Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Connecticut Huskies’

Big East Report, Edition II

Posted by Zach on December 9, 2008

Power Rankings

1. Pittsburgh (9-0)
12/13 vs. UMBC (W), 12/17 vs. Siena (W), 12/21 @ Florida State (W)
2. Connecticut (8-0)
12/15 vs. Stony Brook (W), 12/20 vs. Gonzaga (W), 12/26 vs. Fairfield (W)
3. Louisville (5-1)
12/13 vs. Austin Peay (W), 12/18 vs. Mississippi (W), 12/20 vs. Minnesota (W)
4. Notre Dame (6-2)
12/13 vs. Boston University (W), 12/20 vs. Delaware State (W), 12/22 vs. Savannah State (W)
5. Syracuse (8-0)
12/13 vs. Long Beach State (W), 12/15 vs. Cleveland State (W), 12/17 vs. Canisius (W)
6. Villanova (8-0)
12/9 vs. Texas (L), 12/11 vs. St. Joseph’s (W), 12/14 @ La Salle (W)
7. Georgetown (6-1)
12/13 vs. Memphis (W), 12/20 vs. Mount St. Mary’s (W), 12/23 vs. Florida International (W)
8. Marquette (7-1)
12/13 vs. IPFW (W), 12/16 @ Tennessee (L), 12/19 vs. Western Carolina (W)
9. West Virginia (6-1)
12/9 vs. Davidson (L), 12/13 @ Duquesne (W), 12/20 vs. Miami (OH) (L)
10. Seton Hall (6-1)
12/9 vs. Cal Baptist (W), 12/13 @ St. Peter’s (W), 12/20 vs. IUPUI (W)
11. Cincinnati (6-1)
12/13 vs. Xavier (W), 12/15 vs. Charleston Southern (W), 12/18 vs. Mississippi State (W)
12. Providence (6-3)
12/17 vs. Jackson State (W), 12/20 @ Boston College (L), 12/22 vs. Bryant University (W)
13. St. John’s (7-1)
12/14 vs. Bethune Cookman (W), 12/20 vs. Marist (W), 12/27 vs. Miami (FL) (L)
14. South Florida (3-3)
12/14 vs. Niagara (W), 12/16 vs. Vanderbilt (W), 12/20 vs. Murray State (W)
15. DePaul (4-2)
12/10 vs. Morgan State (W), 12/13 @ UCLA (L), 12/17 vs. Liberty (W)
16. Rutgers (5-3)
12/10 @ Princeton (W), 12/14 vs. Delaware State (W), 12/20 vs. Bryant (W)

National Title Contenders

Pittsburgh Panthers: I moved Pitt past Connecticut into #2 in my national Top 25 for taking care of business unlike any other team in the nation. They’ve simply dismantled their opposition in the early going without showing any signs of slipping up. They defeated tournament-bound Miami (OH) by 29, a decent Akron team by 19, destroyed Vermont by 29 and their two closest wins were at the Legends Classic over Texas Tech (13) and Washington State (14). Looking at their next few games, it’s entirely possible Pitt enters a showdown @ Louisville on January 17 with a perfect 16-0 record if they can win @ Florida State on December 21. Like any Pitt team, this version features a proficient offense, tantalizing defense and total control of the boards.  Levance Fields has turned into an outstanding point guard at 7.0 APG, Sam Young one of the best all-around players in the conference at 20.8 PPG and 6.2 RPG, DeJuan Blair is an automatic double-double if he can stay out of foul trouble (15 and 13 thus far), and Jermaine Dixon is the perfect freshman to finish off this balanced Pitt squad with his tremendous defense. Whether Pitt has the pure talent to outlast Connecticut, Notre Dame or Louisville is another question, but for now they’re the best team in the strongest conference in America.

Star Player: Sam Young- 20.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 53% FG, 37% 3pt

Connecticut Huskies: I still feel Connecticut will be playing North Carolina in Detroit for all the marbles in April, but I had to move them behind Pitt for the way the Huskies dodged La Salle and Buffalo while the Panthers have wiped out everyone on their schedule. Connecticut’s story this season is balanced scoring- they have five different players averaging double-figure scoring, including two question marks heading into this season in Craig Austrie and Jerome Dyson, and that list does not include preseason all-Big East A.J. Price, who will surely be at 10+ PPG once he’s 100% healthy and playing with more confidence. Not many freshmen have transitioned comfortably to the college game like we witnessed a season ago with Durant, Love, Mayo, etc. but one that has contributed positively is Kemba Walker. Walker is averaging 12.0 PPG with 3.0 APG off the bench, showing the quickness, scoring ability and court vision that made him such a dynamic force out of New York. The big test for Connecticut will come on December 20 when they face Gonzaga in Seattle. They’ll need Price playing at a higher level to win that game.

Star Player: Hasheem Thabeet- 14.5 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 4.1 BPG, 67% FG

Final Four Contenders

Louisville Cardinals:
I wouldn’t have wanted to be a participant in Rick Pitino’s practices the days following the Cardinals shocking upset at the hands of Western Kentucky. Louisville completely melted down in that game- Samuels wasn’t a factor due to a constant double team, the team shot 27% as a whole, and point guards Terrence McGee and Edgar Sosa were atrocious. Louisville shouldn’t be planning any trips to Detroit in March unless they can find a reliable point guard, because without one Terrence Williams, Earl Clark and Samuels all are lost in the offense. McGee has been terrible both shooting (25%) and distributing (1.44 A/T) while Sosa continues to regress from what could be his peak during his freshman year in that second round game vs. Texas A&M. This team certainly has talent and Samuels has been their best player, but can guys like Clark and Williams have huge scoring games when it matters? From what I’ve seen, this could be another regional semifinal/final flameout.

Star Player: Samardo Samuels- 16.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 65% FG, 74% FT

Notre Dame Fighting Irish:
The 102-87 defeat at the hands of powerhouse North Carolina is certainly excusable, but losing to Ohio State in Indianapolis with Harangody in the lineup? Even though the Buckeyes appear to be breaking out behind Evan Turner, Mike Brey will tell you his team should not have lost that game. They faltered primarily because Kyle McAlarney finally had a poor shooting performance- 3/11 FG, 0/6 3pt, 0/0 FT- and guys like Jackson, Hillesland and Ayers didn’t provide enough scoring support for Harangody. That’s what worries me about this team- anyone with a true post presence on offense and defense like Thabeet, Samuels, Tyler Smith, Blake Griffin, or, as we saw, Tyler Hansbrough, can limit Harangody and force Notre Dame to shoot threes until they go out of style. Notre Dame is an excellent outside shooting team, but even the best can hit a cold streak and see their season end abruptly.

Star Player: Luke Harangody- 23.0 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 51% FG in 6 games

Elite Eight Contenders


Syracuse Orange:
Typical of this Syracuse team to look like a true Final Four contender in Kansas City with wins over Florida and Kansas, then nearly collapse at the Carrier Dome in two tilts with ACC-bottom feeder Virginia and Ivy League threat Cornell. In both games Syracuse trailed at halftime before going on a second half run and ultimately winning, meaning coach Jim Boeheim likely reminded them (in yelling fashion) of their losses against the entire Atlantic 10 conference in non-conference last year that ultimately left them on the outside looking in. Jonny Flynn has been sensational, leading Syracuse to their win over Kansas with 25 points and the game-tying three and willing them to victory over Cornell with 24 points and 6 assists on 10/16 FG. Paul Harris is starting to really turn on the engines with two straight 20+ point outings and Eric Devendorf is becoming more and more comfortable. Andy Rautins could still improve on his 32% from deep.

