats are often going to get their opponents’ best shot. Jay Wright’s team has yet to lose a game this season to a team not named Creighton or Syracuse, something that should help them a great deal on Selection Sunday.
  4. Villanova’s big win was Providence‘s tough loss. In great need of a profile-boosting win, the Friars fought for 50 minutes but simply didn’t have enough to outlast the Wildcats. A win likely would have pushed them well into the projected field of 68, but instead they will have to be nearly perfect down the stretch if they want to play in the NCAA Tournament. Fortunately for Friars fans, coach Ed Cooley is moving on and ready to keep fighting. He said after the loss: “We can put our heads down and feel sorry for ourselves, but at the end of the day we have to get back up and get ready for Butler on Sunday. I know a lot of people are disappointed. I know our fans wanted to win, everybody wanted to win. But you’re playing a top 10 team coming off a loss. Give them credit. They’re a great team.” The Friars have three very winnable games with Butler, Seton Hall, and Marquette coming up, but their season finale at Creighton could be the one that solidifies a postseason berth.
  5. It has been a rollercoaster season for Marquette and head coach Buzz Williams has turned to a number of different lineup combinations to try to find the players who can consistently score. Paint Touches wrote about the lineup that has been most effective for the team this season. Williams turned to that group on Saturday in a big win over Xavier, but unfortunately, the Golden Eagles followed up that win with a tough loss to Creighton Wednesday night. The lineup is equal parts positives and negatives. Derrick Wilson and Jake Thomas have their bright spots but usually do not contribute much offensively. Todd Mayo and Jamil Wilson are solid offensive players, but they are both inconsistent and prone to silly mistakes. Davante Gardner is the team’s best player, but he struggles on the defensive end of the floor. Together the group seems to fit well and complement each other’s strengths, but Marquette, like Butler, isn’t used to being in this position.
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Marquette Dancing With Who They Brought

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vtbnblog) on February 14th, 2014

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference and a regular contributor. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

This could not be the team Buzz Williams envisioned would play this season as the 2012-13 wound down last April. That team had a backcourt rotation that included All-Conference First Team guard Vander Blue, junior Todd Mayo, a solid backup point guard in junior Derrick Wilson and a pair of promising freshmen, Duane Wilson and JaJuan Johnson, who would be allowed to ease into the system as they logged a minute here and there. Redshirt senior Jake Thomas and freshman John Dawson would hold down the end of the bench and wait. The always important wing and front court spots would go to a rotation of junior Jamil Wilson, All-American JuCo Jameel McKay, sophomore Steve Taylor (rehabbing from off season surgery) and junior Juan Anderson (who explored a transfer before returning to the team in late April).

Does Buzz Have Full Control of His Program Now? (AP)

Buzz Williams knows his team still has a long way to go to secure a bid to the Big Dance. (AP)

Freshman tweener Deonte Burton, a typical Williams recruit who could log minutes anywhere between off guard and power forward, would have to pick up scrap minutes and wait for his time. The low post would be anchored by Davante Gardner and Chris Otule. Either one of whom — possibly both — would be All-Conference Teamers (Gardner on offense, Otule on defense). Although Williams typically runs 10 (or more) players through each game, last April anyway, it appeared that he would have 13 talented players to mix and match for any given game and opponent. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Up, Three Down in the Big East

Posted by George Hershey on January 27th, 2014

Every Big East team played on Saturday. Some had impressive outing, while others fell flat and disappointed. Here we highlight some of the positives and negatives from the weekend’s action with Three Up, Three Down.

Three Up

The Providence Role Players, Including Denton, Are Stepping Up

The Providence Role Players, Including Denton, Are Stepping Up

  1. Providence’s Supporting Cast. Coming into the season the emphasis was placed on senior scoring machine Bryce Cotton. In the non-conference slate, the team fared well but started with a poor 0-2 mark in conference play with a bad home loss to Seton Hall and a blowout defeat to Villanova. In those early losses, players like LaDontae Henton, Kadeem Batts, Tyler Harris and Josh Fortune had rough performances. They turned the ball over too much — 15 from the starters vs. Villanova — played poor defense, and failed to make the key plays that win games. More recently, Providence has been on a roll and these players are the primary reason for the difference. In the Friars’ win on Saturday against Xavier, four starters had at least 10 points with Henton dropping 23, Harris and Batts scoring 12 each, and Fortune hitting a key three as he was fouled to stymie a Xavier run. Carson Desrosiers was also very impressive on the defensive end, with six blocks against the Musketeers. Providence has now won five in a row to move to 5-2 in league play, good for third place in the conference standings. Read the rest of this entry »
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Three Thoughts On Butler’s Win Over Marquette

Posted by WCarey on January 19th, 2014

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report following Saturday’s game in Indianapolis between Marquette and Butler.

Butler entered Saturday’s home contest with Marquette needing a victory in the worst way. The Bulldogs’ first season in the Big East got off to a disastrous start with five consecutive losses to Villanova, Xavier, DePaul, Georgetown, and Creighton. Marquette also entered the afternoon with something to prove. The Golden Eagles were picked to win the Big East in the preseason, but they entered Hinkle Fieldhouse with a pedestrian 2-2 conference record and a very disappointing 10-7 overall mark. In a game where Marquette seemingly had control in the early second half, Butler came roaring back to force overtime where the Bulldogs outscored the Golden Eagles 20-8 on their way to a 69-57 victory. The following are three thoughts from Saturday afternoon’s game in Indy.

Butler guard Alex Barlow, right, and Marquette guard Derrick Wilson fight for a loose ball in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Butler guard Alex Barlow, right, and Marquette guard Derrick Wilson fight for a loose ball in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

  1. Butler Shored Up Its Defensive Effort. Butler’s defense in its first five conference game was a disaster. The Bulldogs were giving up a league-worst 82.4 points per game, while allowing their opponents to shoot a league-worst 51% from the field. Saturday was a different story for the Bulldogs, as they looked like a completely different team on that end of the court. Following a first half where they allowed Marquette to shoot just 40% from the field, the Bulldogs brought up their defensive intensity another notch in the second half. The Golden Eagles were limited to just 17 second half points on a woeful 18.5% from the field. Butler’s defense carried its intensity over to the overtime period where it allowed Marquette to score only eight points on 3-of-8 from the field. After allowing opponents to shoot 51% from the field over its first five conference games, Butler held Marquette to just 30.8% from the field over the course of Saturday’s game. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Big East Microsite Week in Review

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 18th, 2013

The 2013-14 college basketball season is off and running, and it was a really interesting week for the Big East conference, which saw a number of teams compete in big non-conference games.  Only half of the teams in the league remain unscathed, so there may be some shuffling in our power rankings this week.

Few players in the entire nation have had the start that Doug McDemott has this season.

Few players in the entire nation have had the start that Doug McDemott has this season.

Week One Power Rankings

  • 10.) DePaul (2-1), Last Week (10): The Blue Demons very nearly knocked off a Southern Miss team that many expect to be among the top squads in Conference USA, falling to the Golden Eagles, 75-68.  Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young are off to strong starts.
  • 9.) Butler (2-0), LW (9):  After handling Lamar, the Bulldogs had a close call with Princeton, knocking off the Tigers, 70-67.  Butler is getting even scoring across the board, with five players averaging at least nine points per game.
  • 8.) Seton Hall (2-1), LW (7): Things haven’t been easy for the Pirates.  After participating in the game that launched a thousand referenda on refereeing in 2013, Seton Hall edged by Kent State by two before dropping a game at Mercer in double overtime.  Fuquan Edwin and Sterling Gibbs look very good early, but with the Pirates sitting at 231st in the nation in assists at 11.7 per game, they need to do a better job of moving the ball.
  • 7.) Xavier (3-0), LW (8): Unsurprisingly, Semaj Christon is good at scoring the basketball.  The Musketeers are glad to have Dee Davis back after missing two games—the junior guard had a well-rounded game against Morehead State, scoring seven points, grabbing five rebounds, and doling out nine assists in 35 minutes.
  • 6.) Providence (3-0), LW (6): The Friars’ opening night win against Boston College doesn’t look quite as good with the Eagles going on to drop games to UMass and Toledo, but they’ll have chances to prove themselves with games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky rapidly approaching.  Providence has an array of scorers, headlined by the consistent Bryce Cotton, and as a team hits free throws at an 85 percent clip. Don’t foul these guys, America.
  • 5.) St. John’s (1-1), LW (5): The young Red Storm nearly came away with a big win against Wisconsin in their first game.  D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson look very good through two games, while Steve Lavin and company are still waiting for freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan to put everything together.

