Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Villanova Wildcats’

Top Ten Games Of The Week (12/8-12/14)

Posted by Zach on December 7, 2008

The November tournaments are complete. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is complete. We’re starting to become more and more familiar with the contenders and pretenders as we inch closer and closer to conference season in college basketball. Even though exams are nearing and a bit of a lull in quality games may be upon us, there’s still ample opportunity for some teams to notch resume-building victories. Here’s my top ten intriguing matchups for this week:

1. #8 Texas vs. #17 Villanova- Jimmy V Classic, Tuesday (ESPNHD)– We’ve seen what the Texas Longhorns are capable of this season. They’ve already played two very difficult games- losing to Notre Dame by 1 in Maui and inching UCLA at home last week. We know A.J. Abrams is an impressive shooting when he’s hot, Damion James is an NBA scout’s dream with his rebounding and scoring skills, and players like Justin Mason and Dexter Pittman are fine secondary players. We know this team is capable of finishing their season in Detroit. But what do we know about Villanova? Not much considering their two best wins are on a neutral floor against Rhode Island and at Pennsylvania. I don’t necessarily blame Jay Wright for cooking up a cupcake schedule early for his young Villanova squad. The question remains: Does beating up on Houston Baptist really prepare you for physical and battle-tested Texas? We’ll find out Tuesday night. Dante Cunningham has been phenomenal for Villanova- 17.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG- and will need to play a huge role in a Wildcats victory at the Jimmy V. Prediction: Texas 77, Villanova 69

2. #18 Memphis at #20 Georgetown- Saturday (CBSHD)-
Speaking of being unable to properly evaluate contending teams, how about Memphis? They’ve played only one game since the Puerto Rico loss to Xavier, a thrashing of Marshall featuring the coming out party of Tyreke Evans, and will not play before this showdown in D.C. on Saturday afternoon. Memphis has five players scoring in double figures; we certainly know they can use their superior athleticism and penetration abilities to overwhelm the less-athletic Georgetown bunch. But, will this type of game come down to toughness? Free throws? Home court advantage? Inexperience at the point guard position with Wesley Witherspoon the new ball carrier for John Calipari? I expect the excellent Georgetown defense to confuse the Memphis offense in this basketball game and leave with a quality victory. Memphis’ Shawn Taggart is averaging a double-double thus far at 11 and 10. We’ll see if he can keep it up on Saturday. Prediction: Georgetown 68, Memphis 64

3. #14 Xavier at Cincinnati- Saturday (ESPN2)
– One of my favorite rivalries in college basketball has meaning this time around. The Xavier Musketeers will march into their inner-city rival’s home turf Saturday night 8-0 (assuming they beat Ohio at home) and likely ranked near the top ten in the nation. Cincinnati, with their rich heritage basketball tradition dating back to Oscar Robertson, has all of a sudden transformed into a football school with their Orange Bowl berth. It would be a monumental win for coach Mike Cronin if he can dethrone the hated Musketeers at home behind stars Deonta Vaughn and Mike Williams. Beating UNLV in Vegas and UAB on their home floor is a good start, but the Bearcats only scored 47 points against Florida State. Which Cincinnati squad will show up Saturday? Expect the fired up one. Prediction: Cincinnati 70, Xavier 68

4. #5 Gonzaga at Washington State- Wednesday– Pullman, Washington is not an easy place to win. The home crowd is always rowdy, the stifling Washington State defense is terrifying and the Cougars may desperately need a quality win for their NCAA Tournament resume before delving into a weakened Pac-10 schedule. They had an opportunity in New Jersey against Pittsburgh and lost. They had Baylor at home on Saturday and faltered. If they fall to Gonzaga, their only real chances in-conference are Arizona State and UCLA. Gonzaga doesn’t quite have the same problem- they already downed Maryland and Tennessee and have games vs. Connecticut, Memphis, Tennessee and Arizona on the slate (does Arizona really quality anymore?) Look for Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes, Klay Thompson and the balanced fighting Bennett’s give Gonzaga a scare in the first half before talents like Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye down low are simply way too much to handle. Prediction: Gonzaga 67, Washington State 58

5. #22 Davidson vs. West Virginia- Jimmy V Classic, Tuesday (ESPNHD)- Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Sorry, but why else would you watch this game? No offense to Alex Ruoff or Devin Ebanks, but let’s be honest here. Prediction: Davidson 77, West Virginia 67

6. Butler at Ohio State- Saturday (BTN)– Don’t look now, folks, but perennial contender Butler is unbeaten in this early season. They’ve downed Northwestern, who has beaten Florida State and crushed DePaul, and won a big conference game at Cleveland State. The road becomes a bit more treacherous for Brad Stevens and Butler in the next couple weeks, though- @ Bradley, @ Ohio State, @ Xavier and UAB at home. Luckily, none of these matter an incredible amount because Butler probably isn’t going to grab an at-large berth anyway. The point is: Butler, supposedly in a down year after losing A.J. Graves, Pete Campbell and Mike Green, is still winning and it shows how tremendous of a problem they have in Indianapolis. Ohio State has two great wins @ Miami after the McClinton Swipe and in Indy against Notre Dame with Harangody playing. I won’t let Pat take credit for predicting Ohio State’s resurgence, either, because his entire reasoning was that B.J. Mullens will dominate college basketball and he’s not even averaging 7 PPG. Prediction: Ohio State 66, Butler 58

7. Dayton at Creighton- Wednesday- Mmmm, nothing like a yummy quality mid-major game on a Wednesday night! Okay, that was weird. But seriously, how about those Dayton Flyers? They downed mighty Mercer at home, defeated Auburn in Chicago and won a 54-50 nail biter at Akron Saturday that sent basketball back about 50 years. Oh, and they toppled Marquette in that same Chicago tournament for a win that will surely be discussed in March along with Dayton’s seed. When forward Chris Wright- 13.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG- is playing, Dayton wins. They have an extremely difficult test in Omaha against a Creighton team that needs a resume-building win after New Mexico has flopped and the Jays lost to Arkansas Little Rock and Nebraska. Booker Woodfox and P’Allen Stinnett (I did not make up those names) are two outstanding players for Creighton and I expect them to defend their always packed home court and take down mighty Dayton. Prediction: Creighton 78, Dayton 70

8. #10 Tennessee at Temple- Saturday (ESPN)
– Could the Temple Owls be hitting their stride? They were outplayed by Buffalo and Miami (OH) in two games prior to an underrated win in Happy Valley against Penn State. The most positive sign for Temple? They won while receiving only two points from Dionte Christmas, who may be the best all-around player in the Atlantic 10 (19.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.9 APG). Still, let’s be real, we’re talking about Penn State here. Not exactly Tennessee and their incredible talent, depth and athleticism. Temple will need an upset of epic proportions to win this game and most likely a 30+ point performance from Christmas. If you didn’t know, Tyler Smith notched the first triple-double in Tennessee basketball history on Wednesday. Prediction: Tennessee 83, Temple 67

9. #5 Gonzaga vs. Arizona in Phoenix- Sunday (FSNHD)
– Speaking of teams that need a quality win. Arizona not only needs to win this game to stay alive for an at-large berth, they may need this win to keep their basketball program in tact. Forget the Olson drama and the departing players and Brandon Jennings, this team has now lost two heartbreakers: the UAB fiasco that prevented them from notching two high-quality wins in Madison Square Garden and the 11-point halftime lead blown at Texas A&M on Friday ending in a game-winning Aggies three. Chase Budinger is doing his part at 20.1 PPG and Jordan Hill has been phenomenal at 17.4 PPG and 12.3 RPG. But can they stop Gonzaga? My guess is no. Prediction: Gonzaga 85, Arizona 75