Star Player: Jonny Flynn- 19.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 55% FG, 44% 3pt

Sweet 16 Contenders

Villanova Wildcats: Villanova has skyrocketed to #12 in the latest coaches poll because of their flawless 8-0 record, but I say let’s hold off on judgment of the Wildcats until we see how they fare against Texas tonight at the Jimmy V Classic. Their two best wins this season are against Rhode Island and a victory at Pennsylvania, and I have to question Jay Wright scheduling possibly the weakest team in Division 1- Houston Baptist- directly prior to facing Abrams, Mason, James and the Longhorns. Villanova appears to be guard-oriented yet again this season led by double-digit scorers Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes. Stokes has transferred his hot finish to his freshman campaign to this season, hitting a remarkable 51% from deep in the early going. Why Villanova could be a true contender is the post presence of Dante Cunningham down low.

Star Player: Dante Cunningham- 17.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 57% FG

Georgetown Hoyas:
The Hoyas are a difficult team to figure out in the early going. We hear about their phenomenal defense, yet when they faced a truly elite and athletic team (Tennessee) they surrendered 90 points and collapsed down the stretch. They also looked like another porous jump shooting team in the contest prior vs. Wichita State. Then they throttle Maryland and destroy American and you’re back to thinking John Thompson has his team contending for another Elite Eight. They certainly have excellent players like DaJuan Summers and Austin Freeman, but both can disappear at any time. Greg Monroe has been impressive. Chris Wright (3.9 APG) needs to step up his point guard play to provide the Hoyas with a distributor opening up good looks for Summers and Freeman outside.

Star Player: Greg Monroe- 13.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 64% FG

Marquette Golden Eagles:
They really needed that home win over rival Wisconsin, while only giving up 58 points, to quiet some major question marks following a stunning loss to Dayton in Chicago. Marquette has already surrendered 88 points to Chicago State, 80 to Milwaukee, 89 in the loss to Dayton and 81 to Central Michigan. We know this team can score with anyone in the nation- Jerel McNeal is a phenomenal scorer who has improved his jump shot mightily, Wes Matthews is averaging 20+ PPG and Lazar Hayward is a 6’6 forward with a great three-point shot that’s nearly averaging a double-double- and that should carry them deeper into the tournament. The defense is the wild card and clearly needs to improve under Buzz Williams. They face Tennessee on the 16th in a huge contest for both teams.

Star Player: Jerel McNeal- 18.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.8 APG

NCAA Tournament Contenders

West Virginia Mountaineers:
A win over Davidson tonight at the Jimmy V would be huge for Bob Huggins and his Mountaineer team, especially because I’m questioning whether they have the ingredients to return to the NCAA Tournament this season. The wins over Iowa and Mississippi are alright, but neither appear to be headed into March play, and the collapse against Kentucky clearly didn‘t impress. Of course, they probably only need to finish 9-9 in this Big East to sneak into the field. Devin Ebanks (6.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG) has been quite the disappointment in the early going.

Seton Hall Pirates: Barring a major slipup which is possible with this team, Seton Hall should cruise through the rest of their non-conference schedule. Unfortunately, their wins in Puerto Rico against USC and Virginia Tech don’t look quite as impressive. Much like West Virginia, Seton Hall likely needs to finish 9-9 with a win in the BET to make the field. Jeremy Hazell is averaging 23.3 PPG and is one of the best outside shooters in the nation.

Cincinnati Bearcats:
Cincinnati, Seton Hall and West Virginia are basically tied here, but I had to move Cincy down a bit due to their 47-point performance against Florida State in Vegas. Otherwise, they’ve taken down UNLV by 2 in an essential road game and outplayed UAB 87-80 on their home floor this past Saturday. If Cincy can continue to go 9-deep and receive production from secondary players other than Vaughn and Williams, they could also sneak in.

Bottom Feeders

Providence Friars: A one-point victory over Rhode Island at home and a Charlotte collapse in Anaheim saved what could have been a 4-5 non-conference slate for new coach Keno Davis. Sharaud Curry is still trying to get completely healthy.

St. John’s Red Storm: A loss in Boston College in a game they played pretty well is the lone blemish for the Johnnies, but their schedule has been a joke. Losing Anthony Mason for the season pretty much quells any hope for postseason play.

South Florida Bulls:
USF has faltered in two heartbreakers at Virginia and at UAB in overtime while also falling to Central Florida. Their non-conference slate the rest of the way is fairly easy (lone threat is Vanderbilt), so they’ll have some confidence heading into conference play.

DePaul Blue Demons: DePaul barely escaped Illinois-Chicago and winless Indiana State before falling to California by 10 and putting up 36 points in 40 minutes @ Northwestern. Jerry Wainwright should watch for that pink slip soon, and it won’t be because of the economy.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Bottom line: Rutgers beat Marist by 2, Robert Morris by 4, lost to St. Bonaventure by 1 in OT, lost to Lehigh by 5, beat Rider by 4 and lost to Binghamton by 10. Best of all, their best player-Mike Rosario- appears to have not quite the most positive attitude about the situation.

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Big East Report

Posted by Zach on November 26, 2008

Connecticut Wisconsin College Basketball

I’ll be writing a Big East report hopefully every week for the rest of the season to keep you updated on the strongest conference in the land. Here’s my first edition:

Power Rankings (Record) Next Three Games and Prediction
1. Connecticut (5-0)
11/29 vs. Bryant University (W),  12/1 vs. Delaware State (W), 12/4 @ Buffalo (W)
2. Louisville (2-0)
11/30 vs. Western Kentucky (W), 12/6 vs. Indiana State (W), 12/7 vs. Ohio (W)
3. Pittsburgh (5-0)
11/28 vs. Texas Tech in NJ (W), 11/29 vs. Wash St/Miss St in NJ (W)
4. Notre Dame (4-0)
11/26 vs. North Carolina in Maui (L), 11/30 vs. Furman (W), 12/2 vs. South Dakota (W)
5. Syracuse (5-0)
11/28 vs. Virginia (W), 12/1 vs. Colgate (W), 12/3 vs. Cornell (W)
6. Marquette (4-0)
11/28 vs. Northern Iowa in Chicago (W), 11/29 vs. Dayton in Chicago (W), 12/2 vs. Central Michigan (W)
7. Georgetown (2-0)
11/27 vs. Wichita State (W), Next two games at the Old Spice Classic
8. Villanova (4-0)
11/28 vs. Towson (W), 12/2 @ Penn (W), 12/4 vs. Houston Baptist (W)
9. West Virginia (3-0)
11/28 vs. Iowa in Vegas (W), 11/29 vs. Kentucky/Kansas State, 12/3 @ Mississippi (L)
10. Seton Hall (4-1)
11/29 vs. Delaware (W), 12/2 vs. Monmouth (W), 12/9 vs. Cal Baptist (W)
11. Cincinnati (4-0)
11/28 vs. Florida State (W), 12/6 vs. UAB (W), 12/13 vs. Xavier (L)
12. Providence (3-1)
11/27 vs. Baylor (L), Next two games at the Anaheim Classic
13. DePaul (2-0)
11/26 vs. Detroit (W), 11/29 vs. Indiana State (W), 12/3 @ California (L)
14. St. John’s (5-1)
12/1 vs. St. Francis (W), 12/8 vs. NJIT (W), 12/14 vs. Bethune Cookman (W)
15. Rutgers (3-1)
11/26 vs. Lehigh (W), 11/30 vs. St. Peter’s (W), 12/3 @ Rider (W)
16. South Florida (2-1)
11/29 vs. Northeastern (L), 12/3 @ UAB (L), 12/6 @ UCF (W)

