Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Notre Dame Fighting Irish’

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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Notre Dame vs. North Carolina: Recap and Thoughts

Posted by Patrick on November 27, 2008

https://i1.wp.com/farm4.static.flickr.com/3231/2674166667_4aeb958988.jpg

Last night was the final of the Maui Invitational, which always means that we’ll get to see two national powerhouses go head to head to bring the distinguished trophy home. North Carolina showed why they should be the unanimous top rated team in the nation- they absolutely picked apart Notre Dame’s defense, shooting 58% from the field. The Tar Heels grabbed the lead with 12:36 left in the first half and never looked back en route to a 102-87 victory over the eighth ranked Fighting Irish.

Kyle McAlarney broke his own school record of nine three pointers in one game with ten last night against North Carolina, accounting for 30 of his 39 points. To the credit of the Fighting Irish, their star player Luke Harangody had some kind of sickness all day leading up to the game, but still managed to score 13 points and grab seven rebounds.

Overall, North Carolina right now is too much for any team in the nation to even contend with. The talent level is way above any I’ve seen in college basketball in my lifetime, and they play hard on every possession. Even if Harangody was healthy they wouldn’t have a great chance to beat the Tar Heels. Another key to UNC’s success is their unbelievable depth. When they sub out a few players, its like replacing them with better rested versions of themselves. North Carolina’s bench would make up one of the better teams in college basketball.

Also, the last time North Carolina won the Maui? 2004. The last time North Carolina won a national championship? 2004.

ZACH: Three thoughts on North Carolina:

– Ty Lawson makes this team go. Anyone who watches college basketball on a regular basis knows this already, but watching him last night makes me think he added another gear to his electric speed baseline-to-baseline this summer. He abused Tory Jackson on multiple occasions after Jackson was foolish enough to risk a steal instead of staying in front of Lawson, using the quickest first step in college hoops and finishing every time down, often drawing a foul to boot. He knocked down free throws and hit outside jumpers too. If Lawson plays like he did last night all season, an undefeated season will happen.

– How’s that shin, Tyler? As the esteemed Red Sox announcer Don Orsillo might say, “Psycho T’s back…and he’s back BIG!” 34 points, an earth-shattering dunk, his patented turnaround hook shots, diving for rebounds, and even a three point shot? Yeah, I think he’s back. Hansbrough is really an incredible player down low- when he puts up a shot you think there’s no chance it goes in, then it hits the bottom the net.

– Carolina is so loaded, it’s not even funny/fair. They’ve turned into the Evil Empire even moreso than Duke, which puts me in an awkward position because the one game I used to root for Carolina was against the Blue Devils. As Pat pointed out, their bench of Drew-Frasor-Green-Graves-Davis would beat most high-major teams. While Notre Dame lost their legs by the end of the tournament, North Carolina was fresh because they’re so deep and talented.

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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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November 26: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 26, 2008

Syracuse Kansas Basketball

I’m starting to believe this Syracuse team can finish in the top five in the Big East.

Why? Primarily because there’s no way they would have won that overtime thriller against the Kansas Jayhawks last year. In Kansas City with thousands of screaming Rock Chalk diehards. Down double digits in the second half.

This is a new Syracuse team. Not one that folds defensively, makes careless turnovers, has absolutely no depth and won’t make adjustments. Hell, Jim Boeheim even ditched his patented zone defense midway through the second half after the athletic Jayhawks were attacking it with ease (most notably impressive freshman Tyshawn Taylor) and went straight man-to-man, allowing athletic defenders like Paul Harris and Jonny Flynn more leeway to be aggressive.

It appears to me defense would be the only thing holding back this Orange team from finshing in the top five in the loaded Big East, and even in that area I feel they can surely improve to an above-average defensive team in time for March. They have the pieces necessary to patch together a top-15/20 caliber campaign- an intelligent, steady, playmaking, clutch shooting point guard who allows the inconsistent Eric Devendorf to play off the ball in Jonny Flynn, who clearly outplayed the fatigued Sherron Collins late in that game. They have Arinze Onuaku in the post, who has made it clear to me in these two CBE Classic games he can become a star in the Big East. It baffles me why Boeheim doesn’t attempt to keep him more involved in the offense (I think Dickie V pointed this out). He’s also a ferocious rebounder and a superb defender, swatting away two Kansas shots late in the game on one possession and actually bringing me to my feet.

Okay, so the depth isn’t tremendous. Rick Jackson won’t provide much off the pine. But the additions of both Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins give this Syracuse team an entirely new dimension, spreading the defense and allowing both Flynn and Onuaku more room to work on the outside and inside, respectively. I also saw some encouraging play from freshman forward Kris Joseph in the tournament.

Bottom line: This Syracuse team is much more poised, mature and developed than a season ago when they missed the NCAA Tournament. While the Big East is loaded and I have a difficult time believing they’ll outlast Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame or Pittsburgh at the top of the conference, stranger things have happened. Credit Jim Boeheim for avoiding all cupcakes and challenging his Syracuse team to see what they’re made of early in the season. It certainly paid off.

#8 Notre Dame 81, #7 Texas 80: Both of these teams showed Tuesday night in a hotly contested Maui battle that they’re top ten teams. Both entered the game playing phenomenal defense- Notre Dame at 54 PPG and Texas at an even more impressive 46.3 PPG- but both explosive offenses managed to score 80 points in a thriller that Notre Dame almost blew from the free throw line. They held a seemingly comfortable eight point lead with about a minute to go when Tory Jackson, Zach Hillesland and Luke Harangody missed six free throws down the stretch to aid a Texas comeback. A 60-foot desperation heave from A.J. Abrams (who finished just 5/17 from behind the arc and took 27 shots total) hit the front rim in a shot that surely had the entire city of South Bend holding their breath.

Both squads made it fairly clear they belong in the top ten in the nation and could reach the Final Four. Texas received a strong effort from Justin Mason (16 pts, 7/12 FG, 7 reb, 5 asst and an electric dunk), Damion James (11pts, 12reb, 4/10 FG, didn’t force outside jumpers), Gary Johnson (5/11 FG, 10 pts, 8 reb) and Abrams even though he struggled overall from behind the arc. For the Irish, Kyle McAlarney did his thing, hitting five threes and scoring 19 points. Tory Jackson had another solid game (6/12 FG, 16 pts, 7 reb, 5asst, 2 TO) and Harangody finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds and a desperation heave from nearly halfcourt that banked in late in the second half. Mike Brey should be concerned about two things, though: 1) Yeah, Texas is a very potent offensive team, but Notre Dame struggled yet again defensively, 2) they got all of two points from their bench of Nash, Peoples and Zeller.

Curry Held Scoreless: No, Loyola (MD) did not find some 11-foot behemoth with a dinosaur’s wingspan to cover Curry. Coach Jimmy Patsos, the always creative mind who decided to sit in the stands for the second half of his game against Cornell to avoid receiving another technical, decided to employ a plan that seems fairly obvious now that someone has finally thought of it: double-team Stephen Curry. Not your usual double team, though. Loyola literally drapped two defenders on Curry the entire game. For every single Davidson offensive possession, the Wildcats held a 4-to-3 advantage, meaning Andrew Lovedale, Bryant Barr, Aaron Bond and Will Archambault could have career nights. Curry: 0/3 FG, 0/1 3pt, 3 assists, 0 points. For a guy averaging about 35 points per game. Instead of forcing shots through a constant double team, he deferred to teammates. Which brings up the question: Can this guy do anything wrong?

Other Top 25 Action

  • #1 North Carolina advanced to face Notre Dame after smoking Oregon 98-69. Hansbrough scored 16 points on 12/14 FT, making just two shots
  • #4 Pittsburgh took care of a quality Belmont team 74-60. Scary note: DeJuan Blair didn’t play due to inflammation in his right knee
  • #15 Marquette cruised 85-68 over Texas Southern with Jerel McNeal (20 points) and Lazar Hayward (18 and 9) leading the charge
  • #18 Florida barely squeaked by Washington 86-84 with Nick Calathes picking up 21 points and dishing out 8 assists
  • #22 Villanova dominated Monmouth 71-48 behind 18 points and five threes from Corey Stokes and Cunningham (9/17) with another good game

Games of Note: Arizona trailed pretty much the entire game against bottom-feeder WCC squad Santa Clara before pulling out a 69-66 victory in Athens, Georgia with Chase Budinger scoring 22 points; Virginia Commonwealth will need more than Eric Maynor to win the Colonial this season. His final line: 35 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 11/20 FG, 6/12 3pt, 7/9 FT, and besides some solid efforts from Larry Sanders, the depth just isn’t there. They lost a heartbreaker 93-90 in OT at 4-1 East Carolina; Indiana received another drubbing in Maui, losing by 26 to St. Joseph’s and allowing seven threes from Darrin Govins; You know the saying “fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on me?” Liberty defeated Virginia in Charlottesville 86-82 last night with Seth Curry dropping 26 points and averaging 21/6/4 this season. He’s playing at Liberty. What are these Virginia schools doing?!?!?! If there’s another Curry on the way, RECRUIT HIM; Saint Louis couldn’t build off their BC win and lost to Nebraska by 14 points, allowing the Huskers to shoot nearly 60%; Penn State with a decent win on the road vs. in-state rival Pennsylvania.

News And Notes

Results from the punishments handed down on Indiana yesterday: Kelvin Sampson cannot coach in college for five years and Indiana received three years probation. This program should be slightly rejuvinated by a top ten recruiting class entering Bloomington next season. Be patient, Hoosier fans!

– Troubled Massachusetts guard Doug Wiggins has now been suspended indefinitely by coach Derek Kellogg after an arrest for breaking and entering. The incident occurred off campus in Amherst last weekend and wasn’t the first of such incidents for Wiggins, who left Connecticut over the summer after averaging nearly 7 PPG there as a reserve.

– Devestating news for St. John’s that broke a few days ago: Roger Mason, Jr, the best player on a St. John’s team looking to avoid the cellar in the Big East, tore a tendon in his right foot and will miss the rest of the season. This can’t be a good sign for either Norm Roberts job security or the chances the Johnnies had of avoiding another disappointing season. Mason led the team in scoring last season at 14.0 PPG.

– Some other quick injury news: UCLA dodged a bullet as forward Alfred Aboya’s left wrist appears to be okay and he should play in the Bruins next game; Southern Illinois wasn’t so lucky, losing their center Nick Evans for 4-6 weeks after breaking his wrist in the same game; impressive Xavier freshman guard Terrell Holloway will miss 2-3 weeks of action with a stress fracture in his left foot.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day- Eric Maynor, VCU

On The Tube Today

  • Alabama vs. Saint Joseph’s- 2pm (ESPN2)
  • Texas vs. Oregon- 430pm (ESPN2)
  • Boston College vs. Purdue- 7pm (ESPN2HD)
  • Indiana vs. Chaminade- 7pm (ESPNU)
  • Eastern Washington @ Minnesota- 830pm (BTN)
  • Southern Methodist @ TCU- 830pm (MTN)
  • UAB vs. Oklahoma- 915pm (ESPN2HD)
  • Notre Dame vs. North Carolina- 10pm (ESPN)

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Big East Preview: #3 Notre Dame

Posted by Zach on October 29, 2008

3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish– Coach: Mike Brey (8th season)

PG- Tory Jackson (JR)
: Tory Jackson is the quarterback for the Irish. His quick speed and passing ability plays perfectly into Mike Brey’s fast-paced system and he’s the most reliable defender Coach Brey has. Jackson is a penetrating guard who could find Kyle McAlarney for an open three or Luke Harangody in the low block with his eyes closed. His tenacious style of play is infectious and he’s molded into the Irish floor leader.  Jackson is also a strong rebounder for a point guard, grabbing 13 boards against a tough Pitt team. The one weakness for Jackson is a porous outside jump shot and struggles from the charity stripe. He only shot 30% from three and a terrible 52% from the line last season- these obviously need to improve because Jackson cannot beat a defender off the dribble every single time. He comes about as close as anyone, though.

SG- Kyle McAlarney (SR): After a suspension for marijuana possession kept McAlarney off the sidelines for the second half of 2006-07, he made absolutely sure he was going to return to the Irish stronger than ever. His three-point shot might be the best in all of college basketball, and he’s certainly the head marksman from deep in the Big East. He notched 32 points against Connecticut, 30 against Syracuse and 30 vs. Villanova, eventually leading the conference in three-pointers made and three-point field goal percentage. McAlarney came alive around December and never looked back, forming a dynamic inside-outside duo with junior Luke Harangody (focus too much on Luke and Kyle will torch you from outside). His clear weakness is defense and McAlarney is often beat by quick and athletic 2-guards. Many pegged Tennessee star Chris Lofton as the top three-point shooter in the nation before last season and he struggled mightily. Whether that’s the case with McAlarney is yet to be seen, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

SF- Ryan Ayers (SR): Ayers is the type of complimentary piece that every championship team needs. He plays off McAlarney, Jackson and Harangody exceptionally well by taking what he’s given and making smart plays. Ayers came to South Bend with an extensive high school resume and failed to live up to lavish expectations before his junior season. Ayers made definite contributions during Big East play last year with an accurate three-point shot (45%) and peaked with 17 points against defensively-tough Louisville. Whether Ayers can improve rebounding the basketball and playing consistent defense is certainly a question mark. Brey knows the importance of Ayers as a role player in this type of fast-paced offense and may be asked to shoot even more.

PF- Zach Hillesland (SR): Much like Ayers, Hillesland is an important cog for Brey and the Irish. He’s a multi-dimensional player who can mix it up down low with his 6’9 frame while also showing quickness running the fast break effectively with Jackson and McAlarney as a three rather than a four. He possesses a great feel for the court (third on the team in assists last year) and may mature into the senior leader the Irish need this season on and off the floor. He’s the likely candidate to replace the production of Rob Kurz (12.5 PPG) and will be asked to compliment Harangody in the paint, mainly by providing another option for Notre Dame should Harangody face a fierce double team. Unlike Ayers, Hillesland isn’t any three-point threat, but shot 50% from the floor last season, taking shots within his range and within the offense.

C- Luke Harangody (JR): When Luke Harangody arrived in South Bend as a freshman, many viewed him as nothing more than a promising, rugged post player who can provide key minutes, some inside scoring and grab a few offensive rebounds. He was somewhat hyped, but not even Mike Brey could tell you with a straight face he thought Luke would lead the Big East in scoring and finish second in rebounding in his sophomore season. You saw the progress in Madison Square Garden when he dropped 19 and 14 on Beasley. You saw the stardom emerge with his 40 points in Freedom Hall and his 32 and 16 against Connecticut. Harangody has progressed into one of the most efficient and productive players in all of college basketball: scoring, rebounding, hook shots, short jumpers, dunks, everything but threes. Harangody is even an above-average passer for a big man, capable of finding McAlarney outside when the double team arrives. Brey doesn’t mind that NBA scouts don’t see the Irish star oozing with potential. He’s more than happy to have his own Tyler Hansbrough for four years.

Bench: Luke Zeller is the unquestioned sixth man, providing yet another forward who can shoot from outside. He’s slightly behind the depth chart because of his lack of rebounding and aggressiveness down low, but those areas are progressing rapidly for his senior season. A former McDonald’s All-American, Zeller is looking to silence some critics in his last campaign at Notre Dame. Jonathan Peoples is a valuable third guard with an average shot and great passing instincts on the floor. Tyler Nash is a breakout candidate. The 6’8 sophomore will need to blossom from a player who provides key rebounding and grabs the occasional loose ball, possibly providing more replacement for Kurz in the post.

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

Bottom Line: I really like this Notre Dame team offensively. They led the nation in assists last season and can top 90 points on any given night. Tory Jackson is the perfect component to run the offense and Brey can tout the strongest inside-outside duo this side of Lawson and Hansbrough. You also know they’ll protect their home court. The question for the Irish is defense. Other than Jackson, they’re a below average defensive team who will find it difficult to win if their shooters and/or Harangody have a rare off-night. Believe me, it’ll happen in this conference. A stronger defensive effort is the difference between a Sweet 16 and National Championship team this season.

Key Non-Conference Games: Maui Invitational, 12/6 vs. Ohio State, 2/7 @ UCLA
Key Conference Games: 1/12 @ Louisville, 1/24 vs. Connecticut, 1/31 @ Pittsburgh, 2/28 @ Connecticut
Most Valuable Player: Luke Harangody
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (Elite Eight)

(#2 team tomorrow afternoon)

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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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