10. San Diego State vs. Saint Mary’s- Saturday (HDNET)
– Is this San Diego State team flying under the radar? They beat struggling San Diego at home and led most of the game vs. Arizona State, but you’ll have to search hard for any quality wins. Beating tournament-bound Saint Mary’s on a neutral floor is a nice start. Kyle Spain is setting himself up to contend for Mountain West Player of the Year at 17.9 PPG and 5.3 RPG for the Aztecs. Unfortunately, they may be getting Patrick Mills when he’s hitting his stride. In his last three games against Fullerton, Providence and Kent State, he’s scored 20+ points and made 25 of 55 shots. Prediction: Saint Mary’s 74, San Diego State 68

Honorable Mention

  • California at Utah- Wednesday (MTN)
  • San Diego State at Arizona- Wednesday
  • Saint Joseph’s at Villanova- Thursday (ESPN2)
  • Iowa State at Iowa- Friday (BTN)
  • VCU at Richmond- Saturday (ESPNU)
  • Indiana at Kentucky- Saturday (CBSHD)
  • Utah at Oklahoma- Saturday (ESPN2)
  • DePaul vs. UCLA- Saturday (HDNET)
Advertisements

Posted in Top Ten Games of the Week | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

November 15: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 15, 2008

VMI Kentucky Basketball

Headliner: You wouldn’t believe it, but the Kentucky Wildcats have done it again.

In 2007, it was unknown Gardner Webb marching into Rupp Arena and pulling off the shocking upset. In 2008, it’s the VMI Cadets doing the honors. Lexington, Kentucky is officially upset city.

Why Billy Gillespie and the Wildcats would schedule VMI, for their first game no less, is beyond belief. This is a team that scored 91.3 PPG last season to lead the nation. Their frantic style of no-limits press, quick possessions and three-point shooting is well known around college basketball, with the Keydets games frequently reaching high-scoring NBA contests. And yet, Billy Gillespie passes on the usual cupcake and schedules one of the most dangerous teams in all of mid-major land for a young Kentucky’s first game. Think about it: If you beat VMI, can you really evaluate/judge your players based on the radical opponent? Does that really tell you anything? If I’m coaching a high profile school, I go nowhere near a team like this in November at home. Nowhere near.

Of course this is all in hindsight. If Kentucky goes out and wins by 30 points, nobody is saying a peep, instead discussing if this Kentucky team has the ammo to stick with the Tar Heels next Tuesday. Now, Billy Gillespie is rolling around in his bed, his job security having taken a real hit, and the Wildcat faithful are hoping this season will turn around like it did following the Gardner Webb collapse of a year ago.

VMI scored 111 points altogether and had six players in double figures, led by the Holmes brothers combining for 46. Not since 1989 against North Carolina had a Kentucky team given up so many points. They received an outstanding performance from Jodie Meeks, who totaled 39 points on 13/27 FG. The real story was how VMI, even with the clear height disadvantage, kept all-SEC forward Patrick Patterson in check. He took just four shots and scored 8 points to go along with 7 rebounds. Kentucky was down 90-73 midway through the second half before a ferocious comeback reclaimed the lead, and most UK fans breathed a sigh of relief thinking they had dodged a huge bullet. After going ahead 104-103, VMI scored the next nine points to seal the deal.

Top 25 Action

  • #2 Connecticut toppled Western Carolina 81-55 with Thabeet going for 23 points and 17 rebounds
  • #6 Pittsburgh handled Farleigh Dickinson 86-63 behind 17 points and 13 rebounds for DeJuan Blair
  • #8 Texas befuddled Stetson in a 68-38 win in Austin with A.J. Abrams scoring 21 points
  • #10 Purdue led a balanced attack to a 82-50 win over Detroit, with E’Twaun Moore scoring 18
  • #14 Oklahoma dominated potential NCAA team American. Blake Griffin: 24, 18, 9/11 FG, 5/14 FT
  • #15 Arizona State beat Mississippi Valley State 80-64. James Harden with 24 points and 10 boards
  • #18 Marquette won easily behind Wesley Matthews 27 points, 8 assists, 5 steals and 5 boards
  • #19 Florida defeated Toledo with 19 from Dan Werner and 16 from gambling hound Nick Calathes
  • #20 Davidson beat a D3 team led by- guess who- Stephen Curry: 29 points, 9 steals, 10 assists, 9/20
  • #24 Wake Forest beat NC Central 94-48 behind 21 and 10 from stud frosh Al-Farouq Aminu
  • #25 Villanova defeated Albany 78-60 with a balanced scoring attack. Reynolds with 13 and 6 dimes

News and Notes

Villanova senior guard Dwayne Anderson is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot. This is a big loss for Nova in terms of defense and leadership. Anderson’s a projected starter that averaged 6.5 PPG last year, really emerging as a capable role player later in the campaign. Fellow Wildcat Shane Clark is already out for another few weeks after having surgery on his right knee.

– The injury bug is hitting North Carolina early this season (better than late, I guess) as Bobby Frasor suffered a sprained ankle in practice Monday. Frasor hasn’t practiced since then and may not play in Saturday’s opener vs. Pennsylvania. The Tar Heels don’t need Hansbrough or Frasor or Ginyard to beat Penn, or Kentucky for that matter, but they could be vulnerable in Maui if Hansbrough and Frasor are under 50% or even out.

Boston College star guard Tyrese Rice was suspended for Friday’s win over Central Connecticut State due to a violation of team rules. We’ve seen this before in Chestnut Hill. It doesn’t look to be anything serious, but it’s not a good sign when your lone senior is making these kinds of off-court bonehead decisions. He should be back for the preseason NIT contests.

Also Of Note– Lester Hudson with 27/7/7/8 steals for Tennessee-Martin; Dionte Christmas with 26/11 for Temple, Lawrence Hill with 22/11 for Stanford, Maryland crushed Bucknell; Clemson crushed Hofstra; Howard defeats Oregon State; Loyola (IL) loses to D2 Rockhurst; Byron Eaton with 27 for Oklahoma State; Arkansas escapes SE Louisiana in OT.

NW Wins Horse Trailer of the Day– Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut: 23 points, 17 rebounds, 7/11 FG, 5 blocks in 33 minutes (if there’s an anti-horse trailer, it’s his teammate A.J. Price with 0 points and 5 turnovers in 25 minutes before being ejected for punching a Western Carolina player)

Saturday On The Tube

  • Pennsylvania @ #1 North Carolina- 4pm (FSN South)
  • San Diego @ UNLV- 530pm (MTN)
  • Northwestern State @ Indiana- 7pm (BTN)
  • MSU-Billings @ Gonzaga- 7pm (FSN Northwest)
  • Charleston Classic Semifinals- 8pm (CSS)

Tommy: Another game of note last night was in Blacksburg, VA where Gardner-Webb was on the upset prowl again this season. Virginia Tech was up for a large majority of the game, but the Runnin’ Bulldogs came storming back and cut it down to 1 with 24 seconds to go thanks to a pair of Aaron Linn free throws. Gardner-Webb out-scored the Hokies 36-25 in the second half with a 9-0 run with about 5 minutes remaining in the contest. Tech did hold on for the 65-62 win, but I thought Tech’s strong defense and good coaching would keep them off upset alert. Jeff Allen and A.D. Vassallo each contributed 19 points, a good sign for the Hokies.

Posted in The Day After | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Big East Preview: #8 Villanova

Posted by Zach on October 20, 2008

8. Villanova Wildcats– Coach: Jay Wright (8th season)

PG- Scottie Reynolds (JR): Everyone who watches ESPN on a regular basis has heard of Scottie Reynolds. It’s hard to say the star point guard doesn’t deserve the hype, though. As a freshman he won Big East Rookie of the Year and finished on the Big East All-2nd team as a sophomore while increasing his scoring average. Reynolds can contend for the conference player of the year this season if his development as a dynamic point guard and scorer both continue, because then Villanova wins basketball games. He already has over 1,000 points in two years at Villanova. It’s possible Wright will use Corey Fisher as more of a point guard this year to free Reynolds up for more scoring opportunities on the wing, either through his excellent jumper or ability to drive the ball.

SG- Dwayne Anderson
(SR): Dwayne is a complete player who energized the Wildcats during their mid-season slump last year through rebounding and defense. Anderson has a respectable jumper, but makes his mark for Nova through energy and an unmatched effort on defense. The Wildcats turned around their season last year with Anderson’s game-winning shot against Seton Hall and should have his starting spot entrenched from his effort at the end of 07-08. One area for Anderson to improve on are free throws (63%). He’s the unquestioned leader of this team as a senior.

SF- Corey Stokes (SO): Not one player on the Villanova roster made more strides last year than Stokes. He began the year looking like your typical lost freshman: liability on defense, inconsistent jump shot and turnovers galore. Then something clicked and Stokes went on to become the Wildcats second most valuable player down the stretch behind Reynolds, culminating in a 20-point performance against Siena in Tampa. Stokes made strides not only with his three-point shot, which has seemingly limitless range, but also on defense. The hyped sophomore from St. Benedict’s Prep will look to build on the second half of last year for 08-09.

PF- Antonio Pena (SO): Believe it or not, Pena is older than fellow senior postman Dante Cunningham. Following two years at a prep school, one year red shirted, and a freshman season that saw strides in development, Pena is ready to contribute for coach Wright on a consistent basis. With no true center on the roster, Pena needs to become a fearsome tandem on the boards with Cunningham. When Pena received the starting nod last year, his scoring and rebounding numbers rose, reasons why I feel Wright will have him pegged into the initial starting five, with Shane Clark on his heels if Wright wants to go small (and we all know he’s not scared of going small).

PF- Dante Cunningham (SR): As the lone player to start every game for Wright last season, Cunningham emerged as a fixture in the post. Formerly more of a complimentary force that hadn’t emerged from his shell, Cunningham finally used his talent to turn into a double-digit scorer and forceful rebounding presence. He has molded into a confident post player that demands the basketball and has grown into the team’s unsung leader. His scoring has increased every year since he arrived at Villanova; Wright is hoping for a boost from 10.4 PPG to around 14 PPG this season. Look for him to see plenty of minutes and continue his efficient play.

Bench: Sophomore Corey Fisher went through the typical freshman ups-and-downs with his jump shot last season. This year, with his comfort level rising, Wright will use Fisher effectively off the bench as a sparkplug who can drain a huge three to quell an opposing run. Fisher showed his potential with a big performance in the upset over Clemson in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Reggie Redding is used sparingly but often finds himself on the court at the end of games because of his intelligence on defense. Shane Clark went through a dismal junior campaign in which he disappeared from games and often didn’t even see the court. Wright hopes his head is on straight for this season because he can contribute offensively. Casiem Drummond is the only true center on the roster. He showed enormous potential before injuring his ankle early last season. He could break out for Villanova and give them much needed height and scoring down low.

Backcourt: B+
Frontcourt: B
Bench: B
Coaching: B+

Bottom Line: Villanova has reached the NCAA Tournament the last four seasons. They backed up their controversial selection last year with a Sweet Sixteen berth. With five starters back, including the outstanding Reynolds, how can I possibly have them eighth in their own conference? Well, the Big East is insanely good. This Villanova team did struggle for a good portion of last season and they’ll be better this year. Look for Villanova to run their March streak to five and see great strides from Fisher, Stokes and Drummond.

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/9 @ Texas, 12/11 vs. St Joe’s, 12/14 @ La Salle, 12/29 vs. Temple
Key Conference Games: 1/28 vs. Pittsburgh, 2/4 @ Providence, 2/7 vs. Syracuse, 2/10 vs. Marquette
Most Valuable Player: Scottie Reynolds
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (One and done)

Posted in Big East Report, Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

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.

Posted in News And Notes, Team Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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.

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

Look Ahead To The 2009 Class

Posted by Zach on July 2, 2008

Pat covered the best of the best in the Class of 2008 rankings. Today, I thought I’d tackle the early developments for the class of 2009 in this lull period in college basketball (late June after the draft to the end of the summer can often be brutal). There’s been some new signings in the last few days out of the Arizona front and, even though the top three prospects in the class have not committed this early, four of the top 15 have verballed to their school of choice.  While it’s quite early to tell, it appears the strength of the 2009 class hails from the South: Atlanta, Raleigh, Round Rock, Oklahoma City, Mobile, Roswell, etc.

Here’s a brief summation on how the 2009 recruiting rampage has played out thus far:

North Carolina is turning into an all-time recruiting machine– Roy Williams coaches at a storied program with a long history, passionate fans, and a winning tradition since he arrived on campus. So why shouldn’t he completely reload once his fabled class of 2005 and 06 departs? Williams has already been able to lure in four top 60 recruits and the 08-09 season hasn’t even begun yet. John Henson, ranked #4 overall and the top power forward, is an athletic Brandan Wright-type who Williams managed to scoop out of Texas. He received verbals from the Wear twins from California, because 6’9 225 at the power forward spot is always beneficial. He’s also been able to get the #12 and #26 ranked players in the nation, guards Dexter Strickland from New Jersey as their next big-time scorer, and Leslie McDonald from Memphis, respectively. Talk about spanning the country for top dogs.

Mike Davis making his mark
– When UAB hired Mike Davis as his job-after following the painful dismissal from Indiana, they knew they were getting a coach who could recruit. Davis showed his muscle by reeling in the number two center in the nation, DeMarcus Cousins, from Mobile, to play in Conference USA, rather than receive more attention at a school like Indiana, Kentucky or Memphis. Of course, if we’ve learned anything from Memphis, it’s that Conference USA schools can receive plenty of attention if they build a winning atmosphere under a respected coach. And contend for an undefeated mark annually.

Bill Self looking to build another national champion in three years
– The Jayhawks are in contention for the #2 and #6 players in the 2009 class. By having both commit, they’d be the first team since UNC with Lawson and Ellington to receive multiple top-6 players. Wingman Xavier Henry is the #1 SG in the class, a player with an extremely versatile game- a plus long range jumper and excellent slashing ability. His father also played at KU. They’re battling for Henry with Memphis and North Carolina. Also being recruited heavily by Self is Lance Stephenson, a 6’5 SF from Sebastian Telfair’s high school in Brooklyn. Kentucky is also making a stronger push for Stephenson, and I’m surprised Pitino isn’t involved.

New Big East recruiting power emerges– Villanova head coach Jay Wright has been absolutely tremendous recruiting two outstanding players in the 2009 class. Just recently, Wright received a commitment from talented forward Isaiah Armwood from Rockville, a creative and versatile post player from Maryland who has been playing with the Baltimore Stars. He also got his point guard of the future from Philly. Maalik Wayns can even be better than Scottie Reynolds as a pure PG with excellent court vision and passing ability.

Some stunners– It’s not just the Connecticut’s, North Carolina’s and Duke’s of the world getting all of the best players (well mostly). Akron has a commitment from the #7 center in the nation, Zeke Marshall. San Diego, an up-and-coming program, reeled in the #12 center in the nation, Vander Joaquim. Also, Oklahoma, Baylor, Illinois, Marquette, and especially Clemson, are putting together excellent classes.

Did Duke finally get its big man?– Duke’s main Achilles heel the last few empty years have been due to a lack of a strong, reliable inside presence (and don’t give me Josh McRoberts). 6’11, 210 center Mason Plumlee from Arden, NC has been able to exert himself offensively in the paint with much more frequency, coupling that with an advanced mid-range game. Or he could be another McRoberts.

Predictions: Derrick Favors goes to Georgia Tech, Xavier Henry heads to Kansas, John Wall goes to Kentucky, Renardo Sidney heads to Texas, Lance Stephenson to Memphis, Kenny Boynton to Florida, Abdul Gaddy plays for Arizona, and Daniel Orton goes to Ohio State to round out the top ten.

Posted in Recruiting | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »