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Posts Tagged ‘Providence Friars’

Big East Preview: #10-#9

Posted by Zach on October 18, 2008

10. Providence Friars– Coach: Keno Davis (1st season)

Backcourt:
The backcourt is the strength of this Providence team. They return their leading scorer from two seasons ago in Sharaud Curry, who is finally 100% healthy from his injured foot that kept him out of important action last season. Also returning is Manhattan transfer Jeff Xavier who hit 76 threes and became the Friars leading scorer last year in the absence of Curry. He also led the conference in SPG and the return of Curry running the offense should lead to more open looks for Xavier. The inconsistent and flashy Weyinmi Efejuku can certainly pile up the points on any given night and then disappear the next. Davis hopes the coaching change will help his attitude and get him motivated for every Big East game. Brian McKenzie is yet another returning double-digit scorer. He finished second to Xavier in three-pointers and will likely play more of the 2-guard spot where he’s comfortable. With Dwain Williams transferring, sophomore Marshon Brooks should get more playing time. Grade: B+

Frontcourt: The frontcourt is boosted by box score filler Geoff McDermott. He’s one of the best passing big men in the country while also attacking the boards with ferocity, evidenced by his 6’8 frame becoming the only player in team history to grab 250+ rebounds and dish out 150+ assists in the same season. An improvement in scoring for McDermott would vault him into elite forward status. 6’11 Randall Hanke is a mystery for the Friars. He displays an accurate scoring touch and possesses a center’s frame, but refuses to maintain any sort of aggressiveness on the boards and plays defense scared. A breakout year is possible if Hanke can harness his abilities. Jamine Peterson is a wild card; his athleticism is unmatched and Peterson flows well with an up-tempo approach on the floor. While his defense desperately needs improvement, Peterson is the type of high-energy player every team needs. The question up front for Providence is depth and defense. They hope to get instant help from incoming freshman Bilal Dixon, who provides bulk for Keno Davis. Grade: C+

Bottom Line: Keno Davis knows how to coach. He proved himself molding a mediocre Drake team into the story of the year in college basketball and a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Now he walks into a situation in Providence where the fans are tired of the underachieving Tim Welsh and need a change. With eight of your top nine scorers returning and plenty of experience, I feel Davis can transform the program in just months time. I feel like this conference could get a record ten teams into the Big Dance, and Providence would be the tenth selection.

Starting Lineup:

G- Sharaud Curry (JR)
G- Jeff Xavier (SR)
G- Weyinmi Efejuku (SR)
F- Geoff McDermott (SR)
F- Randall Hanke (SR)

Key Non-Conference Games: Anaheim Classic, 11/15 vs. Northeastern, 12/20 @ Boston College
Key Conference Games: 1/10 @ Georgetown, 1/28 vs. Syracuse, 2/7 @ West Virginia, 3/5 @ Villanova
Most Valuable Player: Geoff McDermott
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (One and done)

9. West Virginia Mountaineers
– Coach: Bob Huggins (2nd season)

Backcourt: They’ll have a difficult time dealing with the loss of steady point guard Darris Nichols, who finished second in the Big East in assist-turnover ratio, but I feel Joe Mazzulla has the goods to step in right away and contribute. Mazzulla, who really came on in the NCAA Tournament and in their stunning win over Duke in the second round, distributes the basketball fairly well and shows a keen shooting touch from mid-range. More of those point guard instincts will be smoothed over with increased experience. The backcourt is also boosted by the outside shooting of Alex Ruoff. Coach Bob Huggins wants Ruoff to attack the basket with more frequency, but I’d prefer it if he remains near the perimeter where he sunk 41% of his threes. Freshman Darryl Bryant is a hard-nosed point guard like most that come out of the Bronx (except Sebastian Telfair, he’s just dumb). Huggins may try to play Devin Ebanks at shooting guard at some points, and Da’Sean Butler is more than capable of playing the 2. The flexibility of the West Virginia roster is a big reason why I have them pegged for the NCAA Tournament once again. Grade: B-

Frontcourt: Da’Sean Butler has the chance to step into the spotlight with Joe Alexander departed. Butler can play both inside and outside, is the teams strongest rebounding presence, and also added a 37% three-point accuracy to his resume. The junior made strides as a sophomore to reach double-digit scoring; Huggins hopes Butler can excel to more of a 14-15 PPG threat and continue to create matchup problems. The former Indiana commit turned Mountaineer Devin Ebanks is a force to be reckoned with- a super athlete with great driving ability with an advanced jump shot for his age. He can sink it from anywhere on the floor and may be WV’s best player from day one. Fellow freshman Kevin Jones is another top-75 recruit with versatility with great size and length. Wellington Smith saw increased playing time in March and showed he can take it to the rim and finish, but he’s still nothing more than a seventh or eighth man. Huggins hopes Demetrius Proby or freshman Roscoe Davis can emerge at the five. Grade: B

Bottom Line: Bob Huggins may be a polarizing figure, but the job he did last season taking John Beilein’s system and his players and molding them into a tough, rebound-first, man-to-man, Elite Eight team was a sight to see. Huggins lost his do-everything glue guy in Joe Alexander and point guard in Darris Nichols, two components it takes more than a blink of the eye to replace. Once Joe Mazzulla shows he can be a steady force at point guard and Devin Ebanks takes off in his first season in Morgantown, this is a bubble-in team that could be the eye of much debate on Selection Sunday.

Starting Lineup:

G- Joe Mazzulla (JR)
G- Alex Ruoff (SR)
G/F- Da’Sean Butler (JR)
F- Devin Ebanks (FR)
F- Wellington Smith (JR)

Key Non-Conference Games: 11/28 @ Iowa, 12/3 @ Mississippi, 12/9 vs. Davidson, 12/27 @ Ohio State
Key Conference Games: 1/3 @ Seton Hall, 2/7 vs. Providence, 2/13 vs. Villanova, 2/26 @ Cincinnati
Most Valuable Player: Devin Ebanks
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (One and done)

#8 Villanova and #7 Syracuse will be up on Monday.

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

Analyzing the Top Three Coaching Changes

Posted by Patrick on September 30, 2008

One of the more interesting parts of the college basketball offseason is to see all of the changes that are made at head coach from school to school. At 46 schools this season there will be a new face calling the plays on the sidelines. However, I will only look at the “top three”.

Lately, as college basketball has become more popular, the pressures of winning (especially at major schools) are enormous, and sometimes just absurd. Don’t believe me? Just ask former Louisiana State coach John Brady who was fired after making the Final Four just two seasons prior. Now Brady is coaching at the somewhat less prestigious Arkansas State University. Long gone are the days when a coach goes out on his own terms. It’s a win-now mentality for most schools and its causing the coaching carousel to become much more interesting in the offseason.

Here’s a look at how I grade the top three offseason coaching changes (of course this is all speculation, just like trying to grade the NFL draft in May):

Providence College: Tim Welsh (215-148, 145-126 with Providence) = Out

Keno Davis (28-5)= In

Keno Davis was the AP National Coach of the Year in 2008 after leading Drake to an MVC regular season title and MVC tournament championship in just his first year of coaching (The Bulldogs were picked to finish 10th in the MVC preseason poll). Davis takes over for TIm Welsh, who failed to lead Providence to an NCAA appearance despite being the head coach for 10 seasons. Its tough to say how Davis will handle all of the pressure of coaching in a major conference (no more Evansville/Indiana State twice a year), and if he can reel in big recruits to a school in Rhode Island. However, I think Davis will eventually get things under control especially if he can continue to stress defensive play and shooting the three consistently. Without a doubt he will have better athletes available at Providence, so it shouldn’t be long before the Friars are dancing once again. Grade: A-

