Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Posts Tagged ‘Louisville Cardinals’

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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Weekend Roundup (11/29-30)

Posted by Zach on December 1, 2008

Tennessee Gonzaga Basketball

Here’s a summary of how an entertaining weekend played out in college hoops…

Five Most Meaningful Outcomes

1. Gonzaga 83, Tennessee 74: Credible experts like Dick Vitale and myself (okay, Dickie V isn’t a credible expert) predicted Gonzaga would make the Final Four this season. Their performance Sunday night in a huge resume building win over Tennessee vaulted them firmly into contention to reach Detroit and established the Zags as a top-five team in the nation. The big differences from a year ago? Jeremy Pargo has listened to NBA scouts advice and molded into a coaches dream for a point guard- one who makes sure his talented teammates are involved before taking over scoring-wise when his team desperately needs a boost. Austin Daye has turned into one of the top shooters in college basketball at 6’10. Josh Heytvelt is clearly the team leader and has advanced post moves and scoring ability some in the NBA don’t even possess. Other players like Goodson, Brown, Bouldin, Downs and Gray (whom I love) all know their roles and stay grounded. Rather than the usual finesse Gonzaga teams of years past, this group is physical, tough and has all the ingredients. They certainly impressed Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, and these two teams will meet up again next month in Knoxville for a tremendous rematch.

2. Wake Forest 87, Baylor 74: I was extremely impressed with Wake Forest’s performance in a dominating second half over a Baylor team that cleanly beat Arizona State on Friday night. Coach Dino Gaudio allows his athletic team to run the floor and play the fast-paced offense that suits point guard Jeff Teague. Wake grabbed 57 rebounds in the contest led by L.D. Williams, Al Farouq-Aminu, Chas McFarland and James Johnson. Whether Wake can contend with Duke or Carolina in the ACC is still a question mark, but they certainly showed they’re top-4 seed worthy in Anaheim. The question is whether Wake can develop more consistency shooting from the outside as the season wears on (fortunately Baylor shot only 26% from deep in the game).

3. Kentucky 54, West Virginia 43: This one was ugly, but Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie doesn’t care. The Wildcats rebounded from the VMI loss and the UNC thrashing to win the Las Vegas Invitational over the weekend, defeating both Kansas State and NCAA contender West Virginia. Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson are constituting pretty much the entire Wildcat offense, with Meeks once again putting the game away at the free throw line and Patterson chipping in with a double-double. These two will need to lead Kentucky if they hope to make the NCAA Tournament and save their coaches job. Kentucky overcame a 26-16 deficit at halftime in this game.

4. Pittsburgh 57, Washington State 43: Two defensive-minded teams met in the final of the Legends Classic in New Jersey as you can tell by the score. Sam Young (15) and Levance Fields (14) forced enough Washington State turnovers (15) and turned them into points for the victory. After a hotly contested first half, Pitt really stiffened their defense in the second stanza. With a weaker Pac-10, the Cougars could find themselves in the NCAA Tournament as a third place finisher, so it’s a nice resume win for Pittsburgh.

5. Georgetown 75, Maryland 48: These crosstown foes finally meet (why they don’t play is a mystery) in the third place game of the Old Spice Classic with Georgetown winning in an impressive rout. It’s fairly clear that John Thompson is simply recruiting on a higher level than Gary Williams in the talent-heavy DC area at this point, with the Hoyas reeling in talent like Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, DaJuan Summers and Jason Clark while the Terrapins settle for second-tier talent such as Eric Hayes, Adrian Bowie, Sean Mosley and Braxton Dupree. And it clearly showed on the basketball court with this game not even being competitive. Still, Maryland showed they’re capable in their shocking victory over Michigan State and Georgetown could be pointing to this convincing win in March.

Top Five Player Performances

1. James Harden– He doesn’t wow you with his leaping ability or blazing speed or strong frame. Heck, he even looks kind of dorky with the long tee-shirt he wears under his Arizona State uniform. But James Harden can definitely play basketball, and if Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough and Stephen Curry didn’t exist, Harden would be Player of the Year. He dropped 32 points on Baylor in a loss and followed it up with 40 in a blowout win over NCAA caliber UTEP, hitting six threes.

2. Kyle McAlarney– Remember his shooting display in Maui against North Carolina? He decided to perform an encore in front of the home fans on Sunday, collecting 32 points on nine threes in the win over Furman. In his last two games, McAlarney has shot 35 threes and made over 50% of them. They’ll need McAlarney to keep shooting the lights out with Luke Harangody sidelined with pneumonia.

3. A.J. Slaughter– In the absolute #1 shocker of the month of November, Western Kentucky flat out dominated #3 Louisville on a neutral floor. This isn’t last years Sweet 16 Hilltopper team, either. Most of the top scorers from that team have departed. A.J. Slaughter played more of a secondary role last year, but certainly looked like a star in the victory, compiling 25 points and 9 rebounds on 8/15 shooting.

4. Sam Young– Mentioned him before in the Legends recap, but Young is the early frontrunner for Big East Player of the Year. He dropped 33 on Belmont, followed it up with 24 in a win over Texas Tech, and then led the way with 15 and 8 against tough Washington State. With Levance Fields also playing well and looking healthy, Pittsburgh is to be feared.

5. Jodie Meeks– Meeks has been flat out unstoppable early for Kentucky. He’s averaging 25.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, shooting 38% from three and 88% from the line. And he’s been to the line often, hitting 23/25 from the charity stripe in Las Vegas over the weekend, most in high-leverage situations. Meeks turned the ball over nine times against Kansas State, but totaled 37 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals for the Horse Trailer. Meeks personally told me he is honored.

Five Upset Specials

1. Western Kentucky 68, Louisville 54: If somebody told you he/she saw this coming, they are a liar. In just the third game of the season for the Cardinals and coach Rick Pitino, they were the victims of the most shocking upset of the year to date. Western Kentucky effectively double-teamed Samardo Samuels and caused all kinds of havoc for Louisville guards Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee, who combined to go 0/13 from the floor, 0/9 from three, score 2 points while dishing out 2 assists with 4 turnovers. Yikes. Louisville got three-happy like they often do, shooting 30 from deep and making 6. Earl Clark is showing no signs he wants to be one of the premiere players in college hoops. A reprehensible loss for Louisville.

2. Dayton 89, Marquette 75: Another Big East contender to fall on Saturday was Marquette, losing to upstart Dayton in Chicago in a game where they were thoroughly outplayed. The Flyers used their quickness and a career performance from reserve guard Rob Lowery (21 points) to stun the Golden Eagles and improve to 6-0. Once again, Marquette played no defense, an obvious concern for Buzz Williams. They allowed an Atlantic 10 team to shoot 53% and shoot 39 free throws, while Dominic James continues to regress jump shooting wise.

3. Drake 68, New Mexico 62: The Lobos were supposed to be taking over right about now under coach Steve Alford. Instead he fell in both games at Cancun over the weekend to VCU and Drake, the latter being the more shocking and disappointing. New Mexico even held Drake’s main scorer, Josh Young, to 10 points on 2/10 from the floor and still lost the game, falling behind by as much as 16 in the second half. They’ll need to win the Mountain West now for a tournament bid at 3-4.

4. Cal State Fullerton 92, Charlotte 84: This one isn’t a huge upset (CSF was only a 3-point dog), but Charlotte and coach Bobby Lutz are currently on a major down spiral, finishing last in the Anaheim Classic with this loss and dropping to 1-6 on the season. They looked like at least an NIT contender nearly downing Clemson earlier in the week before losing heartbreakers to Providence and Cal State Fullerton and receiveing a walloping from Arizona State. Can they possibly recover from this?

