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

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

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 »
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: 11.29.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 29th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. ESPN.com published its third big board for the NBA Draft next summer and the Big East was represented by two players, Doug McDermott and Semaj Christon. McDermott was ranked 20th by Chad Ford, who raves about offensive efficiency and McDermott has definitely impressed thus far this season, averaging 27.5 points on 55 percent shooting. His offensive game is multifaceted as he can shoot the ball at a high level, get to the rim off the dribble, and also has several nice moves in the post. His lack of athleticism and the hype surrounding the freshman and sophomores in the class is pushing his stock down, but another very strong season could help him make his case for a high pick next June.
  2. Villanova breezed by USC yesterday with some help from Dylan Ennis for the first time this season. Ennis transferred in from Rice last season, but his first season with the Wildcats has been delayed because of a broken hand. He scored 14 points on an efficient 4-of-5 shooting, while adding great energy off the bench. The Wildcats will play Kansas today in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in what will be a very difficult game. Jay Wright saw several of his key players step up against the Trojans, but Ennis will provide a steady hand in the backcourt off the bench and his scoring could be an added asset for an already good team.
  3. Xavier lost a heartbreaker to Iowa last night in the Bahamas. They ended up losing the game in overtime, but the Musketeers’ best player, Semaj Christon, could not play the final 15 minutes while suffering from cramps. He exited the game with 10 minutes left in the second half and Xavier leading 52-40. He was tended to by the coaching staff to the side of the bench, but with a minute left in regulation he returned to bench, giving hope that he would return to the action. He stood in front of the bench for the rest of the game as the Musketeers lost their upset bid in the extra period. Xavier has a rematch with Tennessee today, and after beating the Volunteers by four last month at home, Chris Mack will need Christon to be ready for this one. Xavier went on a five-minute scoring drought after Christon exited, proving how importance the super sophomore is for the Musketeers’ offense.
  4. What small, Catholic school’s basketball program does not have any top 100 recruits, just left a mid-major conference, and arguably has the best offense in college basketball? You could probably figure out that the program is Creighton. John Gasaway wrote an interesting article about the Bluejays’ explosive offense, led by Greg McDermott and his two time All-American son, Doug. The Bluejays have averaged 1.26 points per possession in their first four games and have scored at least 40 points in their first nine halves. A key to their high scoring is having four players who can shoot the three effectively, with a pass-first point guard running the system. This puts pressure on the opposing teams’ big men to get out and defend the perimeter, which has resulted in the  Bluejays’ shooting 46 percent from deep, a remarkable number. The article is a great read and well worth the time.
  5. After going 4-1 on Thursday, Big East teams are involved in seven more games today. Highlighting the day will be Butler taking on Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic and Villanova playing Kansas in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Both teams will see two of the most exciting and best players in all of college basketball, Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins. Today will be each team’s best chance for a huge upset this season, but a loss would still set them up well for a good third-place game. The weekend could also see Marquette meet Creighton in the finals of the Wooden Legacy, if both win their games today. That would be a great game as both teams are playing well right now. Nobody has been able to stop Creighton yet, but Buzz Williams will throw some wrinkles at McDermott if they do in fact meet.
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: 11.15.13 Edition

Posted by George Hershey on November 15th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Today is the biggest day in DePaul basketball in a very long time. Consensus top five recruit Cliff Alexander will be deciding where he plays possibly his only year of college basketball. Alexander will be picking between Illinois, Kansas, Memphis and the Blue Demons. There has been a lot of speculation during the past few days that he will pick between DePaul and Illinois, but Alexander’s mother has explicitly stated that all four schools are still in play even if he has already decided in his mind. DePaul has as good a shot as anyone to get the Chicago native, as he has expressed a desire to stay home near his family. Recruiting powerhouse Kansas would seem to be the most logical fit for such a talented player, but DePaul and Illinois will allow Alexander to star from the moment he sets foot on campus. If Alexander commits to DePaul, it will be a historic pickup for the program and could work wonders for the future of the team.
  2. The early signing period began Wednesday and many Big East teams reeled in some sensational talent. Leading the way was XavierESPN.com‘s fourth best 2014 class, and Seton Hall, seventh best, two teams who have not had classes like these in many years. Chris Mack brings in four four-star recruits, led by Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Summer. Isaiah Whitehead headlines Seton Hall’s class, along with Angel Delgado. Whitehead, in particular, is a lot of fun to watch. Georgetown is eighth, right behind the Pirates, while Marquette comes in at #15, and Providence rounds out the Big East teams at #20. This is a tremendous year for recruiting in the Big East as some fans around the league were worried that the losses of powerhouses like Syracuse and Louisville would hurt league-wide recruiting, but the coaches have stepped it up regardless. The future of the Big East is certainly bright with so many great players signing on with conference teams.
  3. There are several big games on the docket this weekend for Big East schools, including two of the top teams facing tough challenges. Marquette hosts Ohio State in the first game broadcast on Fox in quite a while. Buzz Williams’ squad will play the Buckeyes after last season’s scheduled game on an aircraft carrier was canceled due to moisture on the court. This year both teams are coming off of Elite Eight appearances but have also lost their best players in Vander Blue and Deshaun Thomas. The game will be a good indicator of how far along the Golden Eagles are at this point in the year. Creighton also visits St. Joseph’s on Saturday after crushing the Hawks in Omaha last year. Creighton should make sure to be ready as St. Joe’s has played very well so far and a tough road game this early in the season will really test Greg McDermott’s squad. The Bluejays will also be without a fully healthy Grant Gibbs, as he hurt his finger two weeks ago and has not been the same ever since.
  4. Marquette play-by-play announcer Steve  ”The Homer” True was rushed to a hospital on Wednesday after getting into a car accident. True was hit by a suspected drunk driver and suffered a dangerous head injury. He was upgraded from critical to stable condition yesterday as the Milwaukee area and entire Big East conference wishes him the best. Marquette head coach Buzz Williams has the utmost respect for him, saying, “Homer is one of my all-time favorite people in the world and I sincerely mean that. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.” There has been nothing but positive words said about True and we send our prayers and best wishes to “The Homer” as he recovers.
  5. Some Seton Hall players were upset with a couple of Kent State players after their recent game. The Pirates said that two players were yelling at them as they took free throws and were generally acting disrespectful during the game. Although there is no rule prohibiting this, it is considered a lack of sportsmanship to be yelling “Miss it!” and screaming when another team is shooting, regardless of the score and situation. This was one of many of the chaotic events from Seton Hall’s win on Wednesday night. For example, Brian Oliver received a technical for standing over a Kent State player and taunting him after blocking his shot. It was a particularly boneheaded play as the ball was still in play and could have been grabbed before it went out of bounds.
Share this story

Breaking Down Dan Hanner’s Big East Projections

Posted by George Hershey on October 28th, 2013

Economist and college hoops writer Dan Hanner posted  his annual projections for ESPN Insider on Friday. It is a very interesting article and a recommended read for any college basketball stats junkie. He puts a unique spin on his projections by starting at the player level instead of the team level. The advantage, as he puts it, “is that not all additions have the same impact everywhere. For example, transfer Trae Golden is expected to have a huge impact on Georgia Tech because the Yellow Jackets had a big hole at PG. But if he had been added to a team like Duke, with multiple quality ball-handlers, his impact would have been much smaller. The player-level model can account for these kind of differences.” His rankings take into account player upside as well as downside and he gives a best-case and worst-case position for each team.

Grant Gibbs and Creighton need to shore up their defense to reach their full potential this season.

Grant Gibbs and Creighton need to shore up their defense to reach their full potential this season.

The Big East is well-considered by Hanner. The league’s 10-team average is 53.9, slightly behind the Big Ten at 49.2 and well ahead of the AAC at 79.9. Last year’s Big East would have scored considerably higher with Louisville in the second spot as well as Syracuse and Connecticut in the top 25. This year, the Big East does not have as many teams at the top with Marquette leading the way at #17, but there is great balance with DePaul the only team lower than #100. It does not look like any teams will be battling for #1 seeds this season, but there could be seven or eight squads fighting for spots in the NCAA Tournament come February and March.

The following are the 10 Big East teams in descending order:

  • POFF - Projected offense, median prediction for points scored per 100 possessions
  • PDEF - Projected defense, median prediction for points allowed per 100 possessions

1. Marquette Golden Eagles

17. POFF: 116.1 | PDEF: 92.5 Best case: 7th | Worst case: 29th

Hanner ranks the Golden Eagles in the same spot as the USA Today poll. Buzz Williams’ squad is ranked highly in both offense and defense, but neither is extraordinarily high. For Marquette to reach its best case scenario, they would need their three new starting guards to come close to last year’s production from the trio of Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue and Trent Lockett, a very difficult task. The frontcourt returns everyone, but Jamil Wilson and Davante Gardner will have to become the go-to scorers and also rebound well while Chris Otule locks down the paint defensively. With Williams’ track record, it seems unlikely that his team would drop out of the top 25 unless the guards are unable to step up and contribute at a high level.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story