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Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Panthers’

Big East Report, Edition II

Posted by Zach on December 9, 2008

Power Rankings

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

National Title Contenders

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

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

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

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

Final Four Contenders

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

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

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

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

Elite Eight Contenders


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

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

Sweet 16 Contenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

NCAA Tournament Contenders

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

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

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

Bottom Feeders

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

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

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

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

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

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Big East Report

Posted by Zach on November 26, 2008

Connecticut Wisconsin College Basketball

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

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

Final Four Contenders


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet 16 Contenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble Teams


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

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

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

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

Bottom Feeders

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

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

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

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

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Big East Preview: #4 Pittsburgh

Posted by Zach on October 25, 2008

4. Pittsburgh Panthers– Coach: Jamie Dixon

PG- Levance Fields (SR)
: It’s certainly been a battle for Levance Fields the last ten months as a Pittsburgh Panther. On December 20, Fields nailed the game-winning three pointer to defeat Duke at Madison Square Garden and move Pitt to 11-0. The next game in Dayton, Fields fractured a bone in his left foot and missed the next eight weeks, unable to practice even when Fields returned for the stretch run. In August, Fields discovered the same foot was fractured once again and now his full return in November for Pitt is in question. Without Fields, Pitt is a completely different team. They lack his leadership qualities, court vision and outside shooting. He’s an indispensable player for Coach Dixon, evident by their 8-4 record without his services (for Dixon, that’s less than stellar). Fields stars in big games- he shone in the win against Duke and averaged 21.5 PPG in the NCAA Tournament last year. Pitt is a potential Final Four team with Fields on the court and a possible middle-of-the-pack Big East team without Fields on the court.

SG- Brad Wanamaker (SO)
: The battle for the 2-guard spot could end up in the hands of freshman Ashton Gibbs by the end of the season, but for now we’ll peg in sophomore Brad Wanamaker. Taking over for the sharp-shooting Ronald Ramon is no easy task for Wanamaker, especially because he cannot shoot. He does everything else above average or better: rebounding, very physical on defense, second best passer on the team behind Fields. Dixon was hoping to have Mike Cook back and slide Gilbert Brown to the 2-guard. Instead, Wanamaker gets an opportunity and surely needs to improve on his 33% FG to hold down the starting spot on a team looking to go the distance.

SF- Gilbert Brown (SO)
: One of the reasons Pitt should be one of the top defensive teams in the nation this year is due to Gilbert Brown. Rather than clogging up the running game, this Gilbert Brown clogs up the other team’s top shooter. Dixon loves him because of his versatility and ability to play multiple positions. He’s an athletic swingman who has seen his shooting improve mightily over the course of his short college career. After not making a shot in February, Brown came alive and even scored 12 points on 6-10 shooting in the NCAA Tournament vs. Oral Roberts. Brown will never become as good of an offensive player as he is a defensive player, but some consistent improvement offensively, both shooting and penetrating, should take pressure off of Young and Fields to carry the load.

PF- Sam Young (SR)
: No play has shown the vast improvement from the day he stepped onto the Peterson Events Center court to today as much as Sam Young. An average recruit out of a winning high school program that spent some time at Hargrave Military Academy before joining Pitt, Young appeared to be nothing more than a useful role player his first two season before exploding in his junior year and earning honorable mention All-America. Young finished first in scoring and second in rebounding for the Panthers 27-win squad last year, bursting onto the national scene with a dynamic Big East Tournament performance in which he took home MVP honors. Young’s outside shooting has drastically improved; he is now hitting 38% of his three-pointers. Look for Young to contend for Big East Player of the Year this season.

C- DeJuan Blair (SO): Dixon and his staff saw the upside of Blair when they recruited him just blocks from campus coming out of high school, but none could have foreseen he’d make such a positive impact during his first year in a Panther uniform. Blair finished fourth in the conference in double-doubles, fourth in rebounding and seventh in FG%, culminating in the Big East Rookie of the Year honor (along with Jonny Flynn). Blair needs to improve from the free throw line due to his physicality in the post and tendency to draw fouls (Blair shot just 63% last year), but that will come with less freshman jitters this season. His rebounding skills are nearly unmatched and Blair features a series of developing scoring post moves. The offense will surely revolve around Young, Fields and the sophomore Blair for Dixon and the Panthers.

Bench: Dixon lured in some backcourt depth and competition for Wanamaker at the guard spot opposite Fields, including the brother of former Maryland star Juan Dixon, Jermaine Dixon. He’ll need to contribute offensively from behind the arc along with incoming freshman Ashton Gibbs and Travon Woodall. Replacing Ronald Ramon’s production from outside is a huge factor. Forward Tyrell Biggs should be the first player off the bench for coach Dixon. He’s beginning to live up to his potential and may steal minutes from Brown. Center Gary McGhee may play a prominent role this season if he has to spell Blair when he gets into foul trouble. At 6’10, he provides much-appreciated height and rebounding off the pine.

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

Bottom Line: Pittsburgh has quietly molded into a 30-win mainstay on the national scene under the tutelage of Ben Howland and now Jamie Dixon, but they have yet to make a Final Four. Will this be the year? I have a hard time believing this team has the secondary parts or depth to reach that plateau. Don’t rule it out, though. Dixon has commented this may be his best defensive team ever, and the Big Three of Fields, Young and Blair is certainly a coach’s dream. The golden question: Can this team score enough points to contend with teams like North Carolina, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Duke on a national stage?

Key Non-Conference Games: 11/28 @ Texas Tech, 12/6 vs. Vermont, 12/17 vs. Siena, 12/21 @ Florida State
Key Conference Games: 1/17 @ Louisville, 1/31 vs. Notre Dame, 2/16 @ Connecticut, 3/7 vs. Connecticut
Most Valuable Player: Levance Fields
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (Sweet 16)

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Friday News And Notes

Posted by Zach on September 26, 2008

An edition of Friday’s News and Notes to catch up on this past weeks biggest college basketball headlines:

– Connecticut freshman Nate Miles is supposed to be a key cog for the Huskies ascent to the top of the college hoops rankings this season. The talented wing will be a sparkplug off the bench for Jim Calhoun…if he can stay out of trouble. Miles violated his restraining order 16 minutes after receiving it in Hartford yesterday, posting a $2,500 bond and is scheduled to go to court later this month. Miles came with a reputation out of the many high schools he attended for being a nuisance without much supervision. Calhoun hopes this is just a minor transgression for the budding freshman.

– One of the top coaches in the nation, Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, received a three-year extension on his already lengthy contract on Wednesday. The deal extends through the 2015-16 season and he will receive a raise from the $1.3 million he made last season. The Panthers have averaged nearly 27 wins per season under Dixon’s watch even if they’re not exactly a recruiting powerhouse. Dixon should be rewarded. Not many coaches could have rallied his team without stars like Levance Fields and Mike Cook to win the Big East tournament and receive a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

– Sticking with the Big East theme, good news for Syracuse fans came out early this week. Talented guard Eric Devendorf has received another year of athletic eligibility after being granted a hardship waiver due to last season’s devastating knee injury. For this upcoming season, Devendorf will be a junior athletic-wise. He forms a great backcourt with Johnny Flynn and returnee Andy Rautins for the Orange, who are looking to contend in the loaded conference.

– Kyle Whelliston chimes in with another gem. This time the topic is the newly-formed Great West conference that will form before the 2009-10 season. The name doesn’t tell the entire story- NJIT will be a member and New Jersey isn’t exactly considered a Western state. Whelliston points out the hardships these teams often have to go through scheduling games and flying coast-to-coast to get walloped by top-ranked teams looking for cupcakes. He also brings up the question of whether this conference will be rewarded with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, something the committee probably wants to avoid.  Texas Pan-American, NJIT, South Dakota, North Dakota, Houston Baptist and Utah Valley make up the current conference slate.

– This is only Insider, but Andy Katz’s blog catches up with three possible tournament teams this fall: Ohio State, Wake Forest and Nevada. Some gems: Matta thinks B.J. Mullens is more of a Greg Oden than a Kosta Koufos, meaning he’ll be someone planted firmly in the paint this season; the team hasn’t cleared its point guard situation, a big reason why I think they’ll finish behind Wisconsin who boast Trevon Hughes; Wake Forest has installed a Dick Bennett-style defense and their freshmen look great in workouts; Ishmael Smith should be ready for the season for Wake; Nevada coach Mark Fox managed to get North Carolina to come to Reno this season in a 2-for-1 deal.

– Luke Winn has a worthwhile article attempting to predict the breakout players for this season using possessions used and efficiency ratings. The article circles Dar Tucker of DePaul, LaceDarius Dunn of Baylor and Austin Daye of Gonzaga as potential breakout candidates. Tucker is a definite possibility, but will anyone notice on DePaul?  We’ll have our own list of breakout candidates when the season draws nearer.

Hope everyone has a great weekend and thanks for reading. More and more articles will be on the way as we head towards November.

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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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Cook Denied Another Year Of Eligibility

Posted by Zach on August 22, 2008

Pittsburgh forward Mike Cook was denied another year of eligibility by the overbearing and completely unfair NCAA this week, marking another instance where the hierarchy that runs college basketball has prevented a scholar athlete from competing in the sport he loves. The reason for the dismissal of Cook’s eligibility waiver centered on the rule where a player who participated in 30% (where do they get that number?) of their team’s games cannot red shirt for the following season. Cook tore his ACL on December 20 against Duke in MSG, a classic contest that concluded in a game winning Levance Fields three-pointer that he dedicated to his friend Cook.

Cook played in Pittsburgh’s first 11 games before the injury accounting for 34% of Pittsburgh’s regular season games. The NCAA imposed a rule for medical red shirt purposes stating that all of the team’s postseason games would count as one total game. Counting postseason, Pitt played in 37 total games, meaning Cook would be eligible, but since the postseason counts as one total game, Cook was denied the ability to play this season. Much like the NCAA has done with recent transfers looking to withhold sitting out a year due to family circumstances, they should have allowed Cook to play this season as an exception.

Now, the Panthers will be denied one of their top performers for this upcoming campaign, one that could potentially end in a Big East title and national championship. Gilbert Brown now takes on a larger role with the team at the forward position, and more pressure lies on Sam Young and Fields to perform. Pitt will battle Notre Dame, Louisville and Connecticut atop the Big East, and Cook would have certainly helped them gain a slight advantage over the pack.

“Situations like this are hard to take when you know how dedicated Mike’s life has been to playing basketball,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said in a statement released by the university. “Over the last three years, Mike has contributed significantly to our success both on and off the floor and has been an important member of our basketball family.”

The situation outlined means if Cook had torn his ACL two games earlier, he would be eligible to play. These strict and unfair rules imposed by the NCAA, one that now prevents Cook from playing college basketball again after losing his final season due to a severe injury, someone who has been nothing but a positive performer on and off the court for Pitt, once again show a lack of flexibility by the NCAA and a lack of heart for a player who just wanted to suit up in Panthers blue and gold again.

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Wednesday News And Notes

Posted by Zach on August 13, 2008

Time for a Wednesday edition of News and Notes before Pat and I head out to DC for a week (don‘t expect any candid John Thompson III interviews, we apologize in advance)…

– Some news that flew way under the radar was the confirmed ineligibility of Patrick Beverley from the Arkansas basketball team this past week. While Arkansas’s NCAA hopes and chances to contend in the SEC West were slim anyway, losing your best player is a crushing blow for coach John Pelphrey. Beverley will now decide whether to transfer to another school in hopes of gaining another year of eligibility or turn professional and play overseas. He led the Razorbacks in scoring (12.1) and rebounding (6.6) last season in their march to the NCAA tournament second round in Pelphrey’s first season at the helm. The former SEC newcomer of the year was hoping to get his life back on track in time for a productive season, but it appears any future accomplishments for Beverley on the court won’t happen in Fayetteville.

– Updates on three players attempting to gain eligibility this season:

1. Augustus Gilchrist, USF
– Coach Stan Heath may get word by the end of this week whether the 6’8 Maryland transfer can suit up for the Bulls this season. He’d be a big help to a team that lost Kentrell Gransberry and is in need of scoring and rebounding to stay competitive in the Big East. Gilchrist is a complicated story: he enrolled at Virginia Tech, rescinded and committed to Maryland, enrolled for the second semester there, then transferred to South Florida. Gilchrist, much like Vernon Macklin received with his transfer to Florida State, is hoping for a waiver to allow him to play this season due to family issues.

2. Mike Cook, Pittsburgh
– Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has to be getting frustrated with the NCAA for their lack of progression on the status of the valuable Cook this season. Cook tore his ACL in the classic Duke game last December and is hoping for a sixth year of eligibility. Cook’s appeal could go into the second semester and really drag on through the year. Recovering from that ACL tear, Cook still hasn’t been able to participate in 5-on-5 drills.

3. Keon Lawrence, Seton Hall
– Much like Gilchrist, Lawrence is aiming at acquiring a waiver that will allow him to play for the Pirates this season due to family issues. Lawrence transferred from Missouri to Seton Hall to be closer to his family because of their “serious medical issues,” according to an advisor to Lawrence. Lawrence hails from Newark and his addition would take pressure off Eugene Harvey and Jordan Theodore in the backcourt.

– Jim Calhoun is just starting to return to his normal coaching routine and preparation for this season after a bout with skin cancer this summer. He had surgery May 6 to remove a lump in his salivary gland and, after stressful and painful chemotherapy, is finally returning to 100% and is excited about his team’s potential. And why not? With stars like Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet, A.J. Price, Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker, the Huskies could have a tremendous season. The coach told Andy Katz he feels Nate Miles is going to explode onto the scene with the talent around him. Calhoun will take two more weeks to relax before school starts.

– Mario Chalmers’ tenure at Kansas is complete, concluding with one of the most famous shots in NCAA tournament history. Now the director of basketball operations for the Jayhawks is resigning. What’s the connection? The director is none other than the father of Mario Chalmers, Ronnie Chalmers. The package deal worked out pretty well for Coach Self, wouldn’t you say? Ronnie was probably hired just for the commitment of his son, Mario. Now you’re seeing the same thing happen with Baylor hiring prized recruit John Wall’s coach to the same position with the Bears. The NCAA may need to step in and try to prevent this pattern from re-occurring, but there’s not much they can really do.

– This news is a week old or so, but Kansas coach Bill Self signed a new 10 year, $30 million deal to stay in Lawrence after flirting with the Oklahoma State job this April. The accepted deal has been in the works since then and includes big raises for his coaching staff. Self was one Jason Richards three away from being labeled as a perennial tournament choker with talented Kansas teams, but advanced to the Final Four and won his first national title in defeating Memphis. Self is now up there with Billy Donovan and Tom Crean as the highest paid college basketball coaches.

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Summer Big East Report, Part II

Posted by Zach on July 25, 2008

Here’s Part II of the summer edition of the Big East Report:

Marquette
– The same core of Dominic James, Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal have starred together for three years now for Marquette, but have yet to reach a regional in the NCAA tournament, a goal new coach Buzz Williams believes is undoubtedly within range this upcoming season. McNeal emerged as the true stud of the group late last season in the Big East Tournament and in his compelling performance vs. Stanford in the second round of the NCAA. Joining McNeal is James, an erratic and still-developing point guard who shows flashes of brilliance but struggles with the jumper, and Wes Matthews, a powerful wing player who can slash and score but disappears all too often. Lazar Hayward is an under-the-radar candidate for all Big East honors this year, while David Cubillian and Maurice Acker help spread the floor with their three-point threats. Marquette will play in the Chicago Invitational and have non-conference games at Tennessee in Nashville and vs. Wisconsin, with multiple conference games against Georgetown, DePaul and Villanova.

Pittsburgh
Ranked #2 in my preseason Top 25, Jamie Dixon returns a squad with the ultimate goal of an NCAA title. The talent Pitt returns both inside and outside is sensational, starting with senior leader Levance Fields at the point guard position, a true outside shooting threat and constant floor presence. Joining Fields is the total package in Sam Young- scoring, rebounding, defense, passing. Also, don’t discount the work of DeJuan Blair in the post, who starred in more than one Big East game as a freshman with his low post scoring ability. The Panthers only lost Ronald Ramon to graduation and may get Mike Cook back for a sixth year depending on an NCAA decision. Pitt will play in the Legends Classic in New Jersey and while also playing at Florida State and still searching for an opponent at their second home, Madison Square Garden, in December. Pitt faces Connecticut in two exciting matchups, while also drawing West Virginia and DePaul twice.

Cincinnati
– The Bearcats and coach Mick Cronin boast one of the best players in the conference and in the nation: 6’1 guard Deonta Vaughn out of Indianapolis. Vaughn showed future stardom as a freshman by scoring at 14.3 per game, but bolted that total up to 17.3 PPG last season and finish with 30 points against the stellar Pitt defense. He could win Big East Player of the Year honors if Cincy can receive any contributions from their role players, specifically Adam Hrycaniuk from Poland and forward Rashard Bishop. Cincy was one of the most erratic teams in the nation last year, losing games vs. Bowling Green and Belmont, but also beating Louisville, Syracuse, Villanova and Pittsburgh, then losing six in a row to end the year. The Bearcats play in a Las Vegas tournament with Cal, UNLV and Florida State and play Memphis, Xavier and Florida State in non-conference. Cincy fortunately drew Georgetown, Providence and Saint John’s twice.

Connecticut
– Once Jim Calhoun recovers from a scary bout with skin cancer, the Huskies can take the floor touting one of the best teams in the nation collectively. Connecticut certainly has the athleticism to match any team in the nation, starting with 7’3 center Hasheem Thabeet, a future lottery pick who is clearly the best shot blocker in the nation, but needs his offensive game to develop leaps and bounds. If A.J. Price can recover fully from his ACL tear, Connecticut has one of the best guards in the conference. One of the most complete players is always efficient Jeff Adrien, a daily double-double candidate who shoots 50% from the floor. Jerome Dyson is an excellent compliment to Price in the backcourt. The Huskies did lose Curtis Kelly and Doug Wiggins to transfer and the status of Stanley Robinson is unknown, although he could return in the second semester. The Huskies will face Notre Dame, Seton Hall and Pittsburgh twice in conference while participating in the Paradise Jam and Gonzaga in Seattle during the non-conference slate.

Providence- The Friars hired Keno Davis away from Drake in a program-changing move after former coach Tim Welsh failed to get Providence over the hump. Jeff Xavier is back for Providence to boost the backcourt. The former Manhattan standout led the Friars in scoring last season at 12.4 PPG and will be joined by Weyinmi Efejuku, another double-digit per game scorer who teamed up with Xavier in a quality win vs. Connecticut in March of last season. Brian McKenzie is back as a junior and contributed with big performances early in the season before fading in Big East play. Lost is Dwain Williams to Oregon State, a stellar presence in the backcourt who shoots 90% from the line. With Providence returning seemingly everyone  from last season, look for Keno Davis to send Providence to the tournament as the Big East’s tenth team. Providence plays at Boston College and in the Anaheim Classic with Arizona State, Wake Forest and Baylor. The Friars will play Cincinnati, Rutgers and Villanova twice in a good draw.

Syracuse– Head coach Jim Boeheim will tell you he feels like the Syracuse basketball team has underachieved greatly the last few seasons, and to avoid any retirement pressure from critics and fans alike, the Cuse needs to excel this upcoming campaign and make the NCAA Tournament. Returning is speedy point guard Johnny Flynn, a true floor leader and dynamic scorer simultaneously who can distribute the basketball with outstanding precision and is a future NBA PG. Syracuse hopes to get contribution from Andy Rautins, a three-point specialist who tore his ACL early last season and is finally recovered. Eric Devendorf scored 17 PPG for the Orange last season in a widely underrated season, also improving his FG% from 41% to 47% along the way. Donte Greene departed too early for the NBA, so players like Scoop Jardine and Arinze Onuaku, along with budding star Paul Harris, will have to step up their games down low. Cuse plays in the CBE Classic with Kansas, Florida and Washington while also hosting Virginia and playing at Memphis. Georgetown, Villanova and Rutgers show up twice on the conference slate.

DePaul
– Superstar Draelon Burns is gone, so freshman standout Dar Tucker has to take the reigns and lead this DePaul squad if they want to make any sort of national splash. Tucker displayed his raw ability by dropping 22 on Louisville, 28 on Notre Dame and 23 on Pitt during conference season, so coach Jerry Wainwright may have a star on his hands. Tucker does need to develop more of a complete floor game, averaging just 1.0 APG in 07-08 and shooting 32% from long range. DePaul also returns big man Mac Koshwal as a double-double candidate straight from DePaul’s backyard in Chicago. They receive former Ohio State guard Eric Wallace as a transfer, as well. The Blue Demons play in the Las Vegas Invitational, at California and against UCLA in the Wooden Classic. Marquette, South Florida and Pittsburgh will be showing up twice on their conference schedule.

South Florida
– Stan Heath lost quite a few players this summer- Aaron Holmes, Solomon Bozeman, Orane Chin and Amu Saaka- but did manage to lure in Augustus Gilchrist from Maryland. The most devastating loss will be of big man Kentrell Gransberry, one of the best scorers (16 PPG) and rebounders (10.8 RPG)  in the conference last season. Dominique Jones was a godsend for USF last year as a 6’4 freshman, averaging 17.1 PPG while shooting 46% and putting up stellar performances all around: 30 in consecutive games in December, 31 vs. Seton Hall and 29 vs. Syracuse and Villanova. They’ll play in the San Juan Shootout with Wright State, Murray State and Oral Roberts, while also facing Virginia, UAB and Vanderbilt all on the road. The Bulls will play Louisville, West Virginia and DePaul twice.

I was going to do player and team rankings but have to gather more and more about each team before finishing a definitive list. Check back later for this.

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Daye Does Not Tear ACL; Will Miss Only 3 Weeks

Posted by Zach on July 18, 2008

UPDATE 7/18: So that report Austin Daye partially tore his ACL?

Not true. Pat, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

According to Andy Katz, Daye does not have a torn ACL, will not require surgery, and will miss only three weeks with a bone bruise and a minor, low-grade tear. Daye will now strengthen his leg with rest the next few weeks before returning to practice and will be able to play in all of Gonzaga’s regular season contests.

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At first, we thought he just pulled a hamstring at LeBron James Skills Camp last week. Turns out the injury is much more serious for sophomore star Austin Daye of Gonzaga- partially torn ACL. A precautionary MRI taken showed Daye’s injury to be much more concerning than just an injured hamstring tendon. Gonzaga fans can at least be thankful the ACL wasn’t completely torn, resulting in a lost season for Daye and his draft stock essentially falling through the roof. A timetable for his return is unknown at this point, but a rough estimate calls for Daye to be at full strength by conference season. Unfortunately for the Zags, often their non-conference slate is more important for their tournament seeding, and this year it features UConn, Memphis, Tennessee and Arizona, now without Daye at the four.

Recruiting update: Pittsburgh just received a committment from power forward Dante Taylor out of National Christian High in Maryland. Taylor is ranked as the sixth best PF in the class of 2009 by Scout.com and received a five-star rank. Taylor could be Pitt’s third high school All-American in their team’s history. Taylor chose Pitt over Syracuse, Kansas, Memphis and West Virginia. Great coup for Jamie Dixon.

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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)

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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?

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