Final Four Contenders


Connecticut Huskies:
I picked the Huskies to win the national title before the season, and nothing in their play early in the season is suggesting that was a foolish selection. Connecticut won the Paradise Jam in rather easy and proficient fashion after a brief struggle with La Salle in the first round, defeating two ranked teams in Miami and Wisconsin by double digits. The offense hasn’t suffered even as A.J. Price has yet to play at 100%, led by the emergence of Jerome Dyson and overpowering ability of Hasheem Thabeet down low. Defense has been the most encouraging early-season trend for coach Jim Calhoun, though. Other than a poor performance against La Salle, Connecticut has not surrendered more than 63 points in any of their other four games, giving up less than 60 in three of the four. The Huskies don’t face another difficult opponent until December 20 when they make the trek to Seattle and battle Gonzaga.

Star Player: Jerome Dyson: 18.2 PPG, 3.4 APG,  1.8 SPG, 56% FG, 43% 3PT

Louisville Cardinals: Rick Pitino set up an early season schedule in which the Cardinals don’t play in any hyped preseason tournament and instead face more and more difficult opponents as the non-conference season rounds out in December, where they’ll play Mississippi, Minnesota, UNLV, UAB and Kentucky. So far, it’s been total domination for Louisville against both Morehead State and a respectable South Alabama squad, winning by a combined 160-95. Samardo Samuels has carried his huge start over from the preseason, quickly turning into the go-to player in the Cardinal offense. Pitino even called Samuels the second best freshman he’s ever coached behind Jamal Mashburn. Terrence Williams is still getting healthy and Pitino hopes to continue shuffling Terrence McGee and Edgar Sosa at the point guard position, creating competition and changing the lineup based on the specific matchup.

Star Player: Samardo Samuels: 21.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 77% FG, 89% FT

Pittsburgh Panthers: Much like Connecticut and Louisville, the Pitt Panthers have also been overly impressive in the early going, scoring 80+ points and allowing less than 70 in four of five home games. The normally stout Miami (OH) defense that held UCLA and Wright State hostage were completely overwhelmed by the Pitt offensive attack, surrendering 82 points in the contest. Coach Jamie Dixon has to be pleased by the play of his point guard Levance Fields coming off major foot surgery. Dixon knows Field is the most indispensable member of the Panthers (just look at how they played with him sidelined last year) and has certainly played like an elite point guard thus far. DeJuan Blair produced a jaw-dropping line in their latest game against Division II Indiana (PA): 21 minutes, 13/14 FG, 27 points, 18 rebounds.

Star Player: DeJuan Blair: 17.5 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 71% FG

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: The Irish pulled off a nail biting win over Texas in the Maui semifinals last night, winning 81-80 and cementing a victory that could mean the difference between 2 and 3 seed come March. Other than Texas, Notre Dame hasn’t been too tested; they dominated USC Upstate at home and lead throughout against 0-5 Loyola Marymount as a Maui tune-up before crushing flailing Indiana. The epic test will be tonight against #1 North Carolina, who may or may not score 150 points if Notre Dame follows their defensive effort against Texas with more of the same. The ACC Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough and Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody will do battle in the post. You should probably watch this game.

Star Player: Luke Harangody: 25.0 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.3 APG

Sweet 16 Contenders

Syracuse Orange: I wrote about this at length in my Day After post, but this Syracuse team is miles ahead of where they stood last year in November. I watched both of their games in Kansas City and came away very impressed by the point guard play and floor presence of Jonny Flynn, the rebounding/defense of Arinze Onuaku, and their ability to spread the floor with Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins. Paul Harris isn’t a bad weapon himself. We’ll see if Syracuse has the defense to finish in the top five in this loaded conference. They should cruise against the rest of their non-conference schedule (Virginia, Cornell and Cleveland State are their hardest games) before traveling to Memphis in late December.

Star Player: Jonny Flynn: 21.0 PPG, 4.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 56% FG, 75% FT, 46% 3pt

Marquette Golden Eagles: The Golden Eagles have cruised at home against easy competition, scoring an absurd 386 points in four games against Houston Baptist, Chicago State, Milwaukee and Texas Southern. They have to be encouraged by the aggressive play of Wesley Matthews, Lazar Hayward continuing to develop his inside/outside game, and Dominic James running the offense with more efficiency. The defense could pose a problem for Marquette, though. They’ve given up 298 points in those games against barely D1 competition.

Star Player: Wesley Matthews: 22.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 4.0 APG, 49% FG, 88% FT

Georgetown Hoyas: The Hoyas have played just two games so far this season, saving their November legs for a loaded Old Spice Classic beginning tomorrow in Orlando. Wins over Jacksonville and Drexel don’t really provide one with a barometer of whether Georgetown can continue their success this season, but this tournament surely will. They should handle Wichita State before facing Tennessee/Siena on Friday and possibly Michigan State, Gonzaga, Maryland or Oklahoma State on Saturday. It’ll be our first opportunity to see Greg Monroe on a national stage.

Star Player: Greg Monroe: 17.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 68% FG, 89% FT

Villanova Wildcats:
Jay Wright is allowing his young team to ease into the season with softer non-conference opponents like Fordham, Niagara, Monmouth and Towson while some of his more experienced conference foes face tougher opposition early. The most encouraging early-season trend for Wright has to be the emergence of Dante Cunningham as a potential superstar in the post. He exploded against a weak Fordham team for 31 points and 11 rebounds on 11/17 shooting.

Star Player:
Dante Cunningham: 18.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 63% FG, 73% FT

Bubble Teams


West Virginia Mountaineers
: West Virginia has cruised against Elon, Delaware State and Longwood at home, surrendering just 143 points in those three games. Freshman Darryl Bryant has been a real surprise thus far, making up for the early struggles of Devin Ebanks, who has just 8.0 PPG on 33% shooting.

Seton Hall Pirates
: Two wins over USC and Virginia Tech will go a long way come March if the Pirates are sitting on the bubble. If their defense remains improved and Jeremy Hazell keeps stroking it from the outside, Puerto Rico could prove no fluke.

Cincinnati Bearcats:
Cincinnati has beaten up on inferior opponents at home in the early going to build a 4-0 record. Deonta Vaughn and Alvin Mitchell are playing well, but the real story has been balanced scoring: ten players are averaging 3+ PPG.

Providence Friars:
Keno Davis received a rude welcome in his first home game as head coach of the Friars: losing to hot shooting Matt Janning and Northeastern. They scored 100+ points in their next two against Dartmouth and Sacred Heart, but gave up 80+ in both of those contests.