5. Green Bay 84, Massachusetts 67: Speaking of bad A-10 teams, how about Massachusetts? They have talented players like Chris Lowe, Anthony Gurley and Ricky Harris, but it clearly isn’t materializing at this point for new coach Derrek Kellogg. Most of all they can’t play defense, letting Green Bay have six players in double figures in a performance that dropped the Minutemen to 1-4 on the season.

Bubblicious Wins

  • Texas Tech over Mississippi State at the Legends Classic was a big win for coach Pat Knight and one to possibly place on the resume come March if the Red Raiders are sitting on the bubble
  • Texas A&M taking down MAC contender Kent State on a neutral floor was a nice win for Mark Turgeon and Co. after losing to Tulsa
  • Don’t look now, but Nebraska is still undefeated! They beat MVC favorite Creighton in a hotly contested game over the weekend.
  • Illinois is still undefeated, too. They topped Tulsa who beat A&M the day before.
  • Florida State with two very impressive wins over California and Cincinnati in Las Vegas. The opposite for UNLV, who lost to both of those teams and are now looking weak for an at-large, even with the win at UTEP earlier in the week. Wink Adams went 5/26 with three assists in the two losses.
  • Saint Mary’s looked overwhelmed in their loss to UTEP on Thursday but rebounded with a couple quality victories over Providence and Cal State Fullerton
  • Nevada lost to Portland and is off to a horrific start to the season. Brandon Fields is still trying to get himself into the flow of the offense.

Enjoy the ACC/Big Ten Challenge everyone!

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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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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: #2 Louisville

Posted by Zach on October 30, 2008

2. Louisville Cardinals– Coach: Rick Pitino (8th season)

PG- Andre McGee (SR): Along with K.C. Rivers of Clemson, McGee is one of the more underappreciated guards in the country. Hopefully observers of what should be a hyped Louisville team will notice all that this 5’10 senior provides as point guard and floor leader. McGee is the polar opposite of Edgar Sosa- he’s not nearly as explosive offensively, bur Pitino feels much more comfortable with McGee running his offense (and that’s a huge understatement). McGee broke out during his junior season by setting career highs in assists, steals, points and minutes played. Over the final nine games for Louisville with McGee entrenched at the point guard slot, he turned the ball over just nine times. He’s smart, unselfish, rarely makes crippling mistakes, and also plays better defense than Sosa. McGee is precisely the type of intelligent point guard championship teams need, and his emergence has made the Cardinals much deeper by bringing Sosa off the pine.  

SG- Jerry Smith (JR): Smith is the perfect player for Rick Pitino: he defends exceptionally well and can knock down the three-pointer. While his shooting percentage dropped from an uncanny 48% to a stellar 38% from his freshman and sophomore seasons, Smith became more of a complete player in the process. He notched 62 steals on the year and transformed offensively from a stationary three-point popper to someone who flies around the court and can drain jumpers on the move. While Smith could be a stronger passer, Pitino knows his role and will surely find plenty of minutes for an above average defender that can hit around 40% of his threes. Not many programs can rotate four guards as multi-dimensional as McGee, Sosa, Smith and Preston Knowles.

SF- Terrence Williams (SR): The Cardinals need Terrence Williams to recover from his knee injury in time for the Big East season (which he’s expected to easily do) in order to complete their squad. Williams is a super-athletic NBA prospect that scores efficiently, dominates on the glass, and passes with the vision of a point guard. It’s not an overstatement to say Williams can go off for a double-double, or even a triple-double, on any given night. Oh, and he also happens to be Louisville’s best defensive player. He’s beginning to cover up some holes in his game as his college career progresses. For one, he took way too many outside shots early in his career for someone with a below-average jumper. In his junior season, Williams took less threes and improved his FG% to 41%. Now, he’s focused on scoring closer to the paint and working for second chance opportunities. The real question: Can he improve his dismal 57% from the charity stripe as a senior? If he does, you have one of the best players in the country.