Oklahoma State University: Sean Sutton (39-28) = Out

Travis Ford (123-116) = In

After Bill Self turned down a ridiculous amount of money to stay at Kansas where he had just won a national championship, Oklahoma State was forced to look elsewhere for a head coach. Enter Travis Ford, an experienced coach from the Northeast that almost led UMass to an unlikely NCAA tournament bid.  UMass eventually went on to lose the NIT championship game to Ohio State. The thing that many people are wondering is why did Ford get so much money when really his coaching resume isn’t that impressive. He brings a defensive attitude to Oklahoma State which definitely had problems on the defensive end, but I wouldn’t say Ford was worth the money. Grade: C+

Louisiana State University: Butch Pierre (5-5) = Out

Trent Johnson (159-122)=In

Louisiana State lost a lot of my respect when they fired John Brady just two years after making a Final Four, but they definitely made great choice when they hired Trent Johnson, former Stanford coach. Johnson was a big question mark when he came into Stanford but he proved everyone wrong, landing big recruits and leading the Cardinal to the Sweet 16 in 2008.  If Johnson can recruit as well as he did in the Pac-10 he should have no problem turning the Tigers program around and getting them back into the NCAA tournament. Grade: A

Posted in Coaching | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Gameday, Sleepers and Other News

Posted by Zach on August 28, 2008

Not much news in or around college basketball during late August. I could update you on the Derrick Caracter situation, but he’s not worth anyone’s time. The recruiting rampage has died down with the elite camps concluding and coaches returning for the start of school. While some injury or late transfer may take place in the next few days, don’t expect much big news as the summer ends and fall begins. Don’t fear though, college basketball is closer than you may think. To conjure up excitement, here’s a look at the recently released College Gameday sites for the 2008-09 season:

Jan. 17- Chapel Hill, N.C. (Miami at North Carolina)
Jan. 24- South Bend, Ind. (Connecticut at Notre Dame)
Jan. 31- Knoxville, Tenn. (Florida at Tennessee)
Feb. 7- Spokane, Wash. (Memphis at Gonzaga)
Feb. 14- Madison, Wis. (Ohio State at Wisconsin)
Feb. 21- Austin, Texas (Oklahoma at Texas)
Feb. 28- Berkeley, Calif. (UCLA at California)
Mar. 7- Morgantown, W.V. (Louisville at West Virginia)

Fairly pedestrian, right? The two best games are Connecticut-Notre Dame, which should have major Big East title implications, and Oklahoma-Texas, which should do the same for the Big 12 later in the season. California must feel fortunate considering they’re in full-fledged rebuilding and the UCLA pairing will probably result in a blowout. Memphis-Gonzaga could be interesting, but the Zags never lose at home. That March 7 game could prove to be the reason Louisville loses out on a Big East title in the last weekend of the season. Keep that date circled. Not an easy place to play.

Anyway, on to the main point of this post: my top five sleeper/surprise teams of this upcoming season:

UNLV
– Lon Kruger is one of the smartest coaches in the business, taking his team on a two week summer trek around Australia to prepare for the season against top-notch Australian teams. The Rebels are perennially a contender in the Mountain West and reached the Sweet 16 just two years ago in Saint Louis; this year, they’re the clear favorite to win the regular season crown in the MWC. Still, because of the MWC TV package with CSTV and the lack of national exposure, most don’t give the credit to UNLV and Kruger that is deserved.

The Rebels are led by super-talented guard Wink Adams, a true playmaker in every sense of the word that scored 25 against Kansas in their second round matchup last March. He’ll need to improve drastically on his 14 total points scored against rival BYU in two games for the Rebels to win the conference. UNLV will be boosted by Memphis transfer guard Tre’Von Willis and strong, elite forwards Joe Darger and Rene Rougeau. They’ll be in the Top 25 at some point this year.

Kentucky
– Billy Gillespie showed his coaching mettle last season by overcoming strong pressure and adversity following a disastrous non-conference performance by finishing valiantly in the SEC and in their close loss to Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Two freshmen battling for the point guard spot on an SEC contender is never a good thing due to the inexperience, but DeAndre Liggins and Kevin Galloway are prime talents and are fully cleared by the NCAA. Someone will emerge.

The stud is recently healed Patrick Patterson, a forceful and menacing forward who uses his physicality to put up double-doubles on any given night. He’s my pick for preseason SEC player of the year. Jodie Meeks is also healthy and Perry Stevenson is a quality role player for any team. Kentucky could be boom or bust this season due to the amount of freshmen they’re relying on; my inclination says boom, but it could easily go the other way.

Baylor
– The Bears are becoming a sexy sleeper pick for this season, and the direction of the program is clearly heading in the right track after indirectly and unofficially landing one of the top players in the 2009 class, John Wall (wink wink). The Bears will surely improve on a school record nine conference wins from a season ago and have NCAA Tournament expectations. Their guard play is terrific, even with their loss of team leader Aaron Bruce. Curtis Jerrells averaged over 15 PPG last season and may turn out to be a contender for Big 12 POY this season if his outside shooting improves.

The team returns eight of their top nine scorers from a year ago, including emerging sophomore guard LaceDarius Dunn. The Monroe, LA native averaged 13.6 PPG and shot 42% from three in his freshman campaign. Scott Drew also added Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh to the program, who started 31 games for Michigan the last couple years. Drew has this program on the rise. They could finish third in the Big 12 this year.

Southern Cal
– Most would consider the Trojans exempt from any sleeper list, but the national media may sleep on a team that lost both top-five pick O.J. Mayo and draft defect Davon Jefferson. For the folks in Southern California, here’s two words that should heal any post-Mayo wounds: DeMar DeRozan. Believe me, this kid is going to be something special. Another one-and-done recruit for Tim Floyd, DeRozan has athleticism unmatched in his freshman class, a complete package in terms of scoring and rebounding, and the ability to penetrate and finish in any situation.

Joining DeRozan will be UNC transfer Alex Stepheson, a true post presence who will take more and more pressure off of Taj Gibson to recover following a disappointing 2007-08 season and Leonard Washington to contribute immediately. Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis are also extremely valuable role players for Tim Floyd. The Pac-10 isn’t as loaded as in past campaigns, so look for USC to finish third behind UCLA and Arizona State.

Providence
– Most folks scoff when I mention the possibility of the Big East actually getting ten teams into the NCAA Tournament this season. The likelihood of one of the contenders fading and/or the conference beating up on each other too much for this to occur is very high, but even the consideration shows the bulk of top-heavy talent in this conference. That tenth team I’m throwing out there is Providence, led by former Drake coach Keno Davis.

The Friars have two main questions that need to be addressed: 1) is Sharaud Curry healthy enough to lead this team, and 2) who will handle point guard duties in a conference where, frankly, you need a competent point guard. The Friars have some interesting pieces, most notably guard Weyinmi Efejuku, a double-digit per game scorer, and former Manhattan transfer Jeff Xavier, another player who can handle much of the scoring load for Providence. They’ll be tested immediately with the Anaheim Classic and were fortunate in getting a favorable Big East slate with Cincinnati and Rutgers twice.

Some other quick news and notes:

– Marquette sophomore forward Trevor Mbakwe gave every indication he was going to return to the program even with the departure of Tom Crean this off-season, but he has changed his mind and has left Marquette for other ventures. We’ll see which small school scoops him up. He’s a project but a worthwhile one.

– Memphis is heading towards another package deal, a growing and disturbing trend in college basketball. They lured in the brother of one of the top players in the 2009 class, Xavier Henry’s brother C.J, to enroll full-time at their school. Slick move by John Calipari to help in the recruiting of Xavier, so they’ve seemingly moved ahead in the race.

– Villanova landed another top recruit in Mouph Yarou, a 6’9 African big man from a military academy in Virginia, ranked #28 overall in the county by Scout.

– Freshman guard Mark McLaughlin will not play for Nevada this season, a top-100 recruit in the nation. This is a big loss for the Wolfpack as he was expected to team up with Luke Babbitt and contribute mightily this season.

For excellent mid-major season previews, just go to ESPN.com for their ShootAround segment. For the big conferences, we’ve previewed all six on this site, so snoop around.

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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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