Bottom Feeders

DePaul Blue Demons:
DePaul has played two games thus far: defeating Albany by 11 at home and squeaking out a road win against UIC 67-63. Will Walker and Dar Tucker, one of my breakout candidates, have been the offensive stars.

St. John’s Red Storm:
St. John’s has received solid play from Stanley Burrell and sophomore D.J. Kennedy, nearly toppling BC in Chestnut Hill. Their happiness was soured when they received the news Roger Mason Jr. will miss the rest of the season.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights:
Freshman point guard Mike Rosario appears to be the real deal. Unfortunately Rutgers slipped up badly on Sunday, losing at home by one to St. Bonaventure.

South Florida Bulls:
USF hung with Virginia on the road last week, losing by two points. That close loss doesn’t look as good now that South Florida lost to Liberty Tuesday night.

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Weekend Roundup (11/22-23)

Posted by Tommy on November 24, 2008

Saturday, 11/22: After such an exciting week in college basketball, Saturday’s slate was pretty pedestrian, taking a back seat to the late-season action of college football. The Paradise Jam played its consolation semis, the Las Vegas Invitational featured Kentucky vs. Delaware State and Pitt vs. Indiana (PA), while Texas Tech and Eastern Kentucky squared off in the Legends Classic. Although there weren’t any noteworthy games on Saturday, there were plenty of close ones.

The Mercer Bears, apparently unafraid of challenging major conference opponents, took Georgia Tech to overtime Saturday afternoon. After a 16-0 Bears run, Mercer extended their lead all the way to 18 with 12 minutes in the second half. The Yellow Jackets trailed the entire game until Zach Peacock’s pair of free throws tied the game at 69 with 32 seconds left. Gani Lawal, who had a team-high 27 points, blocked James Florence’s bid at a game winner to send it into overtime, where the Jackets never looked back. Florence gave the Bears 26 points and E.J Kusneyer contributed 22. Keep an eye on these Bears come March.

Gardner-Webb, another team that isn’t scared to play with the big boys, gave the Sooners a run for their money on Saturday. Oklahoma seemed to be running away with the game after they rallied to an 11 point lead with 5 minutes in the second half, but Gardner-Webb cut the deficit to five at the half. If it wasn’t for Blake Griffin’s career highs with 35 points, 21 rebounds and five assists, the Sooners probably would have fallen to the Bulldogs, who had a five point lead with six minutes left in the game. Griffin is certainly looking like the National Player of the Year right now after his huge performance last night. He’s averaging 26.0 PPG and 19.8 RPG.

Other Saturday notes:

  • Saint Louis held Tyrese Rice to 2-14 from the field in their 53-50 upset over the Eagles
  • UAB (4-0) looks like they can contend in the C-USA after their 77-62 rout at Old Dominion. Robert Vaden had 28 points.
  • Clemson got a hard fought win over Charlotte after Demontez Stitt’s free throws made it a four point game with 16 seconds.
  • Navy outlasted WIlliam & Mary in a 102-99 3OT win.

Top 25 in Action:

  • #3 Louisville’s balanced attack helped them prevail over Morehead State 79-41.
  • #6 Pittsburgh was led by DeJuan Blair’s 27 point, 18 rebound performance vs. Indiana (PA)
  • #10 Purdue held Coppin State to 46 points in their 20 point victory. Hummel had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
  • #14 Oklahoma relied on Blake Griffin’s 35 pt, 21 reb performance to rise above Gardner-Webb 80-76.
  • #17 Marquette struggled with their crosstown rivals Milwaukee in the 1st half, but ended up winning 100-80.
  • #18 Georgetown got 20 points from Greg Monroe in their 81-53 win over Drexel.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

Sunday, 11/23: Sunday’s matchups were much better than Saturday’s, to say the least. #17 Miami and #2 UConn squared off in the first of the Paradise Jam semis. Jim Calhoun and the Huskies proved that they should still be considered one of the best teams in the country despite playing down to weaker competition such as La Salle. Thabeet led the way for the Huskies with 19 points, 14 boards and seven blocks. A.J Price seemed to get back on track with 13 points and 11 rebounds of his own. McClinton gave the ‘Canes 27 points and was 5-8 from beyond the arc. UConn had its way in the paint, outscoring Miami 48-30.

Wisconsin faced San Diego in the second semi of the Paradise Jam. San Diego was a sexy upset pick but Bo Ryan and the Badgers were having none of that. They put on a clinic on the defensive end of the floor, holding the Torreros to just 49 points. Trevon Hughes led the charge for the victorious Badgers with 22 of Wisconsin’s 64 points. Wisconsin will go on to face the Huskies in the finals of the Paradise Jam.

How about the job Sean Miller has done at Xavier? The loss of Josh Duncan and Drew Lavender had people questioning whether the Musketeers could make it back to the dance. Sunday’s win over #12 Memphis will squash whatever doubts there were regarding Xavier while raising some doubts about the Tigers. Derrick Brown, C.J. Anderson and B.J Raymond are three versatile forwards that are good on both ends of the floor. Xavier held Memphis to 32% from the field, but the Tigers didn’t help themselves with their continual woes at the stripe. Calipari can point directly at his team’s free throw percentage of 50% last night as the reason the Tigers didn’t win the game. Xavier completed their dramatic road to the Puerto Rico Tip-off finals with a nice resume win.

Missouri pulled off a big win against #19 USC in the consolation half of the Puerto RIco bracket. Demarre Carroll had 29 points off of 11-17 FG and 11 rebounds. The Tigers nearly shot 50% from the field but allowed the Trojans to shoot 46%. Missouri did a great job of neutralizing DeMar Derozan who was just 2-9 from the field with 8 points. Daniel Hackett had 11 points but committed eight turnovers. USC has not looked impressive in the least bit so far this season.

Seton Hall handed Virginia Tech their second loss of the season after beating the Hokies 77-73. The Hall outscored VIrginia Tech by 10 in the second half. Jeremy Hazell, who has looked great to start off the season, had 23 points to lead the Pirates. Robert Mitchell’s 15 and Paul Gause’s 14 also made up for an off night from team leader Eugene Harvey. A.D. Vassallo and Malcolm Delaney combined for 47 points in their losing effort.

Top 25 in Action:

  • #2 UConn blew past the Hurricanes 76-63 to advance to the Paradise Jam finals.
  • #3 Louisville demolished South Alabama 81-54 in the Billy Minardi Classic.
  • #5 Duke took care of Montana by a score of 78-58 despite the loss of Greg Paulus.
  • #12 Memphis’ woes at the stripe cost them again in their loss to Xavier.
  • #15 Arizona State was led by James Harden’s 33 points and 12 boards in their 61-40 W over Pepperdine.
  • #20 USC fell victim to the upset bug in their 72-83 loss to Mizzou.
  • #22 Wisconsin thwarted San Diego 64-49. Bo Ryan is still working his magic.

NW Wins Horse-Trailer Player of the Day: James Harden, Arizona State

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Top Ten Games Of The Week (November 17-23)

Posted by Zach on November 17, 2008

The first week of the college hoops season was filled mostly with low-majors attempting to pull off miraculous upsets or two of the top mid-majors in the country doing battle. I’m not saying it was a snoozer seven days; there were certainly a fair share of thrilling games and nail biting finishes for the debut week of the season. But this week we start getting into the meat of November and the preseason tournaments. It’s not quite Old Spice/Maui time yet, but these matchups should keep your plate filled until Thanksgiving break.

1. Coaches vs. Cancer Semis/Finals (November 20, 21, ESPN2)
– I made the dire mistake last week of assuming Houston would beat Georgia Southern and advance to play Duke, so rather than place Duke vs. UCLA as my #1 game, I’ll lump the entire tournament together as my number one game. The semis are both very intriguing with Southern Illinois playing the mid-major that everyone will be rooting for to topple big bad Duke. In the second game, Michigan will need another virtuoso performance from Manny Harris to take down UCLA and their deep, talented squad. Seeing as Rhode Island nearly won at Cameron Sunday, it’d be foolish to write Duke-UCLA in pen. But I’d be shocked if you didn’t see that beautiful matchup Friday night at the Garden. Prediction: Duke 70, UCLA 66 in final

2. Puerto Rico Tip-Off (November 20-23, ESPNU/ESPN2)
– Plenty of quality contests in Puerto Rico beginning on Thursday with Missouri taking on Xavier in the afternoon in what should be a very close game. The winner of that gets to take on Virginia Tech Friday afternoon. On the other side of the bracket, Memphis should defeat Chattanooga while USC will likely handle Seton Hall, setting up an Evans vs. DeRozan battle on Friday night between two very athletic teams. The final could feature any of these teams on Sunday on ESPN. You know the tournament is strong when I’m looking forward to the consolation game, as well. Prediction: USC 75, Virginia Tech 69 in final

3. Paradise Jam Semifinals (November 23, FCS Pacific)
– Assuming we avoid some stunning upset like Southern Miss over Miami, the semis at the Paradise Jam on Sunday night should be Miami vs. Connecticut and San Diego vs. Wisconsin. You’re wondering the same thing I am: why are the two best teams in the tournament on the same side of the bracket? Maybe a nod of respect to Bo Ryan and his recent success in Madison. Regardless, Miami-Connecticut is a battle of top-15 caliber teams featuring Jack McClinton trying to score over Hasheem Thabeet, while San Diego nearly beat UNLV on the road with four key players suspended, so don’t count them out against the Badgers. Prediction: Connecticut vs. Wisconsin final

4. #21 Davidson at #12 Oklahoma (November 18, ESPN2)
– The premiere matchup of the College Hoops Tip-Off 24-hour marathon on the ESPN family is not Kentucky vs. North Carolina. The best game is Davidson vs. Oklahoma for a trip to New York. You all know what to expect from the Wildcats- plenty of Stephen Curry shooting threes. And we can all agree that’s not such a bad thing, right? Also not a bad thing: Watching Blake Griffin score and rebound in the post. Because I don’t see anyone containing my National Player of the Year pick, the Sooners advance. Also keep an eye on Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson trying to contain Curry for forty minutes. Prediction: Oklahoma 80, Davidson 72

5. Kentucky at #1 North Carolina (November 18, ESPN)
– Sure, this game has lost some of its luster. Kentucky is no longer a national powerhouse and lost Friday to VMI. North Carolina declared Tyler Hansbrough out for Tuesday’s contest. Still, College Gameday will be there, it’s a historic and entertaining rivalry, and we get to see great players like Pat Patterson and Wayne Ellington. So stop complaining. Why will North Carolina prevail? I expect Ty Lawson to exploit the Kentucky point guards and have a huge game. Prediction: North Carolina 83, Kentucky 70

6. UAB at Arizona (November 18, ESPN2)- The UAB Blazers are a dangerous team this year in Conference USA, folks. They feature an ultra-talented two headed monster in Paul Delaney and Robert Vaden and Mike Davis, for all of his past transgressions, is a fine basketball coach. They’ll travel to Tuscon fearless and primed for an upset over Chase Budinger, Nic Wise, Jordan Hill and the Wildcats. Unless Budinger asserts himself from the tip, I think an upset is very possible here, with Vaden showcasing his talents on national television much like he did last year in Freedom Hall. Prediction: UAB 69, Arizona 68

7. Nevada at San Diego (November 18, ESPN FC)
– This game isn’t part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, but it very well should be. I’ll certainly be flipping over to ESPN Full Court to watch freshman phenom Luke Babbitt lead the charge for Nevada into San Diego to take on Brandon Johnson, Gyno Pomare and the Torreros. Credit San Diego coach Bill Grier for scheduling so many top mid-majors early in the season; a victory over Nevada, a tournament team, could prove vital on Selection Sunday.  Prediction: San Diego 70, Nevada 67

8. #15 Arizona State at San Diego State (November 18, CBS College Sports)
– Yet another tremendous basketball game on Tuesday, this one possibly resulting in Upset City. The Aztecs return 96% of their scoring and 84% of their rebounding from last season under head coach Steve Fisher, led by stars Lorrenzo Wade and Marquette transfer Ryan Amoroso. Kyle Spain and Tim Shelton also boost an outstanding frontcourt, meaning Jeff Pendergraph is going to have his hands full. I’m calling this one, folks. Prediction: San Diego State 70, Arizona State 68

9. Massachusetts at #13 Memphis (November 17, ESPN)
– I’ll be staying up late to watch this one on ESPNHD, with John Calipari coaching against his former assistant (Derek Kellogg) and school (Massachusetts, whom he coached to prominence in the 90’s). This will be my first look at Tyreke Evans and his ability to run the point for the Tigers. Chris Lowe, Anthony Gurley and Ricky Harris may be able to hang around with Memphis for a while, but the muscle of Taggart and Dozier down low will be too much to handle. Prediction: Memphis 84, Massachusetts 74

10. Illinois at Vanderbilt (November 20, ESPN FC)
– Both of these teams will likely end up in the NIT, but it’s still Big Ten vs. SEC in November, which means I’ll be tuning in. A.J. Ogilvy is one of the top players in the SEC while Chester Frazier and Robert Meachem lead the way for Bruce Weber’s Illini in a difficult road environment. If Demetri McCamey is shooting well from deep, Illinois has a chance.  Prediction: Vanderbilt 69, Illinois 64

Honorable Mention

  • Georgia at #11 Purdue (November 18)
  • Miami (OH) at #6 Pittsburgh (November 17)
  • Tennessee-Martin at #13 Tennessee (November 18)
  • Cleveland State at Washington (November 18)
  • Tulsa at Oklahoma State (November 20)
  • Vermont at Maryland (November 21)
  • UAB at Old Dominion (November 22)
  • VCU at Rhode Island (November 22)
  • Clemson at Charlotte (November 22)

Posted in Top Ten Games of the Week | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Thirty Must-See Games This Season

Posted by Zach on November 14, 2008

If you call yourself a college basketball fan, here’s thirty games you absolutely cannot miss this season. Not for a wedding, not for a funeral, not for your son’s Bar Mitzvah. There is no excuse. Get the calendar out, folks.

1. North Carolina at Duke (2/11)– A given for anyone that loves the best rivalry in sports
2. North Carolina vs. Michigan State (12/3)– This battle at Ford Field tops any other non-conference duel
3. Connecticut at Louisville (2/2)– This one could very well decide the strongest league in NCAA history
4. Notre Dame at UCLA (2/7)– A historic battle of top ten teams in the heat of conference season? Sign me up.
5. Gonzaga vs. Connecticut (12/20)– The rematch in Seattle could very well be a Final Four preview
6. Texas at Oklahoma (1/12)– The battle of Big 12 contenders begins in Norman with the first meeting
7. Michigan State vs. Texas (12/20)– This game directly follows Connecticut-Gonzaga. Not a bad December doubleheader
8. Duke at Purdue (12/2)– The Blue Devils travel to a raucous atmosphere to face the Baby Boilers in the ACC/Big Ten challenge
9. Memphis at Tennessee (1/24)– It won’t be 1 vs. 2 like last season, but surely this intense rivalry will provide another thriller
10. UCLA at Texas (12/4)– The Bruins are looking for revenge after Texas knocked them off in Pauley early last season
11. Connecticut at Notre Dame (1/24)– If the Irish are ever going to lose at home, this should be the date
12. USC at Oklahoma (12/4)– Two of my underrated teams and two of my favorite players- Griffin vs. DeRozan
13. Michigan State at Purdue (2/17)– This could determine the winner of the Big Ten and possibly a 2-seed in late February
14. North Carolina at Wake Forest (1/11)– Early enough in the conference season where Wake can shock the college hoops world
15. Gonzaga at Tennessee (1/7)– This could be very tough for the Zags. This one isn’t neutral, either…it’s in Tennessee’s backyard
16. Davidson at Duke (1/7)– Cannot wait to see what Stephen Curry has in store for the Cameron Crazies. Good luck Nolan
17. UCLA at Arizona State (2/12)– Some feel Arizona State has a chance to dethrone UCLA this season. Here’s your chance
18. Duke at North Carolina (3/8)– The only contest that repeats on this list. And, really, what else but Duke-UNC deserves it?
19. Texas at Wisconsin (12/23)– The Longhorns would love to win this huge road game after Flowers three last season
20. Wisconsin at Marquette (12/6)– One of the more underrated rivalries in college hoops. These players and fans hate each other
21. Kentucky at Louisville (1/4)– Speaking of bitter rivalries…Kentucky would love to play underdog and knock off Pitino here
22. Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s (2/12)– Don’t think for a second that the Gaels will be pushed over here, especially in their house
23. Louisville at Notre Dame (2/12)– This could be the date, also.
24. Connecticut at Pittsburgh (3/7)– Not an easy place to play for the Huskies in March. This may have BET seed implications
25. UCLA at USC (1/11)– This budding duel should reach a climax in the battle of two outstanding freshmen- Holiday vs. DeRozan
26. Purdue at Wisconsin (1/27)– The Baby Boilers marched into Madison and won last year. How about a repeat performance?
27. UNLV at Louisville (12/31)– This New Year’s Eve clash could end up being a stunner in Louisville
28. Tennessee at Florida (3/1)– Could this game decide the SEC? I wouldn’t be surprised.
29. Duke at Wake Forest (1/28)– Wake stunned the Dukies last season in Winston-Salem. They’re well-equipped to do it again
30. Kansas at Michigan State (1/10)– If KU can win this game, it could be a huge step for this young team

If I missed any, please leave them in the comments. Because I’m sure I did.

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Ten Bold Predictions For 2008-09

Posted by Zach on November 10, 2008

We have arrived.

My equally obsessive passion- baseball- kept me occupied long enough over the summer to avoid thinking about how much I miss college basketball. As my team’s season ended with a sharp groundball to Aki Iwamura in mid-October, my mind immediately transforms into one completely transfixes with counting the hours, minutes, seconds until the squeak of the sneakers against the college basketball hardwood. Tonight, the Cameron Indoor Stadium doors open, the Crazies will paint their faces and Coach K will patrol the sidelines. I know it’s only Presbyterian, it doesn’t matter one iota to me. A real college hoops game will be played tonight and that’s more than enough to keep me going through the bitter cold of the winter.

We’ve done our best to get our readers prepared for the journey ahead. With bracketology, major conference previews, Top 25’s, breakout players, predictions, summer roundups and instant reactions to breaking news, we hope our little experiment called Northwestern Wins has been a decent read for you, the fans that have longed for the opening jump ball as much as we have. Hopefully you’ll make your way back here during the regular season. We have plenty in store. So tie up those Adidas, Gerald Henderson, and let the season begin.

Here are ten bold predictions that we could see in 2008-09:

1. Virginia Tech will be the firmest ACC challenge for North Carolina- The Heels were pushed to the brink in last year’s ACC Tournament by the Hokies, who return everyone of note besides Deron Washington. Seth Greenberg’s team plays the best defense in the ACC and feature talented players like Jeff Allen and A.D. Vassallo. Blacksburg isn’t an easy place to win for any opponent, and these two teams face off late in the seaosn (March 4). Virginia Tech, not Duke or Wake or Miami, will give the Tar Heels their toughest fight during ACC play.

2. Memphis will lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament- John Calipari’s team certainly has the talent assembled, but I see a combination of mostly role players with limited upside. Robert Dozier, Antonio Anderson, Shawn Taggart, Angel Garcia and Willie Kemp are perfect role players around stars like Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, but can they be the centerpieces? Tyreke Evans could mold into something special very soon, but he’s no Derrick Rose. They also turn the ball over enough to make John Calipari’s head explode and nobody can shoot free throws.

3. Siena will defeat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse– Led by Edwin Ubiles, Kenny Hansbrouck and Alex Franklin, three players who scored 15+ PPG last season, Siena will be the top mid-major in college basketball this season. They return nearly everyone from their 4-13 win over Vanderbilt last March, and the Saints will finally receive national recognition when they take down Kansas on the road January 6. Look for them to go undefeated in the MAAC, as well.

4. The Big East will get 10 teams in the tourney– I’ve made this prediction before, but the Big East is strong enough where a 8-10 Providence team could be the last team in. Barring some major disappointments, the nine teams ahead of Providence in the preseason should push their way into the field. The Friars added the National Coach of the Year and have plenty of scoring. Ten teams from one conference will happen.

5. Gonzaga will reach the Final Four- If Austin Daye finally plays up to his potential, Gonzaga will be playing into April. They have the explosiveness of Jeremy Pargo, the scoring of Micah Downs and Matt Bouldin, the three-point shooting of Stephen Gray, and the inside game of Daye and Josh Heytvelt. They’ll be tested in a brutal non-conference schedule along with San Diego and Saint Mary’s in the WCC.

6. Someone will emerge in the Duke frontcourt- Whether it’s Mason Plumlee, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek or Kyle Singler becoming more of an inside force, the Blue Devils will finally have someone to lean on in the paint when March rolls around. My money’s on Singler- he gained 20 pounds of bulk over the summer in preparation for lasting through ACC play. Thomas may finally break out of his shell.

7. Iman Shumpert will win ACC Rookie of the Year– Shumpert will be the centerpiece of the Jackets offense (especially now with Clinch suspended due to academics) from the opening tip. He has the skills to outlast Aminu, Davis, Zeller, Williams, Jones, Singleton and the rest for the honor.