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Introducing the RTC Big East Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by Dan Lyons (@Dan_Lyons76) on November 8th, 2013

College basketball is back! Seven Big East teams open their seasons tonight, including a few big match-ups like St. John’s vs. Wisconsin and Georgetown vs. Oregon. There is no better time to unveil the Big East microsite’s preseason rankings, with comments and analysis from our group of Big East writers:

Marquette Needs to Go Inside Against Davidson

Marquette tops Rush the Court’s preseason Big East rankings.

10. DePaul

  • Dan Lyons – With Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young heading into their senior years, this might be DePaul’s best chance to get out of the Big East basement, but I’m definitely taking a wait and see approach with the Blue Demons.
  • George Hershey - It’s DePaul… They have some talent in Melvin and Young, but they don’t play defense.
  • Todd Keryc - It doesn’t matter what league they play in or who else is in it, the poor Blue Demons are destined for the cellar almost every year.
 9. Butler
  • DL – With the injury to Roosevelt Jones, Butler is without a returning double-figure scorer this season. I’m not one to bet against the Bulldogs, with or without Brad Stevens, but this inaugural Big East campaign isn’t shaping up too well for this Cinderella.
  • GH - They lose many pieces from last year’s team. Roosevelt Jones’ injury really hurts, but they are Butler and they always surprise everyone. Expect Kellen Dunham to have a big year.
  • TK - Bad timing for the Bulldogs. They ride two straight national title appearances into two straight conference upgrades, only to see their boy wonder coach Brad Stevens leave for the NBA.

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Big East M5: 10.16.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 16th, 2013

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  1. Welcome back to Rush the Court’s Big East Microsite, fans old and new. Basketball season is nearly upon us, which means we are officially in “long, somewhat arbitrary list” season, and there’s no longer list to obsess over for the next few days than CBS Sports‘ top 100 college hoops players in 2013-14. Six Big East players from six different programs made the group. As one would expect, Creighton’s Doug McDermott headlined the sextet, coming in at the #3 spot, only behind anointed Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart. Matt Norlander calls McDermott “the premier scorer in college basketball.” Xavier guard Semaj Christon comes in at #19, Providence guard Bryce Cotton at #66, Georgetown’s Markel Starks at #75, St. John’s forward Jakarr Sampson at #85, and Marquette’s forward/free throw assassin Devante Gardner rounds out the league’s top players at #96. A few commenters argued that the Big East is underrepresented on the list, citing Seton Hall’s Fuquan Edwin and Butler’s Kellen Dunham as possible snubs, but ultimately, these lists in early October mean very little.
  2. NBC SportsCollegeBasketballTalk is working through its team-by-team season preview, and yesterday was all about Marquette. Rob Dauster calls the Golden Eagles the favorite to win the Big East this year, citing a frontcourt which he expects to be “one of the best in the country.”  The big question marks for Buzz Williams’ team lie in the backcourt, where he will have to rely on fairly untested junior Derrick Wilson (13.1 MPG, 1.1 PPG in 2012-13), and streaky senior Todd Mayo in the starting lineup.  However, Marquette’s greatest strength, Dauster argues, is Williams’ ability to manage his teams to fit their individual strengths and talents on a year to year basis, and there’s no reason to disagree with that.
  3. The “best names” lists are not the only places where you can find St. John’s guard Sir’Dominic Pointer. CBS Sports‘ Jon Rothstein included the junior in his recent “Ten Glue Guys to Watch” post along with Creighton’s Grant Gibbs and Georgetown’s Nate Lubick. In discussing Pointer, Rothstein talks about coach Steve Lavin’s nickname for his guard (who, honestly, does not need a nickname): “Costco,” which refers to his ability to give the Red Storm “a little of everything” on the stat sheet. Rothstein also praises Gibbs’ maturity as a sixth-year senior and his clutch passing ability, as well as Lubick’s ability to facilitate from the high post — a key attribute for a Georgetown forward in coach John Thompson III’s Princeton offense.
  4. Normally, Big East teams don’t want to hear from John Cahill any earlier than they have to, but his presence at practice was welcomed by Creighton earlier this week. As the newly named supervisor of officials in the Big East, Cahill traveled to Omaha to discuss the conference, new NCAA mandates, and how the Bluejays can expect the rules of the game to be enforced in their new league. According to Cahill, this season will see far more fouls called for hand-checking contact on the perimeter in an effort to increase overall scoring. However, he does not expect the Big East to lose it’s hard-earned identity as a physical, defense-oriented conference: “The thing that I found in my officiating career is that in the Big East, every possession is defended and challenged.”
  5. Providence fans are pretty bullish on head coach Ed Cooley, and rightfully so. Since stepping on campus a couple of years ago, Cooley has taken the Friars’ recruiting to another level, as GoLocalProv‘s Kevin Farrahar rightfully points out. Where the Friars landed just four RSCI top-100 players from 1998-2010, Cooley has brought eight to campus since taking the job in 2011.  The class of 2014 is shaping up especially nicely for Providence, as it already includes seven-footer Paschal Chukwu from Cooley’s old stomping grounds of Fairfield, Connecticut, as well as highly-rated forward Jalen Lindsay and Delaware product Ben Bentil. This increased recruiting prowess, as well as a more manageable schedule in the “new Big East,” may help rejuvenate the Providence program as it looks to make its first NCAA Tournament since 2004.
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Season in Review: Marquette Golden Eagles

Posted by Will Tucker on May 21st, 2013

The Golden Eagles earned a share of their first Big East regular season championship with their second consecutive 14-4 conference record. As the No. 3 seed in the Big East Tournament, Buzz Williams’ squad was dispatched in their first game by a lower-seeded Notre Dame team. But it rebounded in the Big Dance, visiting the Sweet Sixteen for the third straight year before suffering an Elite Eight loss to Syracuse in Washington, D.C.

Preseason Expectations

Despite coming off the program’s best season as a Big East member in 2011-12, most anticipated a rebuilding year as Buzz Williams sought to replace leading scorers Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. The Golden Eagles were tagged seventh at Big East Media Day (behind Pitt, Notre Dame and Cincinnati), while we here at the Big East microsite ranked them fifth (still behind the Irish and Bearcats) in what was perhaps our most glaring collective miscalculation.

(AP)

Vander Blue has spread his wings and flown away, but Marquette’s backcourt remains in good hands (AP)

The Good

The Golden Eagles surpassed everyone’s expectations, which in large part was attributable to the coaching abilities of Williams. Even with elite talent –– a luxury that Williams has never had –– nobody takes a program to three straight Sweet Sixteens without having a pretty good notion of what they’re doing. Vander Blue (14.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG) finally bloomed into the explosive scorer everyone expected him to be when he joined the program two years ago, becoming the team’s leading scorer while shooting 45% from the floor. Much in the way that Kadeem Batts developed in 2012-13, so too did Davante Gardner (11.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG) fashion himself into a trustworthy asset on both ends of the floor, becoming one of the best free throw-shooting big men in the league.

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Big East M5: 02.15.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 15th, 2013

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  1. As expected, more details have emerged in the Jim Boeheim-Andy Katz “feud”, which came to a head last night when Boeheim called Katz an idiot and refused to answer his questions at the presser that followed Syracuse’s loss at Connecticut.  What was originally assumed by many to be an issue with Katz sharing some information about James Southerland’s academic issues now seems to be more about last year’s Bernie Fine fiasco.  Let’s hear from Boeheim: ”It’s really simple. I went to New York last year to play in the (NIT Pre-Season Tip-Off) Tournament in November and he (Katz) asked if he could interview me about the tournament. And I said, ‘Yeah, but I can’t talk about the (Bernie Fine) investigation.’ We got in the room and he put me on camera — there were several witnesses there — and he asked me what I’d told him I couldn’t answer. I kept telling him, ‘I can’t answer that.’ And he asked me, like, 10 times on camera. He never took the camera off me. Two or three people in the room were so disgusted they walked out of the room. The producer came over and apologized afterward. And I told Katz right then and there, ‘Don’t talk to me. Do not try to talk to me again.’” Katz issued a response following the Syracuse.com article: “There was no deal. I don’t cut deals. He might have thought there was a deal, but I have never, ever made a deal… The reason I did that is because with guys like Jim Boeheim, John Calipari, Jim Calhoun they’ll, say there’s a certain subject they don’t want to talk about and then they’ll talk about it. If I asked it one too many times, fine, criticize me. I was just trying to see if he’d answer the question.”
  2. On the brighter side for Syracuse fans… err, maybe not so much after Wednesday night in Hartford… Michael Carter-Williams continues to grab headlines for his play.  Mike DeCourcy of  Sporting News went into depth with MCW about his high-risk, high-reward play this season, and how his scant playing time last season has helped in his maturation process.  Carter-Williams, like Dion Waiters before him, is a fiery competitor, and is has gotten the best of him in games before, including one instance last season when he snapped at Jim Boeheim after being taken out of a game: “Definitely, there were a couple of times when it got the better of me and I lashed out at Coach. Those were mistakes I made. Coach told me if I wasn’t yelling at him, he wouldn’t know what to expect from me. I was a McDonald’s All-American and I wasn’t playing … he knew I wanted to be out there.”  Carter-Williams’ play has been up and down this Big East season, but few deny his talent, and the fact that if Syracuse has a chance at making a final four run this season, it will be in large part due to MCW’s play.
  3.  College basketball is wide open this season, and the Big East is no different. It seems like half of the league is still in contention for the conference crown, and no one knows what will happen once the Big East tournament kicks off at Madison Square Garden. UConn was never supposed to be in the discussion this season.  After being handed a full post-season ban due to APR issues, and losing a number of talented players from their NCAA tournament team last season, UConn was largely an afterthought in the league.  However, with the win over Syracuse, the Huskies sit just a game out of first place in the conference, and the team may be especially dangerous, as a regular season Big East title is all that they can play for this year.
  4. Cincinnati’s offensive woes have been well-documented, especially since Cashmere Wright’s injury in January.  Sean Kilpatrick has been a one man show for the Bearcats, and that hasn’t been a winning formula.  In their recent win over Villanova, Cincinnati was able to find offense from another sourceJaQuon Parker.  Parker averages 10.9 points per game for Cincy, but had been in a bit of a scoring drought before breaking out with 19 points against the Wildcats.  The significance of his contribution was not lost on Mick Cronin: “He’s got to stay aggressive and I’ve got to help him with that. Put him in situations to where he can be aggressive and he’s thinking offense.  He’s thinking attack. For us to win, he’s got to play that way. For us to be a high-level team, he’s got to be a double-figure guy.”
  5. The ballad of Todd Mayo at Marquette has hit frequent rough notes, but he is a rare talent that could become a major asset for Buzz Williams’ squad if kept in check.  Mayo spent the early part of this season on academic suspension, and he has had his playing time cut at points since his return for what many expect is disciplinary reasons.  When Mayo does suit up, he is a dangerous offensive weapon, averaging over 17.5 points per 40 minutes played.  The trouble is, for every double digit game he tallies, he only plays five minutes in another.  There are rumblings that Mayo may not be long for Marquette, but while he is still on the team, they can certainly use him in their race for the top of the Big East.
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Big East M5: 12.20.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 20th, 2012

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. The biggest statement game last evening was Cincinnati‘s dispatching of crosstown rival Xavier 60-45 on a neutral floor. The Musketeers made just 2-of-13 three-pointers and were blown out in the second half thanks to Cincinnati’s physical defense and a steady barrage of shots from Bearcats’ star Sean Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick needed 27 shots to get his 25 points, but he was the team’s best offensive option all night and one of the main reasons the team’s offense came alive in the second half. After the game, talk quickly turned to the future of the rivalry. Bearcats’ head coach Mick Cronin prefers the neutral court, but the Xavier contingent would prefer campus contests in order to cater to their season-ticket holders (read: money-makers). A resolution has not been decided as of yet but as everyone noted, the atmosphere was positive all night, something that may play a role in where the game is played given its sketchy history.
  2. On the opposite end of the spectrum was Marquette, who didn’t show up to play against a Wisconsin-Green Bay team that only had eight players available for last night’s game, and the result was an uninspired 49-47 loss that snapped the Golden Eagles’ four-game winning streak. Buzz Williams, a man who never saw a hyperbole he didn’t like, called it “the slowest game in Division I basketball this year” because of the Phoenix’s stubborn insistence to play zone defense and run a methodical half-court offense. Of course the strategy paid off for Phoenix coach and Marquette alumnus Brian Wardle as he was able to keep his eight players as fresh as possible and compete against the more athletic and deeper Golden Eagles. As for Marquette, the rebuilding project is still in process clearly after last night’s loss. There are pieces and talent in place, but there is not a lot of experience and even fewer players capable of being consistent offensive threats. Until they fix those issues, they will struggle against any competition, much less conference foes.
  3. One way Marquette can find some instant offense is if sophomore guard Todd Mayo is able to return to the team after sitting out the fall semester because of academic issues. A blizzard is preventing Mayo’s mother from flying to Milwaukee and Buzz Williams is unwilling to make a decision on his mercurial sophomore until he has spoken to her. Assuming Mayo is able to bring his grades up, it seems likely that he will rejoin the team — which is good — because his offensive ability and shooting prowess make the Golden Eagles a more dangerous team. But you can bet that Williams will have Mayo on thin ice after his numerous off-the-court issues during his time in Milwaukee. Mayo doesn’t have any more room for error, so if he can clean up his act, Marquette will use him liberally. But if he can’t get it together, don’t expect Williams to show him any more sympathy.
  4. Will UCLA castaway Josh Smith join Georgetown in time to start taking classes for next semester? If the fact that Smith is scheduled to visit the Georgetown campus this weekend is any indication, then things are looking good for the Hoyas. Now whether getting Smith is actually a good move or just a risky stunt by John Thompson III still remains to be seen. The good folks at Casual Hoya took a look at the 300-pound enigma, pointing out that Smith’s soft hands, good footwork, and size make him an offensive weapon no matter how out of shape he is. Of course they also point out that Smith’s conditioning limits his playing time, ruins his defensive positioning, and frequently frustrated Bruins’ coach Ben Howland. They actually used video to back up their points and break down the nuances in his game and it is an excellent scouting report on exactly what is right and what is wrong with Smith’s game.
  5. Leave it to Providence coach Ed Cooley to think of one of the more fitting sports tributes to the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School. The always eloquent Cooley joined the boys from WEEI in Boston to discuss Providence’s decision to leave 26 seats empty in their last game and wear green jerseys that were then sent to the school. The former Fairfield head honcho was hit hard by the tragedy and spoke passionately and eloquently about his feelings, the tribute, and how it affected him. It is really an excellent interview so give it a listen.
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Set Your DVR: Opening Weekend

Posted by bmulvihill on November 9th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The college basketball season is finally here! This season Set Your DVR (ed. note: sadly, nobody has TiVos anymore) will be a twice-weekly column outlining the must-see games for the upcoming week and weekend.  This column will lay out the key factors in each game to focus on and how those factors could affect the outcome. It’s a military-themed weekend of hoops with three games taking place on aircraft carriers and one game taking place at a military base located across the Atlantic Ocean.  Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#16 San Diego State vs. #5 Syracuse – 4:00 PM EST, 11/11/12 on FSN HD (*****)

Jim Boeheim takes the Orange to the USS Midway to take on San Diego State

  • The USS Midway provides the backdrop for an exciting opener between Syracuse and San Diego State. SDSU returns four starters including Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin as well as Chase Tapley, James Rahon, and Xavier Thomas. Keep a close eye on the match-up between the Aztec guards and Syracuse point guard Brandon Triche. Triche is taking over for Scoop Jardine and faces a tough test against this crew. Steve Fisher’s squad will have to improve in two areas if they are going to start beating top-tier programs like Syracuse – shooting and offensive rebounding. The Aztecs grabbed only 30.8% of their offensive rebound opportunities last season, so if they are only going to hit 33% of their three-point attempts and 49.8% of their two-point attempts like they did in 2011-12, it’s going to be difficult to beat the best teams in the country. Watch to see if transfers Dwayne Polee II and J.J. O’Brien can help the Aztecs grab more of those missed shots.
  • After losing four starters to graduation and the NBA Draft, Syracuse is in a much different place than SDSU. Jim Boeheim’s ability to fill the talent void will be a key factor in determining if this Orange team can beat an experienced Aztec team. The ‘Cuse returns two significant contributors from last year’s team – C.J. Fair and Triche. Both players need to improve their sub-50% eFG in order to prevent the team from taking a step backwards.  The key to the Orange’s success in this game and in the future, however, may be 6’8” senior forward James Southerland. In a somewhat limited role last year, Southerland put up some impressive shooting numbers from inside the arc. Keep a close eye on Southerland’s ability to take advantage of his size inside the three-point line. Syracuse will also be able to throw additional size at the Aztecs with 6’9” sophomore Rakeem Christmas, 6’10” junior Baye Keita, and 6’7” 275 lb. wide-body freshman, DaJuan Coleman. Read the rest of this entry »
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