PF- Earl Clark (JR)
: Much like Williams, Clark projects to be a lottery selection in the upcoming NBA Draft. His athletic abilities are off the charts and his wingspan is an NBA scout’s dream. After a somewhat surprising return for his junior season in Louisville, Clark is looking to become one of the most feared forwards in the nation and lead the Cardinals to new heights. Clark showed his future stardom in the NCAA Tournament when he exploded with 14.5 PPG and 8.3 RPG in Louisville’s four games. Pitino hopes Clark can maintain that scoring ferocity the entire year while continuing to rebound and block shots, two of Clark’s clear strengths. He’ll need to adapt more playing inside as a four and continue to mature as a defender. 14 PPG and 9 RPG are reasonable expectations for the talented forward.

C- Samardo Samuels (FR)
: The emergence of Samuels as a Kevin Love-type producer for Louisville is the wild card. As talented and hyped as Samuels is (and he deserves the accolades, including being named USA Today’s National High School Player of the Year), he’s still going to be expected to bang down low with the best of the Big East like Hasheem Thabeet, Luke Harangody and DeJuan Blair. Can he handle the workload and expectations? I’d say yes. Samuels is an advanced scorer and rebounder for his age who will take pressure off Clark and Williams on the glass. He’s extremely powerful in the Eddy Curry mold and may be a one-and-done for Pitino. Luckily for him, this is the year Louisville fans expect a ticket to Detroit, and Samuels should be a huge part of that run. I have Samuels finishing a close second to DeMar DeRozan in terms of Newcomer of the Year.

Bench: Edgar Sosa and Preston Knowles will serve as depth in the backcourt for Louisville. Sosa expected to be the next great Louisville guard after dropping 31 on Texas A&M in the second round his freshman year. Instead, the guard who Pitino calls “immature mentally” will have to battle for playing time over those who are more mature mentally, namely McGee and Knowles. Sosa is a hard-nosed player who penetrates and defends well, providing explosiveness for Pitino off the bench. He could see more time at the 2-guard this season. Knowles is more of a complimentary piece who does the little things efficiently and will find minutes even with the talent on the roster. Freshman Terrence Jennings from Notre Dame Prep should help defensively right away with his shot-blocking and rebounding skills. He’ll need to develop offensively, but the Cardinals don’t really need more scoring in the frontcourt with Williams, Clark and Samuels. Mississippi State transfer Reginald Delk should also see minutes.

Backcourt: A-
Frontcourt: A+
Bench: B+
Coaching: A

Bottom Line:
There’s not much to dislike about this Louisville team. They’re perennially one of the top defensive teams in the nation and nobody expects that to change this season. They have the shooter in Jerry Smith, they have the intelligent point guard in McGee, the athletes and rebounders with Clark and Williams, the phenom in Samuels, and a bench that surely will provide enough insurance in case of injury. The only real question is if a team leader will emerge following the graduation of David Padgett. If Louisville stays mentally focused and scores enough points, which I expect will happen, they’ll be a Final Four team. I have them pegged for Detroit along with North Carolina, Connecticut and Michigan State.

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/18 vs. Ole Miss, 12/20 @ Minnesota, 12/27 vs. UAB, 12/31 vs. UNLV
Key Conference Games: 1/17 vs. Pittsburgh, 2/2 vs. Connecticut, 2/12 @ Notre Dame, 2/23 @ Georgetown
Most Valuable Player: Terrence Williams
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (Final 4)

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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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Breaking: Terrence Williams Sidelined 4-6 Weeks

Posted by Zach on October 14, 2008

From ESPN:

Louisville senior forward Terrence Williams injured his right knee in a pickup game and will be out four to six weeks.

Williams tore the medial meniscus in his right knee and will have surgery in the next few days, the school said in a statement.

Coach Rick Pitino said he was relieved Williams didn’t tear the anterior cruciate ligament and will only be out a short period.

Williams averaged 11.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists last season. He had two triple-doubles as a junior. Williams is 48th on the career scoring list at Louisville with 1,102 points.

Sounds like this could hinder the progress of Williams heading into the season, but it shouldn’t affect the Cardinals all that much. Due to the unprecedented toughness of the conference schedule for Louisville, they went quite soft on the non-conference slate, including getting Ole Miss in the Big East/SEC Challenge while, say, rival Marquette was pitted against Tennessee. Assuming, worst case, Williams is out till the end of November, he’d miss: Morehead State, South Alabama and Western Kentucky (not the same team as a year ago).

There must have been a huge sense of relief in Louisville among the coaching staff when they learned the Williams injury was just a torn meniscus rather than a torn ACL, the second big name college player to dodge the ACL bullet (the other being Austin Daye). The loss of practice/prep time for the season hurts, but Williams should be able to recover and be fine for their real glut of their schedule.

Expect daily posts/updates on here from today and through the end of March.

Posted in Quick Posts | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Number Two Debate

Posted by Zach on September 16, 2008

The debate will rage on from today till the season opening tip-off: who is the second best team in the nation behind North Carolina? Four Big East teams can boast their credentials, along with a Tobacco Road ACC power who looks to challenge their biggest rival, a perennial Final Four participant, and a sleeper team that could emerge in the Big 10 under the tutelage of Tom Izzo. You can make a compelling case for any one of these teams- most have the talent, depth, toughness and balance to contend for the #2 ranking throughout the year. Here are the cases for each team to be ranked second in the nation:

Connecticut–  The Huskies hit their peak late in the season last year before the crushing injury of A.J. Price marked the beginning of the end of their season against 13-seed San Diego. Price, after persevering through a college career that involved laptop theft, brain injuries and a torn ACL, is finally 100% ready for contact practices and ready to lead Connecticut back to the promised land. Joining Price in the backcourt are two special talents- his sidekick Jerome Dyson and freshman sensation Kemba Walker, who looked outstanding in the U-18 championships this summer. The frontcourt doesn’t lack for size or stability. Hasheem Thabeet continues to develop as a dominant big man in the conference, will he make the leap? Jeff Adrien is an all-around do-everything type of force rebounding and scoring. Don’t forget about Nate Miles as a potential difference maker for the Huskies.

Louisville– The Cardinals are as deep and talented as the Huskies this season. By the end of the season, their best player might be freshman Samardo Samuels, a 7-foot behemoth in the low post that will create some intriguing matchups with Thabeet and Harangody. The Cardinals pose two athletic and versatile forwards with triple-double threat Terrence Williams and possible lottery pick Earl Clark. The wild card for Louisville, possibly determining whether they’re a top-2 or top-15 team, is the development of Edgar Sosa at point guard. Is he mature enough to lead a Final Four caliber team to the title? Louisville lost Derrick Caracter earlier than expected, but the frontcourt should be fine. The question mark lies with Sosa and the production from the backcourt.

Notre Dame– The Irish struck gold with the transfers of Scott Martin from Purdue and Ben Hansbrough from Mississippi State this off-season, but both are ineligible this season. Don’t feel too bad for Mike Brey, he’ll be just fine. The stars are Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney. Harangody is a 20-10 threat who is looking to win another Big East Player of the Year award dominating opponents in the post with his wide frame and unique scoring ability. Ben’s older brother, Tyler (you might have heard of him) could match up with Harangody in Maui this November. Kyle McAlarney is one of the best three-point shooters in the nation and has point guard Tory Jackson, the ultimate drive-and-dish playmaker, to get him the rock in open spots with good looks. The question: Can Notre Dame match the depth/athleticism of Louisville and Connecticut?

Pittsburgh– The NCAA put the hammer down on the eligibility of Mike Cook at the wing spot for Pittsburgh, meaning Gilbert Brown will have to take over some of the scoring load. Most of that load will be handed off to three worthy players- forward Sam Young, guard Levance Fields and center DeJuan Blair. Young emerged in the Big East Tournament last March as an all-around force with an efficient scoring touch and the ability to make clutch shots. Fields is back from his own injury suffered just days after Cook’s ACL tear, and looks to regain his standing as a top Big East guard from the perimeter. The sophomore of the group, DeJuan Blair, needs to improve free throw shooting to become a consistent threat, but the knack for finding the basket and his intense rebounding ability is too excellent to ignore.

Michigan State
– The Spartans are in constant contention every season under coach Tom Izzo, but this season could be the return to the National Title last experienced when Mateen Cleaves led MSU. The point guard for Michigan State this year is Kalin Lucas, a speedster play-making slasher with the ability to create for any one of the Spartans supporting cast- Morgan, Suton, Roe or Walton. Lucas could end up being the top PG in the nation by February. Delvin Roe is the five-star freshman ready to make an immediate impact, and Goran Suton is a dependable post presence who needs to be more aggressive for the Spartans to be successful. Raymar Morgan had a bit of a disappointing 2007-08, look for him to come back with a vengeance this season and help Michigan State edge Purdue for the Big Ten title.



Duke
– The Blue Devils could go either way. I like their pieces, but the same issue that’s haunted Duke since the departure of Shelden Williams could ultimately lead to their demise- the lack of a scoring forward/center. Olek Czyz and Miles Plumlee are not ready for prime time, and Lance Thomas has proven to be a soft forward who refuses to bang with any strong opposition. You have to love their guards, though. Greg Paulus continues to progress into a top-notch point guard, even if his detractors refuse to admit it. Kyle Singler can shoot from the outside and wing freshman Eliot Williams will be the next Duke star. The best player of the group is Gerald Henderson, a sensational and athletic playmaker who can shoot and drive. The Duke-UNC battles should once again be epic this season.

UCLA
– The Bruins lost two top-5 picks in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love to the NBA Draft. They also lost their best defensive player in Luc Richard Mbah A Moute. The sensational job of Ben Howland since taking over the UCLA program is shown in the Bruins still being in contention for the #2 spot in the country after losing that much talent and scoring load. They reeled in the best recruiting class in the nation led by Jrue Holiday, Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee in the backcourt, along with J’Mison Morgan providing starting ability right away in the frontcourt. Darren Collison never was 100% healthy last season and went through a disappointing campaign. Look for Collison to team up with Josh Shipp to aid the Bruins in terms of jump shooting, team leadership and continuity.

My quick rankings in order: Connecticut, Notre Dame, Louisville, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Michigan State, Duke

Look for a News and Notes sometime this week from me. Tommy and Patrick are real busy with school, work and various sports, but we’ll be back in full swing by October to preview each conference, rank players and give predictions before guaranteeing a post every day in November.

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Summer Big East Report, Part I

Posted by Zach on July 24, 2008

Throughout the college basketball season, I’m planning on writing a weekly Big East Basketball Report to get our loyal following updated on the comings and goings of the best conference in the nation. I’ll update on the latest news, predict the upcoming week’s games, delve into some player and team rankings, and give reports from what I see live out of the Big East teams visiting the Bradley Center this season to play Marquette. Since the college hoops world is silent save those few privileged individuals at the recruiting showcase in Las Vegas, I decided an offseason edition wouldn’t hurt anyone. Here goes (and I had to split it up into two days because the conference is so damn big):

Georgetown-
The Hoyas and coach John Thompson III were blessed with the commitment of the top high school player in the nation Greg Monroe (although I’d argue DeRozan). Thompson hopes Monroe can fill some of the scoring void left by Roy Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace and Pat Ewing Jr. Speedy guard Chris Wright takes the reigns at the point guard slot, and with the departures of Vernon Macklin and Jeremiah Rivers, more shot opportunities for junior DaJuan Summers (11.1 PPG) and sophomore Austin Freeman will be available. The Hoyas play in the loaded Old Spice Classic in Orlando along with a home game vs. Memphis and a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face Duke. Georgetown faces Marquette, Syracuse and Cincinnati twice.

Louisville-
Ranked #2 in Tommy’s preseason Top 25, Louisville returns a loaded roster in 08-09. Edgar Sosa is the wild card; if he can mature into an elite point guard, look out for the Cardinals. Returning is double-double threat Terrence Williams, sharp shooter Jerry Smith and future lottery pick Earl Clark to head the roster. Louisville also adds a very capable replacement for David Padgett in top-five overall high school player Samardo Samuels in the post. The Cardinals will face off with Minnesota in Las Vegas on December 20, face Kentucky at Freedom Hall on January 4, and also play Mississippi, Western Kentucky and UNLV in their non-conference slate. The home-and-homes are highlighted by Notre Dame in two outstanding contests, with Louisville also facing West Virginia and South Florida twice.

Notre Dame-
The Irish are ranked #3 in Pat’s preseason Top 25, and for good reason. They return the best inside-outside combo in the nation in reigning Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody and three-point specialist Kyle McAlarney. The most underrated cog for the Irish is playmaking point guard Tory Jackson. They also added talented transfers Ben Hansbrough and Scott Martin to play in 2009-10, so Mike Brey is certainly not looking to miss a beast in the next couple campaigns. Key role players Zach Hillesland, Ryan Ayers and Luke Zeller also return. Notre Dame could face off with North Carolina in the Maui Invitational Final and will travel to UCLA in the middle of conference season.  Notre Dame couldn’t conjure the luck of the Irish for their home-and-homes: Connecticut and Louisville, along with Saint John’s.

West Virginia-
The Mountaineers lost some key parts to their Sweet 16 team of last year: first round pick Joe Alexander and departing senior Darris Nichols were arguably Bob Huggins’ two best players. Luckily for Morgantown, West Virginia reloaded with Indiana defect and super prospect Devin Ebanks, along with stellar top-50 player Kevin Jones out of the recruiting waters. Also, junior Da’Sean Butler and tournament breakout player Joe Mazzulla return, along with shooter Alex Ruoff, who shot 41% from three last season. The Mountaineers play in the Las Vegas Invitational from November 28-29 against Iowa and either Kansas State or Kentucky, along with games at Ohio State and home against Mississippi. West Virginia faces potential top-5 teams Louisville and Pittsburgh twice, along with South Florida.

Seton Hall-
The Pirates lost one of the most underrated players in the conference last season: senior forward Brian Laing, who scored 18.6 PPG and grabbed 6.9 RPG for head coach Bobby Gonzalez. They did manage to reel in talented guard Jordan Theodore to go along with Eugene Harvey and Jeremy Hazell in a high-upside backcourt. For the Pirates to have any success in 2008-09, they need Harvey to return to playing like he did as a freshman sensation. Gonzalez received good news on the transfer of Keon Lawrence to the program from Missouri, but lost Larry Davis to Loyola Marymount. The Pirates will play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with Memphis, USC, Missouri and Virginia Tech, along with home-and-homes with rivals St. John’s, Rutgers and Connecticut.

Rutgers-
The Scarlet Knights of Piscataway may sneak up on some Big East foes this season. Fred Hill’s team returns their top four scorers from last season’s disastrous 11-20 campaign, including senior J.R. Inman (12.2 PPG) and sophomore guard Corey Chandler (11.9 PPG). Shooter Anthony Farmer also returns to give Rutgers range from the outside, a 40% three point specialist. Rutgers also return defensive stud Hamady N’Diaye down low. Hill managed to receive a commitment from guard Mike Rosario, the ninth best shooting guard in the class according to Scout.com. Rutgers also got Anthony Mitchell from Florida as a transfer for next season. The Scarlet Knights face off against Seton Hall, Providence and Syracuse twice in the conference slate.

Villanova-
Jay Wright returns an intriguing bunch into the fray for next season in Philly. The Wildcats have been led by Scottie Reynolds ever since his first game as a freshman, as the 15.9 PPG scorer from last season once again returns as an All-Big East candidate. Improving his overall floor game as a point guard will be key for Reynolds future. Feeding perimeter players Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, who really emerged at the end of last season, for open shots will help Villanova greatly. Villanova played with zero seniors last year, so continuity, along with other returnees like Dante Cunningham and Casiem Drummond in the post, are crucial factors for a successful campaign. Villanova will play in the Philly Hoops Classic at the Palestra and face Marquette, Syracuse and Providence twice in the conference schedule.

St. John’s
– Anthony Mason Jr. is the one true star on the roster; he averaged 14 PPG and 4.4 RPG in Big East play last season. Also returning is last year’s freshman breakout player Justin Burrell, who averaged 10.8 PPG and 5.9 RPG as a definite scoring and rebounding threat. Dele Coker is a 6’10 project who improved mightily over the course of last season in the paint. Replacing team leader Eugene Lawrence at the point guard spot is no easy task, and the Red Storm also lost arguably their best outside shooter to Oakland in Larry Wright. It could be another difficult year at the Garden for St. John’s and head coach Norm Roberts, who is already on the hot seat. The Johnnies play in the Preseason NIT in Boston College’s pod, along with difficult games vs. Duke and Miami in MSG. They’ll face Seton Hall, Notre Dame and Cincinnati twice during their Big East campaign.

Tomorrow: Marquette, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Providence, Syracuse, DePaul, South Florida. Along with Top 25 Big East Player Rankings and Preseason Team Power Rankings.

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ACC/Big 10 Challenge Schedule Announced; Cook and Caracter

Posted by Zach on July 16, 2008

We’ve been able to predict some matchups for awhile now based on last year’s standings, but the official schedule for the ACC/B10 challenge was released today. The solo Monday contest will pit Wisconsin and Virginia Tech, two teams that are likely middle seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Tuesday’s most intriguing matchup is Duke @ Purdue in what promises to be a close-knit thriller featuring two top 15 teams. Wednesday’s UNC-Michigan State game will be played at Ford Field and is the headliner that night. Will this finally be the year the Big Ten wins? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Mon., Dec. 1
Wisconsin at Virginia Tech (ESPN2, 7pm)

Tue., Dec. 2
Ohio State at Miami (ESPN, 7pm)
Iowa at Boston College (ESPNU, 7pm)
Clemson at Illinois (ESPN2, 7:30pm)
Duke at Purdue (ESPN, 9pm)
Virginia at Minnesota (ESPN2, 9:30pm)

Wed., Dec. 3
Indiana at Wake Forest (ESPN, 7:15pm)
Penn State at Georgia Tech (ESPN2, 7:30pm)
Michigan at Maryland (ESPNU, 7:30pm)
North Carolina vs. Michigan State (ESPN, 9:15pm)
Florida State at Northwestern (ESPN2, 9:30pm)

————————————

Also, this from Andy Katz:

Pitt was supposed to hear this week from the NCAA about whether Mike Cook would receive a sixth season of eligibility. But the NCAA asked for more information, and Pitt has still not gotten a decision. Cook tore his ACL against Duke on Dec. 20.

I heard the Cook resolution was taken care of by the NCAA and he’d gained eligibility for this season earlier in the summer, but with the NCAA slow as usual in their decision making, Cook is on the fence. With the Panthers senior defensive leader on the floor, they become a top-5 team, possibly a favorite for number two behind North Carolina. Without Cook, the team is still immensely talented and can contend for the Big East crown, but not quite as balanced and dynamic.

Also in the Big East, can you believe Rick Pitino is giving Derrick Caracter another chance? The guy who has been a complete nuisance and selfish act his entire career, at every level, will get yet another shot to redeem his career as Slick Rick stoops to a new low in order to win. Caracter can rejoin the Cardinals in 2009-10 if he follows a list of rules including: attending all classes, finding a Pitino-approved job and getting into shape. Let me go out on a limb and say Caracter will never suit up for Louisville again.

But we all like comeback stories. So why not?

Posted in Preseason Tourneys | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »