Previewing the New Big East Tournament

Posted by George Hershey on March 12th, 2014

The Big East Tournament kicks off tonight and it will be the first year without original members Syracuse and Connecticut. Taking their place are new members Creighton, Xavier, and Butler, which are expected to have plenty of fans making the trip to NYC. Listen to RTC’s Big East Tournament Edition podblast featuring Brian Otskey for a great preview.

Big East Bracket

What to Expect: Villanova and Creighton lead the group as the top two seeds, but the 3-7 seeds are looking to make a run that could secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova could secure a #1 seed if they win, while Creighton also is fighting for a top seed. Xavier, St. John’s, Providence, and Georgetown need some wins this week to strengthen there resume, but with several of the bubble teams playing each other early, their hopes of dancing next week will wither. Fans of the Big East are probably hoping that Villanova and Creighton do not win so that the conference gets another team in the tournament, but it will not be easy for any of those bubble teams. Fox Sports 1 will televise every game with  Gus Johnson, Bill Raftery,and Erin Andrews on site to report all the action, which is sure to bring plenty of excitement and drama after a great regular season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Five Things We Learned in the Big East this Weekend

Posted by George Hershey on February 17th, 2014

Another weekend of Big East basketball is in the books, so are five key takeaways as we move into the stretch run of the regular season.

Rysheed Jordan has helped spark St. John's  (Andew Theodorakis/ New York Daily News?

Rysheed Jordan has helped spark St. John’s
(Andew Theodorakis/ New York Daily News?

  1. Creighton is in line to win the regular season title, but it will not come easy: With a half game advantage over Villanova and owning the tie-breaker, the Bluejays are favorites to win the league, but they have a tougher road ahead than Villanova. The Bluejays play three games on the road to finish the year, traveling to Marquette Wednesday, and Xavier and Georgetown the first week of March. Villanova on the other hand only has one road game, at Xavier. Both teams are going to get every team’s best shot, but even though Creighton has owned Villanova this year, don’t be surprised if the Wildcats end as regular season champions.
  2. No reason to worry for Villanova: Even though Villanova was bullied by Creighton both times they played, there shouldn’t be too much concern over it. They have yet to lose to any other team in the conference and have only been beaten by two teams the entire season, Syracuse and Creighton. The Bluejays are simply a tough matchup for Jay Wright’s team as every team struggles against a certain style. Creighton spread the ball out and Wright could not find anybody to defend Doug McDermott to at least hold him somewhat in check. The Wildcats have played remarkably all year and a strong finish should leave them in prime position to make a run to the Final Four. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big East NCAA Bracket Watch

Posted by George Hershey on February 6th, 2014

With a little over five weeks to go until Selection Sunday, most Big East teams have about eight games left before the Big East Tournament to solidify their standing for the NCAA Tournament. Eight teams have somewhat realistic hopes of making it into the 68-team field, but all but two still have plenty of work to do if they want to impress the selection committee. Here we will take a look at each of the 10 teams with a quick snapshot of what they have done, where they are, and what they need to do to hear their name called on March 16.

Steve Lavin and company have lots of work to do if they want to be dancing in March. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

Steve Lavin and company have lots of work to do if they want to be dancing in March.
(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

#6 Villanova, 20-2 (8-1)

  • Key Stats: #4 RPI, #7 Pomeroy, #7 BPI, #14 Strength of Schedule
  • Projections: Lunardi #2 seed; RTC #2 seed; Bracket Matrix #2 seed
  • Good Wins: #8 Kansas, #17 Iowa, Providence, Xavier
  • Bad Losses: None

Villanova is all but a lock at this point. The Wildcats started the season with two huge wins in the Bahamas against Kansas and Iowa and they continued their great play into conference play. Their only two losses are understandable — at Syracuse and against a Creighton team that could have beaten the Knicks that night. They have rolled through conference play and look like they will have no problem the rest of the way. The one game remaining that can help solidify a #2 seed will be at Creighton on February 16. Going 8-1 or even 7-2 with a potential loss to St. John’s or Providence should be enough to finish with no worse than a #3 seed, leaving the Wildcats in a great position for March.

#12 Creighton, 18-3, (8-1)

  • Key Stats: #8 RPI, #3 Pomeroy, #12 BPI, #27 SOS
  • Projections: Lunardi #3 seed; RTC #3 seed; Bracket Matrix #3 seed
  • Good Wins: @ #6 Villanova, California, Arizona State, Xavier
  • Bad Losses: None

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 01.31.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 31st, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Creighton and Villanova have shot up the rankings this season with great guard play and effective outside shooting. ESPN‘s John Gasaway wrote an article recently looking at the teams with the highest percentage of attempts that come from behind the arc. Creighton takes 43.1 percent of its shots from deep, but Gasaway points out how effective they have become at shooting two-pointers (54.8 percent of their twos in conference action) and how their defense is also much improved (surrendering 1.02 points per possession). Villanova has a similar profile in all three aspects. They take 42.7 percent of their shots from three, making 54 percent of their twos and allowing 1.04 points per possession. It’s interesting just how similar the two best teams in the league are and we will probably see a much closer game the second time these teams meet in Omaha. 
  2. Former Ohio State walk-on and current Grantland writer Mark Titus may not have the most accurate power rankings out there, but he definitely has the funniest. Titus likes to make jokes, but he is also very smart about basketball and makes compelling points along the way. This week he has Creighton Doug McDermott in his eighth national spot. Although he jokes about McDermott and his impressive recent play, he has a great quote about Creighton as a team, saying, “The Bluejays have become appointment viewing. If their shooting outburst against Villanova wasn’t enough to convince you of this, McDermott’s heroic effort should cement their status. No matter who they’re playing, you can turn on a Creighton game and be pretty sure you’re going to be thoroughly entertained for two hours.” The team’s ability to go off at any time and McDermott’s NPOY-level play has truly made this team a can’t-miss viewing appointment. 
  3. Buzz Williams must have been listening to all the Marquette writers and fans this week. With articles from Cracked Sidewalks, Anonymous Eagle, and Paint Touches all calling for the underclassmen to get more playing time, Williams put JaJuan Johnson and Deonte Burton into the starting lineup in last night’s impressive win, with John Dawson coming off the bench early. All three played at least 10 minutes while Burton led the trio with nine points and six rebounds. The key with the freshman is to remain aggressive while staying under control and understanding the situation. They showed their confidence attacking the rim and being pesky on defense, but also forced a few unnecessary shots. It seems like Williams likes the energy and production they bring which should help them get more comfortable with the college game in preparation for next season.
  4. Seton Hall has its first McDonald’s All-American since Andre Barrett and Eddie Griffin arrived in 2000. Coney Island native Isaiah Whitehead was named to the team on Wednesday as he finishes up an outstanding high school career. Zach Braziller at the New York Post talked to Whitehead after the announcement, as he follows in the footsteps of Lincoln High School legends Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson. This is a great honor for Whitehead and his arrival next year should excite Seton Hall fans as he leads a stellar class of New York and New Jersey local products.
  5. With the losses of Brandon Austin, Kris Nunn, and Rodney Bullock, Providence guard Josh Fortune has had to consistently play almost the entire game throughout conference play. He has played at least 30 minutes in all but one game, and even played 50 (!) against St. John’s. While Fortune has played a key role for the Friars as Bryce Cotton’s backcourt mate, he has had to focus on basketball while his mother is stationed 6,000 miles away as a colonel in the Army. Kevin McNamara writes about life off the court and how Fortune has to deal with the intermittent communication with his mother. Fortunately for head coach Ed Cooley, Fortune has stepped up and been a consistent producer all season, helping Providence battle for what appeared to be an unlikely NCAA Tournament berth.
Share this story

Can Villanova Shake Its Doubters?

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 30th, 2014

On Monday night, Villanova came to the Verizon Center ready to play Georgetown. The Wildcats were ranked 4th in the latest AP Poll and carried one of the most impressive resumes in the country — Jay Wright’s team is 4th in RPI, has played the 15th most difficult schedule, and are 10-2 against the RPI top 100 with wins over Kansas and Iowa. Despite all this, Villanova is usually mentioned with a caveat whenever the issue of its ranking comes up; while they are certainly deserving of it given the sterling resume, most pundits do not believe the Wildcats are one of the few best teams in the nation. After a drubbing from Creighton and an escape from subpar Marquette, Villanova had an opportunity to take advantage of the hobbled and sinking Hoyas to show the doubters that they’re for real and to boost their own confidence. Instead, the Wildcats were involved in a back-and-forth game where their offense never seemed to click but ultimately doing just enough to eke out a 65-60 win. So which is the real Villanova? Is it the elite team Villanova appears to portray on paper, or the team the media is waiting to fall back to earth? I looked into the numbers to get a better handle on this question.

Jayvaughn Pinkston (Credit AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Jayvaughn Pinkston  is the biggest offensive weapon in the paint for Villanova. (Credit AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

According to KenPom, the Wildcats have an adjusted offensive efficiency of 118.0 points per 100 possessions (9th in the nation) and an adjusted defensive efficiency of 95.0 points per 100 possessions (26th). Villanova has a great inside-outside game, switching between Jayvaughn Pinkston to do work on the blocks, and a strong perimeter corps where James Bell, Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono can launch it from deep. Forty-five percent of Villanova’s shots come from the three-point line (where the Wildcats are shooting 34.8 percent) and thirty-five percent of their shots are coming at the rim (where they are 63.1 percent from the field). Jay Wright also has them playing excellent man-to-man defense – working in concert to make the correct switches and protecting the weak side. So, what’s the problem? What may be giving writers and talking heads some hesitation is their complete lack of size in the frontcourt and the absence of a premier player who can get buckets down the stretch.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 01.15.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 15th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Georgetown will be playing undermanned tonight when the Hoyas travel to Cincinnati to play Xavier. Joshua Smith is still battling academic issues and Jabril Trawick will miss his second straight game after he broke his jaw against Providence last week. The Hoyas were impressive in their overtime victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, but Xavier poses a tougher test as they are 8-1 in their last nine games after a loss to Creighton on Sunday. Xavier has a very good frontcourt and will likely look to exploit Georgetown’s relative lack of size. Moses Ayegba and Reggie Cameron will have to step up and play more than the 10 minutes they have averaged so far this season. Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera must continue their own exceptional play, but not having their big men to help space the floor will make finding open shots more difficult.  
  2. Xavier lost its first game after an eight-game winning streak, but the Musketeers are ready to face Georgetown after taking away several positives from their close loss to Creighton. They had trouble guarding Doug McDermott and didn’t shoot their free throws well (59%), but the team was happy about the perseverance they showed throughout. Center Matt Stainbrook said, “it [showed] a ton of resiliency and the fact that we can all have short-term memories. You learn from your mistakes, but when it comes to misses or stuff that’s not favorable for us, we have a really short-term memory.” Going forward in conference action, Xavier will need that short memory to keep fighting when momentum is not on their side, like they experienced on Sunday when Creighton was simply unconscious from deep.
  3. Luke Fischer‘s transfer was officially announced on Monday when he began classes at Marquette; yesterday he spoke to the media. He has already begun practicing and assistant coach Jerry Wainwright sounded excited about working with the new big man. Fischer has 11 months until he can suit up, but Wainwright says he will have an instant impact on the Golden Eagles. Fischer will match up against Davante Gardner and Chris Otule in practice, giving the centers a break from each other and a new challenge on both ends. The league has several centers similar to Fischer, but few like Gardner and Otule, so they will have a player to practice against that will more closely replicate games. In other Marquette news, Paint Touches takes a look at the freshmen so far, discussing those who are coming into their own and becoming significant contributors. Cracked Sidewalks has five charts that show why Marquette should be better than it has shown this season. The Golden Eagles seem to be rounding the corner every other game, but have yet to beat a team ranked higher than themselves.
  4. The Big East may not be as strong at the top this season with only two teams currently in the Top 25, but the league has tremendous depth. While Villanova and Creighton have moved up to #6 and #20 in the latest AP poll, the rest of the league may not be ranked but there are no really bad teams this year. In years past, teams like Syracuse and Louisville were national title contenders, but the league also suffered South Florida, DePaul, Rutgers, and Providence perennially struggling to win more than a few games. As of last night, seven of the 10 conference teams were ranked in the top 70 in Ken Pomeroy’s latest rankings, and DePaul was the lowest at #130, a number likely to rise after beating St. John’s. So far, the league has only had six blowout wins, showing the relative parity among all of the teams. This had led to a ton of excitement on numerous Big East campuses this season.
  5. ESPN had a series of posts on the best venues in college basketball, and not surprisingly, Hinkle Fieldhouse, home to the Butler Bulldogs, was included. Eamonn Brennan wrote about the history of the building, including most famously being where the “Milan Miracle,” the game that inspired the making of the movie, Hoosiers, occurred, and the incredible atmosphere in the building. He gives a great description, “You ascend the same blue-tinged concrete concourse to find your seat. You see the same afternoon sunlight shine down at the same angle through the same windows on the same, original wooden floor, the oldest in college basketball.” Hinkle seems to be a magical place as there constantly outstanding games there, including five overtime periods already this season. The Big East has some great venues with the Cintas Center, Bradley Center, and CenturyLink Arena among them drawing some of the largest crowds in the nation.
Share this story

Is the Big East Really Only a Three-Bid League Right Now?

Posted by Jameson Fleming on January 9th, 2014

The Big East survived conference realignment to become the No. 3 league in terms of conference RPI and KenPom.com at this point of the season. Despite those lofty rankings, the league really only has three teams that sit comfortably on the right side of the bubble as of today. How is this possible? The short answer is that while it is true that the Big East failed to pick up a bunch of notable wins, it also avoided the awful resume-killing losses which weigh down a league’s RPI rating. As a matter of fact, the Big East has just five losses against teams outside the RPI top 100 teams. Let’s take a look at where all 10 teams stand in terms of NCAA Tournament chances with two months remaining in the regular season. From first to worst:

Jay Wright Has Lost His Magic Touch at Villanova (Photo credit: H. Rumph Jr/AP Photo).

Jay Wright and Villanova has bounced back nicely this season. (AP)

Villanova: 14-1, 3-0 Big East

  • Projected Postseason: Villanova is a lock to make the NCAA Tournament after an 11-1 non-conference run which featured wins against Kansas and Iowa on a neutral court. Right now, the Wildcats project to be a No. 2 seed.
  • Best Case Scenario: Jay Wright’s team gets through Big East play with no more than three losses and wins the Big East Tournament. A record of roughly 26-4 would put Villanova in contention for a N0. 1 seed. The Wildcats would need Syracuse to falter in order to earn the No. 1 seed in the East Regional hosted in New York City.
  • Worst Case Scenario: It turns out Villanova isn’t as good as its non-conference performance suggested. Villanova loses six to eight games in the Big East and winds up a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 01.08.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 8th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Only a few days after announcing his departure from the Providence basketball team, Brandon Austin has decided to transfer to Eugene to play for Dana Altman and Oregon. The impact of his loss has already been discussed, but Brendan McGair of the Woonsocket Call takes a look at Ed Cooley‘s burden after Kris Dunn was hurt in an exhibition game and the school’s administration suspended two of his players. He points out that Cooley’s job has gotten much more difficult on his quest to transform Providence back into a basketball power. Now in his third year, Cooley has shown he can recruit at a high level but his teams have failed to win enough games to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. As if things couldn’t get any worse after a 30-point pasting at Villanova on Sunday, Cooley’s house suffered some damage after catching fire earlier this week. Luckily he and his family were safe.
  2. Villanova picked up its second commitment in the class of 2015 with Delaware shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo choosing the Wildcats over Syracuse. DiVincenzo has good size and will probably play shooting guard for Jay Wright’s squad. He can shoot the ball very well, has great athleticism, and looks like a good passer and facilitator. He is the second highly ranked player coming to Villanova next year, and he appears to be a great fit as someone who will be able to learn from Ryan Arcidiacono as a freshman.
  3. Big East teams are finally gaining some respect from Top 25 voters. Villanova rose three spots to eighth in the latest AP poll while Creighton is now 23rd in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Xavier also received some votes for the first time this season, as the Musketeers have impressed with recent wins over Cincinnati, Butler, Alabama, Wake Forest and St. John’s. Xavier hosts Marquette on Thursday and will travel to Creighton for a big tilt on Sunday. Georgetown could also work its way into the rankings over the next two weeks with upcoming games against Butler and Xavier. Reid Forgrave of FoxSports.com thinks that the Big East will improve come March and that some teams — Creighton, Villanova — are setting themselves up nicely while others — Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence — are digging themselves holes.
  4. Creighton was able to pull out a tough win against DePaul last night, but the bigger news of the night for the Bluejays was the injuries sustained by the team’s two best players. Grant Gibbs came down awkwardly at one point and was unable to make it off the court under his own power because of what looked to be a knee injury. He did not return and the severity of the injury is still unknown, but he is expected to undergo an MRI today. Doug McDermott dealt with a shoulder problem all night after running into the Blue Demons’ Sandi Marcius; the NPOY candidate finished the game and said he was fine afterward, but he was clearly hurting throughout. Losing Gibbs for any period of time would be a huge blow to the Bluejays’ long-term success, as Gibbs as the point guard runs one of the nation’s most efficient offenses. Over the summer, Gibbs received a surprising sixth year of eligibility so losing him would be a tragedy for Greg McDermott’s team. Here’s hoping that Gibbs and McDermott both recover quickly from their respective injuries. 
  5. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated wrote his annual Stock Report piece, taking a look at 63 teams and deciding whether to buy, sell, or hold each going forward. Davis mentions seven Big East teams in his piece. He is optimistic about all three of the league’s new members — Xavier, Butler and Creighton —  as he rates them all a buy. Davis gives Georgetown a hold as the Hoyas have a tough stretch upcoming, but they have proven capable thus far. He gives three teams a sell, with Villanova leading that group because he thinks they won’t be able to keep up their tremendous play all season. He also is selling Marquette because they have been unable to score effectively, and he thinks St. John’s has been terribly disappointing with its over-reliance on D’Angelo Harrison and several bad losses so far this season. Overall, there were some positive signs for most of the teams and this was a fun read for fans.
Share this story

Big East M5: 01.06.14 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on January 6th, 2014

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. It was a rough weekend for Providence. The Friars took a beating at Villanova on Sunday night after getting news on Saturday that highly-touted freshman Brandon Austin would be transferring from the school. Austin had yet to play a single minute in a Providence uniform because he was suspended before the season (along with fellow freshman Rodney Bullock) for breaking school rules. His departure hurts the Friars’ future prospects considerably, as he was poised to take on a major role next year with the personnel losses of seniors Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts. This is on top of the injury to Kris Dunn, which will keep him out for the rest of the season. It is unfortunate that a year that looked so promising has turned into an 0-2 start in conference play with a postseaon berth looking increasingly unlikely.
  2. Last year’s Wisconsin Mr. Basketball, Luke Fischer, a player who decided to attend Indiana over Creighton and Marquette, decided to transfer last week. He took a few days to decide and ultimately picked Marquette over Creighton and Milwaukee as his next destination. Fischer played high school an hour away from Milwaukee and will have the chance to contribute with the Golden Eagles immediately. He will have to sit out until the end of the fall semester, but he will have two -and-a-half seasons upon his return. Anonymous Eagle breaks down the transfer details as well as the scholarship situation for Marquette, which looks like one of the someone will not be making it onto campus next year unless a current player transfers. Paint Touches breaks down the impact and importance of the transfer, as Fischer is expected to fill a big void in the frontcourt with Chris Otule, Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson graduating.
  3. Seton Hall started Big East play with an overtime win over Providence, but senior leader Eugene Teague looks like he will be out a while dealing with effects from a concussion he suffered a week ago against Lafayette. Teague was still feeling post-concussion symptoms last Thursday, with head coach Kevin Willard saying that he “is going to be out for awhile, that’s just the way it is. He took a really hard fall, and we’re going to be extra cautious and do what’s best for him. Whether its a week, two weeks, three weeks, we just don’t know and we really have to be careful with him and do what’s in his best interest.” The senior is one of the Pirates’ best players and the lack of his presence in the post hurts Seton Hall considerably. Willard has to decide quickly whether he wants to burn freshman Rashed Anthony‘s redshirt to add a big body inside, because it is going to be difficult to play without a center with a very tough stretch against Villanova, Marquette and Georgetown coming up, all in the next two weeks.
  4. Villanova played masterfully against Providence on Sunday but survived a major scare during the blowout victory. Halfway through the second half and with the win already in the bag, Wildcats’ Ryan Arcidiacono and Dylan Ennis ran into each other, leaving the former dazed requiring help to the bench. After being examined by the trainer, he was luckily able to return to action and help the Wildcats finish off the win. Jay Wright assured everyone that “Arch” is just fine. He shot the ball well and hopes to get out of a slump so far this season. After shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc last year, he has slipped to a chilly 25 percent this season. If he can get things going with his jumper, it will be hard for teams to stop the Wildcats as they have a versatile offense that can create points in a number of ways.
  5. Creighton‘s Sports Information Director, Rob Anderson, tweeted out some very interesting stats this weekend as Omaha froze over. Greg McDermott’s program has started 12-2 or 13-1 for the third straight year, and for the fifth time since 2002-03. The only other teams to do that are Syracuse, Missouri, Illinois, Gonzaga and Louisville. To have accomplished strong starts to the season so many times speaks to the consistently high level the team has performed the past decade, joining a number of schools with great basketball history and tradition. Anderson also pointed out how well the Bluejays’ offense performed against San Diego State back in November. Creighton is the only team to score more than 65 points against them this season other than top-ranked Arizona (69), and the Bluejays averaged 1.123 points per possession in that contest. Creighton has climbed the RPI ratings as well, and now sit at 22nd in America. At 2-0 in league play and looking like a team running on all cylinders, the rest of the Big East should be on notice that this team is not going to be intimidated by anything.
Share this story

Who Won The Week? Shabazz Napier, Memphis and Villanova…

Posted by Kenny Ocker on December 6th, 2013

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. But he’s not biking anywhere with a sub-zero wind chill. 

WINNER: Shabazz Napier

UConn guard Shabazz Napier can claim two things after a buzzer-beating winning shot against Florida: Being America's top player, and being Who Won The Week's top winner.

UConn guard Shabazz Napier can claim two things after a buzzer-beating winning shot against Florida: Being America’s top player, and being Who Won The Week’s top winner.

The stellar UConn guard and his team only played one game last week, matching up against a ranked Florida squad. And Napier stole the show. Including the buzzer-beating free-throw-line fadeaway for the 65-64 win, the junior guard finished Monday night’s game in Storrs with 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting and a game-high three steals. It’s impressive to think that Kemba Walker’s backup backcourt mate during the Huskies’ 2011 title run has a solid case in being judged the best player in college basketball this season. If he keeps playing at his current level – the senior guard averages 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game – he could solidify that claim by the end of the year. Of course, some more luck coming his team’s way couldn’t hurt; including Monday’s game, three of the Huskies’ eight wins have come by a single point.

LOSER: Florida

Already down the services of Eli Carter for the year and freshman five-star recruit Kasey Hill for a couple more weeks due to injuries, Billy Donovan’s Gators could ill afford to lose another point guard. Bad news in Gainesville: Starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin is expected to be out indefinitely after sustaining a similar injury with three minutes left in Florida’s aforementioned loss to UConn. Wilbekin, who already missed five regular-season games due to an offseason suspension, was tough enough to replace as the starting point guard when Florida’s second and third options at the position were healthy. Instead, the Gators face an onslaught of Kansas and Memphis back-to-back on the next two Tuesdays.

To give credit where it’s due, the 67-66 home win over rival Florida State last week is nothing to sneeze at, though Wilbekin did have seven points, eight assists and five steals in that match-up.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Thanksgiving Weekend Games Will Test Big East Teams

Posted by George Hershey on November 27th, 2013

The week of Thanksgiving features some of the best non-conference games of the season. Most of the Big East teams will face stiff tests over the next few days as they look to bolster their resumes and get ready for conference play. Here is a look at some of the key questions that those teams will look to answer during the second half of Feast Week.

Wooden Legacy

This tournament features two Big East teams, Marquette and Creighton. Each was already scheduled to play in this tournament before Creighton joined the league, so they were placed on opposite sides of the bracket and will not meet each other until the championship game.

McDermott Has Been Superb So Far This Season (AP)

McDermott Has Been Superb So Far This Season (AP)

Creighton will open against Arizona State on Thursday in its first game against a ranked opponent this season. That game will be a challenge for the Bluejays as the Sun Devils will have an advantage athletically and have a superstar player in Jahii Carson who can go toe to toe against Doug McDermott. Creighton will be tested by Arizona State’s size, speed, and confidence after beating Marquette and UNLV. The key question Creighton will have to answer is whether players other than McDermott can step up against arguably more talented teams. McDermott has proven his ability to score against anybody, but the rest of the team will have to supplement his play with outside shooting and great defense. The Bluejays will then face either Charleston or, more likely, San Diego State, and if they win both games, will probably see Marquette on Sunday. A win against Arizona State and a run in this tournament would give Creighton a lot of confidence going forward.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 1st, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. The AP Top 25 preseason poll was released yesterday and Marquette was the only Big East team included. They came in at #17, the same as the USA Today Coaches Poll. Creighton had the 27th most votes and Villanova, Georgetown and St. John’s also received some votes. Many pundits believe Creighton should have been included. ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman tweeted “Three teams that didn’t make the cut in the Preseason Top 25 that should have: Creighton, Harvard and Colorado.” The Bluejays finished last season ranked #22 and return four starters, including stud Doug McDermott. Voters may have decided against ranking them because of their move into the Big East and some expected growing pains. It’s also surprising to see Villanova receive more votes than Georgetown even though the Hoyas have been picked by many to win the league whereas Villanova was chosen fourth in the Big East preseason poll.
  2. Two Big East schools picked up commitments from recruits this week. Class of 2014 guard Jon Davis committed to DePaul. Davis plays at a fast pace and liked the fact that he will have a chance to contribute as a freshman. He saw his stock rise this past summer when he played very well against top five recruit Emmanuel Mudiay and saw his offers increase, but he ultimately decided to play for Oliver Purnell. Providence also received good news when 2015 forward Ryan Fazekas committed to the Friars on Tuesday. Fazekas is a tall shooter who could pose match-up problems for opposing bigs.  He is not a highly ranked player by the recruiting services, but his ability to shoot and his size attracted many brand-name programs to offer him a scholarship. He is Ed Cooley’s first recruit in the class and Cooley has some momentum on the recruiting scene, signing several big recruits the past few seasons. DePaul also received some good news about Cliff Alexander’s recruitment. The consensus top five recruit in the 2014 class said that he has eliminated Michigan State from contention; he is down to Illinois, Kansas, Memphis and DePaul. Alexander would be a program changer for Purnell and could instantly propel the program to success unseen in decades.
  3. The NCAA is instituting new hand-check rules this season and Xavier coach Chris Mack is not a fan. There will be fouls called for keeping a hand or forearm on an opponent, putting two hands on an opponent, continually jabbing an opponent by extending an arm, or placing a hand or forearm on the opponent and using an arm bar to impede the progress of a dribbler. When Mack was asked about the changes, he bluntly responded “They stink. I don’t think fans… want to see one team shoot 50 free throws and the other team shoot 46 free throws. Usually at some point… you hear fans yelling out, ‘Let them play!’ And I think that’s going to be a real problem.” Mack makes a good point. The change was made to help offenses move more freely and ultimately score more points. This could result in a more exciting game and make it more similar to the NBA, but there are downsides like more players in foul trouble, longer games, and many more free throws. Marquette’s Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker tweeted his thoughts after Marquette’s scrimmage last week, “Concessions sales go up thanks to new rules emphasis. Games will be 3 hours #doublebonus #lotsoffouls.” It will take time for players and coaches to adjust, but free throws and team depth will play a huge role this season, and will decide many games.
  4. Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News wrote a great piece about five potential additions to the Big East if it ultimately decides to expand. The five teams he included were St. Louis, Richmond, Dayton, VCU and Gonzaga. He makes the point that it would be best if they stayed at 10 teams, but in today’s environment, every conference becomes infatuated with expansion. Every team playing each other twice is great for the programs and the fans. If all goes well in the first few years, moving to 12 teams would be a good decision. St. Louis and VCU seem like the best potential additions, as they are very good teams on the rise with strong fan bases. They also would help the league grow in new markets and bring in two great current coaches in Shaka Smart and Jim Crews.
  5. Happy Halloween! The Sporting News put together a slideshow of college basketball players dressed up for Halloween. St. John’s D’Angelo Harrison is the only Big East player included and looks great as Spiderman and Robin. Todd Keryc also wrote a nice Halloween piece, Trick or Treat: The Big East Schedule Edition, highlighting some of the exciting non-conference match-ups for the upcoming season.
Share this story