8. Indiana will not win a Big Ten game this season- Not one. Not even over Iowa, Northwestern or Michigan. Look at that roster. It would barely survive in the Horizon League.

9. Connecticut will defeat North Carolina in the title game– I love the way UConn, at full strength, matches up with the Heels. Thabeet can frustrate Hansbrough down low, Price matches up well with Lawson containing his speed, Austrie/Dyson can hold Ellington from getting too many open looks, and the Huskies are nearly as deep as North Carolina. It’s not like Jim Calhoun will be outcoached, either.

10. Duke will lose to Presbyterian tonight– On second thought, I’m not that bold.

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Preseason Bracketology

Posted by Zach on November 4, 2008

Channeling my inner Joe Lunardi here as we gear up for the season:

Note: conference champion in bold

16 seeds- Jackson State, Morgan State, Radford, Stephen F. Austin, Mount St. Mary’s

15 seeds- Tennessee-Martin, Cornell, Cal State Northridge, American

14 seeds– South Alabama, Portland State, Oakland, Belmont

13 seeds- Vermont, Cleveland State, Providence, VCU

12 seeds- San Diego State, Temple, UTEP, Southern Illinois

11 seeds- Kent State, Nevada, Arizona, Alabama

10 seeds- Xavier, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, LSU

9 seeds- UAB, Ohio State, Creighton, BYU

8 seeds- Siena, San Diego, Villanova, Kansas

7 seeds- Davidson, UNLV, Syracuse, Kentucky

6 seeds- Wisconsin, Florida, Georgetown, Saint Mary’s

5 seeds- Marquette, Miami (FL), Baylor, Memphis

4 seeds- Arizona State, Tennessee, Wake Forest, Southern Cal

3 seeds- Duke, Pittsburgh, Texas, Gonzaga

2 seeds- Michigan State, Notre Dame, Purdue, Oklahoma

1 seeds- North Carolina, Connecticut, Louisville, UCLA

Last Teams In: Providence, Alabama, Temple, UTEP

Last Teams Out: Texas A&M, Washington, Massachusetts, Missouri

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Big East Preview: #1 Connecticut Huskies

Posted by Zach on November 3, 2008

1. Connecticut Huskies– Coach: Jim Calhoun (23rd season)

PG- A.J. Price (SR):
Whether Price is fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in the first half of the shocking loss to San Diego in the first round of the NCAA Tournament is the biggest question mark for this Connecticut team. Price is their sparkplug point guard who also happens to be their most dynamic scorer. He shines in big games, averaging 20 PPG in the seven games Connecticut played against ranked teams last season. He runs a spectacular point guard for Jim Calhoun, leading the Huskies in assists last year. When Price went down and the backcourt turned into a Wiggins-Austrie duo, the drop-off was painfully clear. By all accounts Price is 100% healthy and possibly in the best shape of his life. Price is a preseason All-Big East selection after leading Connecticut in scoring 13 times in 07-08. Price is the one player in the nation I see making the biggest leap forward this season, and the main factor for why I believe Connecticut is the team to beat in this loaded conference.

SG- Kemba Walker (FR):
Originally many pegged fellow freshman Nate Miles to start and give coach Calhoun more rebounding and size in his starting five, but with Miles’ dismissal I suspect Calhoun will opt to go small originally. Walker is a rough-and-tough Bronx point guard at heart who can handle the Big East from day one. A trio of Walker, Dyson and Price in the backcourt will be hard to match in all of college basketball, especially if Walker replicates some of his performances in the U18 FIBA games, where he took home MVP honors. Calhoun calls his prized freshman “cat-like quick”, a dynamic scoring guard who will look to push the tempo and add a new dimension for this team. Outside shooting is a bit of a question mark for Walker early in his college career (I don’t suspect he’s a one-and-done, but who knows), so he’ll look to feed shooters Price and Dyson on the wings and rack up the assists.

SG- Jerome Dyson (JR):
The emergence of Walker could spell Dyson to the bench once Robinson returns, but for now the junior will be pegged as the third guard for coach Calhoun. Dyson’s scoring average (12.5) actually dropped from his breakthrough freshman campaign (13.8) and many viewed his season as something of a disappointment. His three-point shooting (33%) needs to improve slightly, but Dyson does so many valuable things for this team. He’s an aggressive wing who attacks the basket with ferocity, drawing fouls and making free throws consistently (81%). He’s outstanding defensively, racking up nine steals in one game vs. St. John’s last season. I see Dyson thriving in a complimentary role to stars like Price, Adrien and Thabeet, making positive contributions in an offense where he can play fourth or fifth scorer.

PF- Jeff Adrien (SR): The Brookline, MA native is a Jim Calhoun favorite and for good reason. Adrien is a monster rebounding presence who routinely shoots over 50% from the floor on the season. He’s seemingly always in the right place in the paint to snatch a key offensive rebound for the Huskies. Could Adrien average a double-double in his senior campaign after tallying 31 total in his last two seasons? It’s definitely possible, considering Adrien finished last season at 14.8 PPG and 9.2 RPG. There are some clear weaknesses in Adrien’s game, most notably an absence of any threatening mid-range jump shot and porous free throw efforts. Still, the value far outweighs the negatives for this power forward. He’s not a superstar, but, much like Dyson and Thabeet, Adrien provides the Huskies with phenomenal contributions in certain areas (in his case, rebounding). Factor all of these players together and you have the most complete team in the nation.

C- Hasheem Thabeet (JR): The progress of one Hasheem Thabeet has been remarkable. Just two years removed from picking up a basketball for the first time, Thabeet was incredibly raw his freshman year, possessing no offensive qualities and proving sluggish and uncoordinated on the floor at times. Heading into his junior season, Thabeet is shooting 60% from the floor, adding an array of mini-hooks and short jumpers to a growing offensive repertoire. The blocked shots and rebounds are a given for the 7’3 Thabeet. This future lottery pick averaged a stunning 4.5 BPG last season to go along with 7.9 RPG and defensive player of the year honors. His free throws also improved from 51% as a freshman to 70% as a sophomore. What Thabeet provides on defense cannot be measured simply in statistics. Opposing guards are ultra-hesitant to test the post when Thabeet is manning the middle ready to swat your floater into the tenth row, and his size is nearly unmatched in college basketball. Only foul trouble will keep Thabeet from making a tremendous impact for Connecticut all season long.

Bench:
There’s no trade deadline in college basketball, but Connecticut should acquire freshman Ater Majok and junior Stanley Robinson right around midseason to add more depth and height. Many feel the Australian Majok is a future NBA talent with his 7’4 wingspan and 6’10, 225 pound frame. He’s very raw on the offensive end, but should provide excellent rebounding and defense right away. Majok may be eligible by late December. Robinson’s academic and personal issues means he won’t find the floor until the second semester, just in time for the depths of the conference season. Unless Robinson screws up again, Calhoun has yet another returning double-digit scorer, athletic rebounder and shot-blocker extraordinaire at his disposal. Craig Austrie is a valuable piece off the pine for Calhoun. He led the Big East in free throw shooting, can run the point without turning the ball over, and plays strong defense. Look for his playing time to drop with Walker on board, though. Freshman Scottie Haralson will be called on as the three-point marksman late in games, an area where Connecticut has struggled the last two years. Forward Gavin Edwards appeared in 30 games last year and hit 55% of his shots.

Backcourt: A
Frontcourt: A
Bench: A+
Coaching: A

Bottom Line:
I mentioned that Louisville was loaded in their preview. Believe it or not, Connecticut is even more loaded, even with the loss of Nate Miles. They have the ingredients for a Big East banner: senior point guard who can score and dish, the best defensive big man in the nation, excellent complimentary pieces, a deep bench, outstanding rebounders and shot blockers, and one of the best coaches in the nation. Whether Robinson rejoins the team and Majok can contribute immediately are two glaring question marks. This Connecticut team won’t fall victim to another early round upset, instead playing deep into March and contending for the national championship.

Key Non-Conference Games: Paradise Jam, 12/20 vs. Gonzaga (Seattle), 12/29 vs. Georgetown, 2/7 vs. Michigan
Key Conference Games: 1/24 @ Notre Dame, 2/2 @ Louisville, 2/25 @ Marquette, 3/7 @ Pittsburgh
Most Valuable Player: A.J. Price
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (National Champion)

Posted in Big East Report, Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

First ESPN/USA Top 25 Released

Posted by Zach on October 30, 2008

You know college basketball is approaching when the first preseason poll (as meaningless as they may be) is finally released. There’s not many surprises on this list and North Carolina was a unanimous #1:

1. North Carolina, 2. Connecticut, 3. Louisville, 4. UCLA, 5. Duke

I can’t take much issue with this top five. In fact, this is what my preseason top four will look like, and I wouldn’t be surprised if AP’s poll has the same order, as well. The coaches realize the influence Jrue Holiday and that outstanding recruiting class will have to counter the losses of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love. Duke may be getting a tad too much love here. Still plenty of question marks in their frontcourt.

6. Pittsburgh, 7. Michigan State, 8. Texas, 9. Notre Dame, 10. Purdue

Texas at #8 is a bit puzzling. I love James and Abrams, but the point guard situation keeps them out of the preseason top ten for me. I also agree with the Michigan State over Purdue pick. They’re deeper, more athletic and more talented than Purdue in what will be a very tight Big Ten race. If you’re keeping track, 40% of the top ten are from the Big East.

11. Gonzaga, 12. Memphis, 13. Tennessee, 14. Oklahoma, 15. Arizona State

This is a great place for Tennessee and Oklahoma. I’m not as high on Memphis, though. Evans could be a special player, but until I see one of their complimentary players make the leap to stardom (Taggart, Dozier, Anderson, even Evans), I wouldn’t put them in my top 15. Plenty of casual fans will see Gonzaga here and scream “overrated”. Their non-conference schedule is brutal, but if they can survive, they’ll finish the year right around this spot.

16. Miami (FL), 17. Marquette, 18. Georgetown, 19. Florida, 20. Davidson

No issues with Marquette or Georgetown here, these seem like perfect spots for those two teams. I take issue with Miami over Wake Forest in the ACC, even with Jack McClinton. That isn’t a huge omission, but I’d have Wake Forest higher than #24. Davidson earned their spot in the preseason top 20.

21. USC, 22. Wisconsin, 23. Kansas, 24. Wake Forest, 25. Villanova

(#26 UNLV, #27 Saint Mary’s, #28 Ohio State, #29 Baylor, #30 Xavier, #31 Syracuse, #32 Texas A&M, #33 LSU, #34 Arizona, #35 Virginia Tech, #36 BYU, #37 West Virginia, #38 Washington, #39 Siena, #40 Kentucky)

USC and Wisconsin is actually tied for the 21st spot. Notably left out of the top 25 were UNLV, Saint Mary’s and Baylor, three teams you could make a strong argument for to replace Florida, Davidson and Kansas. I have no issues with Wisconsin over Ohio State. I think Syracuse is slightly stronger than Villanova, but the difference is very small.

The first matchup that could pit two Top-25 teams is Oklahoma vs. Davidson (assuming neither is upset) n Norman, Oklahoma in mid-November.

Louisville preview later today, and possibly Tommy’s #5 ACC team.

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Top Ten Backcourts/Frontcourts

Posted by Zach on October 14, 2008

Much like Luke Winn and Jeff Borzello have done, here’s my take on the top backcourts and frontcourts in the nation:

Top Ten Frontcourts

1. Louisville- Terrence Williams, Earl Clark, Samardo Samuels, Terrence Jennings
2. North Carolina- Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Deon Thompson, Marcus Ginyard, Ed Davis
3. Pittsburgh- DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, Gilbert Brown, Tyrell Biggs
4. Connecticut- Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet, Stanley Robinson*, Gavin Edwards
5. Michigan State- Goran Suton, Delvon Roe, Raymar Morgan, Marquise Gray, Idong Ibok
6. Texas- Gary Johnson, Connor Atchley, Damion James, Dexter Pittman
7. Duke- Gerald Henderson, Kyle Singler, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek, Miles Plumlee
8. Wake Forest- James Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ty Walker, Tony Woods
9. Arizona- Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, Jamelle Horne, Bud Withey
10. Oklahoma- Blake Griffin, Taylor Griffin, Ryan Wright

The call for Louisville over North Carolina was a difficult one. Tyler Hansbrough nearly single-handedly bumps Carolina to #1. I love the overall depth of the Cardinals frontcourt, led by freshman sensation Samardo Samuels, triple-double threat Terrence Williams, and the most complete player of the group- Earl Clark. Connecticut would get a big boost if Stanley Robinson is deemed eligible for the second semester. Pittsburgh has the most dependable player of the entire list- Sam Young. I also can see Texas making a giant leap throughout the year as Damion James emerges as one of the top players in the Big 12. The consensus preseason top Big 12 player, Blake Griffin, bumps Oklahoma to #10 by himself.

Top Ten Backcourts

1. North Carolina- Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Bobby Frasor, Larry Drew
2. Connecticut- A.J. Price, Jerome Dyson, Kemba Walker, Craig Austrie
3. Gonzaga- Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, Stephen Gray
4. UCLA- Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday, Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson
5. Marquette- Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, Maurice Acker, David Cubillan
6. USC- DeMar DeRozan, Dwight Lewis, Daniel Hackett
7. Memphis- Antonio Anderson, Tyreke Evans, Willie Kemp, Roburt Sallie, Doneal Mack
8. Baylor- Curtis Jerrells, LaceDarius Dunn, Henry Dugat
9. Notre Dame- Kyle McAlarney, Tory Jackson, Jonathan Peoples
10. Duke- Nolan Smith, Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer, Elliot Williams

It wasn’t easy deciding between those bottom three and teams like Texas, Syracuse and Georgetown. What was easy is North Carolina at #1 and Connecticut at #2. These are my top two preseason teams overall for a simple reason- they both possess top five backcourts and frontcourts this season. I love Gonzaga’s backcourt led by the explosive Jeremy Pargo and Stephen Gray, who I feel could make a huge impact from behind the arc in his sophomore season. Marquette has the most cohesion of any group as the main three have been making plays together for three full seasons. DeRozan has the most potential of any single player and Baylor could be overlooked, but Dunn and Jerrells are true playmakers.

Posted in Team Rankings | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »